We condemn the recent crisis in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly which was allegedly instigated by five lawmakers’ attempt to change the leadership of the House and possibly impeach the state governor, Udom Emmanuel. The partisan role reportedly played by some security agents in the saga is highly despicable.
Akwa Ibom House is not the only one affected by crisis that portends danger to the nation’s nascent democracy. The situation is the same in Anambra and Ondo states. Ekiti, Benue and Plateau states’ legislative Houses were not spared, too. The action of the five lawmakers, who lately defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), has been generally condemned.
The Speaker of the Akwa Ibom Assembly, Onofiok Luke, may have attracted the ire of the five lawmakers when he declared their seats vacant after they defected to the APC. Later, the lawmakers stormed the House to possibly remove the Speaker.
The attempt by five out of the 26 members of the House to impeach the Speaker or even the Governor of the State is unconstitutional. According to Section 92 (c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), only two-thirds of the members of the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly can impeach the Speaker. To impeach the governor of a state, the conditions stipulated in Section 188 (1-11) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) must be fulfilled.
Disagreements among members in the House are natural and not unexpected. However, such agreements must be amicably settled. They should not be allowed to escalate to violence.
In such matters, the police must always remain neutral. They must avoid been partisan. We do not subscribe to a return to an era of illegal impeachments, which were rampant in some states in the 4th Republic.
We enjoin Nigerian politicians, especially the lawmakers, to play by the rules and avoid anything that might overheat the polity. Politicians must avoid actions that are capable of truncating our democracy.
There is no doubt that the crises in some state legislative Houses have something to do with the 2019 elections. Let politicians not allow their personal ambitions torpedo our democracy. We condemn the quick recourse to self-help by some politicians. No doubt, disagreements by lawmakers are part of the democratic game, but they must never be taken out of proportion to the extent of seeking to compromise the peace and security of the nation.
We, therefore, admonish the political combatants in the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly to sheathe their swords and embrace peace. It is only in a peaceful atmosphere that multiparty democracy can thrive and endure.
The security agents, especially the police, must be mindful of their duties and try to be neutral at all times and in all situations. They must be very professional in the discharge of their duties and be seen to be so. They should never be partisan. The pressure on them to be partisan, especially in this political season, may be enormous, but, like Caesar’s wife, they should be above board.
Also, the recent allegation by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State that the breakdown of law and order at the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly was part of a grand design to truncate democracy in both Rivers and Akwa Ibom states should be thoroughly investigated by the Federal Government. The outcome of the investigation must be made public. However, we advise the government to take concrete measures to prevent any plan to truncate our democracy.
All stakeholders in the Nigerian project, especially the political actors, must resist the temptation to overheat the polity now that the campaign season is on. The politicians must be reminded that elections are meant to celebrate democracy and they come in cycles. Those who do not win this time will definitely have another chance.