Nagging issues in Taraba deputy speaker’s impeachment
The recent impeachment of the Deputy Speaker of Taraba State House of Assembly, Alhaji Mohammed Danladi Gwampo, came at a time when the existence of a political power sharing arrangement in the state was being celebrated.
Under the power rotation principle, it is believed that by the time Governor Darius Ishaku rounds off his second term in office by 2023, a candidate from Taraba North Senatorial District or Zone A, would be getting ready to step in.
Ordinarily, the impeachment of Alhaji Gwampo, who hails from Taraba North, would have been seen as part of the power play preparatory to the 2023 election cycle.
But, although the Deputy Speaker’s removal from office was received with mixed feelings by Tarabans, majority believe that the development was about the best thing that ever happened to the growth of democracy in the state.
While a school of thought insists that the impeachment was long over due, saying that legislative activities always suffers whenever the Speaker, Abel Peter Dish was not available, others associate his removal was actually a game plan for 2023.
Grounds of impeachment
The motion for Gwampo’s removal, which came under matters of urgent public importance, was moved by the member representing Lau constituency, Joseph Albasu Kunini, was immediately seconded by the member representing Wukari 1 constituency, Pius Sabo.
Citing “incompetency and maladministration” as the major ground for the impeachment proceedings, Kunini alleged that under Gwampo, the duties expected from the Deputy Speaker under the House’s Standing Rules, Order VII Rule 25 (1-10a and b), “which includes, but not limited to performing all duties designated to be performed by the Speaker as the presiding officer and yours sincerely under same Order VII Rule 16(1) and (2), are always not taken serious by the Gwampo.
The Assembly noted “with dismay that since the inception of the 8th Assembly when Mohammed Danladi Gwampo was elected as Deputy Speaker till this 9th Assembly, he has never for once presided over the sitting of this honourable House even when the speaker is unavoidably absent.”
While adding that members “observe this as a clear display of incompetence and maladministration,” the mover of the motion added: “The inability of the Deputy Speaker to conduct himself to chair the committee of the whole House has also caused dissatisfaction among members, who feel that the inaction of the deputy speaker has put their integrity at stake and dishonourable to their golden prestige.
“Incompetence as Deputy Speaker is a clear indication that the deputy speaker lacks the skills and knowledge to lead this House to its amiable glory, as such, members are not satisfied with such display of incompetence.”
Members, who blamed incompetence for Gwampo’s failure to preside over the plenary sittings of the House and to chair the Committee of the whole as stipulated by the House rules and the 1999 Constitution, as amended, agreed that his action has “indeed indirectly crippled the legislative transactions and competence of the House.”
But, what was intriguing in the entire impeachment process was that before the Speaker, Abel Peter Diah, could utter a word, virtually all the members, who seemed undeterred in their plans, literally declared in one voice: “It is our firm conviction that the Deputy Speaker is incompetent and cannot preside over the affairs o this House, a disposition which has resulted in the denigration of and disregard for fellow colleagues, who are now viewed by the public as bunch of incompetent representatives.
“It is in our collective interest and that of Tarabans as contemplated by sections 92(2) (C) of the 199 Constitution, as amended, to collectively pass a vote of no confidence on Gwampo, the member representing Yorro State Constituency to stand removed from the office as the Deputy Speaker of the Taraba State House of Assembly.”
Yet, shortly after the gavel sounded, the Speaker, feeling shocked by the development, said he was ambushed by his colleagues, remarking that he did not have prior knowledge of plans to remove his deputy, but has no option than to go along with the majority.
Diah maintained that legislative business is bound by democratic principles, stressing that he had no alternative than to rule and approve the impeachment of the number two man of the House.
As the lawmakers filed out after the sitting, they expressed relief that their legislative business, which they claimed was always at the verge of being crippled in the absence of the Speaker, has been salvaged.
The member representing Karim-Lamido 1 constituency, Mr. Charles Maijankai, became the beneficiary of Gwampo’s ouster, as he was nominated to mount the rostrum as the occupant of the number two position of the House.
Maijankai reiterated his readiness and determination to use his wealth of experience to preside over the affairs of the House in the absence of the Speaker, even as he urged his colleagues not to relent in giving their much needed helping hands to the leadership of the House.
Although 18 out of the 24 lawmakers actually endorsed the impeachment paper, others were said to have decided to sit on the fence, either out of political calculations or as a result of their personal relationship with the impeached Deputy Speaker
But, apart from the incompetence tag on the ousted Deputy Speaker, The Guardian reliably gathered that the major reason behind his removal was Gwampo’s purported inability to abide by his oath of secrecy.
High-ranking sources in the government, who spoke to The Guardian in confidence, said, “we are very much aware that most of the government secrets that ought not to be in the public domain always got leaked through him. So I can tell you categorically that that was the reason for his removal.”
Efforts to ascertain whether the executive arm instigated the impeachment could not bear fruits as the source pointedly declared: “Frankly speaking, I don’t think that our governor has a hand in this, because all the members were fed up with his (Gwampo) attitude.”
A former member of the Assembly, Ishaya Daniel Gani, who commended the members for taking action, agreed that the members’ intentions were genuine, stressing, “legislative business needs competent hands.”
Gani called on the three arms of government to borrow a leaf from the State House of Assembly by flushing out all incompetent hands, “so that our state can move forward.”
He associated himself with those who said that the impeached Deputy Speaker lacked the capacity to adhere to his official oaths of secrecy, insisting that the impeachment has no political undertone.
The former lawmaker observed that the person nominated to replace the sacked Deputy Speaker are both from the same northern geopolitical zone of the state, adding that “the members discovered that the oath of secrecy he swore to uphold are not kept, because a lot of information was leaked through him.”
Contrary to speculations that the state governor was behind the former Deputy Speaker’s ordeal, the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Ishaku on Media and Publicity, Bala Dan Abu, denied all the allegations, stating that “the governor had no hand in what happened in the State House of Assembly.”
He described what took place in the House as the “internal affairs of the legislature,” adding that the impeachment came as “a surprise to the governor just like any other person in the state.”
Observers of Taraba politics however said Gwampo’s removal was aimed at frustrating the northern part of the state from producing the next governor come next political dispensation.
Describing Gwampo as a grassroots politician, who single-handedly frustrated the All Progressives Congress (APC) from having a field day in the last general election in Yorro and it’s environs, some party stalwarts believe that he was edged out to debar him from gathering support for one of the potential aspirants from the zone planning to jostle for the governorship ticket of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2023.
Some party faithful confided in The Guardian expressed sadness at the development, regretting that the former Deputy Speaker, who is a Muslim, was replaced with a Christian instead.
Wondering why both the Speaker, his deputy, as well as some top leaders of the House should all emerge from a particular religion, which according to them “has begin to give us some concerns.” “How are we sure that this would not be extended to our deputy governor, who is also a Muslim.”
Questions that most people are asking include, why it should be now that the lawmakers decided to edge out the same Deputy Speaker, who have not only been at the helm of affairs throughout the Eighth legislative Assembly till date, but had also served the state in various capacities as Local Government chairman and cabinet member should be described as incompetent.