The imminent return of the immediate past speaker of the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly to the House has set tongues wagging over the prospects of a leadership tussle. Should there be?
When last Tuesday the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly unanimously passed a vote of confidence on the speaker, Onofiok Luke it inevitably confirmed the speculations over an imminent power tussle.
The controversy over his position appeared to have grown out of proportion in the last few weeks since the state constituency rerun elections which returned the four lawmakers of the People’s Democratic Party PDP who were earlier sacked by the Appeal Court last year. Among them was the former Speaker Aniekan Uko of Ibesikpo Asutan state constituency.
PART OF A CONSPIRACY
At the centre of the controversies was the speculation over whether Uko who lost his seat as speaker was coming back to reclaim the office of speaker.
The controversy was especially stoked by some PDP chieftains from Uyo Federal Constituency comprising Uyo, Ibesikpo Asutan, Uruan and Nsit Atai local government areas who alleged that the office of speaker was zoned to the Federal Constituency.
In their permutation Luke who is not from Uyo Federal Constituency should step down for Uko. The controversy has been further stoked by the dithering procrastination on the part of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC in giving the certificate of return to the four members who won the rerun election. INEC it was being alleged in some quarters, was part of a conspiracy to delay the return of Uko to the House for the purpose of safeguarding Luke’s office.
It was as such not surprising that the House in a unanimous dismissal of the insinuations last Tuesday affirmed full confidence in the leadership of Luke.
A two-term member representing Ibiono Ibom state constituency and Chairman House Committee on Information Barr Ime Okon described the insinuations on the issue as mere distractions while arguing that the speculations and thinking of some people that the party zoned the Speaker seat to Uyo federal constituency as erroneous. Rather, he said the position was zoned to Uyo Senatorial District.
The lawmaker equally explained that Luke could not be readily dropped because he was democratically elected as the substantive speaker last December.
“For people to think that because the immediate past speaker is returning that he is coming to take over the office of speaker is erroneous. You will recall that on the 8th of June 2015 members elected Hon Aniekan Uko as the speaker of the Sixth Assembly. He did his best and enjoyed the confidence of all of us. Unfortunately the Court of Appeal annulled his election alongside about three other of our colleagues, and they had to go for a rerun. Therefore there was a vacancy in the office of the speaker, office of the deputy speaker, and office of the deputy leader.”
“So on December, 21, 2015 members found Rt. Hon Onofiok Luke worthy to be entrusted with the office the speaker. That election I want to stress was not on an interim basis. Onofiok Luke was not elected as acting Speaker. He was elected by the members of the state assembly as a substantive speaker of the sixth assembly since there was a vacancy.”
Idongesit Ituen, member representing Itu state constituency who sponsored the motion on vote of confidence on Luke said the motion was necessary for the public to know the loyalty, trust and confidence in the Luke leadership in order to put to rest the misconception and falsehood flying in social media.
Even the only All Progressives Congress, APC member representing Urue Offong/Oruko Hon. Asuquo Archibong was quick to endorse the confidence motion on Luke.
Chairman of the PDP in the state, Obong Paul Ekpo during a get-together-party held on Monday at the party secretariat in Uyo declared the position of the leadership over the issue by endorsing Luke even as he cautioned the media to desist from causing rift among political office holders and heating up the polity.
A leading elder in the party and former minister of lands, Chief Nduesse Essien equally spoke in the same direction saying the controversy was unnecessary as he recalled that even at the inauguration of the present state assembly, that Luke had been the preferred candidate for the Speakership of the House.
“That time Onofiok had a good number of members that supported him for Speakership. But because of the tussle, the compromise position was accepted to allow Hon Aniekan Uko to be the speaker. And Onofiok willingly accepted. But at the tribunal Aniekan Uko’s election was nullified and the position became vacant again.”
So the members unanimously went back to Onofiok Luke as the speaker. And positions in the House are not zoned to any individual. It is the choice of the members of the legislature that counts. He pointed that with the position was zoned to Uyo Senatorial District just as the governorship was zoned to Eket District. (Culled from Vanguard).