Last week, I raised a discourse on the need to have an all-inclusive leadership in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly. I captioned the piece; “AKWA IBOM ASSEMBLY: THE NEED FOR A MINORITY LEADER”. I have read a lot of reactions arguing for and against this discourse.
“The position of a Minority Leader in any parliament goes without saying when there is more than one member of any other party in the parliament. The Party with such number of members only need to write to the Speaker of the House of the appointment of a particular member of such party with capacity to lead other members of that party as the Minority Leader. The Speaker has no reason under the law to refuse to announce such appointment and recognition,” former Deputy Leader of AKHA, Rt. Hon. Kennedy Ekong noted while reacting to my article under reference.
Barr. Ekong who represented Itu state constituency in the third AKHA, however, argued that; “In AKHA today, it is belated to have such leader who will not only lead other members of his party in debates but also canvass the position of the opposition party on every issue under consideration on the floor of the parliament during plenary.”
Moving forward, another former state lawmaker, who represented Etim Ekpo/Ika state constituency in the fourth AKHA, Rt. Hon. Akanimo Edet, had while also reacting to the discourse under reference, averred thus; “The need to have a Minority Leader, etc, in the AKHA for the remaining part of the session is necessary for a robust legislation, checks and balances, legislative experience, accountability and for the good of our people.
“There is no point pretending or showing up muscle flexing by the majority in the House, allowing them wallow in the lexicon of ordinary members when their contributions and expertise would have been tapped in the leadership and executive sessions in policy formation for the House and the state in general.
“These call is necessitated by the recent defection of five members of the PDP to the opposition APC in the state House of Assembly. Recent example and benefits abound in the senate Minority Leader, that was occupied by the distinguished senator representing Akwa Ibom North west senatorial District (HE Dr. Godswil Akpabio CON) in the red chamber of the National Assembly. It is important and necessary that the AKHA urgently accept, create and legislate on these positions for the overall interest of the House and the state,” Akanimo Edet added.
With respect, I differ from the lines of thought of my friend and brother, Obong Kennedy Ekong with respect to his argument that; “In AKHA today, it is belated to have such leader who will not only lead other members of his party in debates but also canvass the position of the opposition party on every issue under consideration on the floor of the parliament during plenary.”
On a lighter note, I normally tell my friends who are members of the AKHA that I am the 27th member of the AKHA. The AKHA is made up of 26th members. And all of them are my friends. I have nothing against any of them. But my avowed duty as a watchdog and conscience of the society is to raise discourses such as this in order to strengthen our democratic institution. This is not about a political party but about the laid down rules. What is obtainable elsewhere in any democratic setting.
My argument is borne out of the fact that, I have read through and thorough, the STANDING ORDER of the Akwa Ibom State of Assembly (Sixth Edition). Don’t forget, I am the 27th member of the parliament, (laughter). And Rule 6(1) says; “there shall be the following officers in the House: – (a) Speaker, (b) Deputy Speaker, (c) House Leader, (d) Chief Whip, (e) Deputy House Leader, (f) Deputy Chief Whip, (g) Minority Leader, (h) Deputy Minority Leader, (i) Minority Whip and (j) Deputy Minority Whip.”
Rule 6(2) states; “In the composition of the leadership of the House preference shall be given to members with cognate legislative experience in the House.” The present five All Progressives Congress members in the House who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party, i.e.; Idongesit Ituen, Nse Ntuen, Gabriel Toby, Otobong Ndem and Victor Udofia fit into this Rule.
Let me salute my friend and brother, the Speaker of the AKHA, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke. He took everyone by surprise during yesterday (Tuesday, October 30, 2018’s) plenary session. He dissolved the House Standing Committees and set up an eight member Select Committee chaired by him (The Speaker), whose function it is to select members from the 26 of them and assign them into the various House Standing Committees.
Of mention is that members of the Select Committee as constituted by the Speaker, reflect the reality in the House. It is made up of members of both political parties – the PDP and the APC.
For the benefit of my readers, these are names of the Select Committee; Onofiok Luke (PDP), Felicia Bassey (PDP), Otobong Jonathan (PDP), Samuel Ufuo (PDP), Idongesit Ntekpere (PDP). Others are; Nse Ntuen (APC), Victor Udofia (APC) and Gabriel Toby (APC).
I want to believe that the committee will be fair to all political parties when it come up with the names and members of the various Standing Committees of the AKHA, in the spirit of fairness and justice.
It is in the same vein, that I canvass and urge members of the opposition APC to appoint their leaders, such as; the Minority Leader, Deputy Minority leader, Minority Whip and Deputy Minority Whip and notify the Speaker of these appointments as enshrined in Rule 6(1)(2) of the Standing Order of the AKHA (Sixth Edition).
Maybe doing so, will change the current perception of Akwa Ibom people that the AKHA is a RUBBERSTAMP and/or IRON SEAL of the state governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel.
• Franklyn Isong is a public affairs commentator and conscience of the society