A former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Imo State, Professor Francis Dike (SAN), speaks with GIBSON ACHONU on the recent removal of the state Deputy Governor, Eze Madumere
As a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, a former chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association, Owerri chapter, who also served under Governor Rochas Okorocha as Justice commissioner, what is your take on the removal of the state Deputy Governor, Eze Madumere?
It is glaring to everybody that members of the state House of Assembly, who carried out the impeachment of the deputy governor are pretenders. Taking cognizance of a popular saying, that “One cannot see himself except with the aid of a mirror,” members of the House of Assembly should be reminded that the people of the state saw them and that what we saw in them was disappointing. However, Madumere has always been loyal to the governor for a period spanning many decades and there have not been any dispute whatsoever between them. One may therefore ask, What informed his removal? Ironically, there were persons, in concert with the state legislators that came up with trumped-up charges against the deputy governor, thereby calling for his removal. The problem between the governor and his deputy is that Okorocha wants his son-in-law to leap-frog into the governorship position. The truth is that Madumere does not quarrel about that, he is only demanding that the people should decide who, is the fit and proper person to be in that position. If the governor feels that his son-in-law is qualified, then let the contest start, but instead of allowing this, the governor hired the state spineless legislators to remove his deputy.
Were the offences levelled against him worth his removal?
The issue of dereliction of duty for instance, was a classical case of the legislature trying to control the Executive. It is like the lawmakers querying the judgement of a judge. The legislature cannot do that because it is a different arm of government and can therefore, not question the judge. For an offence to qualify as impeachable, it ought to be within the public domain. A tale by an aggrieved person or some aggrieved persons ought not to be regarded as an impeachable offence.
Was the removal of Madumere proper since a court had given an injunction before the exercise was carried out?
The question of carrying out the impeachment proceedings when there was a court injunction was an act of legislative rascality. The judicial system stands out at the apex of any civilized society. Even every autocracy still maintains the judiciary after kicking out the legislature and executive arms of government. Having said this, the impeachment in the face of the court injunction was ultra vires and of no consequence. It must be realised that judicial power in Nigeria under the constitution lies with the law courts. What the legislature, even the Chief Judge and members of the seven-man panel constituted was an inferior tribunal, not by any stretch of imagination, equivalent to a court. Hence, the Chief Judge cannot and I mean cannot, go against an order of court as he may face the consequences of being cited for contempt. This is the position we are now. Even the Chief Judge of the Federation has no power to swear-in the Deputy Governor-designate, Callistus Ekenze.
Is the judiciary not interfering in legislative and executive process by stopping the swearing-in of Ekenze as the new deputy governor?
I would describe the scenario as one of those consequences of people winning Pyrrhic victory, which turns out like ashes melting in the mouth. Having stubbornly and stupidly gone on with the process of impeachment, they must have beaten their chests claiming victory, which of course on Tuesday, July 31, 2018 (the day of the swearing-in) became pyrrhic.
What is your take on Okorocha’s decision to make sure that his son-in-law succeeds him despite his declaration that the era of god-fatherism was gone in the state?
We all have our tattoos given by nature for good or bad. Certain persons have the misfortune of not being introspective more so, when without the discipline of education, it becomes obvious, a contradiction in life. They make statements off-the-cuff and which are, many a time, contradictory. If what we are seeing in Imo is not godfatherism, then we stand to ask what godfatherism is all about. The governor is the father-in-law to his favoured candidate, whom we see his pictures on billboards, all over the state. At this point, I want to disclose that we in Orlu zone of the state have unanimously said that we are not going to support an Orlu person for governorship. This presupposes that Owerri or Okigwe zone should produce the next governor. This stand has made an impact as can be evidenced by the paucity of candidates from Orlu for the seat.