As Impeachment Bell Rings in Imo Assembly(Part 1)



One predominant culture any Member of the Imo State House of Assembly must be familiar with in the course of undertaken legislative duties, is the practice of using bells to alert the lawmakers about commencement of Plenary Session.

Members of the Imo State legislature are familiar with first and second bells rang by an officer from the Sergeant-at-arms office intimating them of time to move into the hallowed Chamber for Plenary. The practice entails that after the First and Second Bells, the Third one informs all members to gather at the Speaker’s Office for onward movement onto the Chamber to be led by the Sergeant-at-arms, who carries the mace, followed by the Speaker and other principal officers of the House.

For surviving Members of the House who have the opportunities to enter the complex for Plenary, after five have been suspended, any of the Sergeant-at-arms bell at the moment calls for impeachment of the Deputy Governor.

In the past few weeks, whimsically amusing displays laced with capricious trappings have become the trademark of the lawmakers who have barely 10 months to end their tenure. The near comical show remains the indefinite suspension handed to five Members and desperate plots to remove from office, the Deputy Governor of the state, Eze Madumere. The House Bell for plenary at the moment is to ignite the Impeachment moves that have reached advanced stages.

Imo state is no doubt wearing notoriety for political instability since the state governor has started warming up to vacate Government House, Owerri for a successor. Never in the history of the state has five members of the state legislature suspended in a swoop. It is also significant to note that Okorocha is about adding his name in the record books as the number one citizen of the state who lost his Deputy to impeachment. Should the House Members succeed in the execution of the present Impeachment, Okorocha may win an award in the country’s democracy for having his two Deputy Governors impeached by the state lawmakers.

Recall that barely two years after coming into power in 2011 with Jude Agbaso, as his Deputy, the House members executed the removal of Okorocha’s second in command. Recall also that part of his first assignment after election in his first tenure was instigation of the House to remove the Speaker he met on ground, Goodluck Opiah, for his crony to be at the helm of affairs of the State Assembly. With ten months to his exit, Madumere is at the mercy of the lawmakers.

Never in the history of Imo has a Deputy Governor been impeached in a civilian set up especially since the nascent democracy debuted. Even from the time of the pioneer governor of the state, Sam Mbakwe, Evan Enwerem, to Achike Udenwa and the immediate past governor, no Deputy Governor has been impeached.

The planned impeachment of Madumere is raising dust as accusing fingers are pointing at the direction of the governor. Reminiscent of the shenanigans that transpired during the Agbaso era when phantom charges were imposed on Okorocha for allegedly masterminding the action, he is for the umpteenth time at the receiving end of a backlash from a section of the people over the woes of his embattled Deputy.

What is however puzzling in the push against Madumere is the relationship between Okorocha and his Deputy; a soulmate in the political arena, close   confidant more than 20 years ago and above all, captains of the governor’s Rescue Mission before things turned awry.

Unlike Jude Agbaso whose case was more of a happenstance considering the manner he became Okorocha’s running mate after the political alliance with the senior Agbaso who had the APGA structure and flag bearer in 2011, Madumere was more of an offshoot of the Ogboko, Ideato South born governor, before they came into power.

In the quest for a veritable platform to actualize his governorship ambition, Okorocha who had brief stints with parties like Action Alliance, AA, defunct ANPP and PDP before running into APGA under the control of Agbaso to pocket the Office of the Governor of Imo State, It was not hidden that part of the bargain was for the senior Agbaso, Martin, to surrender his governorship ambition and APGA platform to Okorocha, while the junior one, Jude becomes Deputy Governorship candidate.

Midway into that romance after the election of 2011, signs showed that it was a marriage of strange political bedfellows when Jude was swept off via impeachment. The Agbasos are yet to overcome the psychological injury arising from the ignominy associated with the manner House Members underwent the exercise.

The Agbasos had to hire a private investigator to clear the air concerning the concocted #454m Jpros contract money scandal Jude was alleged to be involved in. The czar of the family, Martin, at interactive sessions with the media during that period, accused Okorocha of subterfuge in the whole drama by claiming that the allegations against Jude and subsequent inducement of the House Members to go after his brother were part of the subterranean means the governor adopted to back out from their earlier agreements on succession for 2015 election.

Judging from the claims of the fair skinned Martin who have strived on several occasions to be governor of Imo State, but to no avail, no soothsayer is needed to reveal that there was breach of trust in the Agbasos vs Okorocha affair.

Martin claimed that part of his conditions to concession his APGA governorship bid to Okorocha in 2011 was the latter’s agreement to not only pick Jude as Running Mate but also facilitate his (Martin) becoming governor in 2015. The senior Agbaso claimed that it was at his Emekuku country home that the present governor of Imo State told him in 2011 that he is above the position of governor, but only fit for Presidency and didn’t want it for anything than to stop Ikedi Ohakim from getting another term and rescuing the people of the state. According to Agbaso, after one tenure, he will hand over to an Owerri zone person. Agbaso is from Owerri Zone.

Initially, when the issue of Okorocha who is from Orlu zone came up in 2011, majority of his backers from Owerri zone who jettisoned the second term of Ikedi Ohakim of Okigwe zone to complete two terms and hand over  to Owerri zone, in the spirit of Imo Charter of Equity, got solace in Okorocha’s promise of one term only. But the impeachment of Jude Agbaso changed the tide. The removal was a tactical finesse employed by Okorocha not just to enthrall the Agbasos into abandoning their guber ambition in 2015 but also hand Owerri Zone a technical knock-out in presenting a formidable front for the position.

Apparently aware of the encumbrances ahead in seeking APGA ticket to run for a second term in 2015, the formation of APC in 2014 provided a leeway for Okorocha to seek another platform for a second missionary journey in Government House, Owerri. The denouement of the Agbaso’s impeachment drama was, first, the creation of instability in the Agbaso political dynasty that disrupted their quest for the realization of the earlier agreement and secondly, securing a free high way to run for a second term without encumbrances from Owerri Zone politicians in his political family. The rest is history this space is not enough to enumerate for now.

If the quest to renege from earlier agreement with the Agbasos and surreptitiously shut out his Owerri zone followers from challenging him for the 2015 governorship race, were responsible for the civilian coup against Okorocha’s first deputy, opinions are divided on reasons behind the current push against Madumere.

To set the stage for Madumere’s removal, four lawmakers were summarily handed indefinite suspension for allegedly getting involved in offences labeled as “un-parliamentary” conducts. The House Members; Ifeanyi Nnataraonye (Mbaitoli), Chiji Collins (Isiala Mbano), John Nkenna Nzeruo (Oru East) and Uche Ogwuruike ( Ikeduru) were asked to keep away from the House complex pending the determination of their cases which the member for Ehime Mbano, Lawman Duruji and four others were asked to look into and report back within one week.

Instead of deliberating on the report of the Duruji committee which was expected to come a week after the suspension, the House in a surprise move began process of impeachment against the Deputy Governor.

The House had on adjournment slated next plenary to hear the report of Duruji committee on the suspended lawmakers. On resumption, the House took date for long adjournment thereby leaving their sanctioned colleagues in the cooler.

Watchers of Imo Assembly proceedings were astonished when the lawmakers cut short their holidays to return to the Chamber. The seeming marksman of House and Majority Leader, Osuji again moved for the suspension of the another colleague, Donatus Onuigwe, (Oru West)  for the same  “un-parliamentary” conduct, before the Deputy Speaker, Ugonna Ozuruigbo, OZB of Nkwerre State constituency presented a petition signed by 13 members alleging that the deputy governor had “concealment of felonious conduct affecting the presentation of self as eligible candidate of office of deputy governor, Imo state, having been convicted and imprisoned for theft in the United State of America.”

Other allegations of misconduct include “absence without official reason of permission duly obtained from office for a period of three months.

“Failure to perform any of the constitutional functions of office of deputy governor of Imo including but not limited to failure/refusal to attend constitutionally mandated proceedings of the state executive council.

Failure /refusal to attend constitutional mandated proceedings of the state security council.

“Refusal to attend and to hold meetings with the governor and commissioners of the government of Imo state for the governance of Imo state compulsory by and under section 193(2) of the 1999 constitution.”

Consequently, a committee under Kennedy Ibe (Obowo) was set up by the Speaker to look into the matter. The House entered gear five in the impeachment saga when it met again and asked the Chief Judge of the State, Chief Justice Paschal Nnadi as a matter of constitutional requirement should set up a Committee to look into the allegations before the House takes the next step. In the interim, an Abuja court intervened to slow pace the process while as at the time my pen was signing out for this commentary, another Abuja Court had reportedly vacated the earlier injunction restraining the House and Chief Judge from going ahead with the impeachment without the involvement of the four suspended House members.

Expectedly, by next week the Imo Assembly would resume, Madumere may become a ‘goner’ if the pertinacious disposition of the lawmakers towards the impeachment program is considered.

Madumere’s current pang cannot be separated from Jude Agbaso’s travails in the hands of a legislature under Okorocha’s administration. The wellspring cannot be separated from future political projections of the governor which are always in contrast to the desire of his second in command. If Agbaso was swept away from Okorocha’s political camp to obliterate the earlier one term agreement he promised in 2011 before asking for another term in 2015, the Madumere “Must Go” slogan reigning in the House may not be unconnected to his inability to queue into the governor’s desire to make his in-law, Uche Nwosu successor come 2019.

It has become obvious that Uche Nwosu is the adopted candidate of Okorocha to fly APC governorship ticket and emerge the next governor of Imo State. In that projection, he “allocated” Madumere the Senatorial ticket of Owerri zone while dishing out elective positions to his cronies for 2019 election.

The embattled Deputy Governor may have also incurred the wrath of the governor when he voluntarily shunned the Senate allocation and failed to hide his ambition to run for governor. A percent of Okorocha’s anger was observed when at public functions, he persistently lamented Madumere’s exit from his Rescue Mission political family, especially, the manner his flung away the once fanciful muffler signature wear found round his neck.

To worsen the strained relationship, Madumere, whose affinity to Okorocha was unlimited before now joined forces with the Coalition, better known as the Allied Forces to battle against the governor for the soul of Imo APC. For lack of space, this commentary continues next week.