The macabre dance in Imo

Deputy Editor, DAPO FALADE, X-rays some possible fallouts of the series of events happening in Imo State following the victory of Governor Hope Uzodinma at the Supreme Court and the defection of nine lawmakers from the state House of Assembly to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

 

IT is no longer news that the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, altered the status quo in Imo State when it turned the table against Honourable Emeka Ihedioha and pronounced Senator Hope Uzodinma as the validly elected governor of the state.

In a pronouncement that is still generating  waves across the polity, the court, led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, upturned the verdict of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which declared Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship election in the state. The court, in the lead judgment read by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, said Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was the rightful choice of the people of the state.

The seven-man panel of the apex court unanimously ordered that the Certificate of Return given to Ihedioha be withdrawn and a fresh Certificate of Return be immediately issued to Uzodinma, even as it also directed that the latter be sworn in, without any further delay, as the governor of Imo State.

Some few days after the court verdict, events have been playing out in the state, and to the bewilderment of the people, both within and outside the state. While the erstwhile governor expressed shock at the sudden turn of events, he calmly and philosophically accepted the fate that befell him, even as he maturely called on the people to give their maximum support for the new administration in the state.

However, his traducer, Uzodinma, did not appear magnanimous even in victory as he immediately announced that he was set to probe successive past administrations in the state. Many people have however been reading meanings into the governor’s intention as many averred that his prime target may likely be Ihedioha.

More importantly, while Ihedioha stoically accepted the verdict, members of the PDP, both at the state and national level, felt otherwise. At the national level, the PDP national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, mobilised members and followers across the country in a protest to express their disapproval of the judgment.

The national leadership of the PDP, led by Secondus and a former governor of Imo State, Dr Peter Obi, took to the streets of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) where they demanded for a reversal of the judgment. However, far more than the effect of the protest, the event almost ended in a grave calamity as some of the PDP and followers were involved in a road accident in which many of them suffered various degrees of injury.

Within the state, some civil society organisations, including the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety); the Civil Liberties and rule of Law and the Human Rights, Liberty Access and Peace Defenders’ Foundation (HURIDE) also engaged in protest against what they described as tragedy and conspiracy the judgment of the apex court. Apart from Imo, the protest simultaneously spread to various parts of the south-eastern states.

Expectedly, Imo PDP suffered its first major casualty, precisely one week after the judgment as the first round of defections hit the state House of Assembly in the very early days of the Governor Uzodinma administration, even as more defections are expected. Three out of the 16 PDP lawmakers in the state legislature, at the plenary session on Tuesday, announced their defection, along with four others from the Action Alliance (AA) and two from the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) into the state chapter of the APC. Deputy Speaker of the House, Okey Onyekanma, also announced his resignation from his position as a principal officer of the House on the ground of “convention and zoning”.

The nine lawmakers, who defected into the now ruling party in the state, included Chyna Iwuanyanwu (PDP, Orlu); Chidem Emelumba (PDP, Okigwe); Herculus Okoro (PDP, Ohaji-Egbema); Innocent Egwim (AA, Ideato North); Obinna Okwara (AA, Mkwerre); Duru Johnson (AA, Ideato South); Ngozi Obiefule (AA, Isu); Paul Emeziem (APGA, Onuimo) and Ekene Nnodumele (APGA, Orsu). This is as speculations are rife that more members of the state legislature may soon follow suit to swell the rank of the state chapter of the APC which did not produce a single lawmaker during the March 9, 2019 governorship/House of Assembly election in the state.

Reactions have been trailing the defection of the lawmakers. For Imo PDP, the development was nothing to worry about as the state secretary of the party, Nze Ray Emeana, said the Imo PDP still controlled majority seats in the legislature. He said the three PDP lawmakers who defected into the APC, were not elected on the PDP platform, assuring that the core PDP members were committed to the party, even as he added that the PDP would provide robust opposition to the new administration in the state.

However, the APC national organising secretary, Chief Emma Ibediro, who received the defectors, did not share the same optimism with the PDP as he commended legislators for choosing to be in solidarity with Governor Uzodinma. Mocking the PDP for losing three of its members to the APC at a period when it was busy holding what it described as organised protests over its loss at the Supreme Court, Ibediro called for the support of the members of the House of Assembly for the new administration in the state.

In what has been described as a replication of politics of stomach infrastructure, the gale of defections into the now ruling APC in Imo, though still at its early stage, has been regarded as one that would not work in the interest of the people of the state. To many people, governance could suffer as what may likely come to the fore in the administration of Uzodinma is of personal interest.

Speaking on the issue, Bimbo Daramola, a former federal lawmaker who represented Ekiti North Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives between 2011 and 2015, expressed same fear as he noted that good governance may take a flight from the state while what he called ‘paddy paddy’ executive/legislative relationship would be the order of the day.

“Before we can talk about an executive/legislative relationship in the Imo State, we have to look at the character of the current political actors in the state. It was too early in the day to start witnessing the type of defections we saw on Tuesday at the plenary of the Imo State House of Assembly. The lawmakers who defected from the PDP, the APGA and the AA in to the APC have clearly shown that they were out to pursue and protect their own interest, rather than the collective interest of the people. The relationship between the executive and legislative arms of government in Imo State may likely be too cozy and to the discomfort of the people of the state.

“I stand to be corrected and Governor Uzodinma may prove me wrong, but the people of the state may not benefit from his administration in terms of delivery of the dividends of democracy. What we may likely witness is ‘paddy paddy executive/legislative and belly politics. What will be at the forefront is money politics and protection of personal interests, instead of the interests of the people,”  Daramola said.

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