By Henry Ekpe
The present Imo House of Assembly is the 9th in the series of Legislative Houses that have graced the Imo polity since 1999 the current Democratic dispensation was birthed.
For those of us who have followed the politics of Imo State since 1999, we expressed happiness when majority of the present House members were youths. It was perceived as a good omen; a season for the youths to change the old order in Imo Legislature, and checkmate the Executive from excesses that may derail Democratic norms in the State, and put both the Judiciary and Executive on their toes.
But within two years, the present Imo House of Assembly has proved docile, toothless, selfish and have rather lost focus and become a danger to itself.
Rather than be problem solver, the Imo House of Assembly has become the major problem facing the Imo masses who voted them into office with delight, as the masses, hopes have been dashed by a Group of people now warring among themselves than face the responsibilities for which they were elected.
In the first place, within three years, the Imo House of Assembly has changed its Leadership three times.
First was Rt Hon Collins Chiji, who went to the House under the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA. When he saw that the office of the Speaker has been zoned to Okigwe Area where he comes from, Chiji jumped into Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, immediately His Excellency, Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha was elected Governor.
When months after the Supreme Court said the Imo State Governor is Senator Hope Uzodinma, I was surprised to see Chiji, whom all of us were together in Ihedioha’s Asokoro residence in Abuja in the night, escorting Senator Hope Uzodinma into Hero’s Square for his inauguration on June 15, 2020 morning.
Hours later, Chiji Collins has become a member of All Progressive Congress APC. All in a bid to save his plum position, without even the courtesy of consulting with the people of Isiala Mbano LGA who sent him to Owerri as their representative.
It did not take time before his colleagues kicked him out, and replaced him with Paul Emeziem, who was in APGA, but dived into APC.
Now, Rt Hon Kennedy Ibeh has become the Speaker. Making it the Third Speaker in a row in two years.
Collins Chiji is from Isiala Mbano, Paul Emeziem is from Onuimo, while Ibe is from Obowo. All in Okigwe Zone.
Therefore, before the current Imo Legislature rounds off in the next two years, the members from Ehime Mbano, Okigwe and Ihitte Uboma Constituencies are prospective Speakers in the- waiting, as the merry must go round.
This is the scenario Imo people are saddled with since the 9th Assembly arrived. Hardly will Imo people remember one important Legislation from the House other than the dramas that spill out from the Chamber each sitting session.
The Chiji Collins era was dominated with suspension of members than how many motions moved or Bills passed into Law.
When Paul Emeziem arrived, Imo people heaved a sigh of relieve that the situation will change, with the lawmakers realizing why they were voted by the electorate.
Instead, Emeziem came in and suspended more House members than his predecessor, as if they were competing on who will suspend more members than the other.
Now, unfortunately, the new Speaker, my good friend, Rt Hon Kennedy Ibe has arrived and sacked whatever is remaining of the members.
I doubt if what is in the Chamber today can form a quorum in the plenary. Many who saw a new face in Ibe’s coming are highly disappointed that he has toed the same line of infamy that dogged his predecessors.
Today, Imo populace are so disenchanted with the Lawmakers that no one cares any more to know what is happening in the House.
Whenever the House sits, it is to either suspended more members or review the suspension of the already suspended ones leaving important matters.
There is nothing more exciting to drag any interested observer to Imo House of Assembly, which used to be the centre of robust politics in Imo State.
I covered the Imo House of Assembly during the early stage of the current Democratic dispension, when the masses were even still having the hang-over of the Military Regime. Yet, it was not like bizarre as what we see today in Imo House of Assembly.
Then, it was not compulsory for all House members to belong to the Ruling Party.
Even though PDP was the dominant party then, still the likes of CNC Onuoha were of the opposition ANPP, yet were carried along with the activities of the House devoid of political party affiliation.
Then, to suspend a member was not what a Speaker will just walk in and ask a member to move motion.
It was like an earthquake and tough business before late Rt Hon Stanford Onyirimba was removed as Majority Leader.
The Imo legislature is an Arm of Government, and must strive not to be an appendage of the Executive, by all members working together, because a House divided among itself has become vulnerable.
The Speaker is the Leader among equals, and must respect his colleagues to also earn their reverence. It is his job to protect them so that he can be protected too.
That the House of Assembly supports the Governor/Executive does not mean the Legislature must be subservient.
When I was Chief Press Secretary CPS to Governor Ikedi Ohakim, to invite the Speaker, Rt Hon Goodluck Opiah to Government House, the Security Operatives at the Gate must be alerted so that he is not delayed. And before meeting the Governor, the office must be empty for both Heads of different Organs of Government to interact. The Governor can’t keep him waiting, and neither does he beg to see the Governor.
It is this mutual respect between the two organs of Government that breeds cordiality, seamless relationship and respect, not the other way round. Both men are what their offices defined them, but not what they are personally. Therefore there must be respect and synergy for both organs to work together in harmony. Not a Servant, Boss issue.
That Speaker Ibe declared vacant the seat of an already suspended member is the height of idleness.
And the reason for that action beggers the question.
Hon Prince Obinna Okpara representing Nkwerre State Constituency had his seat declared vacant on Wednesday, because according to the Speaker, he dumped APC for the PDP.
And before the latest hammer, Okpara was already on suspension.
The Speaker based his action by referring to some sections of the constitution which he said dealt with Cross-carpetting by politicians.
But ironically, the Speaker himself who is now a member of APC did not win his seat under the platform of APC.
In the first place, Ibe won election to the House in APC in his first term. In his second term he proceeded to Action Alliance AA, and won to represent Obowo people again.
When Ihedioha became Governor, Ibe jumped to PDP from where he joined APC abinitio. As Court pronounced Senator Hope Uzodinma Governor, Ibe dived back to APC.
Now, can anyone say that Ibe is free of the sin he accused Okpara of? That is hypocrisy.
Imo Lawmakers should put their House in order and restore confidence of the masses to the Legislature.
Unfortunately, the first motion the new man from Ngor Okpala constituency my brother, Blyden Amajirionwu would move in the House was to call for the sack of his colleague. Was it what he was sent there to do?
There are too many issues begging for attention in his constituency than sacking of the man from far away Nkwerre.
When will a better story come out from Imo House of Assembly than suspensions, recalls, and suspensions? Now, the latest is vacancy. Obviously, more seats would be declared vacant.