Adamawa Political Pendulum: Power game of winners and losers

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By Ohia Israel

On October 11, 2014, Adamawa state Deputy Governor, Bala Ngilari, made
his way back to the Adamawa Government House, not as a Deputy
Governor, but as a Governor of the state. However, as it is Umaru
Fintiri, who has now returned to the House as the Speaker may have
been the biggest loser.

As it has been since the court declared, the last-minute attempts by
Fintiri to hold on to power as acting governor by saying he would
appeal the judgment of the Abuja Federal High Court did not see the
light of day. This is as Ngilari eventually took over the reins of
power few hours after the court judgment.

With the court judgment and the ascending to the seat of power by
Ngilari, the political calculus in Adamawa State, particularly in the
PDP, has now changed and it seems Umar Fintiri has emerged as the
biggest loser. First, Fintiri has lost his chance to serve as
substantive governor, at least for now.
The PDP candidacy, he has obtained for the by-election is also gone,
and he is not certain of retaining it in the November governorship
primaries for the 2015 election. He had already given an undertaking
not to go for the ticket in November, but that was on the
understanding that he would run in the now suspended by-poll.

Another issue that may arise in the PDP is that other gubernatorial
aspirants, who contested with Fintiri in last month’s primaries, are
likely to also come back for the November primaries, even though they
reportedly agreed not to participate.
But what seems to be the biggest change in the political calculation
is that Fintiri may loss the chance of retaining his seat at the House
of Assembly as the speaker.

Meanwhile, former governor Murtala Nyako has taken a swipe on Fintiri
as he accused him of spearheading his impeachment and played a smart
one on the Deputy Governor, Bala Nhgilari, by getting him to sign a
letter of resignation, so he would emerge the acting governor.

Since both Ngilari and Fintiri are from Madagali Local Area of Adamawa
North, it would be against the principle of federal character for
Fintiri to return to the post of speaker.

The clock is ticking against Fintiri as recent events unfolding show
that anxiety has engulfed Adamawa State House of Assembly as a plot to
impeach him gathers momentum. Indications emerging from the House of
Assembly indicate high political scheming by the state lawmakers to
get rid of the speaker over some thorny issues that may be connected
with integrity deficit.

An authoritative source revealed that 17 lawmakers are currently
pressing for Fintiri’s removal, insisting that the speaker may be
shown the way out sooner than expected as the legislators could no
more vouch for his integrity. Another reason advanced for the
speaker’s removal was the need to adhere to the spirit of spread of
political offices as enshrined in the party’s constitution. Both
Fintiri and the new governor,Bala James Ngillari, are from the same
town, Michika.

Some of the lawmakers contend that it is unconstitutional for the
speaker and the governor to come from the same zone, let alone the
same town. They insist that “the House will not lay a wrong precedent
because of the interest of few people.” It was gathered that the
speaker would be asked to resign honourably, but if he resists, and
then the lawmakers would impeach him.

Some of these lawmakers confided to reporters that they were looking
out for “possible loopholes” that could constitute grounds for
Ngilari’s impeachment. One of the lawmakers, who pleaded for
anonymity, said: “There is still tension. Our relationship with the
governor will be strictly official and members will not take any issue
lying low.” The lawmaker claimed the ousted acting governor did well
while he ruled the state. “Members believe Fintiri proved within three
months that he could bring development to the state. He awarded
several projects that are yielding results at far less cost than what
the previous administration quoted.”

Another House member, who wants to remain anonymous, confirmed that
the lawmakers were holding a series of meetings on the next step to
take.
“We will do our work, while the governor will be doing his own,” the
lawmaker threatened. It was gathered that some pro-Fintiri lawmakers
planned to sponsor a motion to commend him for his “tremendous
achievements in office as acting governor.”

However, the motion is likely to be opposed by lawmakers loyal to
Ngilari, which could trigger fresh crises in the state House of
Assembly. When contacted, one of Fintiri’s closest associates in the
House, Mr. KwamotiLa’Ore, said that the House would “perform its
constitutional duties if there was any breach or offence” by the
governor.

“We will abide by the court decision, though we are on appeal. He is
the governor and we will not go after him unless there is an offence.
As it stands, former governorNyako has hit back on Fintiri as he said
that the current allegations of N18bilion fraud hanging on the head of
the former acting governor of Adamawa State and some of his colleagues
has raised a number of questions that beg for urgent answers.

Nyako said that it has also exposed the limits of grandstanding in the
political misadventure embarked upon by some elements within the
Adamawa political class and their agents within and outside the State.
According to Nyako in a statement signed by his media aide; “We wish
to reiterate that the whole impeachment saga was steeped in extreme
illegalities and self-serving interests.

We therefore raise the following questions which need urgent answers:
Should it be eventually proven that a colossal amount of N18 billion
was expended by the Former Acting Governor in less than 3 Months, then
what is the moral basis for accusing any other person of
misappropriating state funds? What becomes of the grandstanding that
was used to justify the purported impeachment of Governor Murtala
Nyako?”

He also said:  “That he could even find himself in a situation where
he will be accused of such an act is really unfortunate considering
the supposed moral pedestal he used in ousting the former Governor.
Whether it was proven or not, doesn’t he think he has lost the moral
ground to accuse anyone else of misappropriating public funds? Should
we believe the defense being put by his apologists that he is being
hounded by Opposition Politicians, and that the whole thing is just
political blackmail, so between the allegations levelled against him
and the one he levelled against others, especially Murtala H Nyako,
which one is political blackmail? Why will his own be political
blackmail and that of others be accepted as true? How come the leakage
of such sensitive information is coming from people supposedly close
to former Acting Governor? Why will his former comrades in arms
suddenly turn his arch enemies? What really went wrong? Or is it a
case of “munafuncin Dodo, yakan ci maishi?

“We wish to call on the anti-corruption agencies (ICPC and EFCC) to
investigate this matter thoroughly because as they say, there is no
smoke without fire. Rt. Hon. AhmaduUmaruFintiri needs to treat all
matters related to his term as Acting Governor very seriously at least
to prove to the world that his roles in the supposed impeachment of
Governor Nyako and the illegal removal of Barr BalaNgilari were not
motivated by selfish and self-serving interest to assume the position
of Acting Governor as a stepping stone to self-enrichment.”

However it will be recalled that since his emergence as the Acting
Governor and until the Primary election, Fintiri has not had it good.
For instance, prior to the Adamawa PDP governorship aspirants the
acting governor of the state UmaruFintiri faced a big hurdle as groups
and stakeholders in the State called for the disqualification of the
Acting Governor.

Two groups- the Concerned Youths for Good Governance in Adamawa State
and Concerned PDP Youths on Development in Adamawa – in separate
statements called on the party’s screening committee to screen Fintiri
out.
In a petition signed by Ahmed Ya’uba, the Coordinator of Concerned
Youths for Good Governance in Adamawa, the group said that the acting
governor was a member of the APC and needed a waiver to make him
eligible for the PDP ticket.

The statement reads: “The fulcrum of democracy is observance of law
and order and respect of laid down rules and regulations. It is also
the basis on which our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party
(PDP), commands a lot of respect and popular acceptance in this
country. It is therefore for this that whenever we see the party being
misled to act in contempt of its own spelt out rules and regulations,
we as loyal members of the party would have to act quickly to abort
subversion of the cherished democratic credentials of the PDP.

“It is therefore for this reason that we write to draw the attention
of the Screening Committee and other organs of the party’s leadership
to the imminent swindling of the party by the acting governor of
Adamawa State, AhmaduUmaruFintiri, who is legally not qualified to vie
for the governorship, or any other position for that matter, being a
returnee who has not been granted a waiver.”

“Mr. Chairman, the said AhmaduUmaru, like many other officials of the
last administration of the state, had decamped from our party, the
PDP, and subscribed to the All Progressives Congress (APC). He has
also not returned his APC membership card to his Ward chairman, thus
keeping one of his legs in that party. We are also aware that he has
entered into a discussion with some APC elements to immediately dust
up his membership card if he did not win the scheduled primaries of
our party, the PDP. By the provisions of Section 16 (2) and Section 16
(4) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as amended, AhmaduUmaru has
no right to contest for any position under the party’s platform. It is
therefore a misnomer that he is positioning himself as an aspirant for
the position of the governor of Adamawa State.

“With these available and verifiable facts, we believe that the
committee will do the right thing of disqualifying the said aspirant
as he is not in any way qualified to contest for anything under the
PDP platform, as at this time.”
Meanwhile, the Concerned PDP Youths on Development also in its own
petition signed by Joshua F. Mesele and addressed to the Chairman of
the screening committee as well as the party’s national chairman, BOT
chairman, NWC of PDP, chairman of PDP Governors Forum and the
presidency, said UmaruFintiri’s aspiration poses a big danger to
political stability in the country.

In their petition the group said: “We are Concerned Youths in the
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who are greatly proud of the
courageous work the National Working Committee is doing to further
lift the fortunes of the party. We indeed acknowledge your untiring
efforts at repositioning the PDP. We therefore urgently seek your
timely intervention on Adamawa State with the speed of light and due
respect, before you embark on this screening.

“We are compelled to write this urgent letter after reading and
listening to series of opinions expressed by Nigerians on the decision
of the Acting Governor of Adamawa State, AlhajiAhmaduUmaruFintiri, to
seek the PDP ticket to contest the October 11, 2014 Bye-Election. We
wish to appeal to our leaders and elders (the NWC) to be guided by
national interest and the future of politics in Nigeria. This requires
your urgent intervention and posterity will be kind to you to save our
country from what may later become a ‘Political Coup D’état’ against
sitting governors.

“We make bold to say that clearing the Acting Governor to contest the
PDP Party Primary scheduled for September 6, 2014, in the first place,
will set a dangerous precedent for politics in Nigeria, create a
legislative tyranny and embolden hostility between the legislature and
the executive. The ambition of Fintiri is morally wrong, politically
incorrect and legally exploitative. Other States may be caught in
this.

“We wish to remind you of a different scenario, but which has a more
sense of entitlement to contest than Fintiri (Adamawa) and yet the PDP
prevailed upon him not to contest – that it was politically and
morally wrong.  You will recall that the Party prevailed on Michael
Botmang in Plateau State to drop his ambition to contest the 2007
governorship election after he became a governor following the
impeachment of Joshua Dariye. The PDP was right in taken that decision
and it indeed created the necessary political stability and a level
playing field for all aspirants in that State. Fintiri has the right
to contest, but he should resign his position to do that for the sake
of posterity and stability.

“We don’t want to belabour you with the political calculation of the
All Progressives Congress (APC), which is eagerly awaiting the
emergence of a politically weak UmaruFintiri and a divided PDP if he
is allowed to contest. Let us be guided by political developments from
the Ekiti and Osun States governorship elections and the cost of 2015
and field the best and most popular candidate. PDP cannot afford to
lose Adamawa enroute 2015. Yet, AtikuAbubakar is strongly out to make
a political statement with the Adamawa State. The calculation must be
right for the PDP. A Food for Thought.

“We are sincerely hopeful that the NWC and our great party will be
guided by informed opinions and genuine concerns for the future of the
party.  This is very urgent and may God guide you in taking a decision
that will protect the future of the State.

“We remain loyal and committed to the great ideals of our party. PDP,
Power to the people of Adamawa State.”

Another big trouble for the embattled Fintiri is his alleged award of
contracts to his cronies and families within few months in office as
acting governor. It will be recalled that an online news media,
Ireports-ng.com, wrote that with less than four weeks in office as
acting governor of Adamawa State, he allegedly stole the state blind,
awarding contracts worth billions of naira to his cronies without
following due process in a desperate bid to raise enough money to
fight his way to remain in office.

Fintiri who became acting governor after spearheading the impeachment
of Governor Murtala Nyako has before now pushed the proposal for his
continued stay in office beyond the three months stipulated by the
constitution but when that proposal failed to scale through, he
declared his interest in contesting the bye-election scheduled for
October 11. Since declaring his interest in the contest, a move that
may lead to a constitutional problem, Fintiri was said to have gone on
a stealing spree to the point of emptying all known bank accounts of
the state under the cover of awarding contracts in a desperate bid to
raise funds which he has been spending to bribe his way through
various PDP structures at the state and national levels of the party.

According to the online news, with less than four weeks in office,
Fintiri has awarded a N4.3 billion road contract and another N2.5
billion solar streets light contract to his cronies who have been
diverting the funds for him. Sources in Fintiri’s government confirmed
that the huge contracts were awarded without advertisements or tender
as required by the Public Procurement Act. This is in addition to the
N300 million he spent to buy Prado jeeps for local government chairmen
within his first two weeks in office.

It will be recalled that a Federal High Court presided by Justice
AdeniyiAdemola ordered that the deputy governor of the state, Mr
BalaNgilari, be sworn in with immediate effect. According to Justice
Ademola the purported resignation letter submitted to the House of
Assembly by Ngilari was null and void because as at the time the
letter was submitted, MurtalaNyako was still the governor.

The Judge had cited section 306 (1),(2),(3),(4) and (5) of the
constitution in support of the judgment. Nglari had asked the court to
declare him governor of Adamawa State following the impeachment of
MurtalaNyako on July 15, 2014.

The court had earlier ‎refused an application by Ngilari to restrain
the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from conducting
bye-election to fill the Adamawa governorship seat.

Ngilari, whose office was declared vacant on July 15 by the state’s
lawmakers after he purportedly resigned, is challenging the legality
of his resignation.
‎The suit has UmaruFintiri, the Speaker, Adamawa State House of
Assembly, the House of Assembly, the Acting Governor, Adamawa State,
Nyako and INEC as defendants.

Ngilari, who denied resigning his position within the contemplation of
the provision of Section 306(1), (2) & (5) of the Constitution, said
the purported resignation letter he sent to the Speaker was not meant
to be acted on by the House of Assembly.

He stated, in a supporting affidavit, that “I did not submit any
letter of resignation to the 5th defendant (governor) or any other
person other than the 1st defendant (the Speaker). “I only submitted a
purported letter of resignation (exhibit A), to the 1st defendant but
I never intended to comply with the strict provisions of sections 306
(1), (2) & (5) of the 1999 Constitution by submitting it to the 5th
defendant (the Governor).

“I never intended exhibit A (the letter) to be any subject of debate
or resolution by the 2nd defendant (House of Assembly), but a private
correspondence between myself and the 1st defendant, hence it was
marked ‘secret’.

“That exhibit A was only submitted to the 1st defendant with the
intention of discussing the contents with him privately at a more
convenient time to alert him at a possible action I may take at a
later date because of certain political developments in Adamawa State,
hence I did not submit it to the 5th defendant (as Governor of Adamawa
State) as strictly stipulated by section 306(1), (2) & (5) of the 1999
Constitution.

“That I was therefore shocked to see that my letter was read and acted
upon by the entire members of the 2nd Defendant when it was never
addressed to them,” Nggilari stated.

The embattled Deputy Governor raised seven questions for the court’s
determination, and asked the court to restrain INEC and its agents
from conducting a bye-election to fill the office of the Governor
following the impeachment of the governor and the purported
resignation of his deputy.
He seeks an order “removing the 3rd defendant (Umaru) as the Acting
Governor of Adamawa State forthwith”, and “an order directing the
Chief Judge of Adamawa State (or Acting Chief Judge, as the case may
be) or the President of the Customary Court of Appeal to swear” him
(the plaintiff) in as the state’s substantive governor.

The plaintiff sought as follows:

*A declaration that by the combined provisions of section 306 (1), (2)
and (5) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as
amended) the plaintiff (Barr.Bala James Nggilari), as Deputy Governor
of Adamawa State, did not resign his office by addressing a letter of
resignation dated 15th July, 2014 to the 1st defendant (Speaker,
Adamawa State House of Assembly).

*A declaration that by the combined provisions of section 306 (1), (2)
and (5) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as
amended) the purported resignation of the Plaintiff as Deputy Governor
of Adamawa State did not take effect when the purported Letter of
Resignation was received by the 1st Defendant (Speaker, Adamawa State
House of Assembly) on the 15th of July, 2014.

*A declaration that by the combined provisions of section 306 (1), (2)
and (5) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as
amended) the declaration of the office of the Deputy Governor of
Adamawa State (then occupied by the plaintiff) vacant on the July
15th, 2014 vide the votes and proceedings of the 2nd defendant of same
day is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.

*A declaration that by the sequence of the legislative business of the
2nd defendant as contained in the transcript of the votes and
proceedings of the Adamawa State House of Assembly (2nd defendant) of
Tuesday, July 15th, 2014, the 5th defendant (MurtalaNyako) was still
the Governor of Adamawa State at the time the 1st and 2nd defendants
received, accepted and acted upon the purported letter of resignation
of the plaintiff (Barr. Bala James Nggilari) to declare his seat
vacant.

*A declaration that by the combined provisions of section 306 (1), (2)
and (5) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as
amended) the Plaintiff (Barr.Bala James Nggilari) did not resign from
office as Deputy Governor of Adamawa State as strictly stipulated by
the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
*A declaration that by virtue of section 191(1) of the 1999
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), after
the impeachment of MurtalaNyako (5th Defendant) as Governor of Adamawa
Sate, the Plaintiff ought to be sworn in as Governor of Adamawa State.

*A declaration that by the combined provisions of section 191(1) and
306 (1), (2) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of
Nigeria (as amended), the swearing-in of the 3rd defendant (Rt. Hon.
AhmaduUmaru) as Acting Governor of Adamawa State on 15th of July, 2014
is illegal and unconstitutional.

*A declaration that, by the provision of section 191(1) of the 1999
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the 6th
Defendant cannot conduct any election to fill the office of the
Governor of Adamawa State after the impeachment of MurtalaNyako, as
the Deputy Governor (Barr. Bala James Nggilari) did not resign from
that office as strictly stipulated by section 306 (1), (2) and (5) of
the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

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