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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Challenges Facing Imo House Of Assembly [IMHA] – By John I. Mgbe



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I have restrained myself from writing this viewpoint before now in the hope that the Uwajimogu-led legislature will recover from their serial shortcomings. However, ongoing developments have impelled me to call a spade a spade if that is what it takes to remind the members of “Imo House of Idle Legislators” that Ndimo are not mediocrities or zombies. I want to state from the outset that the present Imo House of Assembly led by Hon. Uwajimogu is a monumental embarrassment to  most citizens of Imo State. I was an unrepentant opponent of the Opiah-led legislature of 2007-2011 and I wrote several viewpoints in condemning that legislature. At a time, a delegation was sent from the House to have a chat with me in the office of the Publisher of the Announcer Express Newspaper where I was a columnist. My column in the Announcer Express was entitled “Glitterati”. In a chat with the delegation, I was urged to be more friendly to the House and “other things would follow”. I rejected the advice and rather pleaded with them to play according to the rules and I would reflect it in my column. They were more interested in paying “protection fee” to me instead of changing from their old ways. When I insisted that my column was not for sale to the highest bidder, the management of Announcer Express stopped publishing my viewpoints, hence I left the organization. The editor of Announcer Express, Emeka Nkwoada, and the publisher, Nze Joe Anyama, know the full story. If they put up a rejoinder and deny it, I will tell the entire story to the public.


So, the point I want to make here is that with a benefit of hindsight, even the Goodlucck Opiah legislature was a lot better than the present Uwajimogu-led House. For a start, the Opiah-led House was able to influence Chief Ohakim to defect to PDP from PPA, this is a sharp contrast to the Uwajimogu-led House where the first official function of Speaker Uwajimogu and about three other legislators was to defect to  the All Progressives Grand Alliance – the governor’s party. That was the first sign that the House we voted was a mere megaphone, a lap dog of the Executive. I have not seen such a stupendous and monumental betrayal before now in the game of politics. Since then, I became so disorientated about the House that each time I see the picture of Ben Uwajimogu in the newspapers what I see is the new face of Judas Iscariot – the disciple who betrayed his master, Jesus. Note that Ben Uwajimogu did not act alone. Others who defected to the APGA with him include  Ozuruigbo(OZB) from Nwangele, Acho Ihim from Okigwe and Mrs. Adaku Ihuoma from the Mbaise  area.


At the end of the charade, four legislators who contested and won election under the umbrella of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) simply abandoned the electorate and succumbed to the lure of filthy lucre, the love of petrodollars. Yet, they parade themselves as Honourables and the same electorate address them as Honourable members of the Hollow sorry, Hallowed House of Legislature. Terrible!! Although majority must always carry the vote in a democracy, I feel that these men are dishonourable members of the Hollow House of Legislature. I am unable to see anything that is honourable in a man who does not give a damn in biting the finger that feeds him. It was under this frustration and sadness that I wrote the viewpoint entitled “Imo House of Assembly at One Month: A flashback” which appeared on page 9 of the White Paper Newspaper of Friday, July 15-July 17, 2011. You can also Google the headline and read on the internet. I have no space to discus the contents here but you can imagine my rage and discomfiture.


Even as bad and inept as the Opiah-led House, the Uwajimogu-led House is even in a worse shape, that is when compared on a pro rata bases of one year. Perhaps, the only difference is that no legislator has been suspended so far. In the Opiah-led House, about six members, all from Orlu zone, were suspended within 18 months. When I reminded him in my column “Glitterati” in the Announcer Express Newspaper, that he should be wary of what he was doing. I told him that without the votes of the Orlu legislators, he would not have been Speaker of the legislature, more so, since the Orlu Senator (Osita Izunaso) was also from Opiah’s Federal Constituency. I reminded him that if he did not stop treating the Orlu legislators and indeed the entire legislators like his domestic servants, he would crash land along the line. His Chief propaganda officer, Kelechi Mejuobi, bought spaces in Announcer Express Newspaper where he said, “John Mgbe is mad, he is deranged, he is a psychiatric patient and the like”. So when Opiah was impeached in the twilight of his tenure, I then knew that it was a prophecy fulfilled. But this viewpoint is not about Goodluck Opiah-led House but about Uwajimogu-led House.


I am unable to recollect any achievement that is worthy of praise from this Uwajimogu-led House since its inception in June, 2011. I became even more flabbergasted after listening to his stewardship account which was carried in several print and electronic media in Imo State. Some of his revelations during the phone-in segment of those programmes were pitiable. On one occasion, he asked whether it was true that Imo State University has been moved to Ideato? This question was coming from a Speaker of the State legislature at a time when over a billion Naira had been spent on the then IMSU Campus at Ogboko-Ideato. If the Speaker was not aware of this relocation of IMSU, how did the Governor raise the money for the capital intensive structures on the site? On another occasion, he said that the Governor had not borrowed money since his inauguration. Is this in accord with the barefaced facts which are already in all public domain? If Governor Okorocha says he has not borrowed money, I may not bother to worry. But when the Speaker of the House amplifies this statement, one becomes skeptical; but in Imo State nothing shocks. When the Governor came up with the idea of paying stipends to pupils/students in the secondary schools, I was not bothered. But I was distressed when the legislature not only acquiesced to this aberration but even went further to play the role of clerks who were deployed to the schools to pay N100/150 stipends a month to students/prefects respectively. This is how low the Uwajimogu-led House can get.


Before Goodluck Opiah House was disgraced out of office, they had set up a panel to investigate the allegations of embezzlement of fund by the former Governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim. One of those who sent distress letters to the panel was Hon. Citizen Ikenna Samuelson Iwuoha, the man who was allegedly flogged by Chief Ikedi Ohakim in the presence of Henry Ekpe and Sir Emma Ohakim, the then Chief of Staff to the governor. In the several petitions, Hon. Samuelson Iwuoha pleaded to be invited to testify before the panel. He said he had evidence to prove beyond every reasonable doubt that Ikedi Ohakim  looted state funds. In one of his several letters, copies which were sent to my email box, Hon. Samuelson Iwuoha said that he  had the addresses of  the affected buildings in foreign countries and the like. In response to the ongoing saga at the time, I did a viewpoint entitled “Probing Ohakim’s Administration: A post Mortem” which appeared in the Announcer Express Newspaper of August 24-26, 2009, page 9. In that viewpoint, I doubted the sincerity of Opiah-led House in probing Ohakim. I advised them to invited Sam Iwuoha to testify before the panel, if they were serious because Sam Iwuoha said that he had all the facts. Instead of inviting Sam Iwuoha who was begging to testify before the panel the panel went on a wild goose chase by issuing a warrant of arrest on Chief Orji Uzor Kalu and the Late Maximus Uba. I was wondering why they were interested in gong to Sokoto to get what was in their Sakwato.


When Ben Uwajimogu was elected/appointed Speaker, I thought that one of his priorities, in keeping with the mood of the electorate, was to follow-up the probe panel and ensure it was properly concluded. When Citizen Samuelson Iwuoha was appointed Senior Special Assistant (Media) to the Speaker, I thought that a Daniel had come to Judgment. I felt that it was just a matter of days for Sam Ikenna to tell the story of Ikedi Ohakim’s escapades in the so-called looting of Imo State. It is both deplorable and sad that the only reason for appointing Sam Iwuoha to the post of SSA (Media) was to gag him and kill the probe which was instituted by his predecessor. It is lamentable that a year after his speakership, nobody in Ohakim’s regime has been dragged to EFCC or ICPC. Do we not have IBORIS in Imo State? Do we not have CECILIA IBRUS, BANKOLES and the others in Imo State? The only explanation is that the members of the Imo Hollow House of Assembly have been apparently settled by those who looted the treasury of Imo State. I don’t know of any other reason why both the House and Governor Okorocha are keeping silent on this issue. Yet, daily the Governor tells us how much billions he has recovered from the loot but nobody has dragged anybody to court or to the EFCC/ICPC. Both the House and the Executive arm of government must now tell us whether we have to tender apologies to Chief Ikedi Ohakim and Goodluck Opiah who were all accused of looting the state treasury.


If Goodluck Opiah who had the courage to set up the panel, albeit a kangaroo panel, could be impeached, is there any reason for Ben Uwajimogu to remain Speaker a day longer than necessary? Instead of commenting on the points raised in my viewpoint, the propagandist of the Opiah-led House engaged in Argumentum Ad Hominem when he left the issues raised and embarked on a campaign of personal attack in his rejoinder entitled “Imo House and Governor’s Probe: John Mgbe’s Frivolous Rantings” which he published on page 5 of Announcer Express Newspaper of Monday, September 6-9th, 2009. He said John Mgbe was mad and a psychiatric patient and the Announcer Express editor,Emeka Nkwoada, published it for him, even though I was an incumbent columnist on that Newspaper. But in the long run, we have since known who was ranting and who was speaking the truth.


I feel constrained to write this viewpoint because of the arrogant indifference of the legislators on the ongoing crises between the State Government and the Local Government Council Chairmen in Imo State. It is deplorable and despicable that the Imo State House of Assembly has not issued any comment on this saga since the crisis started on June 6th 2011. Since that sacking of June 6th 2011, the case has moved to the state High Court, the Court of Appeal Owerri and now the Supreme Court. Yet, our legislators pretend as if they are not on planet Earth. They hear nothing, see nothing and say nothing. Yet, the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria places the Local Government Councils under the purview of the state legislatures. So, how long are we to continue frittering away our scarce resources on picking the wage bills of legislators who have since become the lapdogs of the Executive arm of Government? Initially the argument of the opposition was that the 2-year Tenure Bill was not signed by the Governor. Now, they have recanted and now say that the Bill was actually signed after the elections. Another impeccable source states that the Bill was actually signed in June 2011 before the August 7 LG s(election). It is lamentable that in this cacophony and Babel, the Uwajimogu-led House has gone comatose. Out of 27 members of the House, not even one person is courageous enough to bring the topic for discussion in the House plenary sessions. Again, not even one of the legislators has thought it wise to ask the House to conclude the probe panel investigation which was enacted by the impeached Speaker, Goodluck Opiah. In spite of all the stories of corruption on Goodluck Opiah on how he mismanaged the House by collecting N50M, per month for the upkeep of the House, nobody has dragged him to the EFCC/ICPC. If they have discovered that Chief ikedi Ohakim and Goodluck Opiah were Saints, they should tender apologies to them and reinstate the Speakership of Opiah. Once that is done, those of us who were arch advocates of regime change in that ill-fated regime can tender apologies to them.


The bottom-line of this thesis is that the founding fathers of Democracy envisaged acts of executive exuberance and activism from Chief Executives of the Executive Arm of Government. It was in order to checkmate this so-called executive recklessness and overzealousness that scholars like Baron Montesquieu and others came up with the doctrine of separation of powers –  an arrangement in which the three arms of government (Executive, Legislature and Judiciary) would act as a check on one another. Today  in Imo State, we have an Uwajimogu-led House which has since abandoned its responsibilities  of checkmating the so-called excess of the executive arm. Rather than the incessant pointing of hands on the State Governor, Imo people should be courageous enough to point fingers at the inept Imo House of Assembly which has refused to provide  effective checks to rein in the so-called excesses of the Executive arm of government.. We are not aware of any squabble between the legislature and the Executive Arm of government on any decisions of the government. If the people are not satisfied with the oversight roles of the House, they will express it in the next election in 2015, that is, if they cannot embark on a process of Recall which is enshrined in the Constitution. In 2007, about 6 out of 27 members of the Imo House of Assembly (IMHA) were re-elected. In 2011,about 7 out of the 27 members were reelected and, worse still, the Speaker, Goodluck Opiah, was impeached in line with my prediction. So, the electorate is not helpless on this issue. They may either act now by invoking the instrument of the Recall process on the legislators who they deem ineffective or they can hold the fire or vote their conscience in 2015.


There are empirical and scientifically verifiable records to prove that, often, effective political leaders are usually hyperactive and often seek to ignore the law. But such excesses are usually reined in and checkmated by the legislature. The problem now is that in Imo State since 2007 to date, we have not had a real legislature. What we have is a fusion of powers between the Executive and Legislative Arms of Government. In this arrangement the legislature surrenders its autonomy to the Executive Arm – a kind of Parliamentary democray.The last time Imo State had a genuine legislature was when the Mbaise-born Barrister Noel Agwuocha was Speaker of the House. Is HON Agwuocha still around or is he in the Diaspora? I am unhappy that such men of integrity are not talking in the face of the ongoing political challenges in Imo State. The Judiciary in Imo State should be applauded for acquitting itself creditably by calling a spade a spade, even though there are gray areas in such judgments. This will be discussed elsewhere.


In United Stated, President Bush (snr.) went to war in Iraq without getting orders from Congress. However, the Congress did not hesitate to ratify the action of their President on the grounds of national interest. In Britain, Prime Minister, Tony Blair, of Britain formed a strong alliance with United State’s President George Bush (Jnr) in the prosecution of the Iraq war against the wish of the British electorate. When asked why he joined the Iraq war against the wish of the British people, Tony Blair said that “There are times when a leader must not necessarily follow the crowd”. On such occasions, the leader does what in his opinion is good for the populace. In spite of the furore that trailed Margaret Thatcher’s policy on privatization, economic liberalization, and commercialization, the concept of Thatchernomics has become a buzz word in modern political engineering. So, our people should not fret and become afraid of innovative ideas.Yes, democracY enjoins us to criticize our leaders but when such criticisms are made, we must not insist that our leaders must swallow them, hook, line and sinker. The Social Contract enjoins us to give our leaders a free hand instead of fanning the embers of discord, acrimony, and atavism.


While not condoning acts that are not in sync with due process, I wish to state without any equivocation that it was in the election of 2011 that Imo electorate was able to vote and get a governor of their choice through a free and fair election. Within his first 100 Days, he superseded the cumulative achievements of the locust years of 1999 to 29th May,2011.Please read my viewpoint entitled :”A Peep into Gov Okorocha’s First 100 Days” which was published in the White Paper newspaper of September 28-29,2011 page 9.You can also Goggle the headline and read online. The kind of cogent and verifiable projects and democracy dividends which we have seen in the past one year are mindboggling and unbelievable. It’s a sad reminder that the past years were years of the locust. In his frenetic speed to catch  up for the years of the locust, Governor Okorocha is bound to make mistakes and when that happens it is the duty of IMHA to intervene.

I wish to state that the docile nature of the Uwajumogu–led House resonates the famous aphorism of George Santayana: “The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again”. Furthermore, it calls to mind the other ageless conundrum by the Roman Poet, Juvenal,:”Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodiet” which means:”Who will guard the guards themselves”. The answer to the question is a matter for personal conjecture.


Finally, I wish to state that some people have been making negative comments about the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) Media to the Speaker, Samuelson Iwuoha. They allege that Samuelson has abandoned his former struggle of dragging those who looted Imo State to EFCC/ICPC. The fault in not dragging such alleged looters of the state to the anti-graft agencies is not in Samuelson Iwuoha. It’s the fault of the Uwajumogu-led House which has decided to maintain a conspiracy of silence over the misdeeds of yesterday. I am sure that Samuelson Iwuoha will not be found wanting if he is called to testify before any panel or any anti-graft agencies on issues that border on the alleged looting of the locust years.




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