Chidi Samuel || -Governor Ikpeazu denies involvement
-Chinedu Orji blames Governor Ikpeazu’s camp
Almost two months after the impeachment of Hon Martins Azubuike as the speaker of Abia house of Assembly, the real reason behind his removal as Speaker has started to emerge. His removal, from our investigation, followed intrigues, careful planning, and manoeuvres by various interest groups that culminated in the sacking the member, representing Isiala Ngwa North constituency in December last year.
However, to many followers of Abia politics, the impeachment of Rt. Hon. Martins Azubuike, on the 29th of December 2016 and the subsequent resignation 24 hours later by the man who replaced him, Mr. Kennedu Njoku, did not come as a surprise. Key watchers of Abia politics had expected Azubuike’s removal earlier, but his tenacity delayed what was inevitable.
The last may also not have been heard of the rumblings in the house, according to the various sources that spoke with this publication. According to them, it is the inevitable battle for the soul of Abia State between the Ukwa Ngwa group and the forces loyal to Ochendo group, the political structure of the former Governor, Chief T. A. Orji.
In the beginning:
Our investigations showed that the battle for the position of Abia House of Assembly Speaker began at the tail end of the tenure of ex-Governor T.A Orji when the decision was made to concede the governorship seat to the Ukwa Ngwa zone of the state.
It was also agreed that the group would be in control of the House of Assembly to act as a check for the incoming governor. The speaker of the yet to convene House of Assembly must, therefore, emerge from the Ochendo camp.
Given that Engineer Chinedu Orji, the son of the governor and arrowhead of the group was in the running for the House of Assembly seat, he was projected as the next speaker in the yet to be inaugurated House.
The major drawback of this plan was that, even if Engineer Chinedu Orji wins the yet to be conducted elections, it may not be possible for him to emerge as speaker because he will be a first timer in a house full of senior lawmakers.
To avoid this scenario, a plot was put in place to frustrate all incumbent members of the House from getting re-elected. In effect ensuring a house of first timers.
Whereas the plan was hugely successful in most places, but like all manmade initiative, it failed in some instances.
Azubuike was one of those who fought a bruising battle to win both the primaries and the state house of assembly election proper.
The Jostle for Speakers Seat:
When the 8th Assembly of the Abia House convened for business in June 2015, the post of the speaker was zoned to Abia Central comprising, Osisioma, Isiala Ngwa North, Isiala Ngwa South, Umuahia North, Umuahia South and Ikwuano.
By the zoning arrangements, Umuahia North that produced Engineer Chinedu Orji and Isiala Ngwa North the Local Government of Azubuike were qualified to produce the speaker. Several manoeuvres followed, especially by the Ochendo group to ensure that the terms of agreement that lead to the emergence of Ikpeazu as Governor were honoured but by virtue of Azubuike’s position as a ranking member of the House, the post was reluctantly relinquished to him after a lot of compromises and concessions have been extracted from him. According to sources familiar with the various groups jostling for power in the state, the inability of Governor Ikpeazu to honour that commitment to the Ochendo group is at the core of the political tension in the house and the state in general.
The emergence of Azubuike as Speaker did not in any way diminish the ambition of the Ochendo group to produce the speaker.The opposite was, in fact, the case. “In effect, a cat and mouse game ensued”, sources familiar with the intrigues disclosed.
“The plan was that somehow, Azubuike would be removed to pave way for the emergence of Engr Orji as speaker”, one of the sources said.
Those familiar with Azubuike described him as a wily old politician who ran the Abia House of Assembly with an iron fist. He had survived several clandestine attempts to remove him from office. In the process, he alienated many of his colleagues.
Alabingo.com also discovered that apart from the pressure from the Ochendo camp to unseat Azubuike and the unease among members over his leadership style, the former speaker did not also get on well with the state Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, who incidentally is his kinsman.
The speaker, sources disclosed, did not trust the governor because of the perceived hold the Ochendo camp have over him. This platform was reliably informed by a source close to the governor that the former speaker believes that he is superior to the governor given his long-time involvement in politics in the state and had threatened to impeach the governor on more than one occasion.
The disagreement between them, however, came to the fore during the PDP primaries for the last local government election in Abia State when Azubuike backed the then incumbent Transition Chairman of Isialangwa North of LGA of the state, Chief Ginger Onwusibe, against the governor’s candidate.
The violence that ensued at the primaries led to the burning of the council headquarters and the killing of a woman. In the end, Azubuike’s candidate, Ginjer Onwusibe, emerged victorious, both at the primaries and at the election proper. The governor, our sources said, was so enraged that he swore revenge.The Governor’s time for revenge came on the morning of Thursday, December 29, 2016, when the interests of the Governor, the aggrieved members of the house and to a large extent the Ochendo group converged to impeach Azubuike.
However, when contacted, the Press Secretary to the Abia State Governor, Enyinnaya Appolos, denied Governor Ikpeazu’s involvement in the Abia House of Assembly crisis.
According to him, “The executive arm has no business in the workings of the legislature; whatever they decide to do is what they do. There are three arms of government, the judiciary, the executive and the legislature and they work harmoniously but independently”, he said.
But this position was contradicted the Majority Leader, Hon. Chinedum Orji, while reacting to the simmering leadership crisis in the house and the allegation that his ambition to be speaker was responsible for the crisis.
Engr Orji absolved himself of any blame, shifting it on fifth columnists in the assembly, allegedly sponsored by powerful forces in the Governor Ikpeazu’s office and the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He also maintained that he made a failed last-ditch effort to save the former speaker.
“I was not a party to the plot to impeach the speaker because of my perceived political ambition. That is far from the truth. However, I won’t deny the fact that the failure to adhere to agreed deals by the executive and some groups in the party is fueling the crisis.”
“Some hawks within the governor’s camp are trying to cause confusion by trying to set us against each other. They are the ones to be blamed. I don’t have any problem with the governor. I voted for the new speaker, Hon. Chikwendu Enyinnaya Kanu, who was his (Gov. Ikpeazu) preferred choice, but the majority thought otherwise and voted for Hon Bishop Njoku who represents Osisioma North state constituency. He got 16 votes as against three votes received by Kanu.
“Azubuike’s decision to snatch the mace while negotiations were still on to find an amicable solution to the crisis further infuriated the already aggrieved members of the house. He lost whatever sympathy that remained for him when he snatched the mace and they insisted on his impeachment.
“I insist that I don’t have any inordinate ambition to be the speaker. Whatever will be, will be”, he said.
The position of the Majority leader, Orji, validates some of the findings of Alabingo.com. A source familiar with our investigation informed us that Governor Ikpeazu supported Hon, Chikwendu Kalu in the election of December 29, 2016, when Azubuike was impeached but lost to Bishop Njoku. Njoku lasted for only 24 hours before he was compelled by forces close to the Governor to resign and make way for the emergence of Ikpeazu’s preferred candidate, Chikwendu Kalu, who is now the Speaker.
There are people, especially those from the Ukwa Ngwa axis who believe that the removal of Azubuike was a first step in the plot against the governor by some forces in the state.
This group believes that there is a broader design to remove the governor and that the speaker was just the opening plot.
This assertion was alluded to by Chief Ginger Onwuibe, the Chairman of Isiala Ngwa North and political ally of Azubuike, at a reception the people of Mmuneato Ngwa organised for him immediately after his impeachment.
“The reason the House gave for impeaching Azubuike was to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it.”
“What happened to our brother is what a lot of people do not understand. His impeachment is not the final destination. That is why we should stand united to defend our son, the governor, who we struggled to enthrone. Ikpeazu represents the collective destiny of Ngwa people, and we must defend him”, Chief Ginger said.
Whether this is true or not remains to be seen. What is true however is that we may not have seen the end to the crisis in the Abia House of Assembly. The Majority leader, Engr Chinedu Orji alluded to this when he accused the Governor and his group of reneging on the promises they agreed to before the election. According to a source very close him, ”He will still be the speaker, if not now, maybe later, if Jesus tarries.”