By Gabriel Bassey | dISe
Akwa Ibom State which had always been reputable for political consistency owing to its one-party governance pattern is experiencing political convulsions at present. This manifested in form of an open clash involving members and the leader of the State’s legislature earlier in the week resulting in the purported expulsion of five members, the demotion of the House Speaker amidst and against court orders, as well as unprecedented change of police Chief of the State.
The genesis of the whole drama has its roots in the decision of the House Speaker, Hon. Onofiok Luke to declare the seats of lawmakers in the opposition party vacant in an hour-long emergency sitting which took place on Monday. The Speaker justified his deed by invoking the authority of sections of the nation’s constitution that warrant removal of public office holders upon their defection from platforms they were elected upon without tangible reason.
The affected lawmakers are Idongesit Ituen, Gabriel Toby, Victor Udofia, Otobong Ndem and Nse Ntuen of Itu, Etim Ekpo/Ika, Ikono, Mkpat Enin, and Essien Udim constituencies respectively.
An interesting twist in the development has been the issuance of a Stay of Execution to the Speaker from the same State Federal High court which had earlier on mandated the sack of Hon. Idongesit Ituen, the prime victim of the saga. This development which however took place two days after the Speaker’s declaration has been dubbed by analysts as
an exercise of Federal might by the APC ruling party and an undue interference in the State’s polity by the Buhari-led Federal Government.
According to the accounts of eyewitnesses who were on ground at the time of the incidence, as well as video footage circulating on media, tensions in the atmosphere distilled into physical combat when security agents, suspected to have been compromised to serve the interest of the Speaker and his ruling party(PDP), intercepted the legislators in question and prevented their entrance into the assembly complex to participate in the emergency session the Speaker convened by of use of force. This provoked a violent reaction whereby youthful supporters of the embattled lawmakers clashed with the police in a bid to whisk their principals into the assembly complex. On account of the battle, the State Commissioner of police was replaced with immediate alacrity by the IGP in accordance with “orders from above”.
On their part, the APC lawmakers have dismissed the Speaker’s declaration against them as invalid, and further slammed the PDP House Speaker and State Governor for assaulting democracy in the State by attempting to retain a one-party governance by mischievous means. The accusations were buttressed in a statement to journalists by Hon. Ntuen where he debunked the validity of the Speaker’s action by highlighting the following;
- The Speaker, Hon. Luke did not declare vacant, the seat of the first lawmaker who had earlier on defected from APC to his own party.
- He did not follow due legislative protocol of being announced into the chamber by the Sergeant – at – Arms. Rather, he came in through a back door.
- The House mace was not present during the sitting.
Several political geeks in the State have additionally criticized the speaker for being hasty. Typical amongst them is an excerpt from Facebook post of Ekemini Simon, journalist for The Mail Newspaper which reads thus; “Common sense should make anyone and most importantly a lawyer understand that after a judgment from a Federal High Court, there is also a room for appeal at the Appeal Court and as the case may be Supreme Court. When all these steps are exhausted, that’s when execution is appropriate.”
However, the embattled faction of lawmakers in a shocking move elected the member representing Essien Udim state Constituency, Mr. Nse Ntuen, as the new House Speaker in the evening of the same day they were sacked by Speaker Luke. As the validity of the move is still being debated in several quarters, the Assembly Complex has been reportedly blocked by the police till further notice on orders of the new police Chief—another stunt which many, particularly in the PDP, have decried as rascal impunity by a domineering APC Federal Government.