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A\Ibom House: How Intrigues Threw Up Unexpected Speaker

Iniobong Ekponta in Uyo captures the web of intrigues that characterized the election of A/Ibom House of Assembly Speaker

With faces of supporters wrinkled by the frustration of endless wait, the inauguration of the 6th Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly finally held late Monday night, after series of intrigues and horse-trading by those angling for the Speaker’s post had delayed the process for several hours. In line with the principle of zoning, the Speaker’s position was left bare for the Uyo Senatorial District for contestants from that axis to stake their luck for the State’s legislative top job.

However, the battle line was drawn between Hon. Onofiok Luke representing Nsit Ubium State Constituency and Hon. Ime Okon of Ibiono Ibom State Constituency – two ranking members of the 26-member House. It was learnt the immediate past Governor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who had backed the current Governor, Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, to succeed him in the April 11, 2015 governorship poll, was amenable to the Ibiono Ibom lawmaker as the next Speaker, because of his cool and level headed disposition.

“Yes, the former Governor was heavily disposed to Hon. Ime Okon, to be the Speaker of the 6th Assembly so his man would not have much trouble to contend with in the House”, a lawmaker who would not want his name in print told The UNION.

According to him, why Akpabio was not favourably disposed to Hon. Luke to become the next Speaker stemmed from radical nature of the Nsit Ubium lawmaker, coupled with the fact that “he did not support Udom as the next Governor of Akwa Ibom…”. In an interview with Journalists who monitored the just concluded elections to his home in Nsit Ubium, Luke, former Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Appropriation last term, had vowed that “this would be the last time a Governor would be brought from Lagos and imposed on us”.

He explained that only those who sacrificed for the system should be allowed to benefit from the system, adding that a situation whereby an outsider is brought at the last minutes to rule the State was a total misnomer tantamount to one “reaping where he did not sow”.

Apparently aware of the gang-up to defeat him by the Akpabio’s forces, Luke, a powerful and suave politician with large followership among the old and the new lawmakers including his foot soldiers, was determined not be caught off-guard.

He was said to have mobilized his supporters and foot soldiers to the Assembly complex with specific instructions to go against any person or group not amenable to his quest to pick the Speaker’s seat. However, the scene at the Assembly complex was heavily tensed as stern looking men draped in red attires took over the control of complex, turning away men believed to be against their master’s plot to rule the Assembly as the next Speaker.

For instance, some former members Cabinet members of the immediate past dispensation thought detailed by the government to support the emergence of Akpabio’s candidate were prevented from gaining entrance to the Assembly premises by the private Police of the Nsit Ubium lawmaker. With about five armed Mobile Policemen, the immediate past Commissioner for Special Duties, Mr. Emmanuel Enoidem; the former Senior Special Adviser to Akpabio on Technical Matters, Mr. Etido Inyang, and other government’s forces were ruffled and shoved aside by the ‘boys’.

The harassment and humiliation of Mr. Enoidem, one of the most powerful henchmen of the Akpabio’s era, according to Comrade Etim Okpo, a supporter of the lawmaker representing Oron\Udung Uko, “was the height of the unexpected things to come from the inauguration”. With the frustration of Luke’s efforts to clinch the post widely believed he would land, The UNION gathered, led to the change in game plan, forcing a re-alignment of forces that threw up Hon. Aniekan Uko, a non-ranking lawmaker, as the Speaker.

Luke, it was learnt, had reached accord with the new Speaker, said to be his ‘boy’, to block the government choice by collapsing his structure in support of the Ibesikpo Asutan lawmaker, whose highest political office before now, was being a Councilor on two occasions for his Ward in Ibesikpo Asutan. “He seriously lobbied for the new comer to emerge as Speaker instead of the government choice”, a source from the House confirmed.

With awe, those who had painstakingly waited for the outcome of the marathon meeting that led to a shift in time of the inauguration from 10 AM to 4:00PM, and later to late night last Monday, could only gnashed their teeth as the proceedings finally culminated in the emergence of a total greenhorn in legislature, as the Speaker. Hon. Idongesit Ituen, a first time lawmaker for Itu State Constituency, had set the tone with the nomination of Hon. Uko and when the former Deputy Speaker in the 5th Assembly, Elder Udo Kirian Akpan (Oruk Anam), stood to second the nomination, it was all clear that Akpabio’s man would not have his way.

His Deputy, another greenhorn, Hon. Effiong Bassey Okon of Oron\Udung Uko State Constiteuncy, won with overwhelming majority of 17 votes over Hon. Felicia Bassey, another first time member representing Okobo State Constituency with 7 votes. And Lady Mandu Umoren, Clerk of the House did not waste much time in swearing them in for the 6th Assembly to commence proceedings. In his first assignment, the new Speaker, obviously unprepared for the job as the third most powerful political position in the State, could only managed a few notes, thanked the PDP stakeholders and supporters for standing by him and his colleagues, for casting lots in his favour.

The House is expected to reconvene on Thursday June 18, to enable the Committee, which he personally chaired, to do justice in the selection of other principal officers of the House. Therefore, as the tides turned against government’s plot to install its man as the Speaker, Governor Emmanuel have been warned against being caught off-guard, even as the new Speaker had pledged total loyalty and commitment to Legislative\Executive harmony during the 6thLegislative period. “The new Speaker has no experience in House management; he lacks the exposure and political sagacity to effectively control the House.

Therefore, such a man needs serious mentorship and guide so he would not be drawn into some sentiments that may lead to a row in the House”, Chief Okon Inyang, a PDP supporter in Onna Local Government Area, advised. In the same vein, Obong Offong Effiom, a community leader in Eket, advised that the new Speaker should be made to pass “traditional oath of allegiance” if Udom’s government must have stability and good working relationship with the Assembly. Only time will tell if the new Speaker will be able to contain the anticipated bickering the House will be subjected to in the face of the current composition which bookmakers argue, is antithetical to the expected order.

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