Plateau state is one of the thirty six state in Nigeria, with a population estimates of about three million people, figures by the 2006 Census exercise, though the figures are not accepted, by almost all the states of the federation. As at the last General election, the state has over one million registered voters.
The past three years have been trying moments in the state, as there was violence that kept disrupting the once peaceful state, which prides itself as “The Home of Peace and Tourism”. Through concerted efforts by both the state and Federal Government, gradually things are returning to normalcy. If the pace is sustained, undisrupted, then the days of Glory of old, as the Headquarters of the North Central Zone will resurface, with conferences and visitors coming, thus boosting the tourism industry and other economic activities.
The thrust of our discourse however, bothers on something different though related. The seeming, power game that played out in the Election of the Speaker of the State Assembly, where we saw the falling of the erstwhile Speaker and the emergence of a new Speaker in the State Assembly recently.
You will recall during the tenure of the former Governor of the State, the now Senator Joshua Dariye, the Federal government determined to remove Dariye from Government house in Rayfield as at the time, tried in vain to lure the Assembly members of the time led by their Speaker Simon Lalong, to impeach the Governor on sundry reasons. The members will not botch to such demands, as they were having a “cordial” relationship with the Governor. The state political structure was divided, where you had two PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) running concurrently, one in support of the Governor, the other one had the support of the Presidency. Eventually some of the loyalist of the Governor decamps to another party including some of the State Assembly’s members, who were perceived to be loyalist of the Governor.
The Obasanjo led Federal Governor determined to remove Senator Dariye from office, when other measure fail i.e. using the instrument of the Legislature. Decided to use the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) led by the much touted corruption Czar, Nuhu Ribadu. Since the members will not dance to the tune of the Presidency, they were invited to Lagos by the EFCC, including the Speaker and all the Principal Officers, detained on corruption charges and will not be released However Michael Dapialong, and a bunch of renegades members were released, he declared himself Speaker, and went further to declare the seat of the substantive Speaker and thirteen others vacant on the grounds that, they defected to another political party. All this was happening while the substantive Speaker was still held by EFCC on corruption charges that Dapialong himself was not yet cleared by the same EFCC. I challenge anybody to prove these allegations wrong. All the Principal actors in that ugly drama that occurred including the judicial struggles that ensued are all alive but for Gani Fawehinmi, I stand to be corrected on these. The bunch of renegade members led by their Principal, Michael Dapialong, having done away with substantive Speaker sat down under heavy security back up, by the “Abuja boys” having been brought in from Abuja by the EFCC to conduct impeachment of the Governor; it was a wonderful spectacle to behold. The Independent Electoral Commission, led by the infamous Professor Maurice Iwu, which fails to verify the recall moves on the Deputy Senate President of the time, hurriedly came and conducted a bye-election in the vacant seat declared by the de-facto Speaker Michael Dapialong. The fourteen members who lost their seats due to declaration were excluded from the contest in the party they defected to. That was how the now former Speaker who lost out recently and constitutes the inspiration for this piece of writing came into the State Assembly, through that bye-election.
For some reasons, I do not really know why, the now former Speaker, while contesting for re-election having enjoyed about six month or so, and now ready to be really elected in the 2007, rumours started filtering in that he was anointed to be the Speaker of the State Assembly by the power brokers. He won, the election in 2007 easily and when to the House, but was not elected Speaker, another member from the same Local Government won, Emmanuel Go’ar. Whether it was fate, or sheer luck or political manipulations I may not be in a good position to say, but barely a year or so into the tenure of Emmanuel Go’ar, now member of the House Of Representatives in the National Assembly he was impeached. That gave way for the now former Speaker (Rt. Hon. Istifanus C. Mwansat) in the immediate past Administration opportunity to assume the mantle of leadership in the State Assembly, having been unanimously elected by his contemporaries in the House.
Rt. Hon. Istifanus C. Mwansat who is from the same Local Government with the impeached Speaker at the time, Go’ar, piloted the affairs of the Assembly to the admiration of his colleagues, until the rivalry between the Governor Jonah D. Jang and the his Deputy at the time Dame Pauline Tallen which started as a rumour became widely blown in the open. They could no longer hide it from the people of the state and the media. The House that was united now became divided with the majority of members led by the Deputy Speaker of the State Assembly supporting the Deputy Governor. Moves and counter moves were made for the impeachment of the Governor. Anyone who wants to claim that the Governor had more supporters in the State Assembly than the Deputy should explain, why there was no single rumour of a possible impeachment of the Deputy Governor in the House, rather it was the Governor that was threaten with impeachment.
As a result of the politicking akin to the PDP, which in Nigerian parlance is synonymous, with mischief or manipulations, the Deputy Governor who wanted to be Governor also had to decamp to another Political Party (Labour Party), to pursue her dream of becoming the next Governor of the state at the just concluded polls, which was held in April. Her supporters in the State Assembly followed suit.
But for the Judgment of the Supreme Court on Atiku vs Obasanjo in 2007, the seat of the Deputy Governor may have been declared vacant by the PDP Government in the State. But that Judgment had put to rest the position of the Executive after winning an Election on any political platform. That perhaps explained why the Deputy Governor though lost at the polls, retained her position as Deputy Governor until the end of their tenure May 29, 2011 to the chagrin of the Governor, who was utterly helpless about it. Perhaps he took consolation in the fact that she was definitely on her way out, and out of his political machinery.
Occasioned by the defection of the members of the state assembly loyal to the Deputy Governor of the time, and there continuous strong moves to impeached the Speaker whom they perceive as been too loyal to the Governor as he has severally resisted any moves for the impeachment of the Governor, the members where bent on impeaching their leader Istifanus Mwansat, so as to installed one of their own, who will carry out the impeachment of the Governor, perhaps in a Michael Dapialong style. The PDP were equally at the time putting pressure on the Speaker, to declare the seats of the Defected members of the PDP in the House vacant in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended, the Speaker felt otherwise.
For the avoidance of doubt, the 1999 Constitution states among other reason a condition that will warrant the declaration of the seat of a member of the Legislature vacant:
(g) being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected:
Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored;
The Constitution unfortunately never defined what a division in a political party meant, it also never defined what is factionalism. That is left for the Courts to determine. At this point one may asked, what will make someone sponsored by a political party to decamp to another party if there does not exist any form of crisis or division within the party ranks. In Nigeria or in growing democracies, there could be other reasons, as we saw happening in our country, where people decamp from there party to the ruling party, without any form of division in the party structure that sponsored their election, or the political platform they used to achieve their ambition, since most of them are they financiers of the party. What we saw during the Obasanjo era was that, members of the opposition party were at liberty to cross to the ruling party, without anybody raising an eyebrow over the provisions of the Constitution which demands that they vacate their seat, or have it declared vacant, we saw a mass exodus of opposition members into the ruling PDP in the National and State Assemblies, but when in Plateau State the PDP wanted to do away with Dariye during that era, the provisions of the Constitution was invoke and executed in a debase fashion.
One of the reasons we learnt was responsible for the former Speaker Rt. Hon. Istifanus Mwansat, losing the prestigious position, which places him as the number three most influential person in the state, was the fact that he was said to have objected to the PDP request that he declare the seat of his colleagues who defected along with the Deputy to the Labour party, vacant. As a result of the infighting, impeachment threats on the Speaker by the loyalist of the Deputy Governor, the State Assembly went into limbo, there was no single seating in the Assembly from the beginning of February 2011 till the end of the Legislature year. No single seating at all whatsoever. The business of Legislation in the State by the Assembly was comatose.
The defected members were not necessarily against the Speaker, as he had shown a remarkable ability at Managing the House, but they wanted him out, because he will not entertain an impeachment moves against the Governor in the House. At the conclusion of the Elections held in April, only about five of the loyalist of the former Deputy Governor made it back to the State Assembly on the platform of their new party Labour, notable among them is the former Deputy Speaker of the State Assembly. The former Speaker played his cards very well, as his refusal to declare the seats of the defectors vacant as demanded by the PDP endeared the defectors to him. At the same time he was hoping that the Governor will equally be endeared to him, as he frustrated any attempts at convincing him to consider an impeachment moves against the Governor, so he thought until events unfolded.
These two twin “evils” were the “sins” committed by Hon. Istifanus Mwansat that led to his losing the Speakership to Rt. Hon. John K. Dabwan.
Another point worthy of been noted is that, the present Speaker of the State Assembly was elected to House in 2007 under the platform of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), he was the Leader of the Minority in the House until he defected to the ruling PDP, but when the PDP was asking the Speaker to declare the seats of the perceive loyalist of the former Deputy Governor of the state vacant for defection to the Labour Party, they never mentioned the name of the present Speaker who also should vacate his seat as far as the provisions of the 1999 Constitution is concerned. That should tell us something about the kind of Government we have in this country, though it is nothing new, they are only been consistent with themselves, “PDP”.
Robert Greene in his famous book, 48 Laws of power, went memory lane, to bring out many stories about past leadership, there success and there undoing’s, which he chronicled into that piece of art. Nicolo Machiavelli, in his classic The Prince equally gave many advises on the game of power, the Chinese warrior Sun Tsu , wrote The Art of War, and there are several other literatures available that most people in their quest for power, either to wrestle or maintain power in our contemporary society result to reading, others just evolve newer strategies, or due to their ingenuity, come up with strategies that sustain them in power, others employed several crop of persons verse in the art of power manipulations, as advisers to help them in governance.
Will the new Speaker of Plateau State House of Assembly remain as Speaker for the next four years, or impeached and replace by the former, as speculated or an entirely new entrant, only time will tell. For us here at Transparency, we will keep you informed, as to the power play that will unfold.
© Jacob Longpring. OCFR