The immediate past speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Mr Onofiok Luke, Thursday said that it would have pleased him more if the assembly wound up with the 26 members it convened with in 2015 rather than 21.
Recall that in November, 2018, seats of five lawmakers were declared vacant after their defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In his valediction speech at the assembly chambers in Uyo, Luke who said that he cherished memories of the bond created among members in the house, described the happenings that led to the sacking of the five lawmakers as a low moment for democracy.
“As Speaker of the House, I will be leaving today with cherished memories of the bond which we created, the intellectual engagements which we enjoyed and the brotherhood which we shared. I will however also be leaving with the sad memory that we did not end this assembly in the complete number as we started. Regrettably, this House is today dissolving with a 21-member status rather than 26 that was inaugurated four years ago.
“The events of November leading to the ultimate vacation of 5 seats in this honourable house will be remembered as one of the low moments for our democracy, but also as one of the very moments that the institution of governance had to show profound resilience. God rules the affairs of men. He alone knows the end from the be ginning,” he said.
It would also be recalled that in mornng of November 19, 2018, few hours before the plenary session of the house, the entrances to the state Assembly had been barred by thugs allegedly hired by the five aggrieved lawmakers.
However, Luke said that before that incident, which he described as unfortunate, he along with all members of the assembly were against the removal of the defecting members contrary to the wish of his party, PDP.
“Let me state categorically and openly today that until that unfortunate attempt to bully and intimidate the entire state assembly structure by people who sadly relied on a perceived federal might, I was at the forefront of the battle against the ouster from this hallowed chamber of our colleagues who had defected from the party which brought them to the parliament. And it is on record that this position was supported by all of us in the House.
“It was a controversial position, but it was a necessary sacrifice we were ready to make to see to it that those cerebral gentlemen remained in our fold and continued to do their jobs. We stood against the wishes of our party to protect them and to protect our brotherhood which to me transcends political barriers but in the end, we were left with absolutely no choice. Declaring seats vacant was not a reason I came to the seat of Speaker. And nothing have I benefitted, politically and materially, for taking that lawful action but to register this house on the right side of posterity.
“At the point of launching that fierce attack on an entire arm of government, we were left with only one choice, the choice to defend the very institution which we had taken the oath of office to defend. Nothing, absolutely nothing, would have pleased me more than to see all 26 of us walk out that door together to end as one team what has been a graceful 4-year service to our fatherland,” he noted.