Discordant tunes from Imo Assembly

Chiji Collins

Each time the thought of the state legislature plays up in my mind what I see mentally in my minds eyes is a collection of the entire Imo people sitting in one place but one person speaking and acting on their behalf according to the various local governments. But what amazes me is why those chosen to represent the people act against the will of the. Their actions are far from what the generality of the people would ever expect.
But what is more perplexing is that even those who are misrepresented, as many as they are find themselves helpless to do anything about their hapless situation. It has been a repetitive experience drawing from the past. What is even more disturbing is that even the electorates who are being short changed appear docile and unconcerned about their plight. They seem to be enjoying what they are getting. That is the paradox of our democracy.
Immediately Governor Uzodimma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) ascended leadership of the state, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) dominated legislature was swayed to join the ruling party. There was only one APC member in the house secured through the tribunal. It was alleged that for N50m and a plot of land the legislators jumped ship and the 27 member house now has only 6 PDP members holding forte as the only opposition party.
The legislators shamelessly defected without consultations of the party and against the wishes of the people who put them to power. In protest we have heard of the efforts of the PDP and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) activating processes to de-stool the legislators who rode to power on their ticket. The actions of the legislators and their fair weather friend attitude have been roundly condemned by the electorates and political observers as quite dishonourable and lacking in in trust and faithfulness. It is not yet certain if the party is serious about their threats.
After they switched loyalty to the one time opposition party, they have allegedly surrendered their powers to the executive arm of the government and now became a willing tool to be used by the exco to achieve whatever is their objective. The checks and balancing roles expected of the legislature against the other two arms have been thrown to the dogs. It is now alleged the Assembly boys no longer operate independently without first obtaining permission from the executive.
Writing in his column, ”The Spectacle” recently at the Edge Express newspaper, Prince MacDonald Enwere, wrote, ”our legislators who ordinarily supposed to exhume leadership aura and prestige have turned themselves into robots and ”dumb-babies. They can only act when they are asked to do so. Before they legislate on any matter, they will first be detailed on what to do. This is unfortunate and disheartening.
Continuing, he said, ”the prestige and dignity of the House have been slaughtered at the altar of parochialism and mediocrity. Our legislators only move around pursuing contracts up and down, abandoning their statutory mandate and responsibilities Apart from their law making and policy formulation functions, they have derelicted the their oversight and investigative functions thereby making themselves weak and vulnerable to executive manipulation. The legislature which is supposed to be the pinnacle of politicking has become the merchandise.”
That is the level that things have degenerated. The legislature is supposed to be occupied by men of honour whose integrity must be seen to be above board but what is issuing from there smacks off putrefaction of the highest order. Certificate scandals have rent the air with fingers pointed at the Speaker while it is also alleged that he may not be alone in the mess. If honourable are accused of forgery of qualifying papers then where lies the honour in them?
Recently too, the House was reported to have been engaged in the probe of the Council’s Interim Management Committee members who served under Governor Ihedioha. Interestingly, the Council Chairmen had the blessings of the legislature before ever they were sworn in to assume their responsibilities. These IMC men after the expiry of their tenure had their appointments renewed through the approval of the same legislators.
Suddenly, a charge of misappropriation came up against Governor Ihedioha alleging N19.6bn and accusing the Council chairmen of explaining whatever they may know about it. This action has been interpreted from different angles. While some view it as self-indictment having approved the appointment of the Council bosses twice, others see them as pandering to the wishes of the government who wants to get at something in the alleged mischief to probe a government that was so short lived.
Other views hold that it is an act of vendetta against the IMC men for refusal to play ball while they held sway. It is a payback time the canvassers suspect. There are also opinions that the probe is an attempt to inject fears in the current IMC chairmen in order to get them submit to any future deal the legislators may want to play up. Whatever the charges may be, what reasonable men appear to conclude is that if the Assembly men were alive to their over sight functions they would be able to know when the suspects were stepping out of lines to finger the public treasury.
The question is how well they have been performing their oversight functions? The ability to genuinely play oversight functions especially against the executives has been cast in shadows. They say that he who pays the piper dictates the tune. So long as the legislature is still depending on the executives for their welfare it would be difficult to obtain an independent legislature. The independence of the legislature has also become questionable when the House members have been crying over two months unpaid emoluments.
Besides, sometimes the governor has tried to appease them with some contract jobs all to secure their co-operation. It was reported sometimes ago when the Majority Leader called on the members to turn in their request for school contract jobs and they were shared in the proportion that skewed in favour of the APC legislators. Under situations of this nature how could anyone behold that they will see anything wrong against the finger that is feeding them. This represents the concern expressed by Enwere in his comments as indicated above.
Again, the quality of the character of the Assembly men has been cast in bad light in recent time that you would wonder what is again honourable about them. Our lawmakers were chosen to make laws for our overall good. One then begins to wonder why lawmakers would suddenly become law breakers and taking the laws into their hands. Few weeks back two of the lawmakers have been found to have masterminded the beating of two Owerri based journalists. One of the legislators is also alleged to be a cultist with an ugly past and so the level of his aberrant behaviour.
Now the House is hit by an attack of Coronavirus which is suspected to have been attracted from one microphone shared by all. Again this manifests the lack of facilities in the hallowed chamber. They appear to be more concerned with lining their pockets than asking for working tools which has done them in now. It is reported that the fourteen or so affected Covid-19 victims are shielding themselves from public knowledge.
They pleaded with the Maurice Iwu led Covid-19 Committee to allow them self-isolate to avoid prying eyes whereas the isolation centres are unoccupied, It was learnt that Iwu accepted their proposal subject to monitoring them with Google maps. The preferential treatment sounds odd when it is recognized that Nigerian governors, the late Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari and even world leaders like Moris Johnson, the British Prime Minister who suffered the same ailment made it known to the public.
Could they be hiding any other thing? It is surprising the Committee Chairman would take the extra burden of monitoring them through a Google map, a promise they can breach without consequences. If there is a breach how would the Committee ensure compliance or enforce sanctions. There are too many discordant tunes issuing from our legislature. Who will whip them into line?

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