Politics

Impeachment: Plateau lawmakers murdered democracy, says Rep Bagos

Hon. Dachung Musa Bagos is the Deputy Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Anticorruption and represents Jos South/Jos East Federal Constituency of Plateau State on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with PHILIP NYAM, he speaks on a number of local and national issues including recent impeachment in his state and the Anambra elections

 

You recently condemned the removal of Plateau State House of Assembly Speaker, Ayuba Abok. What was your concern and what is the way forward?

 

Yes, I have serious reservations on the unconstitutional manner the Speaker, Hon. Ayuba Abok was allegedly removed. I was concerned not just because he is my constituent but as a defender of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, where Section 92 (2) clearly stated that a Speaker of a State House of Assembly can only be impeached by a two-third of the members.

 

I want to make it clear that I am not averse to the removal of any elected official if he or she has violated the Constitution or abused his or her oath of office. However, in doing so, lawmakers should not turn the law on its head. As lawmakers, we are the custodians of the laws of this country and should not be seen to be lawbreakers.

 

We have to uphold the sanctity of the laws of the land. So, I condemned in its entirety the process of the removal of Speaker Abok. I was not defending him, but I was defending the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which I have sworn to defend and uphold at all times.

 

Therefore, whatever crime or misdemeanor the Speaker may have committed that warranted his removal, I expected the lawmakers to have followed due process because what they did was illegal. They murdered democracy. It is undemocratic and unconstitutional for eight members out of a 24-member legislature to remove the Speaker.

 

Even a primary school pupil knows that eight does not constitute the two-thirds majority of the 24 members of the assembly, which the requirement prescribed by law is. So, what they did was more or less a kangaroo impeachment.

 

The lawmakers only made Abok a scapegoat because he is standing with the people as a result of the killings and the state of insecurity in the state. In Plateau State, we have 24 members in the House of Assembly elected and serving.

The fact that eight members would sit down and carry out a coup in the name of impeachment is clearly against the Constitution. And today, the government that is for the government, not for the people, has its own Speaker by six members while the people of Plateau have a legitimate Speaker that they know is standing for them, in the person of Rt. Hon. Ayuba Abok.

 

My concern here is not about partisanship but it is for the right thing to be done. I, therefore, call on President Muhammadu Buhari; President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan; and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to intervene in the crisis rocking the Plateau State House of Assembly.

 

Plateau is one of the worst-hit states in the killings going on in the country. Do you think the Federal Government has done well in addressing the insecurity in the state and what do you think should be done to ensure this carnage?

 

I have always complained about the lack of political will by the government at the centre to decisively tackle insecurity, especially in Plateau State. It is unfortunate that the Plateau State, which had been a peaceful and easy-going state, has been turned into a bloody affair.

 

Over the years, we have heard about all of the genocide going on around Plateau State and nothing has been done about it and the government is bent on calling people to sign a peace pact.

 

The most painful aspect is that when our people are being killed by the so-called ‘unknown gunmen’, nobody cares as no one will be arrested or prosecuted. I want the Federal Government to be firm, decisive and dispassionate in pursuing peace on the Plateau.

 

No human life is inferior to another, so our people should be given the protection they deserve and those bent on destroying the state should be handled appropriately.

 

I want our people who have been displaced and sacked from their ancestral homes resettled and given adequate compensation to enable them to settle down. The government must not abandon the victims of these senseless killings to their devices- they deserve government assistance to kick start another life.

 

The amendment of the electoral act has generated a lot of controversies especially on the issue of direct primaries and electronic voting. Where do you stand? And why?

 

I am 100 per cent in support of direct primaries and electronic voting. Direct primaries is just the way to go. Why are politicians afraid to present themselves to the members of their various political parties to be chosen to contest elections?

 

If you recall, one of the freest and most transparent elections we have ever had in this country was the June 12, 1993, general elections, which was annulled by the military and that election was conducted using Option A-4. Under Option A-4, electorate were required to queue behind the candidate of their choice in an open election.

 

Direct primaries is almost like Option A-4 because, in direct primaries, all members of a registered political party are given room to pick candidates that will be sponsored by their parties at general elections. This means that every registered party member will be given a sense of belonging and will have a say in the running of the party.

 

But under indirect elections, party leaders manipulate the process leading to the selection of delegates and therefore, it is hardly transparent. Under indirect primaries, it is in most cases, the survival of the fittest or a game for the highest bidder. I support direct primaries because only people who have connected with society would be elected.

 

So, if we are true democrats and have good intentions for our constituents and the nation at large, why are we shying away from endorsing direct primaries? If you are popular, you will certainly have no problem with direct primaries; and if you have done well or positively impacted on society or identified with your people, you can never be afraid of direct primaries.

 

In fact, direct primaries is less expensive because it does not encourage money politics. Again, on the issue of electronic transmission of results, it will be the best thing to happen to our electoral process. It means bidding bye to the era of stuffing of electoral boxes, the era of multiple voting and snatching of ballot boxes.

 

So, I’m in total support of the amendments done by both chambers of the National Assembly because we want to raise the ante of our electoral process. We need more transparency. I will therefore advise President Buhari to go ahead and assent to the amendment and ignore those calling for a rescission of the amendment.

 

The PDP just had its congresses, which was more of a consensus arrangement. Is that good for democracy and why?

 

The most acceptable definition of democracy is that ‘It is the government of the people, by the people and for the people.’ So, if all members of the PDP in their wisdom decided that the consensus arrangement would reposition the party ahead of the 2023 general elections, there is no harm. It is good for democracy because it helped in forestalling litigations, quarrelling and unnecessary disagreements among party members.

 

And as you can see, there was no dissent or discontent from any corner in the election of officials of the party. In fact, the just concluded convention was the best convention ever in the history of the PDP.

 

This is one convention where members of the appeal committee were left jobless. Everybody was satisfied with the arrangement and decisions taken because every registered member of the party was carried along in arriving at consensus candidates.

 

I can tell you that the PDP has learnt its lessons from the 2015 electoral misfortune and we are now better placed to dislodge the ruling APC in 2023. The outcome of the convention is a clear signal that the primary elections in PDP will also be a seamless process.

 

How would you assess the outcome of the just concluded Anambra gubernatorial elections- the conduct of the electorate, security, INEC and the Federal Government?

 

I am very impressed with the conduct of the Anambra governorship election. Although, I had the initial fear that there may be a crisis considering what was going on in the South-East and Anambra in particular. Fortunately, it turned out to be very positive. INEC played its part very well in creating a level playing field for all the candidates and political parties. I commend INEC for insisting on doing the right thing and following due process in the conduct of the elections.

 

The security agencies also deserve accolades for being professional in their conduct because from the reports I read, I do not see where any of them was accused of snatching ballot boxes on behalf of a particular candidate or party. The youths of the state did not foment  trouble and allowed people to come out without molestation and vote. I commend them for their sense of reasoning.

Of course, I commend the President for not interfering to make sure that the candidate of the ruling party emerges at all costs. It was fair game and I wish INEC would continue in this way and improve in future elections. From what we witnessed in Anambra State, the wishes of the majority prevailed in the election because you can see that most of the candidates who contested against the winner, Prof. Charles Soludo of APGA have congratulated him meaning the contest was free and fair.

 

As Deputy Chairman Anti-Corruption Committee, can you assess the EFCC, judiciary and other agencies involved in the fight against corruption? Have they lived up to expectations?

 

I think there are some positives and some lows in the fight against corruption. For example, the recent conviction of the former Chairman of PTAD, Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina is a plus to the EFCC and the government in the fight against graft in the country. It is one of the positives. On the other hand, the failure to prosecute other high-profile cases, which is, unfortunately, making people accuse the government of selective prosecution or witch-hunt is not good.

 

And very often you hear people say, once you join the ruling party, your sins are forgiven and you can never be prosecuted. In fact, a former national chairman of the APC was once quoted to have said that once you defect to the APC, your sins will be forgiven.

 

I think this does not speak well for the government in the crusade against corruption because corruption has destroyed the fabric of our society. Part of the hardship we are going through today is attributable to corruption, which is fast becoming a norm in the society. I had cause to sponsor a motion on July 13, 2021, on the need to investigate the activities of Anti–Corruption and Transparency Units (ACTUs) in all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government in Nigeria.

 

You know that the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) had requested for the establishment of Anti-Corruption Transparency Units referred to as ACTUs in all MDAs to help in the fight against corruption.

 

In fact, on October 2, 2001, and April 16, 2003, two circulars were issued for the establishment and funding of Anti-Corruption Transparency Units in all MDAs across the country. Another circular was issued on October 5, 2016 re-emphasising both the establishments and funding of the units in all MDAs.

 

These ACTUs in each organisation or MDA were expected to operate as an autonomous outfit of which its independence and protection shall be guaranteed and they were expected to report matters within such MDAs that are regarded as corrupt practices to the ICPC for further action.

 

But I was worried that despite the circulars and efforts, corrupt practices persisted in almost all MDAs, and if not checked, the saying that if we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill us would continue forever. I think the government needs to change its strategy and be more circumspect both in detecting and prosecuting corrupt persons.

 

We have to play down on media trials and focus on diligent prosecution of offenders. This government came into office on the crest of the anti-corruption fight but the steam seems to be waning by the day. We want to see action and not harmless threats and defective or selective prosecution. The government should eschew rhetoric and be pragmatic in this war.

 

You were honoured by The Guardian as one of the most outstanding first-time lawmakers in lawmaking and representation recently. How do you feel?

 

 

I really feel honoured and privileged because I am just two years plus in the House and a reputable organisation like The Guardian has acknowledged my contribution and achievements. It means if you are doing well, people will notice and if you do badly, the society will also mark you.

 

The recognition given to me by The Guardian will serve as an impetus for me to do more because I came into politics to serve. My intention of joining politics is not for pecuniary purposes but to offer service to my people.

 

I have seen the difficult conditions my constituents operate in and I have entered a contract with them to do my best to uplift their standard of living both through lawmaking, representation and provision of constituency projects.

 

And since I came to the House, I have been striving to achieve. I do not come to the House to build houses for myself or buy expensive cars to intimidate my constituents. I contested to add value to the condition of living; to impact their lives.

 

Therefore, with this award, I have been further challenged to do more. This is my second award this year. Last July, I was honoured by the House of Representatives Press Corps as one of the top 10 lawmakers with the highest number of bills and other achievements.

 

I am indeed honoured and grateful to God for the wisdom and strength he has given, and I also appreciate my constituents, the people of Jos South and Jos East for the privilege to represent them.

 

A journalist covering the House was missing for about a month and later found dead. What do you think this portends for the profession and freedom of speech in the country?

I must tell you that I’m saddened by the death of Tordue Salem. The manner of his death was most traumatic and unfortunate. He was a very hardworking journalist and a gentleman. I wish to use this medium to console his family especially his wife and daughter and members of the journalism profession particularly the House of Representatives Press Corps, where he was an active member.

 

It is my prayer that God will take care of the young family he has left behind. It is sad that such a healthy and intelligent young man just died this way. Although the police said he was killed by a hit-and-run driver and someone actually came out to confess, his death has left some unanswered questions.

 

One would have given the police the benefit of doubts from the story told by the Force PRO, Frank Mbah but the narration by the Wuse General Hospital has rather created more confusion; so many questions to ask. Both the police and the hospital handled the matter very shoddily.

 

I think journalists, by virtue of the strategic work they do in the society, should be accorded more security and importance in our country. They need to be better protected and catered for. We should give journalists their due respect.

 

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