By Anayo Okoli
UMUAHIA—AHEAD of the inauguration of the 7th Abia State House of Assembly in June, the battle for who becomes the Speaker has started and names of ranking lawmakers from Abia Central senatorial district where the seat is zoned to are currently being bandied about as possible next Speaker of the House.
By the unwritten micro-zoning arrangement of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the State, the speakership has been zoned to Abia Central.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu who has been re-elected for another four years is from Abia South while , his deputy, Hon. Ude Oko Chukwu is from Abia North district, so the speaker automatically goes to Abia Central district.
Ethnic composition of Abia Central
Abia central senatorial is unique in its composition. The zone is made up of three local councils of Ngwa people – Isiala Ngwa North, Isiala Ngwa South and Osisioma; two local councils of Umuahia people – Umuahia North and Umuahia South while Ikwuano people make up the other council.
So, in making appointments from the zone, the clannish sentiment is always taken into consideration so that the issue marginalization does crop up.
Among those eyeing the seat of the Speaker of the 7th Abia House is the current Speaker, Hon. Chikwendu Kalu, the leader of the House, Hon. Chinedum Orji and Hon. Kenndy Njoku, who was elected Speaker in December 2016 when Martins Azubuike was impeached but was forced to resign in less than 24 hours.
The current speaker, Chikwendu Kalu is from Isiala Ngwa South. He succeeded Azubike, also from Ngwa, specifically Isiala Ngwa North.
Another Ngwa lawmaker, Kennedy Njoku was elected on December 30, 2016 to replace him but in a dramatic move, Njoku was pressured to resign less than 24 hours he was elected.
Political watchers in the state consider the battle for the 7th Speaker to be between the current Speaker, Chikwendu Kalu and the Leader of the House, Chinedum Orji. However, the name of Njoku is also being mentioned.
The leader, Orji, is very popular among the lawmakers and influential in the House. In fact, he was instrumental to the emergence of the current speaker. But the people rooting for him are arguing that it is time the seat moves to the Umuahia section of the senatorial district as
the present Speaker is from the Ngwa area of the zone.
But since he declared his interest to run for the office, there have been barrage of attacks in the social media in an effort to discredit his candidature. But the attacks seem not have any effect as support for him has been increasing rather than waning.
His supporters are pointing accusing fingers to the Ngwa section of the zone and indeed a larger section of Ngwa politicians are being accused as being behind the campaign of calumny against Orji. His supporters are not however sleeping as they have also taken to social media to defend him.
Social media war
This social media war has attracted the attention of the state leadership of PDP which summoned a meeting of the 19 lawmakers-elect on the party’s platform and cautioned them against sponsoring attacks in the media against one another.
Those canvassing for the continued stay of the current Speaker, Chikwendu Kalu, argue that he was only elected to complete the years left by the pioneer speaker of the 6th Assembly, Martins Azubuike and that he needs to be re-elected to have a full tenure.
Njoku who was speaker for only 24 hours is also said to be showing interest so that he could go in to fully serve as Speaker.
PDP wades in
To avoid acrimony, Abia State the leadership of PDP warned the newly elected lawmakers against sponsoring attacks in the media against their opponents in the run-up to the struggle for the leadership of the House.
The Abia State working committee of the PDP met with the 19 PDP members-elect to caution them against the attacks on one another in the race for the leadership positions in the House. Abia has a 24-member House of Assembly. The All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA has three members-elect while the All Progressives Congress, APC, has two
A communique issued after the meeting, which was jointly signed by the party chairman, Chief Johnson Onuigbo, the secretary and two members-elect engaged in the attacks said: “The SWC condemns in its entirety current attacks by hired agents of some members-elect against some others over Speakership of the yet to be inaugurated 7th House of Assembly on social media which is not in the best interest of the party.
“The SWC, hereby, instructs that henceforth any member-elect who is found to be sponsoring any hostile and (or) damaging post(s) on Social Media or any other medium, shall be disciplined accordingly.
“Any member-elect that is interested in any position in the 7th Abia State House of Assembly is free to go about his aspiration but without creating any image problem for the party by being unduly quarrelsome, especially using the social media.
“The posts of Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Majority Leader and other Principal Offices in the 7th Abia House of Assembly are positions accruable to the Party and the Party, with due consultations with the Governor and leader of the Party in the State, Governor Okezie Victor Ikpeazu will advise, at the appropriate time, on the distribution of the aforementioned positions, based on competence and equity.”
As Abia await the inauguration of the 7th Assembly, the battle for the speaker, no doubt will be tough because of the sentiments being raised but the odds seem to favour Orji to balance clannish interest in the state.