Before Imo Speaker, Kennedy Ibe Plays God

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By Kelechi Mejuobi 

For the umpteenth time, I have cause to talk about the Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, Kennedy Chidozie Ibe. 

Considering the manner he approached an issue concerning the Imo State House of Assembly and my medium about our correspondent  covering affairs of the House, I had reservations about his know how in tackling matters affecting his office as the number one lawmaker in the state legislature. 

But recent actions, the Imo Assembly he is presiding has taken, with regards to the sacking of members of the House from the complex have, induced a reconsideration of his tactical finesse in managing affairs of the state legislature, which exposes his behemoth induced inclination.

I stand to be challenged to reveal that the two-time Obowo State Constituency representative is attempting to play God by entering the Guinness Book of Record for sacking two of his mates in the present dispensation.

Since the Imo State House of Assembly came into being from the First Assembly of 1979-1983 till date, only the House leadership Speaker Ibe took over late last year has won the heinous award of sacking two members elected like him.

But for Tuesday’s recall of two House members who had been on suspension for half of a year, about seven of the 27 state constituencies that make up the House had been denied representations since their lawmakers were denied accesses to the complex or sacked completely from legislative business.  Ibe became Speaker on 8th November, 2021 after his predecessor, Paul Emeziem was impeached. Immediately he took over, three lawmakers; Emeziem, former Deputy Speaker, Okey Onyekanma and Ekene Nnodumele were fired with suspension orders. Later on after few weeks, another three were shown the exit door. They were Arthur Egwim, Ngozi Obiefule and Obinna Okwara. 

Even as the rage that trailed the suspension of the six lawmakers; Paul Emeziem (Onuimo), Ekene Nnodumele (Orsu), Okey Onyekamna (Mbaitoli), Arthur Egwim (Ideato North) and Ngozi Obiefule ( Isu) and Okwara of Nkwerre was sustained,   Ibe relied on quoted Constitutional provisions of the House Rules to send packing out of the House Tochi Okereke who represented Ngor Okpala for allegedly abandoning his duties. Ibe quoted relevant sections of the guidelines before asking the Independent National Election Commission, INEC, to organize a bye-election which had been conducted and a winner emerged. 

Months later, as if Ibe was on a mission to shatter the existing status of the Imo Assembly, he employed the constitution again to remove another of his colleague and member representing Nkwerre State Constituency, Obinna Okwara. Reason he afforded for the action of the House was defection clause.

The first indication that Ibe would tumble what had been in place before now was the axing of five members who were clamped with suspension order. Despite the usual “unparliamentary conducts” words manufactured by the House leadership to crack down on perceived opponents in the structure and composition of the House, the sanction Ibe imposed on his colleagues can be likened to vendetta mission. Recall that during the reign of Emeziem, he succeeded, the incumbent speaker also served suspension. Hence the belief in several quarters that he gave the same measure meted to him to his predecessor.

Even as the speaker has denied that the trio of sacked Okwara, recalled Obiefule and Egwim were sanctioned for attending the burial of the mother of former Chief of Staff to the governor and son inlaw to Rochas Okorocha, Uche Nwosu, posers before Ibe he is yet to clear are how the three lawmakers could be sent out of the House because they absented from legislative program meant to deliberate on approval of the state budget for the governor? Since Imo Assembly came into existence, which lawmaker has been sacked for absenting a day from budget deliberation session?

Yes, the Ngor Okpala former representative, Okereke, may have been absent from the House plenary sessions, but was that enough for Ibe to sack a colleague elected like him by the constituents? Why didn’t he allow the people who elected him to  go for recall options than using his power to sack his elected colleague? I pointed out earlier in this commentary that the fashion of a member sacking his colleague by exploiting constitutional provisions and house rules because of the elevated speakership position is nothing but an unfounded development in the annals of democratic history of the state parliament. The action is harsh and reprehensible.

More disturbing about Ibe’s deplorable act of power hubris is the sack of Okwara. The removed Nkwerre lawmaker share certain similarities with the  Ibe believed to be  acting like a Gargantuan . Apart from being ranking lawmakers as two timers to the House of Assembly, both were elected under the platform of AA party in 2019 election. Ironically, Ibe and sacked Okwara jumped party platforms. Before power changed in Government House, Owerri, Ibe had dumped AA for PDP in solidarity with the then Governor, Emeka Ihedioha who was of the PDP.

When Supreme Court sacked Ihedioha for Uzodinma to step in, Ibe and Okwara jettisoned their respective parties to join APC party of the governor. Surprisingly, when Okwara now found it necessary to leave APC for PDP, Ibe had tasted life in during Ihedioha era, the Speaker based on a motion moved by a member, in line with relevant constitutional provisions, declared the Nkwerre man’s position vacant.

Irrespective of the constitutional guideline that empowers the speaker of the House to remove any lawmaker who defected, what moral right has Ibe to declare seat of a  co- defector vacant when perennial change of party platform has been part of  his lineage if his political trajectory in party politics is considered. Except the Imo Speaker wants to play God and oblivious of the fact that power is ephemeral, he would have known that there are no  moral justifications from his end to sack a colleague for defection.

A cursory look at his antecedents shows that he is a merchant of jumping from one party to another since he ventured into politics. Ibe was one time councilor of  the PDP during the 2007-2011 era of Ikedi Ohakim government after serving as an aide to a PDP appointee. In 2015, he was elected under APC. 2019 saw him fly the House of Assembly ticket of AA in Obowo, before defecting to PDP, and moving later to APC from 2019 to 2020.

It amounts to theatre of absurdities that a serial defector would preside over affairs of a legislative House where a lawmaker who changed party platform was sacked. In proper democratic set up, Ibe with others who were elected on different party platforms before defecting to other parties would have first abdicated their positions before calling it quits from the Imo State House of Assembly.

A recent check indicates that only about seven of the 27 House members were yet to defect to other since it was inaugurated in June 2022. Speaker Ibe and all the principal officers of the House are guilty of defection.

Before I conclude this piece, there is need for Ibe and other playmakers enjoying the boom in governance to note that in the field of politics “no champion lasts forever”.

In no distant past, it was clear that a certain governor and cohorts held Imo State hostage with sheer lawlessness, bizarre leadership style and all manners of brigande its scars are yet to leave the mental phyche of the people. What is happening today in Imo Assembly is yet another sad reminder of the ills of the past.

Within that period of past illegalities, protagonists who were incharge taught they would be in government fringes forever without knowing power is transient. Ibe and allies should guide against the habit of listening only to their thoughts. As an emerging young leader in the field of politics, the speaker is expected to refrain from the human habit in which external knowledge or the voices of all other people are ignored.

Ibe should know that since he wasn’t the first to hit the gavel and wear the prestigious robe of the Speaker of the House, he won’t also be the last to preside affairs of the House. Posterity awaits us at the gate when time for reckoning comes.