Tinubu’s intervention in Rivers crisis constitutional, says ex-Lagos SSG

A former Secretary to the Lagos State Government and lawyer, Chief Olorunfunmi Basorun, on Wednesday, said the intervention of President Bola Tinubu in the tension between the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, and Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, was constitutional.

Basorun, who spoke with The PUNCH in a telephone chat, said the President did the right thing as “the father of the nation,” adding that there was no section in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that prohibited such intervention.

The 85-year-old lawyer was replying to the comment made by rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, and elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, who said Tinubu’s intervention was unconstitutional.

Falana had said Tinubu’s intervention could only have been advisory as he had no constitutional role to intervene in states’ political affairs.

He added that the President had no right under the law to “reinstate lawmakers whose seats have been declared vacant” by the House Speaker as a result of their defection from the party that brought them into office.

He further noted that the Constitution’s position is that a lawmaker who defects from their party, except on the condition that the party is in crisis and is divided, must vacate their seat.

“The cross-carpeting legislator can only retain his seat if he can prove that the political party that sponsored him is divided into two or more factions. The 27 members of the Rivers Assembly, who decamped from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress, have lost their seats because the PDP that sponsored them is not factionalised or divided as stipulated by the Constitution.

“Even if all the cases in the Rivers State High Court and the Federal High Court are withdrawn in line with the advice of the President, it is submitted that all actions taken by the Speaker recognised by the Rivers State High Court, remain valid, including his pronouncement on the vacant seats of the 27 cross-carpeting members of the House.

“In other words, only a court of law is constitutionally competent to set aside the pronouncement of the Speaker, which is anchored on Section 109 of the Constitution. Furthermore, as the Speaker has not been removed by the required number of legislators, a presidential directive cannot remove him,” Falana said on Tuesday.

Similarly, at a press briefing in Abuja on Tuesday, Clark condemned Tinubu’s intervention and the agreement reached, describing it as appalling and unacceptable to the people.

He also alleged that Fubara had been “ambushed and intimidated” into signing the agreement, adding that Tinubu’s intervention was a desecration of the constitution.

“It is obvious that Governor Siminialayi Fubara was ambushed and intimidated into submission. President Tinubu should know that with all the powers he possesses, he cannot override the Constitution.

“From all that transpired at the meeting, the laws of the land have not been obeyed. President Tinubu simply sat over a meeting where the constitution, which is the fulcrum of his office as President and which he swore to uphold and abide by, was truncated and desecrated.

“The eight resolutions reached, are the most unconstitutional, absurd, and obnoxious resolutions at settling feuding parties that I have ever witnessed in my life. As a matter of fact, some media captured it very well when they described it as directives,” he said.

Reacting, however, Basorun insisted that Tinubu’s intervention was constitutional, as, according to him, the President is the father of the nation.

“I feel worried about the attitude of some commentators on the happening in Rivers State. One of my worries is that of one of us who said the intervention of the President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is unconstitutional.

“I do not know which section of the Constitution he is referring to. But as far as I am concerned, this is my number one issue now. The intervention of Tinubu, our President, is super constitutional.

“Why? Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as President elected by Nigerians, is the number one citizen of Nigeria. And in my own opinion, and I think that is the opinion of others, he is the father of all of us in that position.

“If anything is going wrong that would disturb the equilibrium of the country, like peace, security, and the lives of Nigerians, I think he has to intervene.

“We are his children. If anything is going wrong, all the 36 state governments and the federal capital territory are his children. He cannot ignore if something inimical to the peace and security of the country is happening,” Basorun said.

He added that Falana and others did not see anything wrong in Tinubu’s intervention in the matter involving the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, and his deputy, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, and wondered why the “double standards.”

He noted that the actions of Governor Fubara could lead to a state of anarchy in the state which could extend to other neighbouring states if the President had not intervened.

The elder statesman said the use of the institution of the state such as the police against the people, as well as the destruction of the Rivers House of Assembly complex, called for Tinubu’s intervention.

“It is not a thing that would end there. And then he (Fubara) used the institution of state because the people around were protesting that he should not do it.

“He used the police too. They drove away the people. And somebody will sit on top there as the father of the nation and will not intervene?

“Forget about all the internet fighting here and there. But that single event, I believe, could escalate to more damage, and could even spread to states outside Rivers State,” he stressed.

Speaking on the reinstitution of the 27 lawmakers who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress, Basorun said, “Falana and some other SANs had come only with one side of the story.”

“They claim that by the constitution, they have lost their seats. They failed to inform the public that there is a rider in that section of the constitution, that where there is a dispute in the party, they will do it (defect) without any breach of the law,” he added.

He noted that the PDP “all over the country has problems here and there,” adding that it was right for the lawmakers to have moved to another party.

“A quarrel that has led to the demolition of the House of Assembly by one of the parties. What other quarrel, what other dispute do they want to recognise?” the ex-Lagos SSG queried.

He further stated that he expected Clark to have reacted better, being an elder statesman, saying, “Our elder statesman in Delta and leader of the Ijaw, Chief Edwin Clark, has not helped the matter either. He is a man of over 90. He should grow beyond ethnicism or party line in approaching the matter of Rivers State.

“Unfortunately, he has not done so. I would beg him to do a second thinking. He, as the leader of the Ijaw, should write a letter to thank Bola Tinubu, our president.”

While stating that he would not mind engaging Falana in a debate over the constitutionality of Tinubu’s intervention, Basorun called on him (Falana) to write a letter of apology to Tinubu “for insinuating that the President was poke-nosing in Rivers affairs.”

(Punch)

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