After serious crisis for who wears the wig, it is no joke that the Benue state 7th Assembly has had three speakers elected within seventeen months, a prolonged battle that nearly fractured the primary responsibility of the legislators in making laws for the rapid progress of the state. SOLOMON AYADO examines the intrigues, gimmicks of how the speakers emerge and the likelihood that the just elected speaker may not see the end of the day.
Another speaker for the Benue state House of Assembly has emerged again. This time, it was not a court judgment but a prolonged battle between the 29 members of the House and the erstwhile speaker, Barrister David Iorhemba. It was not a joking matter, the law makers had moved a motion to impeach Iorhemba before he willingly submitted a resignation letter to the floor of the House, saying his resignation was in the interest of his family.
Those who know the pragmatism attached to leaders from Benue state have since turned their concern as the continual sack of three speakers of the House of Assembly, in less than two years; have turned the legislation status of the agrarian state into a state of chaos and controversy. Although it has not always been an easy task for lawmakers to choose for themselves a credible and humble colleague that will lead them through the seventh Assembly.
The first elected speaker of the seventh assembly was Mr. Terhemen Tarzor who represented Makurdi South state constituency under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party. Tarzor, an energetic youngman who cut his teeth into politics at youthful age was dearly loved by his colleagues and they unanimously voted him as speaker. It was at the Court of Apeal in Makurdi, where Tarzor was petitioned by his Action Congress of Nigeria opponent, Mr. Avine Agbum for rigging election in five polling units that sacked him.
Retrospectively, after several sittings of the House of Assembly Elections petitions Tribunal which failed to deliver judgement in his favour as anticipated by many political analysts, on November 2, 2011 the Court of Appeal sitting in Makurdi ordered the removal of Tarzor and ruled that the certificate of return issued to him by INEC be withdrawn and handed over to his ACN’s opponent, Agbum.
In her ruling Justice Uchechukwu Onyemenam upheld the decision of the tribunal which was delivered on September 8, 2011 and stated that the tribunal lacked the jurisdiction to have granted a motion of exparte to the former speaker including his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Onyemenam held that the lower court was right in rejecting uncertified copies of forms EC8a which Tarzor used in forging the election results and therefore declared his election into the assembly null and void.
This development paved the way for the conduct of a fresh election by the Benue state House of Assembly members to fill the vacuum that was created following the removal of the ex-speaker, Terhemen Tarzoor. At this juncture, on November 10, 2011 Barrister David Iorhemba was crowned as new elected speaker.
Controversially, Iorhemba was nominated by Hon. Keneth Iyo, representing Gwer West state constituency and who was alleged to be a major opponent to Iorhemba. Though the controversy did not in any way disrupt the unanimous decision of the House, just as 27 members, out of the total number of 30 members in the Benue Assembly voted overwhelmingly.
But as if he had premonition of his bad fate, Iorhemba while accepting the mandate of his leadership said that his elevation as speaker came with enormous challenges and expectations, which he promised to cooperate with members to justify the confidence bestowed on him and added that he will not dispose any character that would expose the legislature to bad light.
Iorhemba said, “Let me assure you that with your sustained support and cooperation, I will gear efforts in discharging the enormous responsibilities of the office of the speaker in a manner that would justify the confidence reposed in me. This is a learning process. My choice as speaker is devoid of monopoly of knowledge, wisdom and understanding. I hereby urge my colleagues to cooperate with me so as to make the Assembly proud, after all, to err are human but to forgive is divine.” Unfortunately, the former could not keep his promises.
Recently, with 28 members of the house mercilessly beaten up by thugs who invaded the assembly complex when the law makers attempted to impeach Iorhemba when he deliberately but willingly but resigned his position. The armed thugs, numbering about 40, drove into the assembly complex in 5 Hiace buses, destroyed the main gate of the complex and broke into the hallow chambers, beating up the legislators who were present, as well as legislative aides and drove away with the mace. The incident which lasted for several hours witnessed no security agent to quickly arrive the scene to maintain law and order. Although it took the intervention of the local security men at the assembly complex to calm the nerves of the thugs and opened the broken gate which was therein locked by the thugs.
Something appeared like an arrangement, the lawmakers accused Iorhemba of gross financial misappropriation, misrepresentation of the legislators to the state executive, high handedness as well as diversion of about N105 million that was approved by government for training workshop of house members.
It was at this point that house members, under tight security, elected a new speaker, Mr. Emmanuel Terhile Ayua, representing Gwer East state constituency under the platform of PDP and who until his elevation was House committee chairman on local government and security affairs. The nomination of the new speaker was done by Mr. Baba Odeh (PDP), representing Otukpo/Akpa state constituency. The nomination was seconded by Barrister Benjamin Adanyi (ACN), representing Makurdi South state constituency.
While in his acceptance speech, Mr. Ayua said, “this is a serious task and I confess that I cannot succeed without your usual cooperation. I am an apostle of unity in this house and we need to sustain peace now and always for the interest of the state. I will make sure that all aspirations of this seventh assembly were achieved.”
Though Governor Gabriel Suswam including his deputy, Chief Steven Lawani have refused to join issues with the wide range speculations that they masterminded the removal of the former Speaker, David Iorhemba and also imposed the newly elected speaker, Ayua on the members of House for political reasons.
At the moment, Iorhemba is yet to adduce further reasons for the actual circumstances that surrounded his surprise resignation. But indications emerged, few days ago, that he resigned due to his ambition to contest for governorship seat in 2015 which is reportedly zoned to MINDA, where Iorhemba come from. While others have said that Iorhemba resigned due to his alleged money scam, most of his associates have denied that Iorhemba was not nursing any ambition for governorship but he resigned for personal reasons.
As the new speaker set to pilot the affairs of the seventh assembly, not yet handled the finances of the house and also ready to taking his colleagues along in all legislative decisions, one big challenge that stands out is that the state Assembly have always engage serious in battles where the speaker is sacked for election rigging or financial misconduct and generality of the taxpayers are always the losers, just as rapid development is always hampered. The serial experiences have brought about panic and fear into the minds of the agrarian people of the state that many are now anticipating that the new speaker may not see the end of the day.