The Bayelsa State House of Assembly surprised analysts on Friday, July 12, 2013, when it decided to also swim in the rivers of inflammable controversy that has dismembered the Rivers State House of Assembly.
The knack for controversy is not known as one of the political credentials of the Bayelsa Assembly, especially under Speaker, Konbowei Benson. It is not known to have at any point in time disagreed, even in principle, with itself or with the executive arm of the state government, now under Governor Seriake Dickson.
It is believed that the Assembly hardly sits to conduct legislative business. And each time it sits, analysts argued, the proceedings and debates on the floor of the House lack the kind of legislative fireworks that are recorded in some other legislatures.
Also, the Bayelsa Assembly had in recent past suffered bad image following its inability or refusal to conduct public hearings on matters of utmost public interest to enrich the elements of representative democracy.
It is not also known to have passed any private bills into law as all the bills it has passed into law have been known to be executive bills. In fact, its activities and inactivities have earned it the sobriquet of a lame-duck Assembly.
But at its sitting on the said date, presided over by Konbowei, the Assembly’s deliberations and subsequent resolutions on the political impasse in neighbouring Rivers State House of Assembly startled many.
The Assembly, unlike its counterparts across the six geo-political zones, broke its studied silence on the Rivers imbroglio which climaxed on Tuesday, July 9, with the spilling of blood resulting from the bizarre attempt by five lawmakers, led by Dame Patience Jonathan’s cousin, Evans Bipi, to impeach the Speaker, Otelemaba Amachree.
Nobody knew the Bayelsa Assembly would hold a plenary session on that day. It was gathered that majority of the lawmakers and legislative hands were not also aware there would be sitting.
But one after the other they, eventually, drove to the Assembly Complex located on the Mbiama-Yenagoa Road, Yenagoa, even as legislative support-staff also hurried to the Complex.
It was gathered that the sitting was not precipitated by the fact that President Goodluck Jonathan, who had been fingered to be beating the drums for Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike’s camp, is from Bayelsa State, but because the Assembly was prodded “to speak up and defend our son”.
Therefore, in what appeared like a lazy boxer waking up from his slumber, the Assembly came down hard on “stakeholders and well-meaning citizens” linking Jonathan and his ubiquitous wife, Patience, to the festering crisis in Rivers Assembly.
The Assembly described the comments of such “stakeholders and well-meaning citizens” against the President as “inflammatory”.
The 24-member Assembly, in its three-point resolution, particularly condemned the Lagos State House of Assembly for blaming Jonathan over the embarrassing situation in Rivers Assembly.
It argued that comments credited to “stakeholders and well-meaning citizens” such as Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana and “public affairs analysts” such as Pat Utomi, on the political standoff were capable of “aggravating the already tensed situation in Rivers State House of Assembly”.
Soyinka, Falana and Utomi are among some of the strongest voices that have flayed Jonathan over the political gridlock in Rivers State.
Reports had also quoted the Lagos State House of Assembly as heaping blames on the door step of Jonathan and Commissioner of Police, Mbu Joseph Mbu, for the free-for-all in Rivers.
Jonathan, according to reports, was particularly urged by Lagos Assembly “to rise to the occasion by doing what is right and consider the ways and manner Nigerians stood by him to ensure that all obstacles to his assumption of office were removed”.
The motion by the Bayelsa Assembly to deliberate on the brouhaha in Rivers State was raised by the deputy speaker, Victor Sam-Ateki (Brass I), under matters of urgent public importance.
The Assembly accused Jonathan’s detractors of inciting the public and casting aspersions on his office and the person of the President.
“Commentators, public affairs analysts and others, commenting on the crisis in the Rivers State House of Assembly, should stop inciting the public and casting aspersions on the office and person of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, by dragging him into the internal wrangling of the Rivers State House of Assembly,” it warned.
The motion, which was seconded by the member representing Southern Ijaw Constituency 2, Monday Obolo-Bubou, was unanimously adopted by all members.
Sam-Ateki explained that he raised the motion because of the historical bond that exists between Bayelsa and Rivers States, adding that “Bayelsa lawmakers cannot be silent over the current impasse in the Rivers State legislature.”
He expressed worry that “stakeholders and well-meaning citizens” were not avoiding rabble-rousing statements on the crisis in Rivers Assembly.
While seconding the motion, Obolo-Bubou condemned the Lagos State House of Assembly for dragging the office of the President into the crisis in the Rivers Assembly.
He maintained that lawmakers were the live-wire in a democracy and should conduct themselves well and be cautious in their comments during the time of political crisis.
Daniel Igali (Southern Ijaw 3) corroborated Obolo-Bubou and described as “despicable and unwarranted” Lagos Assembly’s linking of Jonathan to “the internal problems of the current political impasse in the Rivers State House of Assembly”.
Also contributing, Tonye Isenah (Kolokuma/Opokuma I), cautioned against the use of inflammatory remarks by “senior citizens” in the country on the lingering political log-jam in Rivers.
In her argument, the only female lawmaker in the Assembly, Agatha Goma (Ekeremor 1), drew her colleagues’ attention to Proverbs 1:2; 20:26, saying “it is surprising that some persons, including senior citizens would have the pleasure of dragging the office and person of Mr. President into it (the crisis).”
She recalled her experiences as a member of the old Rivers State House of Assembly and pointed out that crisis situations in parliaments were common occurrences.
In his remarks, the Speaker enjoined “senior citizens” credited with provocative statements on Rivers political stalemate to “show statesmanship in their comments and not to incite the parties involved.” Konbowei said every zone in Nigeria has contributed in one way or the other towards the development of the country.
“Some contributed with population, national resources and intellect because of the activities of the colonial masters. While other zones like ours, of course, everyone knows – oil was found in Oloibiri before the independence of the Nigerian nation.
“Where have we really gone wrong? We did not create ourselves, and as such cannot be held responsible for our small population. God wants it this way,”he stated.
Konbowei, who expressed sympathy to the victims of the violence that broke out on the floor of Rivers Assembly on July 9, called for the amicable resolution of the crisis and warned against denigration of Jonathan over the ugly situation.
He added: “The Rivers State House of Assembly crisis should rather be addressed by well-meaning Nigerians in a more mature manner instead of casting aspersions on the highly exalted office and person of Mr. President. We should seek amicable ways of solving our problems rather than inciting people through inflammatory statements.
Konbowei also used the opportunity to announce the commencement of the annual recess of the Assembly from July 12 to August 27, 2013.