The Failed Coup in Akwa Ibom Assembly

Last week’s failed attempt to impeach Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State by five lawmakers of the state House of Assembly is preposterous, writes Olawale Olaleye

The foiled attempt by five lawmakers of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly led by factional Speaker Nse Ntuen, to remove Governor Udom Emmanuel from office is a sad reminder of some of the many contradictions that currently define Nigeria especially, that such moves have become a character of the nation’s election cycle.

The mere understanding that the event of last Monday at the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly shared very closely with a few of the markers that sculpted the era of former President Goodluck Jonathan in the lead up to 2015 is the reason the Akwa Ibom development is considered worrisome and disturbing in many quarters and ultimately condemnable.

The Akwa Ibom theatre of the absurd was akin to what happened in Rivers State in 2013 as the nation journeyed through trauma of the 2015 elections, when the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) tried all it could to annex the state before and during the elections, including the move by also five lawmakers led by Evans Bipi, a cousin of former First Lady, Patience Jonathan, to first impeach then Speaker Otelemba Amachree, and subsequently get Amaechi out of the way. It is no less a déjà vu.

In fact, then National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, had described the failed attempt to impeach Amachree, by five lawmakers as “an expression of one’s constitutional rights” on the part of the dissenting lawmakers. It turned out a violent adventure that eventually led to the hospitalisation of some of the lawmakers. But the coup was not foiled until Amaechi moved in with his personal security aides, who engaged the dissident lawmakers and arrested the situation.

Save for the timely move by Governor Emmanuel, who also moved in with his personal security, there could have been a different narrative out there on the state of the state as some sacked five lawmakers of the All Progressives Congress (APC) engaged in a supremacy battle. It was a tense situation that led to the exchange of gunfire.

Some reports had it that Ntuen and his colleagues had arrived the assembly chamber early before plenary with the sole intent to impeach the governor, but as a counter move, the governor too arrived at the venue with his team, mostly his cabinet members and security details, a development that created an atmosphere for supporters of the governor, many of them youths, to move against the lawmakers.

The build-up to that event was even the more curious. Penultimate Monday, some thugs had reportedly invaded the Assembly complex and prevented members from gaining access to the building. But that phase was overcome, when the police stepped in and restored normalcy. This did not however prevent the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole from issuing a statement, condemning then police commissioner, John Abang, whom he accused of being political.

Oshiomhole’s statement was later interpreted to mean that by directly accusing the commissioner of being political, it was probably because he refused to carry out orders to provide security cover that would enable the minority lawmakers to effect a change of leadership.
Thus, with a new Commissioner of Police, Hyelasinda Musa Kimo, whom the ruling party believed might have been deployed in the state to do the filthy job, with the sole brief of taking over the Assembly, creating tension and giving effect to the siege mentality, police actually effectively took over the complex, allegedly using thugs first as front.

Unfortunately, this has corroborated the fears expressed recently by the PDP that there was a grand plan by the leadership of the APC to annex some states in the South-south, with focus said to be on Rivers and Akwa Ibom.
Therefore, when the siege started penultimate Monday, the PDP cried out and pointed at the brewing situation. It took the police another week to lift the siege. That regardless, the PDP insisted that the move was in sync with the APC ploy to make the state ungovernable for its governor ahead of the 2019 elections.

The party said the strategy was to make it possible for the APC-led federal government to declare a state of emergency and pave the way for easy manipulations of election results in 2019.
It suffices to recall that a former national chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, had once said while in office that the party could not afford to leave the oil rich state in the hands of the opposition PDP. His statement was then interpreted to mean that the state had the kind of resources required to fund its party, being the largest oil (producing) state in the country.

Lately, a former governor of the state, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who recently defected to the APC, has also not hidden his desire to get the state back for APC to prove his political relevance. The development also explains why he has been combative since his defection including saying his choice of Emmanuel was an error.
Thus, going by the recent but similar experience in Ondo and Anambra States, where thugs, with the backing of security had been used to sack assembly members and impeach principal officers, what is gradually building up to the 2019 elections is too foreboding for the discerning to ignore.

The expectation is that all contending parties would go to the field, canvass legitimate votes and slug it out on a level playing ground. But what has been playing out so far in some of the states does not indicate any commitment to a level playing ground and the implication is grave for the country especially given the pervasive tension and exasperating insecurity in the land.
The attempt to forcibly change leadership in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and by extension, remove Governor Emmanuel is unfortunate and provocative. The ruling government must pay attention to such developments that could further taint its already blemished reputation and put a stop to the brigandage going on in many states across the federation. The developments are not acceptable and had better be arrested in collective interest.

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