by Stanley Azuakola
The presidency has responded to the National Assembly’s threat to impeach President Goodluck Jonathan over his failure to implement the 2012 budget and resolutions of the legislature. The advise from Aso Rock to the legislators is — calm down.
The presidency believes that all those threats only add to the current tension in the country and threaten its evolving democracy.
The position of the presidency was made at a press conference in Abuja held by the Special Assistant to President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe. Okupe urged the lawmakers to act with maturity as any act of impeachment against the President might work against the interest of Nigeria and its democracy.
He called for understanding, as disagreements were bound to arise when the executive and legislature do their constitutional duties.
“The intentions of the National Assembly and the intentions of the Federal Government are the same – to serve dutifully, honestly and sincerely the people of Nigeria. In these attempts, disagreements must, of necessity, come otherwise, somebody is not doing his job properly. But what we want to appeal is that moderation must be the order of the day. In all these things, even in disagreements, in conflicts, in the interest of our democracy, for the sake of millions of Nigerians, who daily toil and hope that their leaders will help them by passing the appropriate laws, and for the Executive arm of government to execute correctly, there is a need for allowing the temperature of the polity to come down.
“There is very little anybody will gain from unduly heating up the polity. Like I just said, as long as the idea is to bring checks and balances, we will continue to have disagreements, but there must be a lot of maturity deployed in this area to ensure that it does not lead to the strangulation of government or governance itself. It was Collin Powell who said that one of the most alluring things about power is having it but not using it,” he said.
Okupe did not deny the fact that the Legislature had the power to impeach the President, he however said that impeachment should never be allowed to be the determinant of the relationship between both arms of government.
“Yes, the Legislature has the power to impeach the President but it is not at every disagreement that power must be exhumed. For democracy to succeed, for our people to gain from democracy, for governance to be in the interest of the people that elected the President and lawmakers, there must be a lot of understanding and maturity on all sides,” he said.
Okupe condemned the reactions of the opposition to Jonathan’s statement that last January’s protest against the withdrawal of fuel subsidy was hijacked by the opposition.
“They (opposition) have not brought any intellectual debate on the matter. It became clear that some politicians hijacked the process and tried to re-enact the recent Arab Spring and made Abuja like the Tahir Square. Anybody who tries to use the fuel subsidy issue to occupy Nigeria does not mean well for the country. The Arab Spring was as a result of oppression and dictatorship. That is not the case in Nigeria. Losers of election thought they could bring out Nigerians by way of Arab Spring,” he said.
In a jab at Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, who said Jonathan’s position on the fuel subsidy matter was a case of bad conscience, the aide said that was not the case.
“The issue of bad conscience does not arise. If he were, he would not have intervened in the issue of N5000 note,” he responded.
Okupe also said even said dissension is part of democracy, he took exception to Pastor Tunde Bakare summarising the president’s statement as ‘bunkum’.
He said: “We don’t like lack of civility. It is absolutely important to treat the President with respect. If anybody insults the Presidency, it is bunkum. It is not acceptable. Now, it is Jonathan, anybody can be President when he leaves. It is ungodly to talk about President anyhow. We will resist any attempt to ridicule the President,” he said.
With the current mood of the National Assembly, he just might be invited to explain himself at the Senate just like his senior colleague Labaran Maku.