Alley Aguba, a public affairs analyst writes from Awka.
In 2019, the ruling party in Anambra, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA employed every conventional and unconventional political arsenals to maintain the majority in the State House of Assembly. Their fear was not far fetched as they knew that an opposition led House of Assembly to the very least will unearth the rot in Governor Willie Obiano cosmetic government of sychophancy and propaganda. The Fear and anxiety intensified after the People’s Democratic Party, PDP put up a strong showing on February 23, 2019 at National Assembly Elections in the State and Presidential Elections. The PDP led by the charismatic former Governor of the State, Mr Peter Obi who was also on the ballot paper as the Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP delivered a definitive punch. When the party won six out of the ten House of Representatives seats in the State and Idemili North and South seat, hugely contested by old rivals: Mr Ifeanyi Ibezi of APGA and Mr Obinna Chidoka of PDP was uncertain, APGA knew their fate hung in the balance. They knew if nothing was done, their loss at the State House of Assembly election will be monumental. There was no reprieve for them that Saturday as they could not secure even a Senatorial seat in the State. The few month appearance by Senator Victor Umeh as the representative for Anambra Central was also twisted out from them by Senator Uche Ekwunife of the PDP. Painfully so that this inglorious outing was coming just barely a year and six months after their now legendary 21/21 win at the gubernatorial election happened. Even a nascent YPP whose flag was flown by Dr Ifeanyi Ubah at that time could not spare them of Anambra South. APGA also knew that after their scandalous primary elections that produced the ticket holders for the State Assembly seats and the advanced fee fraud that pervaded their conduct in Imo State, the party was more divided than ever. They fear the enemies outside, but the moles within were disasters waiting to happen.
In addressing their fear, the mother general of APGA in Anambra took the reins of power to save her husband’s cluelessness as she usually does. The Governor’s Wife, Mrs Ebele Obiano immediately summoned Governor Willie Obiano’s over one thousand five hundred aides to their palatial Aguleri home. At the meeting, She made it clear to the appointees that they must consider it the termination of their appointments if they lost their polling booths to another party. The Aguleri meeting followed the emergency meeting of all the leaders of the party from the ward level to the National level at the Dr Alex Ekwueme Square Awka out of the prying eyes of the press.
APGA’s subsequent “victories” were bought at the polling stations. Their gerrymandering was only able to give them a 24-man majority in a house of 30 representatives. The six remaining seats went to the PDP. This majority, albeit small compared to their 29-man majority in the sixth Assembly, is still powerful enough to cause a serious damage to Anambra’s democracy. After a rubber stamp Legislature of the sixth Assembly led by Speaker Rita Maduagwu, the choice of Honourable Uche Episeni Okafor as Speaker cleared all doubts that the new Assembly will be nothing better than their predecessors.
Better described as a gathering of novices who do not have any business in Lawmaking lacking in intelligence, versatility and experience. Except for a few such as Pharmacist Obinna Emeneka of Anambra East, Dr Nnamdi Okafor of Awka South One, Mr Nonso Smart Okafor of Nnewi North, Dr Pete Ibida of Njikoka I and Dr Timothy Ifedioramma of Njikoka II, Sir Somto Udeze of Ogbaru II, Barr. Lawrence Ezeudu of Dunukofia, who are mostly two time lawmakers, the rest are happenstances in the Assembly. A group of political jobbers who did not know how they got there apart from the fact that their godfathers called the shots.
Apart from their qualifications, the manner through which they have conducted themselves have shown that their major interest of being in the house is just for a means to Stomach infrastructure. Last year, the house passed the 2020 Appropripristion Bill within two weeks. The bill was passed with less than zero assessment by the house. They are only doing the bidding of the Statement. This year, it has not yet been reported how the Assembly has supervised the implementation of that 2020 Budget. For example, the State Government budgeted over six billion naira for the construction of Anambra International Cargo and Passenger Airport, Umueri. That allocation was made despite the fact that the State Government informed the public when the Memorandum of Understanding was signed that it will be a public private partnership under a build, manage and handover arrangement with the State Government only contributing Land as equity to the project. Till today nobody knows the trash can where that MoU has been thrown. The only answer we have is that an international airport is being built under cover of darkness that can only be visited by the those who the Governor so wishes. The project has gulped N6 billion in 2020 and is expected to gulp another N5.8 billion in 2021, yet no ordinary Anambra person or journalist could point us to this “eleven storey tower and a runway that is the longest in Nigeria after Murtala Mohammed International Airport II, and with a hundred year life span.” No pictures of the project except for a blurred five minute edited video shared by the image launderers of the government after an online comedy described the project as a joke of the century. The house has remained docile on this matter and has overtaken political appointees in praise singing for their financier. Very soon, the House will pass the new N5.8 billion allocation to the Airport without telling us how the other N6 billion was spent.
If this doesn’t fear you, then remember this: on April 16, 2020, just less than 14 days after the first index case was registered in Anambra, the house without any form of consultations or even public hearing passed the COVID-19 and other dangerous infectious diseases, prevention and eradication law 2020. The bill, which some will argue was expedient at that time to curb the spread of COVID-19, however did not meet the simplest tests of involving stakeholders in the process. It was at best the Anambra State Government attempt to legalize its strategies of curbing the pandemic which has already started without a Law. No wonder that Law has not been enforced beyond the radio announcements we hear on daily basis. A government and a house of Assembly that were too quick to pass a Covid-19 Law have been unable to draw up a document that will guide future fights against any pandemic and take care of the welfare of its ever growing population.
Last Friday, I woke up to the news that the Anambra State House Assembly had on the previous day passed a bill to amend the Anambra Traditional Rulers Law 2017 which is expected to reduce the “bureaucracy”, otherwise the difficulty in the suspension or removal of Traditional rulers. This amendment sponsored by the Executive will empower the State Governor to remove and replace Traditional Rulers at will. In fact, Traditional rulers will become as powerless as political appointees existing at the whims and caprices of the State Governor or his foot soldiers. It is not surprising that this Law is coming after the illegal and unceremonious suspension of thirteen traditional rulers last July and August. There was no better way to legalize that illegality if not to pass it into a Law. It might therefore become very difficult for the Traditional rulers to seek redress in court. As I beseech the traditional rulers to rise to the occasion and resist this act of brigandage by the State Government to whittle down their powers, I question when this bill was presented before the house, passed first and second readings and then passed for public hearing? That bill is in fact dead on arrival.
These are just few examples where the House of Assembly has failed in its responsibility. Not to mention their countless motions and resolutions commending Her Excellency, Chief Dr Mrs Ebelechukwu Obiano for successfully touring the twenty-one local government areas and for building toliets in markets.
The basic principle of separation of power and checks and balances under a Presidential democracy is to ensure that all the powers of state and it’s institutions are not concentrated in one person. That different bodies: the Judiciary, the Executive and the Legislature are separated and distinct from each other with their full independence. They should engage in proper checks and balances of themselves. John Locke wrote that the three organs of the state must not get into one hand as it may be too great a temptation to human frailty. Paraphrased: having one person control such enormous power will only lead to a society where its democracy will never be the government of the people. The seventh Anambra State House of Assembly has failed in this regard. They have become an appendage of the executive and therefore failed our democracy. They have mortgaged their responsibility in governance of ensuring that they keep the executive on its toes to deliver its mandate to the people for morsels of bread and crumbs falling from the tables of Governor Willie Obiano and his wife.