Embattled Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly, Otelemaba Daniel Amachree
Embattled Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly, Otelemaba Daniel Amachree

I was saddening to watch (again!) lawmakers in a brouhaha. This time it was not the national assembly, but members of Rivers State House of Assembly in the evening of Tuesday, July 9, 2013. These “dis-honourables” were engaged in fisticuffs over whatever they considered their justified positions. Whether it be impeachment of the Speaker or a prelude to impeachment of the Governor, the fracas was a shame to behold.

I could have titled this piece “unexposed” politicians or lawless politicians, but wanted to have the opportunity to explain what I meant by “uneducated.” In fact, while I was writing, a friend that we were vacationing together, looked over my shoulders and said make sure you explain because some of these people went to school. Of course, the only education requirement to be a Member of a State House of Assembly is school certificate. For reference purposes, Section 106 of the 1999 Nigerian constitutions explicates that: “Subject to the provisions of section 107 of this Constitution, a person shall be qualified for election as a member of a House of Assembly if - (a) he is a citizen of Nigeria; (b) he has attained the age of thirty years; (c) he has been educated up to at least the School Certificate level or its equivalent; and (d) he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that party.”

There is an expression that you can go to school, but did the school go through you. I am quite aware of the decrepit condition of our tertiary institutions and the fact that many people buy their degrees (diplomas) in Nigeria, including PhD. However, a good education allows you to challenge your mind and expand your thought processes. Education should make your less animalistic and visceral.

The crass conduct exhibited by these lawmakers was only matched by their apparent ineptitude. The helplessness of some of the lawmakers as they were being beaten was only equaled by the helplessness of the police. It also gives more credence to the argument that these lawmakers should not be entitled to police orderlies. When the Governor was shouting for the arrest of the lawmakers, which ones did he expect to be arrested and who was supposed to effectuate the arrest. Should a Mopol arrest his “oga” that he has been guarding all this while? Do not forget that this “oga” has been treating him “well”, more than his actual employer – the Executive branch.

The last time I checked, assault & battery is a crime. Therefore, all the lawmakers that were caught fighting on videotape should be arrested and charged to court, especially the buffoon in white linen and red cap that felt justified to be hitting the other lawmaker in a jacket with the fake mace. Same goes for the police officer that was kicking the lawmaker while he was on the ground. What a show of shame!

The procedure for removal of a Speaker or Deputy Speaker is spelt out clearly by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Specifically, Section 92 (1) says “There shall be a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker of a House of Assembly who shall be elected by the members of the House from among themselves, “ while Section 92 (2) states that “The Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly shall vacate his office - (a) if he ceases to be a member of the House of Assembly otherwise than by reason of the dissolution of the House; (b) When the House first sits after any dissolution of House; or (c) if he is removed from office by a resolution of House of Assembly by the votes of not less than two-third majority of the members of the House.”

In light of the above provision, how can five (5) out of thirty-two (32) house members vote out a speaker? Why will you resort to violence to solve a dispute, especially if you believe in the democratic process, unless you were not democratically elected? Is that not the behavior we expect from touts or do we just accept them as political juggernauts? Exposure changes your mindset and outlook. You should be trying to use your brains not brawns. Five out of thirty-two does not a majority make – mathematically it is 15.6%.

Our fears is that certain individuals with no pedigree or exposure will continue to hold us collectively by the jugular, while leading us on a downward spiral towards an “eco-socio-political” abyss. In a recent discussion with some friends, we talked about why we should be electing professionals that are not desperate politicians because they have a job to fall back on if not elected. This will produce credible candidates that do not see election as a do-or-die matter that they will fight to win, at all costs.

Think about who you will elect as 2015 approaches. Making sure we have “educated” representatives is not a futile Sisyphean task.

Prof Alex O. Atawa-Akpodiete is an author, Computer Scientist, Educator, Consultant, lawyer, Political Analyst, Public affair analyst & Social commentator. He has a Doctorate degree in Jurisprudence from the US. He has lectured Law, Ethics and Security & Intelligence Studies at the University level here in Nigeria and US. He also writes for a state daily newspaper & national monthly journal. He currently divides his time between Nigeria and USA where he runs a Global Consultancy and an international capacity-building firm ATAWA GROUP. Contact him on +1(917) 972-2034 or +234(0)8138391661 or [email protected] He is also on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Articles by Prof. Alex O. Atawa Akpodiete, Esq.