December 5, 2018

Anambra Assembly Imbroglio: Who’ll succumb?

Anambra Assembly Imbroglio:  Who’ll succumb?

•Mr. Ikem Uzoezie dragging the speaker’s seat with Mrs. Rita Maduagwu at the Anambra State House of Assembly

By Vincent Ujumadu

AWKA- SINCE November 13, 2018,  Anambra State House of Assembly has remained shut and the  complex is manned by  security operatives. Before the crisis escalated, there was a build-up of animosity among  lawmakers who felt that having lost their bid to secure the tickets of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, that would enable them return to the house in 2019, they had to seek the pound of flesh from  the leadership of the state legislature and the executive arm of government as  revenge.

•Mr. Ikem Uzoezie dragging the speaker’s seat with Mrs. Rita Maduagwu at the Anambra State House of Assembly

Unlike 2015, when almost all the APGA lawmakers were given automatic tickets to return to the house, their attempt to muscle the party leadership to give them  automatic tickets was not successful this time around, hence their apparent decision to foul the peaceful coexistence that has been the hallmark of the state legislature since the inception of  Governor Willie Obiano’s administration.

That was therefore the reason why some members of the House of Assembly attempted to unseat the Speaker, Mrs. Rita Maduagwu. Maduagwu, South East Voice recalls, lost at the party’s primary in her Nnewi South constituency, but somehow, she managed to secure the ticket after some high wire politics involving some party and government officials. Her colleagues, who were not so lucky, felt betrayed and therefore insisted on her removal.

The 22 out of 30 members who sat on the day of the impeachment, decided to suspend three members believed to be unrepentant supporters of Mduagwu. Though they successfully carried out their mission, the clerk of the house, Mr. Pius Udo refused to cooperate with them on the ground that the exercise did not follow due process. Udo had said he could not act otherwise since there was prior notice that the speaker would not be around during the day’s proceedings.

A large detachment of security operatives was later invited and the operatives cordoned off the assembly complex, turning back all visitors into the premises. Workers of the House of Assembly were also chased out of their offices and for many days, did not report for work. Although the lawmakers behind the impeachment had accused Maduagwu of financial impropriety, high handedness and gross misconduct, it was public knowledge that their reason was their frustration after failing to secure the tickets of their party during the rancorous primaries of the party.

Signs that the impeachment might not succeed easily emerged when officials of the state government led by  Chief of Staff to Governor Willie Obiano, Mr. Primus Odili, the Secretary to the State Government, Professor Solo Chukwulobelu and a large number of APGA chieftains stormed the state assembly to thwart the Speaker’s  impeachment. Since that intervention, the state assembly has not sat.

Worried by the development in the House of Assembly, the leadership of APGA in the state suspended the three masterminds of the impeachment move from the party, insisting that the party would not condone indiscipline from its members irrespective of their positions. Those suspended were Hon Ikem Uzoezie representing Aguata 11 constituency, Barr Hartford Oseke representing Awka South 1 and Hon Victor Okoye representing Anambra West

Anambra State Chairman of APGA, Chief Norbert Obi said it was the position of the party in Anambra State that the attempted impeachment was not necessary. He said: “Granted the fact that we had problems during the just-concluded party primaries in the state, this is not enough to pull the party down, more so when the party has inaugurated a reconciliation committee to look into the grievances of the aggrieved aspirants and members of the party.Every right thinking Igboman knows that APGA is not only a party, but a movement for the actualization of Igbo agenda in the Nigerian polity. It will amount to shooting oneself in the leg for any Igboman to pursue the destruction of APGA.

“It is  therefore the position of the party that all aggrieved members should sheath their swords as failure to do so will amount to setting our house on fire because of pursuit of a rat.It is also important to note that problems experienced in the primaries are not peculiar to APGA. Other parties also had their problems equally during their primaries.

It is therefore the wish of the party that all members of APGA behind this unfortunate plot should retrace their steps in the interest of the party.The three ring leaders of the attempted impeachment saga, namely, Hon Ikem Uzoezie, Barr Hartford Oseke and Hon Victor Okoye are suspended from the party, pending the time they will appear before the disciplinary committee of the party for further action. Once you are a member of the party, you are subjected to  party discipline because the party is supreme.”

Although he gave an assurance that whatever were their grievances would be addressed to the satisfaction of all, the crisis was far from being resolved.For instance, last week at the chamber of the House of Assembly, there was a mild drama as both Rita Maduagwu and Ikem Uzoezie struggled to occupy the speaker’s seat. Uzoezie, who seemed to have the majority of the lawmakers on his side, rushed to the speaker’s seat when Maduagwu entered and for about five minutes, both struggled to occupy the seat, while other lawmakers stood there watching.

Later, Maduagwu made several telephone calls, after which she left the chamber and in the end, the plenary session did not hold as earlier announced by the two factions. In the meantime, the state police command has unsealed the assembly complex and security is  relaxed. The state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Haruna Mohammed said the reopening of the complex was  sequel to a letter from the leadership of the House, requesting that the place be unsealed for legislative duties to continue.Haruna said: ”The Commissioner of Police, CP Garba Baba Umar has ordered  the Assembly Complex to be unsealed with immediate effect and adequate security is being provided around the complex to provide safety and security in the area”.

In the midst of the confusion, the Uzoezie group insists that there was no crisis in the state legislature. According to a statement by the group: “It is on record that there was no incident or resemblance of any crisis  among the honourable members or within the premises of the Anambra State House of Assembly to warrant the leadership of the House to request Police to takeover, seal off and secure premises of the Assembly.Assuming without conceding that there was crisis among the honourable members or within the premises of the Assembly, it is only the National Assembly that is constitutionally empowered to make an order to seal off as provided by section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

“It is important to note that the minor change in the house leadership by the removal of the former Speaker Rt. Hon. Rita Maduagwu on Tuesday 13th November, 2018 by over two thirds majority of members, was within the constitutional powers of the house and there was no crisis whatsoever  as a result of that.Following her removal, the House unanimously elected Rt. Hon. Ikem Uzoezie as the new Speaker. Thus having been so removed, she ceases to be Speaker of the House. Such matters remain the internal affairs of the House of Assembly. If anybody has any reservation whatsoever  about  her removal, the person should go to court .

“Governor Willie Obiano  saved Maduagwu three times when  members  wanted to remove her. On the last occasion when the members were bent on her removal, it was His Excellency, Chief Willie Obiano that pleaded with  members to suspend action because he reasoned that it was close to his second tenure election.In order to convince members to suspend action, the governor guaranteed the members that the former Speaker should resign immediately after his second tenure election, so as to enable the House move forward. This is therefore the time for her to leave.”

However, Maduagwu said there was no reason for the action of the lawmakers, insisting that she was being maltreated because she is a woman.For now, both Maduagwu and Uzoezie are laying claim to the speakership of the House and the question is, who, between them, will eventually succumb?