Reported plans by Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State to test the nationâ€™s constitutional democracy by seeking tenure extension through judicial interpretation of the invalidation of his removal from office in 2006 is a good national discourse and should be encouraged. OlawaleOlaleye writes
Although almost always in the news for different reasons, the Ekiti State Governor, AyodeleFayose, has recently come up with a good topic for national discourse. He wants to test the strength of the courts and on that premise, seeking an extension of his current tenure beyond 2018.
This, he reckoned, would enable him to make up for his term that was abruptly terminated in 2006 through impeachment. The Supreme Court had quashed his impeachment. And now, as governor, who is due to leave office next year, Fayose wants an extension that would cover up for the lost grounds in 2006.
To a layman, this is as ridiculous as it sounds. But the technicalities of the law cannot encourage such a blanket dismissal of his intention. What if the court thinks he has a good case? What even if in the course of the proceeding, the court begins to see the case differently? That, however, would be the first leg to this potentially long haul and it is the legal aspect. There is yet the political slant to it. Those who have closely followed Fayoseâ€™s politics since he won his election in 2014 can tell that he had since stepped on sensitive toes and carelessly so. He had taken on President MuhammaduBuhari head-on on many occasions and has continuously battled his predecessor in office, Dr. KayodeFayemi, and by extension, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
The reason Fayose is believed to be taking this nearly impossible route as part of his exit strategy is because too many road blocks are believed to have been mounted on his way, such that immediately after leaving office, he would battle seemingly endless litigations of various categories including but not limited to corruption charges.
Fayose, while speaking on the state television in Ado-Ekiti on the matter, reiterated that his decision to seek tenure extension would be to complete his first term that was truncated through an illegal impeachment. He contended that since the apex court said his impeachment in 2006 was illegal, he would then have to approach the same court to interpret what that ruling means and also consider seeking a re-election in 2018.
â€œThe â€˜continuityâ€™ poster you see my image in and which is spreading across the state can be interpreted in two ways. First is the need for me to ask the apex court to explain its 2014 ruling that my so-called impeachment in 2014 was illegal, null and void and consider a re-election in 2018, so that I can complete my term. Second is for me to get our own, one who is like Ayo Fayose to continue after my tenure in 2018.â€
Words are also going on in high places that as part of plans to tame the governorâ€™s perceived excesses, Fayose has not been able to travel outside the country for many months. This development, it is believed, followed his last China trip, where he had written the Chinese government to disregard the request of the president and by extension, Nigeria. His action was said to have largely embarrassed the president, while Fayose has allegedly been flagged from travelling outside the country.
It is believed therefore that just as it happened in 2006, Fayose might have to leave town at the expiration of his tenure through unconventional means as his inability to travel might have propelled the need to seek other options, including the tenure extension litigation.
Away from the latent politics that supports this idea, it could also offer to strengthen the nationâ€™s constitution by identifying some sections that might require amendments as well as open the eyes of the crafters of the constitution to some more relevant issues that should be accommodated during subsequent amendments.
Needless to admit that certain political developments in the country had actually helped to correct the system in their own ways, either by pointing out some of the lacuna in the constitution or beaming searchlight on some of the defects in the nationâ€™s justice system. Perhaps, it is in the light of this that the Fayose debate can find a place in national discourse. A few of the recent past developments also suffice.
Between 2005 and 2006, the Lagos State government under the governorship of Senator Bola Tinubu was in a long drawn legal battle with the OlusegunObasanjo-led federal government over the creation of additional local council development areas in the state. This development would later lead to Obasanjo-led federal government withholding the statutory allocations due to the councils in the state for about 14 months.
The present governor of the state, AkinwunmiAmbode, was the stateâ€™s accountant-general then and was said to have drawn up the survival strategy at the time, while former governor BabatundeFashola, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), was the Chief of Staff and one of the intellectual bulwarks of the state.
The matter was pursued up to the Supreme Court for clearer understanding of the roles, responsibilities and powers of the three tiers of government and at the end of the day the state government was vindicated on matters of local government. The late President Umar Musa Yarâ€™Adua later paid back the seized allocation to the state. Importantly, a statement was made with that development and questions about who controls what, was automatically resolved.
The emergence of former governor of Rivers State, Hon. RotimiAmaechi, in October of 2007 was another case study in the political and democratic evolution of the country. Although Amaechi did not stand for the 2007 governorship election, he had won the nomination of his party at an election declared valid even by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which witnessed it.
His fight for justice later paid off, when the court recognised him as the rightful owner of the victory. Whilst many still disagree with the Supreme Court ruling on the matter, it had since opened the eyes of the political class to the cost of cutting corners and disregarding the rule of law. Today, no political party, having understood the technicality of that ruling, would repeat the mistake of the then PDP when deciding their candidates for political offices.
The one that was even the more instructive was the invocation of the â€œDoctrine of Necessityâ€ by the David Mark-led National Assembly during Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s absence from Nigeria due to ill-health. Not only did he fail to properly hand over to his then deputy and former President Goodluck Jonathan, his incapacitation allowed room for all sorts of political maneuverings that literally threatened the co-existence of the different nationalities in the country.
Today, the present leadership of the country, whose case shares closely with the late Yarâ€™Adua has obviously learnt from that era and is doing everything not to have a repeat of that experience. The two times that President MuhammaduBuhari has traveled abroad on medical grounds, he handed over to his deputy, Professor YemiOsinbajo, as demanded by Section 145 of the constitution, although his last trip was not without avoidable controversies.
Just maybe this Fayoseâ€™s move could yield some interesting debates too (not necessary conceding to his plot) and if it did, the nation will be stronger for it, while the political class would have learnt greatly from it. This is because at a time, staging kangaroo impeachment had almost become a norm in this country. Once a governor falls out of favour with the man at the centre, impeachment proceedings are set in motion against the erring governor, and most times they got away with it.
Whether or not Fayose has a good case, the court will resolve that. And whichever way it turns out, it will benefit the nationâ€™s constitutional democracy.