Fresh revelations and recent developments in Imo State House of Assembly have renewed fear that the alleged plot to impeach the Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere, may be true after all, reports Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu
SINCE the Imo State House of Assembly suspended four of its members during its first plenary after the face-off at the National Convention by the two opposing factions in the state, the allegation that Governor Rochas Okorocha has instructed his men to impeach his estranged Deputy, Prince Eze Madumere, has again taken the centre stage in the politics of the state ahead 2019.
It would be recalled that both Okorocha and Madumere had, in the past, formally denied any knowledge of moves to impeach Madumere.
The denials notwithstanding, there were signs that something must happen as the robust relationship between Okorocha and Madumere continues to deteriorate. So, before the open disagreement at the convention, the intrigues that trailed the congresses in the state and the courteous utterances of the leading figures in the face-off had created a very complex situation as it became rather difficult to describe the extent of the crack in the governor and his deputy’s personal and official relationships. At a point, some observers concluded that Okorocha’s camp may have given up in the battle for the control of Imo State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC), especially because of the victories recorded by the allied forces against the governor’s camp at the state congresses. But informed observers could not help but note that Governor Okorocha’s resolve to stop the re-election of Senator Hope Uzodimma as the National Organising Secretary of APC was expressed without mincing words.
So, as APC moved to Abuja for its National Convention on 23rd June, 2018, both observers and party members were curious to see how the power game in Imo APC will proceed. At the beginning, everything seemed to be under control. But trouble started after a group loyal to Okorocha stormed the Imo delegates’ pavillion.
According to insider reports, members of the group on arrival at the pavilion, asked delegates loyal to Madumere, the deputy governor, to vacate their seats. At this stage, it became clear that the battle was not ended. As would be expected, the order was resisted, leading to open fisticuffs while President Muhammadu Buhari was making a speech.
Impeachment plot rebounds
Fresh developments in Imo confirm that the open fight in Abuja was just a preamble to the actual power game that will ultimately unfold in Imo. The Imo battle did not wait long to unfold for as soon as the state lawmakers resumed after the convention, the hallowed chamber witnessed open flexing of muscle as the House promptly impeached four members identified as supporters of Madumere. The Nation observed that the political landscape of the Southeast state has not remained the same since then.
In fact, since the Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, Hon. Acho Ihim, announced the suspension of the four lawmakers at the Assembly’s first plenary after the party’s National Convention, tongues have been wagging mainly because the affected lawmakers are known supporters of the Deputy Governor, Madumere. As a result, analysts have linked the development to the plot to impeach the deputy governor as quickly as possible.
The lawmakers suspended are Uche Oguike, representing Ikeduru State Constituency; Ifeanyi Nnataraonye, representing Imo Deputy Governor’s local government, Mbaitoli; Nzeruo John Nkenna of Oru East and Chiji Collins, representing Isiala Mbano Constituency.
The motion on which the suspension was predicated was raised on the floor of the Assembly, with the title: “Motion for Investigation of un-parliamentary Conduct of Four House members.” It reads in part: “…Whereas a number of members of Imo State House of Assembly have continual unabated to conduct themselves in ways and manner capable of eroding the co-operate image and sanity of Imo parliament and the state
Be it resolved by this House that Hon. Chiji Collins, Hon. Uche Oguwike, Hon. Ifeanyi Nnataronye and Hon. Nkenna Nzeruo be immediately subjected to the Disciplinary and Ethic Committee of this Honourable House
Be it further resolved that 4 (four) Honourable members be forthwith suspended till the report of the said Committee is received and resolved by this house.”
Besides the suddenness of the motion suspending the lawmakers, its timing, immediately after the open confrontation at the national convention, critics of the Speaker’s decision to accept the pleadings of the motion, and his implementation of it immediately argued that the motion “did not state in clear terms the offences of the lawmakers” to warrant immediate suspension.
Reacting to his suspension, one of the affected lawmakers, Nkenna John Nzeruo, who represents Oru East, described it as “witch-hunting.” The lawmaker who spoke to The Nation on Friday, described the impeachment as witch-hunting,” even as he explained that he was speaking from his hiding place as, according to him, there have been threats on his life since he first came out to condemn his suspension. According to him, “I had to speak out because the people that suspended me and the other three colleagues did no tell the world our offences. They only said we were suspended because of unparliamentary conduct. I find that phrase ambiguous; a proof that there are hidden reasons for the illegal action. As a lawmaker, I have not been found wanting in the discharge of my legislative functions neither have I faced a disciplinary committee for whatever reason.
“The only crimes I committed are : That I gave heed to my people, whose mandate I represent, not to participate in any oath taking for the sum of Fifty Million Naira (N50,000,000) to protect my integrity before God and my people.
Another is that I refused to go to the press to attack, abuse and assassinate the characters of Senator Hope Uzodimma as instructed even when he is my brother, constituent and also a BoT member of same party (APC).
Another offence is my refusal to join the band wagon of the Ugwumba Movement (Agburu) supporting a particular governorship aspirant in Imo State.
Finally, I may have offended some people because I wore the uniform provided by and for the Southeast members of the party (APC) for the just concluded National Convention of the party in Abuja.
How these become an unparliamentary conduct is yet to be proved,” he said.
Confirming the allegation that some lawmakers were asked, by some forces, to take oath, the lawmaker told The Nation, “I was asked to take oath of allegiance, oath of total support, but I refused to do that. That was my second offence. The third offence is because they saw me at the National Convention associating with the state APC. So, this suspension is simply the outcome of the APC National Convention of 23rd June, 2018, at Eagle Square, Abuja.
I have also been reliably informed that other forms of attack are being programmed against me.”
How the plan to settle matter failed in the House
After announcing the suspension of the lawmakers, the Speaker had set up a committee headed by Hon. Lawman Duruji to investigate the matter, submit its report on July 5 2018 in order to help Assembly to resolve it internally. But investigation by The Nation during the week shows that that committee could not do anything tangible until the expiration of the time given it to conclude its work.
Nzeruo told The Nation that until Friday, a day after the expiration of the time, neither him nor any other lawmaker affected in the suspension were invited by the committee to answer to any allegation. “Today is Friday and in spite of the fact that the committee was expected to conclude its work yesterday (Thursday), none of us has been invited to answer to any charge. Instead, the House adjourned until 24th of August without saying a word about the suspension. Because of that, we are going to the court to sue the Imo State House of Assembly and the Speaker of the House, who pronounced the suspension.”
Tension in the land:
Following the power show, there is tension in Imo, especially amongst APC members in the two factions. One of the suspended lawmakers, Nzeruo for example, told The Nation that since he reacted to his suspension, there have been threats to his person, a development that has made him to go into hiding. “I have been into hiding since then because of threatening calls and suspicious movements in my compound. The atmosphere is not good at all,” he said.
Even as the suspended lawmakers head to the court, we gathered that the impeachment move may have been stalled following two unresolved issues. A source close to the Assembly told The Nation that some lawmakers were not happy because the sponsor of the impeachment move has not fulfilled his part of the bargain. Another issue, the source said, has to do with the fact that the lawmakers are not comfortable with the position of the State Chief Judge on the issue. Some of them said the he may not accept the plan or the way it is being carried out. For now the tension continuous to build up..