Obinna Chidoka is a member of the House of Representatives. In a recent interaction with some newsmen, the PDP lawmaker expressed the hope that the legislature would help the executive move Nigerians out of poverty, reports Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu
PERHAPS because of the long tortuous journey he had to make at the tribunal and the court of appeal before claiming his House of Representatives election victory and the peculiar drama that trailed his election petition matter, Honourable Obinna Chidoka feels the story of his current journey to the Green Chamber would remain incomplete until “some pending issues are resolved.”
The lawmaker, who represents Idemili North and Idemili South Federal Constituency of Anambra State, said “It feels good to be in the House because this is an arm of government I quite understand,” but adds quickly that certain issues need to be carefully and honestly resolved to avoid a repeat of the violence that marred the recent elections in his constituency.
As he puts it: “Recall that the election of February 23rd 2019 was going on well when at about 5:30 to 6pm, we started getting calls that some thugs were going from polling unit to polling unit in a place called Awada in Obosi, which is my stronghold, taking election materials and destroying them; they destroyed at least 13 card readers and some materials of about six to seven polling units.
“Sometimes when certain organisations and certain people are compromised, nothing comes out of it. We laid our complaints to INEC and to our greatest surprise, INEC said they were going to conduct a bye-election since they couldn’t find some of the result sheets; remember what I said earlier that the destruction of the election materials started about 6pm, by then the results has been announced and entered into the result sheet. I said to INEC why do you need to have a bye election since there was a result already declared? Besides, the violence that these thugs perpetrated at the collation centre did not single out House of Reps materials alone. So they went ahead and conducted a bye election on the 9th of March, 2019. However, I refused to participate in the so-called bye election but remained very active during the election since my party was contesting the House of Assembly election.
“And to show you a voting pattern, PDP won in the Presidential and the Senatorial election in my ward.
Incidentally, during the House of Assembly election and the so-called bye election of the 9th of March 2019, a gallant DPO who stopped the thugs from gaining entrance to the collation centre, which would have caused more havoc, was removed from Obosi and sent to the Police Headquarters, Awka and a new DPO brought in to conduct the election.
“Once the election was over and collation for the result for the House of Assembly was ongoing, Ifeanyi Ibezi drove into the collation centre with security escorts and shortly after, INEC insisted on moving the collation of the results from Obosi ward collation centre to Ogidi which is the headquarters of the local government. This apparently heightened agitations.”
Fights against violence, killings in elections
Expressing shock and concern for the violence and killings that marred the recent elections, Chidoka said: “Due to the heightened agitations, Ifeanyi Ibezi drove out of the collation centre and subsequently, INEC officials in possession of the election materials, escorted by the security agencies, started making their way out of the collation centre, but unfortunately, all of a sudden, there were gunshots everywhere and people ran for safety and when the gunshots stopped, two boys were killed.
“But at the end of the day, they went to Ogidi as they willed it and announced Ifeanyi Ibezi as the winner of the said election and he was sworn in at the National Assembly. But I told them they were there just for a while as we headed to the tribunal to seek redress. The tribunal didn’t agree with us but the tribunal judgment told me I was going to win because there was no way they could run away from the fact.
“If you add up the 25 polling units’ results being contested to my votes, I was winning the election with almost 4,000 votes. The tribunal tried as much as possible to discountenance all those results but they admitted 8 out of 25; they didn’t know what to do with it. If you read the judgement, you will laugh. So we expected them to add the 8 polling units’ results to my votes but they declined. So for that reason, my case failed and I laughed.
I said if you can admit these 8 results, it means you’ve agreed that the results were authentic. I took the matter to the Court of Appeal and even then as respondents, they filed a cross appeal because there were certain areas of the judgement that they did not agree with as well because the tribunal couldn’t actually do them any justice and when we got to the appeal court, my appeal succeeded because they saw reasons with me that the results were genuine; my appeal was genuine, we didn’t tamper with it; we didn’t rig the election; we didn’t do anything bad, the elections went well and a five-man panel gave me a five ‘yes’ against theirs, and dismissed their cross-appeal.
And as you know, INEC gave me a Certificate of Return and I have been sworn-in since the 19th of November 2019. Incidentally, this same man, Ifeanyi Ibezi, also did the unthinkable and went on to challenge the appeal court judgement which is the final court. The court sat on the matter and almost de-robed the lawyer who filed that case and fined him 300,000 for bringing a frivolous action to the court.
Asked why he is still agonizing over the past instead of moving forward in the spirit of sportsmanship, he said “being magnanimous in victory is different from putting in your petitions or taking account of what happened because we do not want it to happen again. Nobody has died in the history of Idemili North and South Federal Constituency elections since the beginning of this 4th Republic. This is the first; the kind of thuggery, the kind of guns that were readily available, we don’t want it to repeat itself again in 2023. We want the law to take its course.
“Even those that worked against me, I’ve reached out to them. I have written to all of them, called those I could call, I have said to them come in and let’s work together.”
Work in the House
Unlike what some may believe, Chidoka does not think that by joining his colleagues many months after inauguration, he may have missed so much at the National Assembly. “I want to believe my experience will serve me well. The legislature is where I have worked before. I’ve worked with a senator before coming to the House of Reps as a member. So, I would want to rely on my previous experiences. But as I keep telling people, the legislature is like Clockwork whose engine room is the committees. So where I can say that I may not immediately come up to speed is in terms of the sharing of the committees because right now I’m a ranking member and I want to believe that if I was here at the inauguration of the 9th Assembly, I would have been at least a committee chairman of what we refer to as a grade A committee, where my experience will come to bear.
He however commends the National Assembly for the quick action in passing the 2020 Appropriation Bill. He however raised other issues that pertain to the 2020 Appropriation Bill that are not within the purview of the House.
“Take for example these budget estimates prepared by the executive. If the executives in turn bring in the proposals on time, starting from the medium term expenditure framework to give us an outlook of what the budget would look like; Once we’ve passed that and if they can bring the main budget on time say by August or September, then the National Assembly will have enough time to look at it,” he said, adding, “the budget is such that we need to look at it item-by-item. When we carry out our oversight, we would have seen where the issues are and we can juxtapose that to what they put in the budget and so we can streamline that and work on it.”
Opposition and nation building
Rejecting the fear that the 9th House is on a one-way traffic and that the opposition may have lost its voice, the PDP lawmaker said, “I want to believe in the maxim that nation building is a joint task for everybody but that does not mean we have to subsume our right to opposition on the floor of the House or anywhere at all in Nigeria to the main party.
“I believe that the PDP has the wherewithal and in the House we are bringing out our very strong opposition to some of their policies.”
On the alleged quagmire because of the so-called Elumelu faction and Chinda’s faction in PDP, he said, “I was just sworn in on the 19th of November. So, I am just getting back to know what the issues are. I have read it as an outsider and if you are not in here, it is so different from being part of the process; I wasn’t part of the process that produced the minority leadership and the majority leadership and so, we really need to know where the party is headed. I’m yet to attend to a full meeting since I came in. I’m sure the next PDP meeting will be taking place shortly to review and understand what is really going on. So until I’m debriefed then I would know exactly what is going on. As it stands today on the floor of the House, Ndudi Elumelu is the Minority Leader. I know that of course the party has sent initially the name of Chinda but like I said until I’m debriefed and know what is going on.”
That notwithstanding, he insists that PDP is not losing out completely in national politics notwithstanding the outcome of Bayelsa and Kogi elections. He accused APC of developing what he called “a very dangerous template in running elections.”
On the leadership of the House of Representatives, Chidoka said, “As a Speaker who is endowed with experience, with knowledge and who is respected among his colleagues, I want to believe that having been in this House I think since the 5th Assembly, of course, Hon. Gbajabiamila wants to take the House to greater heights. I want to see a different practice, where bills and legislations are accorded the attention they require. We have to put in more work into what we do to pass legislations that would affect the lives of ordinary Nigerians and we want to help the executive to move people out of poverty and have a Nigeria where the laws are respected.”