As the countdown to the May 29 hand over date begins, the battle over who should lead the new Abia state House of Assembly is ongoing. The Ngwa community in Abia Central senatorial zone and the Umuahia bloc in the same district are the two contending forces. ORI MARTINS reports
The die is cast and the battle is raging over who becomes the new Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly. The position is currently occupied by the newly elected deputy governor of the state, Hon. UdeOkoChukwu whose tenure will expire as soon as he takes oath of office as deputy governor on May 29, 2015.
Investigations revealed that the position of the Speaker ceded to the Abia Central Senatorial zone following the emergence of the governor and deputy governor-elect from Abia South and Abia North senatorial districts respectively is being contested by both the Ngwa elements in the Central as well as Umuahia (Old Bende) establishments in the Central as well. There are three Ngwa Local Government Areas in the Abia Central Senatorial zone namely Osisioma, Isialangwa South and Isialangwa North LGAs, while there are also three Old Bende LGAs that make up the Central senatorial districts and they are Ikwuano, Umuahia North and Umuahia South LGA.
The point now is, are there precedents or conditions laid down for a lawmaker to qualify to be elected as the Speaker of a state House of Assembly. A lawyer and political commentator, AhamNwaubachi answered in the affirmative. According to him; “There are precedents or what one may call unwritten factors that usually combine to determine who would become the Speaker of a state House of Assembly. It is not compulsory that such a lawmaker must as well be a lawyer but, it is generally accepted that the first consideration is senatorial or geo-political zoning.
“Look at what I mean, if the governor is from the North, and the deputy is from the South, it would amount to a political impunity to still allow the Speaker of the House to emerge from the same enclave with either the governor or his deputy. So, for the sake of equity, justice and fair play, it becomes essential to get a Speaker from the Central and all other things will fall in line with normal democratic processes”.
He added; “The other considerations in settling for the position of Speaker are usually the experience of the lawmaker- that is; his ranking in the House. Is he a first, second or third timer? What are his legislative backgrounds? Does he have grasps of what lawmaking is all about? In some instances, the academic qualifications of the candidates are also put into consideration just as their political leanings or inclinations are equally not totally ignored”.
So, how do these factors play out in the move to elect the new Speaker of the Abia House of Assembly? In the current dispensation, the governor elect, DrOkezieIkpeazu is from Obingwa, (UkwaNgwa), Abia South Senatorial zone. His deputy is a native of Ohafia in Old Bende, Abia North Senatorial zone. In line with tradition, the Speaker is naturally zoned to the Abia Central Senatorial district. There is no contention to this arrangement. However, there are contentious issues as it concerns Abia Central Senatorial zone. The poser is: will it be right to cede the speakership to the Ngwa elements in the Abia Central as the governor-elect is from the Ngwa bloc or will it be more politically correct to look towards Umuahia (Old Bende) interests in the Abia Central for the speakership position? Ordinarily, either of the two components will be a path worth toeing. But there are some concerns pertaining to the foregoing.
In the words of a public affairs analyst, Chief MadubuikeAkachukwu, the best thing to do is to allow the most ranking senior member of the House to emerge as the new Speaker. He said; “If you take a look at the politics of Abia and what happened during the elections, you will agree with me that this issue is far beyond political ambition. If we have to getAbia working, some concessions must be given and historical factors must be considered.
“By concessions, I mean that the two candidates from Umuahia axis who are of the PDP are new timers. In this case, can we allow somebody who has not had any legislative experience to be elected to the position of Speaker of the House of Assembly in a state like Abia that needs fast socio-economic and political re-engineering? We can meet the challenge of reconciliation and development but, it will take full determination and common leadership partnership”.
“We have reached a critical point in Abia political chessboard that the path to change is fragile and uncertain but it is far too narrow to turn back. We must summon the political will to make lasting change. Let us look beyond political differences and interest to address the larger interest of Abia people. Much work needs to be done to achieve peace, political stability and set pace for development.
“My reading of these various factors therefore, is that, since the PDP who are in majority in the House will most likely produce the Speaker and unluckily for the party, its two members from Umuahia that is Abia Central where it has been zoned are new comers, the theory of ranking and experience will naturally come into play. In football when two leading teams are tied on points, the next consideration is goal differences. As we now have it in Abia, there is tie in zoning, so, the next factor is ranking and experience and this is why the Speaker should be encouraged to shift from Old Bende axis to UkwaNgwa bloc where we have two ranking legislators. The most important factor is that it is still within the conclave of Abia Central and that is democratic both in principle and in practice”.
Exploring further where Akachukwu stopped, a political scientist and commentator, Dr. NwadiOnyedinaobi said; “I can tell you that there is nothing absolutely wrong for an UkwaNgwa man from Abia Central to be the Speaker of the Abia House of Assembly in this dispensation. This is so because, historically, in 1999, the then governor, Orji Kalu was from Igbere, Bende LGA (Old Bende). His first Speaker out of the four or five he had is of Old Bende extraction. For example, the late Nkem Ike, from UmuahiaNorth was Kalu’s first Speaker although he hailed from the Abia Central. It is on record that during the administration of Kalu, the only UkwaNgwa from Abia Central who became Speaker at some point was Chris Enweremadu. He equally had Chief Stanley Ohajuruka, from the Old Bende axis whose zone is Abia Central. Even the outgoing governor, Chief T.A. Orji who hails from Old Bende zone had two Speakers; Agwu U Agwu from Arochukwu LGA and UdeOkoChukwu, Ohafia LGA both in Old Bende. Thus, if any of the two most senior legislators from Ngwa who incidentally are from Abia Central are elected by the yet to be inaugurated sixth Abia State House of Assembly, it is still in line with the tradition of the House”.
For the sake clarity, the following are House members from Ngwabloc in the Abia Central elected on the platform of PDP. They are: EmekaAlozie (OsisiomaNgwa South); Kennedy Njoku (OsisiomaNgwa North); ChikwenduKalu (IsialaNgwa South) and Martins Azubuike (IsialaNgwa North). Chinedum Orji and ChukwudiApugoare from Umuahia North and Umuahia East constituency.
It must be stated that there have been arguments in some quarters that it would not be politically expedient for the new Abia House of Assembly Speaker to emerge from the Ngwa area of the Abia Central, since the governor elect is from Obingwa in Ngwa land.