Nigeria runs a presidential system of government where the three arms of government; the judiciary, the executive and the legislature are provided to be independent. Interestingly, the system empowers its legislature to provide absolute check against abuse of power by the executive.
Unfortunately, many of our lawmakers have at one time or the other ‘mortgaged’ their powers and integrity to the extent of seeing themselves as ‘inferiors’ and subordinates to the executive. But the worst in the history of legislative inferiority complex in Imo State is the present Imo House of Assembly where majority of its members have been completely mesmerized by the powers of the Chief Executive. This has come to the extent that at every little thing the Imo State Governor wants from the House, most lawmakers would be ‘dancing’ publicly for the Governor to have the impression that they are in support of him. This they do, at the expense of their independence and integrity. It has even come to the level where the governor would buy official vehicles for the House members and retain the vehicle papers and spear keys. This shows that the legislators do not know that with their right to approve the state’s budget, they could procure their official vehicles without the governor.
As I have always advocated, I will always subscribe to healthy co-operation among the three tiers of government because unhealthy rivalry among the tiers of government can also grind development of a state to a halt. But such co-operations must be with caution and void of compromise for selfish reasons.
Late Chief Sam Mbakwe performed creditably as Governor in Imo State because he did not have the kind of legislature we have today. He had a legislature that was dominated by sophisticated nationalists who provided the necessary checks against abuse of power. These were men of integrity who knew what it took to be law makers with honour.
During the early stage of Chief Achike Udenwa’s first tenure, the Imo State House of Assembly then, was said to be a little vibrant in the conduct of its affairs. But as the administration progressed, we started to see a legislature that became an extension of the executive under the pretence of legislature-executive co-operation.
When Ex-Governor Ikedi Ohakim emerged the Governor of Imo State from the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) in 2007, majority of members of the Imo State House of Assembly then were from the PDP. At that time, there was effective checks and balances from the House. As Ohakim later joined the PDP, the State House of Assembly which was supposed to be the watch dog of the people left its prime duty of checkmating the excesses of the executive and went into dilly dallying affairs with Ohakim. These honourable members left there job as legislators and were doing all Ohakim wanted. They were also ceaselessly passing votes of confidence on him and his administration just to gain one or two favours. They even dominated the media, sponsoring all sorts of advertorials pledging their “unalloyed” support to the governor and his re-election bid. Therefore, majority of these law makers were tied to the apron strings of the then governor and this made most of them loose their independence, integrity and acceptance by the masses. When the chips were down many of them were dumped. Few of them who were bold enough to express contrary views were blacklisted and frustrated.
During Governor Rochas Okorocha’s maiden broadcast to the people of Imo State on June 6 last year, he among other things, announced the removal of the traditional ruler of Obinugwu, Eze C. I. Ilomuanya as the Chairman of Imo State Council of Ndi Eze. Consequently, after all entreaties to get the Governor reverse the dissolution failed, the embattled eze swiftly headed to the Imo State High Court to reverse the dissolution. However, the case is still in the said court till the time of this write-up.
Subsequently, on 13th December 2011, some people, who claimed to be indigenes of Obinugwu staged a protest match to the Imo House of Assembly urging the House to depose Eze Ilomuanya. The protesters presented a petition purported to have been written by one Ikechukwu Obi who claimed to be an indigene of Obinugwu. Also, attached to the petition was a copy of a purported judgment of a Cross River State High wherein the embattled eze was alleged to have been convicted of a criminal offence.
On the same 13thDecmber 2011, the Imo House was said to have constituted a five-member ad hoc committee to investigate the matter. The following day being 14th December, the committee on Orient F.M., summoned the eze to appear before it in the morning of that same day. It was also alleged that the reason for the invitation was not disclosed to the eze in the said radio announcement.
Consequently, another group on the same 14th December, 2011 purporting to have come from the same Obinugwu Community led by the President General of the community also made a solidarity demonstration and presentation to the House of Assembly alleging that the first group of people that protested against the Eze was made up of impostors who could not represent the Obinugwu Community. They also alleged that the petition alleging that the eze guilty of a criminal offence and gross misconduct was false and fictitious. They thereafter passed vote of confidence on Eze Ilomuanya.
As a follow up, it was reported that Eze Ilomuanya’s counsel appeared before the committee on that same 14th December and posited that the eze was attending a meeting at Abuja. It was also alleged that a copy of the notice of meeting the eze was attending was attached to the letter his lawyer tendered before the House committee. Be that as it may, it is on record that it was on that same 14thDecember the committee submitted its report that the House passed a motion directing Governor Okorocha to suspend the eze. Stories also have it that after the suspension motion was passed, some of the House Members called Eze Ilomuanya disassociating themselves from the act. They confessed that the act was a kangaroo one played just to satisfy ‘oga’s’ desire.
When I confronted some of the members, they said that the motion was a directive from ‘Government House’ and that the lawmakers were under duress and ‘executive’ coercion to pass the motion for ‘oga’s’ use. The lawmakers also informed me that because of fear of ‘oga’, that they no longer debate issues at the floor of the house especially motions from the said ‘oga’.
I am a believer in the law of karma. I heard that the motive behind the whole exercise was to stop the eze from conferring chieftaincy title on the Senate President. I am not here to hold the brief of the traditional ruler. I know that a lot of people have some unprintable things they hold against him. Some say that he dumped Achike Udenwa who brought him into lime-light for Ohakim. Others say he contributed to Ohakim’s down fall. But one thing is clear, whatever a man sows, that he will reap. The eze has been removed as the Chairman of Imo State Council of Ndi Eze. Who knows what one may be paying for? But mine is that we cannot use illegality to cure illegality. We cannot use injustice to cure injustice. It will lead us to no where. It is not good for one to be an instrument for injustice. It can lead to eternal damnation. Though Jesus Christ was destined to die to save mankind, but why did Judas allow the devil to use him to betray Christ? It was because Judas made himself available to the devil.
Nevertheless, it is very clear even to a non law student that the above procedure adopted by the Imo State House of Assembly in suspending the traditional ruler was malicious, unconstitutional and against natural justice. I have to state here without any fear of equivocation that most of the present lawmakers in the Imo State House of Assembly are grumbling because of the way things are done in the State legislature. But the most disappointing thing is that none of them has the courage to speak this out publicly. ‘Therefore, ‘Nsogbu di’.
Be that as it may, since that motion calling for the suspension of Eze Ilomuanya was passed, many Imolites have been anxiously waiting for the governor’s action or reaction. Presently, it is being alleged that the bigger ‘oga’ in Abuja has stopped the ‘oga’ in Owerri from carrying out that legislative injunction. Some say it was the head of the caliphate who turbaned Rochas that intervened. Nevertheless, the irony in the whole episode is that the governor is said to be presently reconciling with the eze. The implication of this is that the governor has totally disregarded, jettisoned and thrown away the House’s injunction to suspend the eze. To me, this action of the governor shows that he does not have any regard for the Imo State House of Assembly. It also means that these legislators have danced naked in the public. They have indeed cried more than the bereaved. Who is then the ‘mugu and ‘mumu’ in the whole saga? Your answer is as good as mine.
According to William Shakespeare ‘cowards die many times before their death…’. Indeed many Imo people are saying that the present Imo House of Assembly is ‘dead and is waiting for interment’.
Therefore, all that glitters is not gold. As I said earlier, whatever we sow is what we shall reap. The Secretary to the Federation, Senator Pius Anyim is today considered in Igbo land and in the whole country as a man of integrity because he refused to be a stooge to the executive when he was a Senate President. Even though this caused him his political career, but after eight years, his integrity has launched him back to the political clime.
I have written a lot trying to draw the attention of the present Imo House of Assembly to their weaknesses but it seems they are too naïve to wake up. For example, look at how the state governor is unilaterally leasing out most of the legally created corporations belonging to Imo people without recourse to the House of Assembly. A case in hand is the Governor’s perpetual leasing of the Imo State Water Corporation to a strange company for 20 years without the approval of the state legislature and the erection of structures for the relocated of the Imo State University to the Governor’s home town without legislative approval.
I know that tomorrow, the governor will still come with his usual ‘order’ to have the laws on these and other illegal acts passed by the House. Shame on you legislators for mortgaging the mandate people entrusted you with and may God have mercy upon your souls. Rochas may survive thereafter because he is a true product of the people. This cannot be said of many of you. Remember, the revolution that brought Rochas to power is still on and will soon extend to the Imo State legislature.
However, I believe in resurrection after death. I know we will be free one day. I have a dream that one day the Imo State House of Assembly will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed; a time when laws in Imo State will be made out of vibrant intelligent contributions and debates at the floor of the House; when the dignity of Imo State House members will be restored. Then the executive will be full of regard and respect at the sight our legislators. This is my hope and faith.
Barr Emperor Nnabuihe Iwuala (Ksc.)