From George Onyejiuwa and Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
After the 2019 governorship and state Assembly polls in Imo State, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, was declared the winner of the election with his party also winning the majority seats in the House of Assembly .
The Action Alliance (AA) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) also won some seats while the All Progressives Congress (APC) did not win any seat.
But following the political horse trading, the sacked Speaker of the House, Collins Chiji (Isiala Mbano) who had previously defected to APGA from the APC before the 2019 poll to join his political god-father, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, won his re-election back to the House on the platform of APGA. But he would again cross-carpet to the PDP so that he would become the Speaker since the position has been zoned to the Okigwe zone .
It was the same for all the other members of APGA who had won their legislative seats in the state with the exception of members of the AA.
However, following the January 15, 2020 Supreme Court judgment that sacked Governor Ihedioha and replaced him with Senator Hope Uzodimma, the majority of the members of the PDP and AA defected to the APC, the party of Governor Uzodimma.
The former Speaker, Chiji, had led the change apparently to retain his seat and for political survival.
Also, Arthur Egwim representing Ideato North defected from AA to APC, Amarachi Iwuanyanwu (the current Deputy Speaker) from Nwangele abandoned the PDP for APC as well as Chidiebere Ogbunikpa from Okigwe.
Others are Obinna Okwara (Nkwerre), who defected from the AA to APC; Paul Emeziem (Onuimo) and current Speaker from the APGA to APC; Uche Ogbuagu (Ikeduru) from the PDP to APC where he became the Majority Leader of the House before he was recently impeached, following his rivalry with the Deputy Speaker, Amarachi Iwuanyanwu.
Johnson Duru of Ideato South and Ngozi Obifule of Isu also left AA for APC together with Syracuse Okoro of Ohaji Egbema.
By trouble began in the state Assembly when suspicion was rife that the members of the AA and PDP who cross-carpeted to the APC are not fully trusted by Governor Uzodimma as he still regarded them as moles, especially those from AA who are perceived as members of Rochas Okorocha’s political family.
It was gathered that those lawmakers are in most times not taken into confidence by those who see themselves as the core loyalists of Governor Uzodimma.
But, the lawmakers continued to tag along to ensure that they at least benefit from whatever largesse that was coming from the Government House, mostly often through the Deputy Speaker, Amarachi Iwuanyanwu, who is regarded as the de facto Speaker having allegedly engineered the sack of Chiji Collins as Speaker and also succeeded in installing the present Speaker, Hon. Paul Emeziem (Onuimo) after successfully scheming out Hon. Kennedy Ibe (Obowo) also from Okigwe zone.
A reliable source who does not want to be mentioned told Sunday Sun that the real power in the state Assembly resides with the Deputy Speaker, Amarachi Iwuanyanwu who determines who gets what as he has the confidence and ears of Governor Uzodimma. Consequently, anyone who wants to struggle power with him has always had his fingers burnt.
“The de facto Speaker of the Imo State Assembly is Amara Iwuanyanwu and those who challenge his authority have always been sidelined in the scheme of things in the House. Look at how he engineered the removal of both Chiji Collins as the Speaker and Uche Ogbuagu as the Majority Leader of the House. Even Chiji Collins was not even in the Chamber when he was sacked just like Uche Ogbuagu learnt of his removal as the House Majority Leader. Even he ensured that Kennedy Ibe who should have replaced Chiji Collins as a ranking member from Okigwe zone was schemed out,” the lawmaker said.
Hear him again: “Look at what happened to the member representing Ohaji Egbema, Sycrause Okoro, how he was assaulted in the Government House for challenging Amarachi Iwuanyanwu over being schemed out of the largesse after the impeachment of Chiji Collins. He was not only beaten up, but was also equally detained at the State CID on the instruction of Governor Uzodimma and later arraigned at the magistrate court for assault.
“Since the inception of Governor Hope Uzodimma, the House has never passed any bill except Executive Bills .The 2021 Appropriation Bill sent in by the governor was passed in a record time of within 24 hours . It is only in this Assembly where a Commissioner’s nominees are first sworn in before they are screened by the lawmakers just to ensure that they get their allowances and salaries. They are not even bold enough to ask for their rights.
“The six members of the House that were suspended were simply insisting on the financial autonomy and constituency projects.”
The suspended lawmakers are Kennedy Ibe (Obowo), Crown Onyemaechi (Ihitte-Uboma), Uche Ogbuagu (Ikeduru), Dominic Ezerioha (Oru West), Philip Ejiogu (Owerri North), and Anyadike Nwosu (Ezinihitte Mbaise).
While Ejiogu and Nwosu were of PDP, the other four were of APC, the ruling party in the state.
The Assembly also dissolved all its standing committees as well as sacked the House Chief Whip, Arthur Egwim (Ideato North), replacing him with Obinna Okwara (Nkwerre).
This action led to confusion and great uproar in the House which also caused heavy gunfire outside the hallowed chamber with people in the premises scampering for safety.
When the dust raised subsided, an inside source in the state Assembly told Sunday Sun that the suspended lawmakers have been a threat to the caucus of the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Emeziem and generally regarded as opposing voices.
It was also alleged that the Speaker and his deputy, Amarachi Iwuanyanwu have been running the affairs of the House arbitrarily and enjoying the majority support from other lawmakers loyal to Governor Uzodimma .
But besides the built up hard feelings, what may have triggered the rumble in the House last Thursday, according to the member representing Ezinihitte State constituency, Anyadike Nwosu, was the demand for a 100 per cent financial autonomy from the House, as well as a demand for constituency projects, which the lawmakers argued should come directly through them.
Anyadike who is the deposed minority leader from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) revealed that the trouble started on Saturday and Sunday when members were having a group discussion on their Watsapp platform were they urged the Speaker to ask the governor to accord them their rights.
Their rights, according to Anyadike, included the demand for financial autonomy and constituency projects from Governor Uzodimma .
The lawmaker claimed that there was no financial autonomy in the Imo House of Assembly, adding that “those were the crux of the matter we were asking to treat.
“No financial autonomy in Imo House of Assembly, the necessary committees even the judiciary have not sent their bill to the House to deliberate on and pass the bill because there should be a law generating financial autonomy and those things have not been put in place.
“What really ruffled them was my interview few days ago in a radio station that we do not have financial autonomy in Imo, I said that so that my constituents will not be expecting too much money from me, they’re autonomous, they are expecting projects and money from me and I’m not bringing it, so I have to tell them the truth.”
The former minority leader also revealed that his ordeal did not start from the day of the suspension, saying that his office was not recognised by the Speaker .
His words: “Different people and different politicians have different scheming on what they want to achieve, maybe the Speaker is threatened, he does not want me in the House because even at normal sessions, if I raise my hands to make contributions, he does not usually give me the floor.
“By the status of my office I second every motion, so when the Speaker called the majority leader to move a motion, the minority leader seconds it, but the Speaker doesn’t usually identify my office, this is an aberration, that is the parliamentary ways of doing it. He does not give me my privileges as a minority leader even the money I’m supposed to be paid, they don’t pay me, they only give me half.
“The constituency projects have never been given to us, it’s my statutory right and I’m still asking for it.”
On his own part, Dominic Ezerioha, representing Oru West who was also suspended alongside the other five members of the House, described the incident that happened as parliamentary issues, but insisted that they are still part of the House.
“They are purely parliamentary issues, we are going to discuss the issues accordingly; for now all 27 members of the house remain elected,” he insisted.