Imo Assembly; From “Jankara Market” to “Katakata House”

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Monday, the 7th day of November, 2021 will remain remarkable in the memory of Paul  Emeziem, who represents Onuimo State Constituency in the Imo State House of Assembly. 

Emeziem until he was booted out as the Speaker of the House and consequently handed a suspension sanction from the activities of the state legislature was the numero uno of the state assembly. From November of last year, his immediate predecessor, Chiji Collins was removed, the fair skinned lawmaker held sway until the axe fell on him. He even presided over the impeachment of his Deputy, Amara Iwuanyanwu which occurred last week.

But this particular Monday was a different one for him since he was part of those inaugurated in 2019. His eyes didn’t just see red, but he was locked out of the complex and subsequently molested by security agents who kept him at bay near the House of Assembly entrance gate. According to reports, Emeziem was teargassed and intimidated not to step into the complex while his colleagues inside the chamber undertook his impeachment.

According to reports, having been alerted of the counter action against the earlier one he prosecuted last week, Emeziem mobilized his “men” to the complex but met a brick wall at the entrance, no thanks to the stern looking policemen that kept him off. The discomfited former Speaker who wore pitiable looks was spotted outside the gate sweating profusely while attempting to gain entrance. Before he could finish the desperate calls he made, an impeachment against him was carried out by a reasonable number of the lawmakers.

Frustrated, he turned back home and retired to his fate.

Meanwhile, a week before former Speaker was in a transfixed state near the gates of the complex, he took charge at the vintage seat and presided the removal of the Deputy Speaker, Amara Iwuanyanwu. 

Iwuanyanwu who represents Nwangele had been stunned by a well rehearsed political coup d’ etat last Tuesday on the floor of the House when the member for Orsu State Constituency, Ekene Nnodimele reported to the Speaker that 18 of them signed for his impeachment as number two lawmaker. Before the Deputy Speaker could regain balance to utter a word, the removed Speaker shut him off and dropped the gavel on the wood to okay the impeachment. 

The dust raised by the impeachment was still raging and yet to rest before another counter “coup” in the state assembly was hatched and executed.

The unfolding scenario reminds yours truly about a former two time member of the House, Mike Iheanaetu who branded the state legislature a “Jankara Market“. Akwaakwuru as Iheanaetu is fondly called represented Aboh Mbaise state Constituency, on two occasions..

During his first stint in 2007-2011, there was a ruckus towards the end of the life of that House resulting to leadership changes. Akwaakwuru who swiftly changed camps when the Speaker then,  his bossom pal,  was  wrongly impeached, when confronted to explain rationale for his new twist of taking side with the coupits, simply described the Imo Assembly as a “Jankara Market”, where conscience is hard to find.

Only those who have lived in Lagos or very familiar with the terrain of Lagos Island, especially, Idumota and Idumagbo,  Issale Eko area,  will know about the Jankara Market

Jankara Market is the larger market in Lagos and sells everything from tie-dyed cloth, trade beads and jewelry to pirate cassettes, pottery and clothing. There is also a fetish market where you can buy herbs, traditional medicines and juju portions and powders. 

Beyond the facade of the commercial businesses that go on there, Jankara Market is also  believed to be a multipurpose arena for odious acts. According to him, (Akwaakwuru)  “nothing is impossible in Jankara Market, same for our Imo State House of Assembly”. Akwaakwura likened the House of Assembly to an invidious Jankara Market arena where no saintly attitude prevails.

Overtime, the State Assembly has been more of a House of Comedy where common theatre of absurdities remain prominent. Going memory lane since the advent of democracy, changing leadership has always been a fashion the House wears. From 1999 to 2023, the House experienced three speakers; namely, Noel Agwuocha  Chukwukadibia ( Ahiazu) who was replaced by Nnaemeka Maduagwu (Owerri North)  before Godfrey Dikeocha (Aboh), all from Owerri zone, finished up. 

Kelechi Nwagwu of Ikeduru was lucky to observe a trouble free tenure 2003-2007, though there were shaky moments. Ohaji/Egbema’s Goodluck Nanah Opiah was at the verge of having a clean slate (2007-2011) before the “Jankara Market” mentality surfaced six days to the end of their stay. Few of the lawmakers powered by then new governor, Rochas Okorocha struck in 2011. Though the law courts proved them wrong by nullifying their parody called Impeachment.

Another lucky speaker of the House who succeeded in witnessing no upheaval to his throne was late Benjamin Uwajumogu ( Ihitte Uboma)  of blessed memory, (2011-2015).  Uwajumogu stood like Rock of Gibraltar against all methodology invented by his colleagues to push him away from the enviable position. But the characteristic tumult peculiar to the lawmakers erupted again  in the House towards the dying minutes of  Uwajumogu’s  immediate successor,  Acho Ihim of Okigwe state constituency who took charge from 2015-2019. He was removed and replaced first by Lawman Duruji (Ehime Mbano) who spent only two days before impeachment, for  Onuimo’s  Chinedu Offor  to take over and complete the circle.

Since the present 9th Assembly of the House commenced legislative business, the “Jankara Market” session seems to have upgraded to “House of Commotion” with yet very unpleasant stories dominating affairs of the House. 

After the successful emergence of the principal officers of the House, led by Chiji Collins of Isiala Mbano, on June 12, 2019, the foundation of the state legislature began to crack and shake seriously moments Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP lost out as governor of the state through the Supreme Court judgment to Hope Uzodinma. 

First was the forced resignation of the Deputy Speaker, Okey Onyekanma of the PDP after majority of his colleagues who were part of his party, including Chiji Collins, the speaker, quickly dumped the umbrella symbol party for the APC. The Majority Leader  Chiagozie Nwaneri, (Oru East) also stepped out for comedian turned politician, Uche Ogbuagu of Ikeduru. Ogbuagu  also discarded PDP for the ruling APC. Amara Iwuanyanwu of Nwangele became the Deputy Speaker in place of Onyekanma. At this point, bad blood which has given rise to perennial cold war among members had been instituted in the House. 

Nine months after Chiji Collins jumped into APC from PDP to retain his Speakership position, he was impeached to give way for a brother lawmaker from Onuimo, Paul Emeziem in November 2020. There is no doubt that the exit of Chiji for Emeziem’s coming further fertilized the brewing virulence rocking the state assembly.

The active enmity among members further consumed Ogbuagu who was surprisingly sacked as Majority Leader to bring on board Kanayo Dele Onyemaechi of Owerri West, now the leader of the Majority members of the House. 

The whirlwind continued in Imo Assembly afterwards with the suspension of six members of the House accused of committing “unparliamentary conduct”. For four months, the door of the Assembly complex was shut against them.

On resumption of Plenary Session last week Tuesday, there was a storm. Amara, the Deputy Speaker was impeached by a reported 18 lawmakers who “signed” for his removal. 

Interestingly, the impeachment of the Deputy Speaker occurred the day the suspended six members were pardoned and recalled. 

However, the impeachment of the Amara Iwuanyanwu as Deputy was a nullity if later developments in the House are considered. It ended up sparking fresh row that not only consumed the speaker, but also had him and two others suspended. Apart from the House failing to sit and fill the vacant position after five days of the Deputy Speaker’s impeachment, Emeziem who supervised the removal got his own share of the cyclone; a case of the hunter being hunted. Two others suspended alongside with him were accused of alleged forgery, high handedness and same “unparliamentary conduct” he had charged others in July this year.

From all indications based on foregoing narratives,  Emeziem is a goner and  here comes Kennedy Ibeh of Obowo as the new Speaker. A ranking lawmaker who just came back from suspension courtesy of Emeziem, Ibeh has stepped in to command a highly polarized House where a feeling of ill will arouses active hostility and energetic dislike for each other. Despite the intervention of the governor who is reported to have moved into the matter to calm frayed nerves, there is no denying the fact whoever presides the affairs of the House sits pretty on a keg of gunpowder.