It was the first day in a new month and there were no signs of any unusual happenings. In the Kogi State House of Assembly, August 1, started off like a normal day for legislative business, even with a seeming heavy presence of security operatives.
But shortly after they assembled in chamber to commence plenary, the state lawmakers found themselves running for their lives.
Over 80 thugs, who arrived in three Hilux vans, invaded the premises and attacked lawmakers. They succeeded in stripping a member representing Igalamala/Odolu, Elder Friday Makama, naked, who is alleged to be the target of the attack.
Another member representing Igalamela-Odolu state constituency, Friday Sani, was also unlucky as the hoodlums beat him and inflicted serious injuries on him. Oluwatoyin Lawal (APC-Yagba West) narrowly escaped being hit by one of the big chairs hauled from the gallery into the chamber while some journalists covering the sitting were also attacked and beaten as they scampered for safety.
Vehicles belonging to the lawmakers were vandalised within the Assembly complex as security operatives attached to the House watched helplessly.
The former speaker, Imam Umar Ahmed and other lawmakers scampered for safety. Some journalists, covering the legislature, resorted to jumping the fence of the Assembly complex for fear of being caught in the attack.
However, Makama’s return to the Assembly was said to be the reason for the onslaught it was alleged. He was resuming work after a court declared his six months suspension as void. The lawmaker was in February, suspended for six months by the House because he took the Assembly to court for giving extra-spending approval to Governor Yahaya Bello when the workers were being owed salaries.
He, however, approached the state high court to challenge his suspension. The court declared his suspension null and void and ordered the leadership of the House to reinstate the lawmaker.
The former speaker while reflecting on the development expressed shock, saying the house did not see the attack coming even though he was a bit concerned when security agents flooded the premises that morning.
He however said that “when Inalegwu Commissioner of Police assured him that the police were there to maintain peace and ensure that nothing abnormal happened”, he relaxed.
Imam, considering the enormity of the tension generated by the attack, told journalists that the House had adjourned sine die (indefinitely). He further expressed reservation over the conduct of the policemen during the attack on the assembly.
He said, “We have been witnessing crises in Assemblies but it had always been in-house, but this one coming from outsiders makes it news, the hoodlums came in and took over in the presence of the policemen.
“The business of the day was carried out with the assurances from the commissioner of police but the hoodlums had a free day in the presence of the policemen.”
Also reacting to the onslaught on the Assembly, Gov. Yahaya Bello said his administration would not condone any act of rascality adding, “ anybody that breaks the law will face the law.”
The governor who spoke through the Director-General, Media and Publicity, Kingsley Fanwo said said security agencies had been directed to fish out the perpetrators of the house.
“We want to denounce insinuations that the governor is scheming for the impeachment of the speaker. The governor is not interested in instigating the impeachment of speaker.
“The members already passed a vote of confidence on the speaker and it is not the responsibility of the governor to install or remove speaker”, he said.
However, Imam, who was sworn in as speaker barely months ago, didn’t survive the crisis as he tendered his resignation barely hours after.
History of Turbulence and Intrigues
For watchers of Kogi State politics, last Tuesday’s crisis which engulfed its House of Assembly was not new, for a chamber that has never known peace since 2015.
This recurrent turbulence in the state’s legislative chamber has resulted in change of the speaker of three times. Hon Momoh Jimoh Lawal, after an intense struggle, was removed. And just last week Umar Ahmed Imam, tendered his resignation.
However, analysts have linked the unceasing tussle in the chamber on the tussle for dominance of the parties. The turbulence in the chamber had peaked on February 22, 2016, when five members of the Assembly passed the budget to the dismay of other members.
Currently, however, in a house of 25 members, APC which was a minority in 2015 had with the emergence of the governor Bello become the majority.
While PDP had 16 members the APC had nine. But shortly after Bello mounted the governorship saddle six PDP members defected to the defected to APC.
The defecting six lawmakers, had on February 28, 2016, claimed that the factionalisation squabbles, both at the national (between Sen Ali Modu Sheriff and Sen Ahmed Makarfi) and state levels necessitated their action.
Reading the letter on the floor of the chamber at exactly 12:30pm, the immediate-past Speaker, Imam said the members who have decided to join the ruling party in the state are John Abba (ibaji), Adoke Bello (Adavi), Mathew Kolawole (Kabba Bunu), Ahmed Mohammed (Ankpa 1), Victor Omofaye (Ijumu) and Kekere Abdulkareem (Okehi).
The remaining PDP members in the House are, Aliyu Aku (Omala) Godwin Osiyi (Ogorimagongo) Friday Sanni (igalamela) Doctor Friday Alih (Ofu) Sunday Shigaba ( Bassa).
After members contributions on the defection, the former Imam urged members to see the movement as a peaceful one and should not cause any squabbles. Little did he know that the political game would turn against him soon.
At a press briefing organized by the defected lawmakers led by the former majority leader Mathew Kolawole, he told journalists that his former party has failed to organize both ward and local government Congress adding that their decision is to accomplish their campaign promises of bringing government closer to their people.
However, signs that the political tide was turning against Imam manifested on July 27, 2017, when lawmakers in the Kogi State House of Assembly, passed a vote of confidence on the speaker Ahmed Imam Umar (APC Lokoja 1) state constituency.
This followed wide speculations that some members in the chamber are plotting his impeachment for his failure to align with some of the policies of the governor.
Passing a vote of confidence on the speaker, Hon. Abayomi Obaro Pedro member representing Mopamuro Constituency said the current leadership has helped to sustain the legislature as an indivisible entity.
Obaro explained that, “Actions leading up to reconciliation and genuine desire for peaceful Assembly as well as the conduct of the House will continue to be the essential reasons for me to appreciate leadership, and accordingly make a statement showing continued support and approval for that individual that provides a rallying point and leadership.”
Hon Bello Abdullahi (APC Ajaokuta 1) who was accused of spare heading the impeachment stood before all his colleagues in the house to debunk the allegation.
While debunking the allegation, Hon Abdullahi said, “ I was in far away in London when I saw on the social media that I am championing the impeachment process of Rt Hon Speaker Umar Imam.
“I Bello Hassan member representing the good and bad people of Ajaokuta State Constituency, knows nothing about such plans. This is completely the hand work of the enemies of Kogi State.”
Kolawole, who was the Majority Leader, was alleged to be part of the plot to remove the former speaker. But speaking at the plenary session he also noted that he saw in a platform ‘Chat with the Speaker’ of his involvement to unseat the number three citizen of the state.
He said “I decided to take it personal because the Speaker should have called me to verify if it was true. Where was the meeting held, that I Honourable Kolawole wants to become speaker.
“My advice to you Mr Speaker is that, you should not be carried away by all this encomiums, just keep on with your good work and we are here beside you.” he added.
Other lawmakers who added their voice to support the leadership of the house are Friday Ali, Victor Omofaye, Sunday Shigaba, Kekere Abdulkareem, Aliyu Akuh, John Abah, Oluwatoyin Lawal, Hassan Abdullahi, Zakari Osewu Mohammed, Ndako Idris, Musa Jimoh Omiata and Eneche Ojochenemi.
Moved by the vote of confidence, Imam, while appreciating his colleagues for the confidence reposed on him described legislation as the fulcrum of democracy, urging members to put in their best for the development of Kogi State.
In what could pass for a hint of his impending exit from office, the former speaker told his colleagues that he was not elected to be Speaker by his constituency, adding “ I am not afraid to be removed. When you think I am not performing well, just approach me and I will tender my resignation letter.”
Alas, his fears were confirmed after last Tuesday’s imbroglio as he tendered his resignation. Interestingly, Kolawole emerged speaker.
Imam’s resignation was announced by the Deputy Speaker Hassan Abdullahi Baiwa member representing Okura constituency who presided over the house sitting the next day.
At plenary, there was heavy presence of heavily armed security men comprising the Nigeria Police, Civil Defence who conducted a stop and search.
To avoid vacuum created by the resignation of Imam, Kolawole was nominated and elected as the new speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly.
Hon Kolawole emergence was sequel to his nomination by the member representing Ankpa 1 Ahmed Mohammed, which was seconded by the member representing Okehi constituency Abdulkareem Kekere.
In his acceptance speech, Mathew Kolawole promised to carry all aggrieved members along by delivering good legislation and people driven government.
Also in the new shakeup in the Kogi State House of Assembly, Abdullahhi Bello, APC Ajaokuta emerged the new Majority Leader while Victor Omofaye (APC, Ijumu) was elected Chief whip.
Now that a new speaker has emerged yet again, it is yet to ascertain the impact such turnover in leadership will have on the development of the state.