When on Tuesday, November 13, the majority of the members of the Anambra State House of Assembly rose against the Speaker, Mrs Rita Maduagwu, and impeached her, many thought it was the usual style adopted by lawmakers to extort money from the governor.
But when the day broke and all entreaties, including the governor’s message from Paris in which he tried to use to douse tension and convince the people that nothing serious happened and that the “disagreement” had been settled failed as it became clear that there was something more serious to the aggrieved lawmakers than mere settlement.
Though none of the aggrieved members agreed to speak to newsmen, it was gathered that the crux of the matter was the denial of ticket to the majority of the lawmakers who are in the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the state by the party.
It could be recalled that before the primaries, the lawmakers had gone to the party leadership in the state with a cow and some undisclosed amount of money to appeal that they be given preferential treatment with automatic ticket, which was turned down by the leadership.
Worse still, normal primaries were not held in many places while some of them who won had their names substituted by the party.
They were said to be unhappy with the Speaker as some of them, who spoke earlier before the impeachment saga, said that the Speaker has been holding them and promising to ensure that they all got return tickets.
“But to our greatest surprise, the Speaker who failed at the primary in her constituency was later given ticket and none of us were given. She is in the habit of playing selfish,” one of the lawmakers who pleaded anonymity said.
The Speaker, Rt. Hon. Maduagwu, when contacted by newsmen, said that she was just being fought because of “the sins of some people outside the House.
“It is the outcome of the primaries that they are crying of. It is the outcome of the primaries, they wasted a lot of money and it is paining them, but instead of them to go to the right person that denied them tickets, they are looking for my head.
“There is an idiom that when you want to catch the chicken and you can’t get it, you catch the chic so that the chicken will come out.”
However, the angry lawmakers in a statement credited to them said: “On Tuesday November 13, 2018 morning the Anambra State House of Assembly by the required two third majority under section 92(2)(c) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) effected a minor change in its leadership by removing Rt. Hon. Rita Maduagwu as the Speaker.
“It’s, however, worrisome that some hirelings and hack writers obviously out of mischief, have weighed in with a twisted narrative that the removal of the former Speaker is a prelude to the commencement of impeachment proceedings against His Excellency Chief Willie Maduabuchi Obiano, governor of Anambra State.”
The lawmakers, therefore, made these clarifications: “That the election and removal of the Speaker of the House of Assembly of any State is a matter within the powers of the members of the House of Assembly, which in the case of removal need only to muster 2/3 majority of the membership of the House which was satisfied in this case.
“It is clearly a matter of common knowledge that the House had resolved on two previous occasions to remove Rt. Hon. Rita Madugwu as the Speaker for sundry acts of malfeasance; including financial impropriety, rumour mongering selfishly orchestrated to cause disaffection between His Excellency the governor and the House of Assembly and gross incompetence to say the least.
In all these occasions referred to above, it was His Excellency himself that brokered truce and prevailed on members to suspend action while it is expected that former Speaker would desist from those acts that gave rise to the quest to remove her in the first instance.
“To the chagrin of members Rita Maduagwu after those interventions by His Excellency the governor always get herself steeped with greater fervour into those vices and reprehensible conducts for which reason her removal was initially contemplated.
“The point should be made clear that the removal of the Speaker is a routine exercise of the constitutional power of the House to hire, fire or rejig its leadership for greater performance which has absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with any attempt to impeach the governor who clearly has not committed any offence to warrant the invocation of the rigorous impeachment proceedings meticulously enshrined in S.188 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
“Finally, we need to reiterate that the present House of Assembly of Anambra State has implicit confidence in the capacity and leadership qualities of His Excellency Chief Willie Maduabuchi Obiano and believe nothing has happened to call that to question.
“The former Speaker must come to terms with the fact that democratic governance is imbued with some nuances one of which is the power of the House to elect its speaker and also effect her removal from office when they deem it necessary to do so without necessarily being dragged through the blackmail of construing the former Speaker’s removal as an attempt to impeach the governor when their is no scintilla of evidence to justify such wicked assertion.”
Meanwhile, in adopting the motion moved by the member representing Aguata II constituency, Hon. Ikem Uzoezie who was eventually elected the new Speaker, the lawmakers accused the Speaker, Maduagwu of “incompetence, misappropriation of fund, inefficiency, financial complicity and gross abuse of office.”
At that sitting presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Harford Oseke, as the Speaker was absence, were about 20 members sitting in the plenary though two opted out of the impeachment move, the lawmakers expressed their disenchantment with the Speaker.
Uzoezie, the newly elected Speaker though not sworn in because those whose office it is to swear him in refused to do so, berated the conduct of the Maduagwu, alleging that she led the House into parallel mode and promised to make necessary amendment in the bid to have a virile legislative house in the state.
The members before the impeachment had suspended three members on The allegation of insubordination and ploy to thwart the wheel of progress in the state House of Assembly and adjourned sitting till Thursday, November 15.
However, Maduagwu returned in two hours’ time with the backup of some government officials, including the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Solo Chukwudebele, and held a session with 10 members and also adjourned sitting to the same November 15.
She also dismissed the actions of her colleagues, describing her purported impeachment as a bundle of illegality, calling those that perpetrated it rascals.
She said: “Nobody can impeach me because I have not committed any offence. They didn’t have any power known to any law to impeach me. They need two-thirds of our members to impeach or the governor. So, I’m still the Speaker.”
The Clerk of the House, Mr Pius Udoh, corroborating what the Speaker said, disclosed that the members that sat and impeached the Speaker did not have proper sitting, adding that no new Speaker was sworn in.
He further said that they did not have the required 20 members to carry out impeachment, and that two members of the House who were outside the state were contacted and they said they were not in support of any impeachment, stressing that “as far as we are concerned there was no change of leadership of the Anambra State House of Assembly.”
At this point, many entreaties were made, including that of an industrialist and prominent All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) stakeholder, Chief Dan Ogbuefi, who called on the lawmakers to sheathe their sword and give peace a chance.
He had said: “I am calling on the Anambra State House of Assembly to unite and put what happened yesterday in the House behind them. Chief Willie Obiano, the governor of Anambra State needs peace so that there will be development in the state.
“Anambra State cannot afford any division this time around that we are going into election, we will gain more by being united.”
Governor Obiano on his part in a statement through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr James Eze, commended the members for “the mature and wise way they handled the minor misunderstanding that arose in the House.”
Governor Obiano assured that Anambra remains Nigeria’s most peaceful and safe state and that his administration would continue to work assiduously to ensure that the state maintains that status.
But the lawmakers too show that the governor’s message holds no water and that they meant business, they went in convoy to the House on Thursday and increased their number to 25, leaving out five members of the 30-man Assembly and held plenary with Uzoezi presiding.
While the lawmakers were sitting, the police had a hail of time controlling the thugs that were said to have been brought by a candidate for the House of Representatives to disrupt their sitting, just as the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the state announced the suspension of three lawmakers for allegedly spearheading the campaign to change the leadership of the State House of Assembly.
State Chairman of the party, Chief Norbert Obi, who made the announcement at a press conference, said the suspended members are Mr Ikem Uzoezie (Aguata 1), Mr Harford Osekke (Awka South 2) and Mr Victor Okoye, (Anambra West).
The new Speaker, Uzoezie has also called the bluff of the state chairman’s suspension order, saying that it ran ultra-vires of the APGA constitution while some of his supporter-members of the House have threatened to quit the party if the chairman fails to rescind his order.