Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
A former Senate President, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim has said that impeachment in any form is inimical to the country’s democracy.
Anyim, who made the remark yesterday when he chaired the second public lecture of the National Assembly Legislative Digest Magazine with the theme: “20 Years of the National Assembly in the Fourth Republic: The Tasks Ahead of the 9th National Assembly,” said one of the challenges confronting democracy in this part of the world was the face-off between the executive and the legislature, which often lead to impeachments.
“I wish to restate our view that impeachment of any elected officer in any arm of government, especially when it is contrived is unhealthy for our democratic progress.
“Accordingly, I urge both arms of government to strive to avoid impeachment for whatever reason,” he said.
According to him, “On May 29, 1999, the fourth National Assembly was inaugurated with daunting challenges, most outstanding of which include executive/legislature tango on the selection of the leadership of the National Assembly.
“In quick succession, this challenge delivered three presidents of the Senate in the fourth senate, the last of whom is my humble self. I had to struggle to the very end, to hold on to the seat of the Senate President and administer the office to the best of my ability.
“At about the same period, there was also a change of Speaker in the House of Representatives, though in circumstances not similar and not as controversial as those of the Senate.
“The fifth Senate also witnessed a change of a presiding officer. I recently read a report in the media crediting General Yakubu Gowon, as stating how the body of former heads of state persuaded the then leadership of the National Assembly not to impeach President Obasanjo.
“During our meeting with the former heads of state, we shared one concern with them, that is, that a situation where the impeachment of a presiding officer is regarded as democracy in action and, on the other hand impeachment, of a chief executive is regarded as democracy under threat was not acceptable.”
Former Senate Deputy Leader and the keynote speaker at the event, Senator Jonathan Silas Zwingina, in his extensive presentation on the topic: “Consolidating Democratic Agenda for the 9th National Assembly,” said despite the misgivings in some quarters, Nigeria has undoubtedly arrived at the consolidation stage of democratic practice.
He noted that many people are unfamiliar with the concept of restructuring which has acquired a loud currency today, adding that it could take up to 50 years to actualise it.
“It is possible to achieve substantial restructuring but we must budget a time frame of 10-50 years for maximum results and for different items in order to achieve the restructuring of our desire as a people. We must set a timetable for various simple items or list of swift proposals which should be undertaken, before reaching for more contentious propositions. ‘We must also aim to negotiate such that matters desirable by the zones are negotiated in a give-and-take fashion,” he said.
According to him, the National Assembly must fine-tune and develop conscious strategies for repositioning its image, saying: “There is no doubt that the image of the Assembly suffers from deliberate distortions, executive misrepresentation, media manipulation, genuine ignorance, internal sabotage and counter-productive grandstanding. Let us start from the last,” he stated.
On security challenges confronting Nigeria, he advised that “the calendar of debate and discussions on the issues of security should be established and public hearings conducted to get the views of the public and the executive branch on matters of security and specifically on the creation of state and community police as well as a deliberate and rapid expansion of the federal police.
“There must be a martial-type plan for the Police Force. That plan must aim to create at least a federal police of 500, 000 and the state police of 1.5 million or thereabout,” he said.