An allegation by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media an Publicity, Garba Shehu, that Governors were removed through Federal might under the administration of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, is debatable in some case and outrightly speculative in others.
In an essay titled “The real price of “change the change” Campaign’, Garba wondered why the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had the effrontery to write the United Nations, accusing President Buhari of being a threat to Democracy, when the Party did terrible things while in power.
He argued that President Buhari has painstakingly followed the Nigerian Constitution since his becoming President in 2015.
Garba asserts that the opposition PDP showed aptitude in only one thing: “the toppling of elected State Governments using the Police and Secret Service under their control.”
“A five-man legislature met at 6:00 am and “impeached” Governor Dariye in Plateau; 18 members out of 32 removed Governor Ladoja of Oyo from office; in Anambra, APGA’s Governor Obi was equally impeached at 5:00 a.m. by members who did not meet the two-thirds required by the Constitution.
“His offence was that he refused to inflate the State’s budget. The lawmakers had reportedly met with representatives of the President in Asaba, Delta State and then accompanied to Awka by heavy security provided by the Police Mobile Unit. The PDP President at that time had reportedly told Obi to forget re-election in 2007 if he did not join the PDP because he (the President) would not support a non-PDP member.
“In Ekiti, Governor Fayose in his first term faced allegations of financial corruption and murder. Following the failure to heed the instruction of the Presidency to impeach only Fayose and spare the Deputy, Madam Olujimi, now a Senator, the PDP President declared that there was a breakdown of law and order in the State and declared a State of Emergency.
“He appointed Brig-Gen. Adetunji Olurin (rtd) as the sole administrator of the State on October 19, 2006. In an earlier incident in Anambra, it took an insider collaboration to thwart the unseating of Governor Ngige by a powerful thug sponsored by the PDP administration.”
The Presidential Spokesman also narrates how the parliament at the centre seized the law-making powers of the Rivers State House of Assembly to save Governor Rotimi Amaechi, the then Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), from impeachment by the PDP Presidency.
According to Garba’s claims, Dariye, Obi, Ladoja and Fayose were removed unconstitutionally, using political might, but attempt to unsit Ngige and Amaechi were unsuccessful due to “insider collaboration” and seizure of “law-making powers” respectively.
The Plateau State Governor’s first tenure was marred with crisis which made President Obasanjo declare a State of Emergency.
It was reported that some Christians had attack a Muslim community in Yelwa killing 600, according to Red Cross.
This instigated a reprisal attack by some Muslims on Christian community which resulted in about 70 deaths, but Christian leaders alleged it was up to 600, while 3000 were missing.
Wielding what was widely considered his Constitutional power, President Obasanjo removed Dariye, accusing him of failing in his duties to put an end to the violence.
“If anything some of his utterances, his lackadaisical attitude and seeming uneven-handedness…over the contending issues present him as not just part of the problem, but also as an instigator and a threat to peace.
“I hereby declare a State of Emergency in Plateau State.”
But while the Constitution permits the President to declare a State of Emergency, it does not follow that the elected Governor is removed in the process. Obasanjo went ahead to dissolve the House of Assembly and appoint a retired Army General, Chris Ali, as interim administrator for the next six months.
Spokesman for the Plateau State Government, Stanley Bentu, said Dariye had accepted the decision to impose a State of Emergency. He added that the Governor did not bother to go to his office. A statement which suggests that it was a general understanding then that when State of Emergencies are declared the Governor leaves the Office for the time being.
The State of Emergency was later lifted and the Governor reinstated, but by then he was facing charges of financial fraud by Metropolitan Police in Britain.
After his reinstatement as Governor, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) swung into action in getting Dariye prosecuted forfinancial crime allegations against him but to no avail.
The EFCC suit against Dariye was rejected, as Governors have immunity against prosecution while in office.
However, the process for his removal began in 2006, when the State lawmakers decided to probe him for the allegations against him.
It was alleged that the then Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Akin Olujimi wrote to Plateau State House of Assembly, asking it to probe Dariye, but the letter was rejected, as the lawmakers iterated that the probing should start from the Executive at the centre, before going to States.
The lawmakers later decided to probe Governor Dariye, with a 10-man Committee set to investigate the allegations.
The then Director of Operations, EFCC, Ibrahim Larmorde, who later became Chairman of EFCC, was also invited and he presented documents that seem to indict the Governor.
After its investigations, the Committee submitted its findings to a 5-man House of Assembly group that was alleged to have links with the Federal Government.
The State House of Assembly had 24 members, and 18 members were required to serve an impeachment letter to the Governor. While the required numbers were ushered to the Assembly by security operatives, two members had distanced themselves from the process, making the remaining members constitutionally powerless to issue an impeachment notice.
Governor Dariye was finally impeached on the 13th of November 2006, with the impeachment letter signed by just three members of the State Assembly.
The manner he was impeached coupled with the failure to meet the impeachment requirements made many believe it was orchestrated by the Federal Government.
In contrast, Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Gani Fawehimi, held that Dariye was removed from office for corrupt practices.
The former Anambra State Governor served two tenures from 2006 to 2014 with unconstitutional removal from office on two occasions.
The 2003 Elections saw Dr. Chris Ngige emerging winner, but Obi challenged the result in Court and eventually won three years later.
Eight months after assuming office, he was impeached following indictment by State lawmakers on allegations of financial fraud.
It was reported that President Obasanjo who had visited Governor Obi after he was declared winner of the election told the Governor to defect to PDP or forget re-election. Obi was a member of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). There is however no way to verify this report.
It was also alleged that the lawmakers had met with the representatives of the former President to deliberate his removal, then proceeded to the State House to begin the process.
According to the Speaker, Mike Balonwu, 21 members of the House signed the resolution for the impeachment, a claim denied by Governor Obi.
He was however reinstated after challenging the process in Court, which declared his impeachment; “unconstitutional, null and void”.
But in 2017, Obi revealed he was impeached the first time – which fell in Obasanjo’s era – for refusing to inflate the yearly Government budget, not for refusal to decamp.
In a symposium titled ‘Open Governance: Improving Transparency and Accountability in Government’, he said politicians as well as civil servants are responsible for inflated Government budgets.
“I was impeached in Anambra State, removed from office twice, the first one is because of this budget issue.
“They want to repair Office of the Governor, which is my office, the approved budget for 2006 was N298 million, I repaired everything with N43.2 million. They said I didn’t do it through due process, because they have awarded the contract.
“The second item was repair of the Governor’s Lodge, which is where I live, everything was N486 million, I did everything with N81 million, they said it didn’t go through due process. That is to show you how Government works, they input so many roadblocks.”
The former Governor of Oyo State was also impeached in 2006, following allegations of State funds embezzlement worth N2 million.
His impeachment was also alleged to have been backed by his political godfather, Chief Lamidi Adedibu.
Chief Adebibu claimed there was an agreement between him and Ladoja on receiving some emoluments every month from security votes.
“You know that Governors don’t account for security votes. He was to give me N15 million of that every month; he reneged. Later, he reduced it to N10 million. Yet, he did not give me.”
In defence, Ladoja said there was no such agreement between Adedibu and him.
‘’We did not reach any agreement about sharing money. When he asked me about his own share, I asked him under which account should I put it.
“The understanding of both of us of what governance is supposed to be differs. The difference is that I see governance as service while he sees it as business.’’
Eighteen of the 32 legislators proceeded with his impeachment after considering a report by the a panel set up to investigate Governor Ladoja.
He also opined that President Obasanjo played a part in his impeachment process due to his refusal to support his third term bid.
“You see Chief Obasanjo, I went to see him in Ota. I told him that I was hearing about this Third Term thing. He said don’t worry yourself, it is not true. I said I would have wondered because, even the one you have now you were not qualified for it.”
He said it was after his statement he got wind of his impeachment by the State Assembly. Ladoja later approached the Court which also declared his impeachment illegal.
Yet Ladoja seem to contradict himself on if Obasanjo deserved to be President, as in 2016, he shallowed lengthy accolades on Obasanjo, calling him the greatest Nigerian and the second greatest African leader after Mandela.
The current Ekiti State Governor was impeached on accusation of embezzling State funds to pay for the Ekiti State Poultry Project.
24 out of 26 lawmakers supported the impeachment process of Governor Fayose and his Deputy, Mrs. Biodun Olujimi on corruption charges.
The project was handled by Fayose’s childhood friend, Gbenga James, who eventually testified against him.
While it was apparent that he was impeached on corruption charges, many assumed President Obasanjo also played a role in the impeachment process.
After Fayose’s impeachment, he went on hiding, from where he maintained he was still Governor of Ekiti State. His Deputy also claimed to be Acting Governor in Fayose’s absence and the Speaker of the House of Assembly also claimed to have been sworn in following the impeachment of the Governor and his Deputy. There were three Governors in one State, or so the President claimed as he declared a State of Emergency in Ekiti.
In a tone mixed with memories of the military era and some “Constititution” to soften, Obasanjo, on October 19, 2006, decided the fate of Ekiti in the following words,
“The Governor and his Deputy and those who purported to be Acting Governors or Deputy by this declaration will cease to be in charge of the affairs of Ekiti State. An Administrator to manage the affairs of Ekiti State in the person of Brigadier- General Tunji Olurin (rtd.) is hereby nominated for six months in the first instance.
The Ekiti State House of Assembly also goes on suspension as the formal legislative body of the State with immediate effect for six months. Having a State Assembly in position under a State of Emergency is incongruous and may not allow for the expeditious actions that the Administrator will need, to put the State back into a situation of peace, harmony, security for all, and maintenance of law and order throughout the State. Elected officials below the State level are not suspended. The Federal Gazette containing the Declaration has been forwarded to the National Assembly in accordance with the Constitution.”