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Women: Three Times Lucky As Anambra Speakers

Posted: Jun 19, 2015 at 12:02 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Chukwujekwu Ilozue  –  Awka

 

With a successful end of the tenure of Hon. Mrs. Chinwe Nwaebili as Speaker of Anambra State House of Assembly on June 9, many people thought that it was time to try a male member as speaker of the House. But that was not to be. Instead, another woman, Hon. Mrs. Rita Maduagwu (APGA, Nnewi II) has succeeded Nwaebili. Maduagwu’s nomination, like that of her predecessor, was unopposed and thus she became the third female Speaker to preside over that House between 2003 to date.

From history one common trend that has determined the emergence of Speakers of the Anambra State House of Assembly has been external interference from vested interests in who emerges. It is either that the Governor of the state has undue interest and wants his own man or woman to occupy the seat or that an individual or, even, a religious undertone stalks the choice of the Speaker.

For instance, in 1999, the Speaker Hon. Kanayo Enemuo, was a choice of Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju. Mbadinuju later appointed him Commissioner and replaced him with Hon. Bath Onugbolu who held the position till the end of his tenure.

However, the first woman Speaker to preside over the affairs of the House emerged in 2003 in the person of Hon. Mrs. Eucharia Azodo (PDP Aguata I) who has had a successful career in politics having represented Aguata Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives for two consecutive times. Azodo’s emergence stemmed from the scheming of the self-acclaimed political godfather, Chief Chris Uba. It will be recalled that Uba held sway in PDP in 2003 when Senator Chris Ngige went in as Governor on the platform of the party in a terribly flawed election. So, Uba planted Azodo to checkmate Ngige whom he also installed until a misunderstanding set the two apart and Ngige also eventually lost the seat to the true winner of the election, Chief Peter Obi. Following Uba’s inability to replace Ngige with his deputy Dr. Okey Udeh when he fell out with Ngige, Azodo was impeached and replaced with Hon. Mike Balonwu.

After Balonwu, it was the turn of Hon. Anayo Nebe (PDP Awka South I). Like his predecessor, Anayo Nebe was not the choice of the House. In fact, the previous day and up till 2am on the day he was elected Speaker, Hon. Ozor Ughamadu (Awka South I) was the popular choice. But the Anglican Church sensed danger as it argued that the Governor, Chief Peter Obi was a Catholic. So, the Anglican Church hierarchy impressed it on their legislators and working through Senator Andy Uba and others the Church ensured that an Anglican emerged. This threw up Nebe. Funny enough, after his ambition collapsed and talks were concluded, it was Ughamadu who nominated Nebe for the post of Speaker and his nomination was unanimously adopted.

 

The story continued that way till date when the post of the Speaker now seems reserved for women.

In 2011, when the position was zoned to Anambra North Senatorial district, the popular choice among the legislators was Hon. Chugbo Enwezor, a vibrant lawyer representing Onitsha North I to date. But Governor Peter Obi preferred Hon. Chinwe Nwaebili. Again, it was Enwezor that nominated Nwaebili and she was unanimously elected.

As the tenure of Nwaebili neared its end, subtle campaign began among interested candidates in that position. It became natural that the position should be zoned to Anambra South Senatorial District for the reason that the Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, hailed from Anambra North Senatorial district and his Deputy, Dr. Nkem Okeke hails  from Anambra Central Senatorial district. In that case, six returning (ranking) legislators: two ladies and four men were eligible for the job. They were: in their ranking order: Hon. Princess  Nikky Ugochukwu (Orumba South) a third timer, Hon. Ikem Uzoezie (Aguata II), Hon. Ikechukwu Ume (Aguata I), Hon. Romanus Obi (Orumba North), Hon. Rita Maduagwu (Nnewi South II) and Hon. Kingsley Iruba (Nnewi South I). All of them belong to the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and won their election for a second term. So, they were all qualified to occupy the top position of Speaker of the House.

Earlier when Daily Independent interviewed members, they had listed qualities they expect the next Speaker to possess to include: integrity, knowledge, and ability to offer leadership, excellence, character. Hon. Harford Oseke who is returning to the House said that for one to be elected as Speaker, he or she must first be a high ranking member of the House. This is where experience comes in; experience of legislative matters and other things. Oseke also said the Speaker should be seen as a leader who should be able to know what to do in all circumstances and should be of sound mind and good health.

Also, Hon. Chugbo Enwezor, Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary lists qualities of a speaker as excellence, knowledgeable, competence, integrity and character. Enwezor noted that the Speaker must be trusted by his colleagues and should be knowledgeable to interpret the law as well as know the trends in law making and be able to guide his or her colleagues in the House.

Also, to Hon. Valentine Ayika, the minority Whip, the speaker must be a team player; he or she must be credible, must be transparent to relate to his or her colleagues messages gotten from the Executive. He or she should be trusted. Ayika, however, added a caveat: “election of a Speaker is not devoid of Executive interference. The person running for the office must be one the Governor is at home with”.

Nevertheless, House Rule 3:2 stipulates that the Speaker shall have had a successful four-year tenure or more as a state legislator.

Hon. Ayika’s opinion is very true but this has had far-reaching effect on the state House of Assembly. Though it has given the government a measure of stability these past years because with the House and Governor on the same page, both government and the House run smoothly. But such cooperation has also had negative influence on the House. Time was when citizens troop to the House of Assembly to listen to motions and Bills being argued by the members, but not anymore.  This is because these days, deliberations of the House most often have the signature tune of the Executive. It may have made things easier for the legislators and engendered peace in the state. But that practice has diminished the status and integrity of the House.

At the last count, the race was narrowed down to two candidates: Hon. Ikem Uzoezie and Hon. Rita Maduagwu with Uzoezie commanding the support of majority of the members. However, a day to the election proper, the tide turned. It was learnt that on the eve of the election of Speaker party hierarchy and Governor Obiano met to endorse Maduagwu for no convincing reasons. This seemed to confirm insinuations that cropped up later in APGA that people close to former Governor Obi and former national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, have been put ‘out of sight and out of hearing’. It was learnt that the reason why Hon. Ugochukwu did not bother to vie for the seat was because she was believed to be close to Obi who it was said tapped her father’s vast connections with prominent citizens of Nigeria in the governance of the state. In the case of Uzoezie, he is a cousin to Chief Umeh. So when the House convened on June 12 Uzoezie was made to nominate Maduagwu to ensure that he bore no malice against her, the party and the Governor.