The tinge of drama characterizing the political hemisphere in Imo State took another shape on Tuesday when the much awaited judgment to decide the fate of the embattled Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prince Eze Madumere was delivered.
After hearing parties involved in the case, two weeks ago, the judge reserved date for the judgment.
Recall that few months ago, after a battle to survive impeachment failed, Madumere was removed by the members of the Imo State House of Assembly. His position was about to be taken over by Callistus Ekenze, who until his nomination as the Deputy Governor designate, was the Head of Service of the state, before the Chief Judge and judicial officials of the state government avoided to administer the oath of office on him due to an earlier court order barring the Members of the House and the 7-man Committee from going ahead with the impeachment process. The CJ of the state cited the earlier court order prompting the Imo State Government, led by Governor Rochas Okorocha, in spite of high level preparations, to cancel the swearing in of Ekenze nominated to take over from Madumere.
However, the climax of the continued court case concerning the impeachment was Tuesday’s decision of a High Court sitting in Owerri, the Imo State capital, which nullified the lawmakers impeachment of the Deputy Governor on the ground that Mr Madumere’s impeachment did not follow due process, therefore it is illegal.
The presiding judge, Justice Benjamin Iheka, who made the announcement, insisted that he (Madumere) remains the Deputy Governor of the state.
Justice Iheka faulted the Chief Judge of Imo state, Pascal Nnadi and the Attorney General the state, Miletus Nlemadim, of the process of the impeachment.
According to Justice Iheaka, the Chief Judge did not comply with section 188 subsection 5 of the 1999 constitution as amended. It (constitution) stipulates that the Chief Judge must set up a 7-man panel of inquiry within 7 days but on the contrary, the Chief Judge did after 9 days, according to the constitution, makes the impeachment process invalid, null and void.
Since the botched swearing in of the nominated Ekenze July ending, a kind of constitutional crisis has been entrenched in Imo State with no one holding the position.
19 out of the 27 State lawmakers, mainly of the Deputy Governor’s APC party, led by the Speaker, Acho Ihim, after axing from the House about five Members believed not to be in support of the impeachment, who were handed indefinite suspension, removed Madumere on July 30, 2018, based on allegations of absence without reasons for a period of three months and a failure to perform constitutional duties like attending state executive and state security council meetings.
Others included his alleged failure to attend meetings with the governor and other government functionaries as well as an alleged concealment of felonious acts in the United States.
Though that of alleged concealment of felonious acts in the United States could not be substantiated as report of the House made public indicated one other unknown Madumere not Eze Madumere was involved, the Members went ahead with the impeachment based on other accusations.
More worrisome in the impeachment episode was the decision of the state government to bar Madumere from executing his duties as the number two citizen of the state when the swearing in process of the new Deputy Governor designate failed.
Reports available had it that Madumere and his staff were stopped from gaining entrance into the official quarters in Commissioners’ Quarters on Concorde Road, New Owerri as well as the Twin House office of the Deputy Governor.
Official assignments from the state government and other paraphernalia of office due to the second in command were not extended to Madumere any longer.
For the month of August and this September that is coming to an end, Imo State operated without a Deputy Governor as the nominated Ekenze could not also be involved officially since his scheduled swearing in was aborted.
It was also observed that in the absence of Madumere, Ekenze has been making appearances in Government House, Owerri for official functions of government whereas Madumere was shut out from the scene.
During the swearing in of the newly elected Council Chairmen of the 27 LGAs in Imo State, the Deputy Governor Designate, Ekenze who also hails from Madumere’s Mbaitoli LGA in Owerri Zone was spotted in a group picture between the Council bosses and the state governor. In the said picture Ekenze appeared, that went public courtesy of Government House media officials, only Okorocha, the LGA chairmen and top political appointees serving the state government were captured. The picture depicts that despite the failure of the swearing in of the Deputy Governor designate, Ekenze may have been co-opted as a state government official other than of his former position as the Head of Service job.
A statement from the media office of the governor authored by his chief press secretary once tried to advance reasons why the state government closed its doors against Madumere after the impeachment.
Details of the statement entail that since he has suffered an impeachment from the House Members and a Deputy Governor designate emerged, the right to serve as second in command to Okorocha has been lost, the government mouthpiece stated.
With the court quashing the impeachment and declaring the action of the state lawmakers null and void, the question on the lips of many watchers of the development in Imo remains the possibility of the Okorocha’s government reconsidering another working relationship with Madumere?
Following the outcome of the court nullification of the impeachment, will Madumere be allowed back into DGOVs Lodge at the Commissioners’ Quarters and made to return to the Office of the Deputy Governor that is within spitting distances to the High Court premises where Justice Iheka delivered the judgment for him resume functions as the second in command in the state?
One other pertinent question that must arise is the issue of compatibility. With regards to political differences ahead 2019 elections and considering deep rooted animosity emanating from the impeachment saga where the governor was accused of inducing the palace coup against his deputy, can the former political soul mates experience another harmonious working relationship again?
What of funding of the office of the Governor? Before now, cries of abandonment had been the lot of Madumere office as allegations that impress to run the office had not been forthcoming. Will Madumere’s office get any allocation again?
More so, won’t the post Madumere impeachment nullification era become another sad reminder to the indifference approach of the Okorocha regime to court judgments against him since he became governor of Imo State in 2011?
The plight of the sacked Council Chairmen and Councilors elected in 2010 during the Ikedi Ohakim regime who were illegally removed in office by Okorocha remains evergreen. Despite getting court judgments at the Appeal Court levels for reinstatement a year after, the governor never took into reckoning their return into office until he claimed that their tenure had elapsed. No kobo was also paid throughout the period Court returned them to office and till date.
Same goes for the former Chairman of Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers, Cletus Ilomuonya. Several courts had declared invalid his removal by Okorocha, but all manners of shenanigans were deployed by the state government to frustrate his return to office until his tenure as Eze Imo elapsed. It is on record that Ilomuanya has won several cases against the Okorocha government which reports say have not been honoured. Even cases of payments secured against Okorocha but won not honoured are in excess.
Cases of the present administration being livid about court decisions concerning it are enourmous, thereby instilling fear that the Court decision quashing Madumere’s impeachment may end up to became a wishy-washy judgment before eyes of the Imo State
Kelechi Mejuobi, a writer, commentator on contemporary issues is an Owerri based journalist and co-publisher of Trumpeta newspapers