In about two weeks, the 8th Assembly of the Rivers State House of Assembly will be constituted just like others across the country. The All Progressives Congress, APC, is currently challenging the outcome of the April 11 governorship and state assembly election result at the tribunal in Abuja and is hopeful that it will be victorious at the end of the day. But till then, legislative activities must go on in the state as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not give room for vacancy.
It is not just the constitution of the 8th Assembly; it will also mark the reopening of the assembly complex which was shut down since July 10, 2013 by then commissioner of police in the state, Mbu Joseph Mbu.
Checks by Friday Magazine showed that renovation work has already started at the complex which has been overgrown by weeds. Just as the lawmakers are eager to occupy the hallowed chambers, which is adjudged the best in the country, one critical issue is at stake – the speakership.
Those elected as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in the state, include; Marshall Ogeyoony Stanley-Uwom (Abua/Odual), Okpokiri Nwanaka Okpokiri (Ahoada West), Jack Major M (Akuku Toru I), Tonye Awari Alalibo (Akuku Toru II), Ikunyi-Owaji Ibani (Andoni), Granville Tekenari Wellington (Asari Toru I), Enemi Alabo George (Asari Toru II), Abinye Blessing Pepple (Bonny), Dagogo Doctor Farah (Degema), Hon Josiah John Olu (Eleme), Ngbulelo Lebura Israel (Gokana).
Others are; Ogeguo Anselm M. (Ikwerre), Deeyah Bariene (Khana I), Dinebari Loolo (Khana II), Hon Amaewhule Martin Chike (Obio/Akpor I), Hon. Michael Okechukwu Chinda (Obio/Akpor II), Christian Ahiakwo (ONELGA I), Hon Evans Bapakaye Bipi (Ogu/Bolo), Dabotorudima Adams (Okrika), Hon Kelechi Godspower Nwogu (Omuma), Chisom Promise Dike (Oyigbo), Hon Ogbonda Jones Nwene (Port Harcourt I), Adoki Tonye Smart (Port Harcourt II), Hon Ihunwo Victor Nyeche (Port Harcourt III), and Ngar Sylvester Amuele (Tai).
Rivers State has three senatorial districts, Rivers West, Rivers East and Rivers South East. Rivers West and Rivers East have produced speakers in the persons of Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (1999-2007) and late Rt Hon Tonye Harry (2007-2011) and current speaker, Rt Hon Otelemaba Dan-Amachree (2011 to 2015).
Going by the zoning arrangement, it becomes natural that the new speaker will come from Rivers South East. Apart from the zoning calculations, the governor-elect, Barr Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike is also from the Rivers East senatorial district.
Recall that before the July 9 and 10, 2013 when the disagreement in the Rivers State House of Assembly climaxed into a full blown crisis, the lawmakers had already been divided alongside Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and Wike. While the governor had majority of the lawmakers, those on Wike’s side, popularly known as five fingers included; Hon Victor Ihunwo, Hon. Michael Okechukwu Chinda, Hon Martin Amaewhule Chike, Hon Godpower Nwogu and Hon Evans Bipi and were elected under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The sixth person, Hon. Ikunyi Ibani, also elected under the platform of the PDP later joined the group due to his recurring disagreements with the speaker, and until he appeared on Rhythm 93.7 current affairs programme, Viewpoint, not many knew his intension as he was absent on the sitting day the crisis broke out.
Incidentally, these six are the only returnee lawmakers, apart from Hon Josiah John Olu (Eleme), who is a returnee under the platform of the APC and should therefore qualify to vie for the speakership because of experience.
But there is currently brewing tension on who wears the wig and seat on the exalted chair of the hallowed chambers. Hon Victor Ihunwo, Hon. Michael Okechukwu Chinda, Hon Martin Amaewhule Chike, Hon Godspower Nwogu and Hon Evans Bipi, all come from the same senatorial district with Wike (Rivers East), thus giving way for Hon Ikunyi Ibani to become the next speaker.
However, Hon Evans Bipi is the self-acclaimed speaker after he was elected by the other five and has since then addressed himself as one. Not only has he got his eyes on the speaker, he is a personal assistant to Nigeria’s First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan and therefore has her backing.
Many believe that both Wike and the deputy governor-elect, Dr Ipalibo Banigo were picked by Dame Jonathan and as such the First Lady could have some level of control over them, including picking Bipi as the speaker.
Already, some analysts are of the view that there may likely be disagreement between the Wike and Dame Jonathan if he (Wike) does not dance to the tune of the First Lady. But between Bipi and Ibani, the latter is also more intelligent and has the carriage of a possible speaker. Ibani also has the backing of Prince Uche Secondus, the Deputy National Chairman of the PDP.
Will Wike bow to pressure and allow Bipi become the next speaker or insist on Ibani who is more qualified? Rivers people are watching with keen interest.

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