Abia: Otti wants a rubber stamp legislature — Akpulonu | #NwokeukwuMascot
By Ugochukwu Alaribe, Umuahia
Hon. Solomon Akpulonu, a former Majority Leader of Abia State House of Assembly, in this interview, speaks on the raging controversy in the House where the minority Labour Party produced the Majority Leader. Akpulonu accuses Governor Alex Otti of trying to foist a rubber stamp legislature on the state, among other issues. Excerpts:
Why is the PDP staging walkout in Abia State House of Assembly?
The caucus of the PDP met and agreed on certain things about the House. So, we went into the chambers. During our proceedings, we saw that the Speaker announced some names as principal officers. On Friday, we didn’t sit because the Speaker wanted to announce the minority party and the majority party. There was chaos and the House adjourned abruptly.
We didn’t know that they finally entered it and those names were announced in our votes and proceedings. When it came to time for the adoption of votes and proceedings of the last sitting, we made observations and told the Speaker to expunge that particular paragraph. But the Speaker overruled us and we staged a walk-out because what happened was not the true position of things. We can never be involved in such a charade.
It’s unfortunate that the Speaker and the Labour party insists that the minority should produce the majority leader while the PDP,which is the majority party should produce the minority leader. In the House, the majority leader does a lot of work. He’s the leader of government business and the chairman of the rules and business of the house. So, automatically we’ll be working under the speaker and it’ll be an abnormality for the PDP to relinquish what is rightly ours and support what’s wrong.
What will the PDP do next if the Speaker fails to announce you as the majority party?
As for what we’ll do, we’ve already headed to the court. We’ll file a pre action suit and what we are asking the court to do is to interpret what is in our rules, precisely order 8, rule 42. That particular rule said a majority leader shall be nominated from the party that has the majority of members in the House of Assembly. We want the court to interpret that simple rule for us. We are not going to court against anybody but we want that rule interpreted. Also, we are going to refer to what happened on the 14th of June during the inauguration of the House. We will present how everything happened and whether it was right for a non-ranking member to become the speaker based on the rules of the House and fifth alteration of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, Section 311.
Do you have the support of your party in this move?
The 11 members of the PDP in the state House of Assembly has signed the suit. The PDP as a political party has equally signed the suit. This is what we must do. The truth is that they have been poaching PDP lawmakers. They started even before the inauguration of the House. The Labour Party did all they could to get the Speaker position. They were desperate for it. The Labour Party tried to even arrest some of us including me on trumped up charges. But I’m so unhappy that it didn’t happen. I would have been very happy if they had arrested those of us they plotted to arrest especially me.
They have been poaching our people and you know some of our members are new and there are certain rules and things they do not know concerning the workings of the House. I don’t see anything they’ll benefit from aligning with the Labour Party. They have tried to convince some of our members to accept the position of a Minority leader while our party is the majority party.
The members they approached rejected the offers. Now, I can assure you that none of our members will align with them. Let me also tell you that the Labour Party is in court with everybody.
How can you align with Labour party to produce the majority leader when they are the minority party ?PDP is a party of rules. And what we are asking for is what belongs to us.
With does this portend for democracy in the state , especially with the new Labour party Government?
The attitude of the Labour Party is anti-democracy. On the day of our inauguration, they tried to perpetrate this undemocratic act which they’re finally showing. In the order paper, item number seven, they listed announcement of principal officers on that same day. So, when I started agitation, a former speaker of the Assembly, Chief Stanley Ohajuruka, approached me and asked what was wrong and I told him that the Speaker and clerk want to announce the list of principal officers of the House. He went there and told them that those positions are party positions.
That was why they didn’t announce it on that day. I have advised the current Speaker, that I know he’s not well experienced with all due respect to him because he’s just coming. I have advised him to consult other former speakers and speakers of different state House of Assembly he knows so that they can guide him on his duties. If you look at the way Governor Alex Otti has started, there are certain things he has not done well. Look at the sacking of permanent secretaries, the sacking of a Director where we have a plethora of cases where the court has frowned at Governors who tried such things in the past. Even though as a Governor you have the power to appoint permanent secretaries, the law is clear that you can’t just wake up and sack them because they are special people. Those who tried it before saw the judgment of the Industrial Court against such.
The court made it clear in such cases that they can’t be sacked without going through the Civil Service Commission, giving them queries and investigating them. You cannot just wake up and sack them. These are abnormalities we’re witnessing in Abia today under the Labour party government. However, because the government is new and I think they’re learning, but with the way things are going within these first few months, if this government does not retrace its step, one can comfortably say that democracy is in danger in Abia. As the caucus Chairman of the PDP, I’m the leader of the opposition, so anything that this government does wrong, I’ll criticize constructively. I’ll do my job without fear and favour. I’ll give a robust opposition devoid of malice. Nobody will cage me from doing the right thing. It’s not possible.