The governor of Imo State, Mr. Rochas Okorocha, has been in the news recently for the wrong reasons. Determined to have his son-in-law as successor, the governor has taken steps that are bound to cast aspersions on his tenure in the annals of the country’s democratic experience.
He has seemingly foreclosed the possibility of his deputy, Mr. Eze Madumere’s ascendancy to the same post through a controversial impeachment process.
On Monday, Mr. Madumere was removed by 19 of the 27 members of the Imo State House of Assembly. The impeachment proceedings had started earlier on July 10 when the deputy speaker moved a motion accusing Madumere of abandoning his duties and failing to carry out the official duties assigned to him by the governor. This was what the House of Assembly eventually termed gross misconduct.
Certainly, there is nothing wrong with Okorocha’s son-in-law contesting and winning the election. But due process has to be followed.
For deigning to pursue his legitimate ambition to contest the gubernatorial election in Imo State, however,
Madumere has been made to swim in impeachment waters despite a court injunction to the contrary. The security details attached to the office of the deputy governor have also reportedly been withdrawn in a seemingly orchestrated conspiracy by the police.
Certainly, the use to which the impeachment clause has been put despite the intendment of the drafters of the constitution is curious.
Defections and impeachments have been regularly deployed in ways that are strange to the spirit of the Nigerian constitution, as the political gladiators use them to pursue desperate survival gambits and retaliation.
Any serious observer can see that the impeachment clause in the constitution has rarely been used appropriately to checkmate the tendency for impunity by the executive arm of the government, which enjoys immunity in order to ensure that the people enjoy good governance.
On the contrary, it is always a ready tool for the oppressive inclinations of certain chief executives of states. Mr. Madumere obtained an injunction to stall the stage-managed impeachment process but the Imo State government did not wait to obey the court, hence the illegal impeachment process.
The judiciary in Imo State deserves commendation for its professional stance in the matter, which made sanity to prevail eventually as it stopped the installation of a new deputy governor. And although the governor has pledged to abide by the court judgment, it is curious that he illegally removed him in the first place, thus putting the state in the absurd position of not having a deputy governor that is known to law.
We believe that it is political knavery to subject a state to such unsavoury experiences in the bid to foist a favoured protégé on the people. It is definitely crass and undemocratic.
The rules of the game must be entrenched, a level-playing field must be made available so that the people can freely choose who they want as governor after the incumbent governor has completed his tenure.
Sadly, the political elite have been implicated in many indecent practices that readily thwart governance and the people who ideally ought to be served by the democratic institutions have been serially undercut by such practices as Mr. Okorocha displayed recently in Imo State.
The allegations of gross misconduct must be strongly supported by evidence so that mere trumped-up charges will not be used to sabotage the democratic ideal of giving the people the freedom of choice in the coming election in the state.