By Emmanuel Aziken
The quest by different po-litical power blocks in Edo State to represent the state on the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is again highlighting the fractious disposition of the political class in the State.
The original nominee of the President into the board that was recently inaugurated, Mr. Jude Ise-Idehen was rejected by the Senate upon the strong opposition of Senator Ehigie Uzamere (PDP, Edo South).
Ise-Idehen who is a serving member of the State House of Assembly was rejected by the Senate upon constitutional provisions barring elected public officials from drawing salaries from two positions. The argument for his rejection was also articulated by Senator Kanti Bello, the Senate Chief Whip who noted section 109 of the constitution which he said provided that a member of a House of Assembly shall vacate his seat if he is inaugurated as a member of a commission.
But beneath the constitutional points articulated by the Senators was the war among the three Edo Senators and the larger polity in the State over the nomination of Mr. IseIdehen.
A member of the Action Congress caucus in the state House of Assembly, the nominee was endorsed by Governor Adams Oshiomhole following President Umaru Yarâ€˜Aduaâ€™s directive that serving governors should nominate members of the NDDC to represent their States. While the directive caused little problem in many of the PDP controlled States under the purview of the NDDC it was, however, different in the States not controlled by the PDP. Edo, Ondo, Abia and Imo States were the States at that time that were outside the gubernatorial control of the PDP.
With the exception of Abia where Senator Uche Chukwumerije flies the banner of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), the other Senators from the four States are remarkably members of the PDP.
The PDP Senators saw the presidential directive as a way of empowering their political enemies and weakening the position of the PDP in the various States.
All three Senators from Edo State initially joined the decision to oppose Mr. Ise-Idehen. However, two of the Senators Yisa Braimoh and Odion Ugbesia, both very close confidantes of the political leader of the PDP in the State, Chief Tony Anenih later withdrew their opposition in a move that Senator Uzamere told his colleagues on the Senate floor embarrassed him.
â€œThis decision was taken in the house of Senator Odion Ugbesia and thereafter we agreed that we must meet with (Senators from) the other three states to take a common stand and the States are as follows, Ondo, Abia and Imo.â€
â€œSurprisingly, Mr. President my two colleagues wrote to the committee on Niger Delta without my knowledge, without my consultation. But Mr. President, they said a caucus of Edo State (supported the nomination) but how can you have a caucus without the member from Edo South which is the majority,â€ Uzamere said during the Senate debate on the confirmation of the NDDC nominees on July 29, 2009.
The withdrawal of the opposition of the two Senators it was learnt may have followed a quiet understanding between Governor Oshiomhole and Chief Anenih. It was alleged at that time that Oshiomhole could be on his way to the PDP.
That suggestion was not too difficult to believe in the light of what some have alleged to be Chief Anenihâ€™s role in helping the emergence of Oshiomhole during the struggle that saw Oshiomhole fight for his mandate with Anenihâ€™s then estranged political godson, Prof. Osherienmen Osunbor.
In defending their somersault, the duo of Ugbesia and Braimoh told the Senate that they were inspired by directives from party elders in changing their stance on the nomination of Ise-Idehen.
â€œIt is true that I had reservations and based on that the three of us met and we said we should communicate our reservations to the leadership of the party which we did,â€ Ugbesia told the Senate.
â€œI was properly consulted, I was fully briefed on how the decision was taken that it was taken by the President that governors should nominate the commissioner and as a law abiding citizen and as a faithful party member, I have since changed my position on this matter and endorsed this candidate without reservation.â€
Senator Braimoh echoed the words of Senator Ugbesia adding that Ise-Idehen was a fit and proper person to serve on the NDDC board.
In a rare decision the Senate was to overlook its own tradition of backing whatever decision was adopted by the majority of Senators from a State.
That decision followed the decision of the Senate President to uphold the submissions of Kanti Bello and Ekweremadu on Ise-Idehenâ€™s illegibility for the position.
The Senate decision was at that time largely believed to be detrimental to Senator Uzamereâ€™s political future on the ground that he had openly disagreed with and defeated Chief Anenihâ€™s mission.
He insinuated as such in his comment during the debate that day:
â€œI want to stand as a man of integrity, a man of honour, I want to be remembered in this sixth Senate.Â I may not come back in 2011 but I want to make a statement that if I stand by you Mr. President, I remain with you.Â I cannot eat with both sides of my mouth,â€ Uzamere said.
His argument wasÂ that his senatorial district which is the only one that produces oil in the State stood much to gain as it would be directly affected by the actions of whosoever is confirmed as the representative to the NDDC board.
The point of divergence between Senator UzamereÂ and the duo of Senators Ugbesia and Braimoh was essentially believed to be the working agreement between Chief Anenih and Oshiomhole to work together. However, whatever agreement the two men may have had is today in tatters with both camps in open conflict.
Of recent, Oshiomhole has been denouncing the politics of Chief Anenih, using unusually harsh words to demonise the veteran politician who remains respected among his sizeable followers in the Heartbeat State.
It is no surprise today that both Senators Ugbesia and Braimoh might be regretting their decision toÂ support the Oshiomhole endorsed NDDC nominee, Hon. Ise-Idehen.
However, his nomination has now been effectively buried with the nomination of a fresh candidate to replace him.
The new nominee is Donald Igiede Omorodion, who by several accounts was also presented by Governor Oshiomhole for nomination.
Besides being an associate of Governor Oshiomhole, little is known of the new nominee who is now placed as a pawn in a battle for political wits within and outside the Senate chambers.
In proposing the new nominee, President Yarâ€˜Adua in the letter to the President of the Senate dated November 18, 2009 said:
â€œYou may wish to recall that in your letter NASS/CS/R/04/65 of 30th July 2009 conveying the confirmation of nominees for appointment as Chairman and Members of the Governing Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, the nomination of Hon. Jude I. Ise-Idehen earlier submitted as a part-time member representing Edo State in the Niger Delta Development Commission was not confirmed.â€
â€œI am therefore, presenting Mr. Donald Igiede Omorodion, whose Curriculum Vitae is attached herewith, as a replacement for Hon. JudeI. Ise-Idehen.
â€œIn line with the provision of Section 2(2)(a) of the NDDC Act, 2000, I hereby present the nominee for confirmation by the Senate in consultation with the House of Representatives.â€
â€œWhile hoping that the exercise will receive the usual expeditious consideration and passage by the Distinguished Senators, please accept, Mr. Senate President, the assurances of my highest consideration.â€
Remarkably though the letter was dated November 18, 2009 it was not disclosed until December 10, 2009, a delay that immediately set tongues on fire as to a conspiracy.
Why was the letter delayed for several days despite the fact that the Senate sat for some days within the period is a poser that immediately came to mind?
Considering the fact that Oshiomhole is believed to have been the brain behind the nomination it would be hardly surprising for the nomination to be supported by Senators Ugbesia and Braimoh.
Heads are now looking up to Senator Uzamere as to whether he would join in opposing the nomination or go along with the ongoing political currents in his own senatorial constituency that has increasingly seen support drift from the PDP to Oshiomoholeâ€™s AC?