“There is no basis in law for the PDP to declare my seat vacant, PDP cannot remove the Vice President, nor the courts.” –Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar
“That is what it means. Those who occupy the two offices, that of the vice president and the governor of Abia state, as far as we are concerned as PDP members, are no more members of our party and we will not take any responsibility for their actions.”– National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, John Odey
“Impeachment as a part of our Constitution should be a last resort, not to be used glibly or unseriously. The issues at stake must be weighty enough and the constitutional process must be followed”-President Olusegun Obasanjo during a radio telephone chat
The leadership of People Democratic Party (PDP) expelled Alhaji Atiku Abubakar from the party following the adoption of the Vice President by Action Congress (AC) as their Presidential flag-bearer.
Atiku was elected to power alongside Obasanjo in 1999 and 2003 on the platform of the PDP in line with Section142 (1),
“In any election to which the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Chapter relate, a candidate for an election to the office of President shall not be deemed to be validly nominated unless he nominates another candidate as his associate from the same political party for his running for the office of President, who is to occupy the office of Vice-President…”
but he declared for the Action Congress(AC) after so much battle with the leadership of PDP and after wining the court case against his suspension by the party which the party still refused to recognise. He emerged the presidential candidate for Action Congress (AC) with nine other political parties giving him their support for 2007 polls after a three-month suspension.
However, the decision of the leadership of PDP leadership to replace the Vice President has caused shock-waves across the country’s political arena as many constitutional lawyers and prominent political analyst await the legal showdown that will emerge from this saga.
The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Olisa Agbakoba, was reported by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) as warning PDP against the replacement of Vice-President Atiku Abubakar because it would create a constitutional crisis in the country.
Whilst, the PDP grounds for expelling the Vice President after picking the Action Congress (AC) is understandable because he is no longer technically a member of PDP. The idea of removing him from the Office of the Vice President cannot be excused by the law. The full text of Section 142 (1) reads:
“In any election to which the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Chapter relate, a candidate for an election to the office of President shall not be deemed to be validly nominated unless he nominates another candidate as his associate from the same political party for his running for the office of President, who is to occupy the office of Vice-President and that candidate shall be deemed to have been duly elected to the office of Vice-President if the candidate for an election to the office of President who nominated him as such associate is duly elected as President in accordance with the provisions aforesaid”
The latter part of this section stated that the Vice President “shall be deemed to have been duly elected to the office of Vice-President if the candidate for an election to the office of President who nominated him as such associated…” Any reasonable person can infer from the statement that the Vice President role will be validated by the Presidential victory but no longer restricted by the same political party principle. If membership of the same political party remains the criteria for holding the post, the law would have rightly identified this in Section 143 and144 of the 1999 Constitution and it is important to note that both the office of the President and Vice-President are answerable to the people through the House of Assembly not to political parties.
The constitution is crystal clear that the Vice-President could only be removed from office by death, impeachment, resignation or on medical grounds, thus the PDP’s request did not fall within the remit of the four conditions outline in the legislative provision.
There have been talks about the use of section 109 (g) of the 1999 Constitution which states that:
“being a person whose election to the House of Assembly 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; or… “
This section above is not relevant in the case of the Vice President because he is not a member of the House of National Assembly, thus the law can not be inferred to suggest that it is relevant to the case. However, the only possible way to remove the Vice President is impeachment by the National Assembly or for him to resign voluntarily.
For some of us with some understanding of the law, we know that the reasoning behind the legislative provision will be re-visited by any judge to ensure that the interpretation of the law is not ambiguous. To assist Nigerians understand the interpretation issue involved, let me explain. Every member of the House of Assembly like any elected politician secured the sit, representing the party and the electorate. If he/she move to another party, then it is important that the sit is vacated because the House of Assembly runs on a party orientated approach and the position will affect the political landscape. However, the post of the President and Vice President is different because once elected; their allegiance in theory is no longer to the party but rather to the nation and its people. Thus, the difference between S142 (1) and S109 (g) is simply that the Vice President in that position is answerable to the President (the boss) and the nation, not to the party. This is the legal interpretation that even a first year student of law should understand.
Nevertheless, the ongoing political correctness in Nigeria which is interfering with every aspect of the political spectrum such as the obvious EFCC investigation of specific individuals, the re-engineering or master-minding of support for anointed PDP Presidential candidate and the political conflict between the President and the Vice President, will destroy the value of that office of the Presidency.
It is strange that the
President has never been questioned on the subject of section 148 (2) which place a duty on the President to meet regularly with the Vice President on matters relating to the nations up-keeping. The duty is not discretionary but mandatory because the word used is “Shall” instead of “May”.
The battle line is now drawn and it is my political prophecy that this latest political correctness or madness whatever you prefer to call it, is only weakening the fibre of our young democracy and I am now calling on all true political elders and religious leaders in Nigeria to stand up and call some of our political leaders to order.
The Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who is presently on annual leave at his Potomac residence (Maryland, U.S) dismissed the suggestion that he is no longer the Vice President of Nigeria.