Imo Assembly with 4 Speakers in One Term, Yet Not Over

It is not yet uhuru for the Imo State House of Assembly to stop changing Speakers with four already in three years and may not be over before the term runs out, writes Amby Uneze

Since the imposition of a Monday sit-at-home in the South east, so many activities were kept in the cooler. It is not that the people are not willing to perform their Monday activities as usual being the beginning of official duties in a week, but for the fear of the unknown. In the same vein, government offices have followed the trend expect on some isolated cases where those concerned would sneak in to perform the activity in a hurry and disperses.

However, Monday, the 19th of September, 2022 was a different ball game. It was so because, in the noon of the very day, information filtered out as breaking news that the Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, Kennedy Ibeh had resigned and a new speaker in the person of Emeka Nduka had been sworn to replace him.

It was like a joke because a lot of people were still in their houses and many wondered how such information could be true considering the synergy exhibited by the legislature and that of the executive the previous week when President Muhammadu Buhari just visited the State to inaugurate three signature projects, including that of the refurbished Imo State House of Assembly complex.

But it was true. The deed were perfected probably before the Presidential visit and smoothly executed as soon as the visit was over. The planners must have concealed the idea within them and waiting for the perfect time to strike. Some political pundits observed that had it been that the action was done before the presidential visit, probably, there would have been a crack on the walls.

However, the planners must have reached a compromise with the former speaker (Ibeh) to sign his resignation honourably or be impeached and he chose the former. According to analysts, there is no how the speaker can just resign his plump job as the leader of the legislative arm in a State without being pressured to do so by the powers-that-be, expect there was a criminal tag on such a speaker. “Infact, there were more it than the eyes could see,” the source said.

The content of the information made available to the press read “The Imo State House of Assembly on Monday elected Emeka Nduka (APC Ehime Mbano) as the new Speaker of the House following the resignation of Kennedy Ibeh (APC Obowo). Nduka was elected during a closed door special sitting presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Amara Chyna Iwuanyanwu (APC Nwangele) who called for nominations after reading the letter of resignation.”

Though, there were no cogent reasons for the former speaker’s resignation made available to the press, but reliable sources indicate that his resignation came from above. But one of the principal officers in the Assembly confirmed to THISDAY that Ibeh was forced to resign because he did not carry his members along in the scheme of things. “He was eating alone and we are happy that he is out,” the source said.

Sequel to the reading of the said resignation letter by the deputy speaker, the new speaker was nominated by the Majority Leader, Kanayo Onyemaechi (APC Owerri West) and seconded by Uju Onwudiwe (APC Njaba), and the “ayes” had it.

Information has it that Nduka who is a first timer emerged the fourth speaker of the ninth house following the impeachment of two previous speakers and Ibe’s resignation. Ibe was sworn in as speaker on November 8, 2021 following the impeachment of Paul Emeziem (APC Onuimo) for reasons ranging from alleged forgery to highhandedness.

Furthermore, Emeziem took over from Chiji Collins (APC Isiala Mbano) in November 2020 after he was impeached for alleged “unparliamentary” conduct and gross misconduct.  Chiji, however appealed to the house to have his impeachment expunged from the legislative records and recorded as resignation, a request which was approved.

Accepting his resignation, Ibeh through his Press Secretary, Ifeanyi Onyekachi in a release said “It is with due sense of responsibility that we announce the resignation of Kennedy Chidozie Ibeh, as the Speaker, Imo State House of Assembly.

“Within his short period as the Speaker, Imo State House of Assembly, Ibeh redefined legislative process, restored the dignity of the legislature and placed Imo State House of Assembly on a high pedestal. He therefore wishes to restate his commitment to the 3-R Government of His Excellency, Gov. Hope Uzodimma and to pledge his loyalty and support to the Governor, the good people of Obowo State Constituency and Imo State,” the release stated.

The implication of changing speakers randomly where four speakers have emerged within three year of a four year administration portends danger to the legislature. It shows that either members of the legislature are not effective or that they are being teleguided by the executive arm. Otherwise, a robust and effective legislature ought to have some measure of confidence on its leadership.

According to the zoning formula of key political offices in the State, it is the turn of Imo North (Okigwe zone) to produce speaker of the State House of Assembly in the current political dispensation because the governor comes of Orlu zone while his deputy comes of Owerri zone. There are six local governments in Okigwe zone and by that calculation, five of such local governments have produced speakers, and it is remaining that of Ihitte Uboma. With the spate of churning out speakers, it is believed that sooner or later, the Ihitte Uboma legislator would also want to have a bite of the cake, because no local government would want to be left out in the scheme of things.

Regrettably, the unfortunate trend going on at the Assembly was as a result of the January 14, 2020 judgment of the Supreme Court which gave power to Hope Uzodimma who came a distant fourth position at the 2019 governorship election in the State. At the inception of the ninth assembly, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had the majority in the assembly, may be, the governor then, Emeka Ihedioha was of the PDP. Chiji Collins was elected the speaker. Thereafter, when Uzodimma became the governor, shortly he (Collins) was replaced by Paul Emeziem.

As if that was not enough, Emeziem was impeached after a while, and Ibeh came in. Barely a year of being speaker, he joined the league of former speakers and Nduka stepped in. With the level of impunity in the system and the lack of independence of the legislature in the state, it is obvious that the merry-go-round or the test of speakership among the legislators from Okigwe zone would continue and after completing the circle, maybe, political logjam of which zone would produce the next speaker would ensure.

Curiously, the members of the Imo Assembly ought to realize their Constitutional role. As the second arm of government with the duty of checks and balances and oversight functions, it is incumbent on them to carry the people who sent them along.

Again, the present crop of legislators are not vibrant considering the number of bills and motions they pass. It is on record that Imo citizens are kept in the dark on the activities of the Assembly.

The only time, one hears about them had always been when they want to impeach their speaker of suspend member(s). In all, Imo State is quite unlucky to have a lame Assembly.


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