By Simon EBEGBULEM,Benin City
THE battle for the political soul of Edo State between Governor Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Chief Tony Anenih moved to the State House Assembly last Monday and as at the time of writing this report, Oshiomholeâ€™s troops seemedÂ to have won and taken the spoils of war- the position of the Speaker of the State House Assembly.
Before the battle of Wednesday, there was no Sabre rattling from both camps . The plot to remove the speaker was only known to the executioners.Â Another major difference was that the battle was fought through proxies- Both Oshiomhole and Anenih were not in Edo State but their foot soldiers fought a bloody battle for the speakerâ€™s position that saw the emergence ofÂ Bright OmokhodionÂ Â as Speaker .
He was endorsed byÂ the 13 AC lawmakers, after they claimed that 16 members signed the impeachment notice against the former Speaker Zakawanu Garuba.Â Observers said that the determined move to remove the speakerÂ Â suggested that it wasÂ the final phase of the battle to eraseÂ Chief Anenihâ€™s dominance of Edo StateÂ Â Â politics .
The fracas started at the hallowed chambers of the Assembly when the formerÂ Speaker Zakawanu said that all that was read by the Clerk of the House, Bar. Egbe Evbuomwan was a true reflection of what transpired in their last proceedings and that they should proceed to the next item on the list, which was adjournment. Unknown to the speakerÂ , a PDP lawmaker, Bright Omokhodion had planned to announce his defection to the AC, which will raise the number of AC legislators to 13 and decrease PDPâ€™S to 11.
Sensing what was about to happen, the former speaker refused to recognize OmokhodionÂ Â ZakawanuÂ Â Piqued by this, Omokhodion, and other AC members insisted they must continue proceeding and that besides, they hadÂ observations to make on the votes and proceedings that wereÂ read. The session became rowdy as Kabiru Adjoto (Akoko Edo constituency 1), went straight for the mace and in order to protect the Speaker and the mace, Frank Okiye and Blessing Aigbebakun brought out tear canister and a short axe respectively and went for the kill.
Agbebakun went for Shuaibu Philip who wasÂ the leading protagonist in the quest for a change inÂ leadership of the House. Shuaibu, Johnson Oghuma and Adjoto received cuts from the axe. The glass door leading to the hallowed chambers was destroyed while blood flowed freely. The AC members engaged the PDP lawmakers in a free for all fight. After the fight, Zakawanu led his men out of the chambers, having adjourned proceedings. But following the defection ofÂ Bright Omokhidion to the AC, the party enjoying a majorityÂ continued proceedings.
Omokhodionâ€™s defection now gave AC 13 member majority while PDP now has 11.Â Giving reasons for dumping the PDP, Omokhodion asserted that â€œthe ideological reasons that have attracted some us to join the PDP have long outlived its usefulness. I belong to a party that has been attacked by a virus of division, a virus that refused to heal. All attempts to heal the wings of division in the PDP in Edo stateÂ haveÂ not yielded any effort.
Today the party is fictionalized.Â Â Since 2007 when the Senator Oserhiemen Osunbor administration come into power, it has been one problemÂ or the other
For the PDP. The cabal that brought division to PDP, today sit at the right hand of the â€œultimate leaderâ€ directing the affairs of the party. And you know that the House that is divided against it self cannot stand.
The members of the party do not even know who their leaders are. In the last elections it wasÂ obvious that even members of the party started working against themselves leading to irreversible electoral misfortune and today the party is a shadow of itself. All their attempt to set up a reconciliation committee has met with monumental disaster.
Today, since the center cannot hold in PDP, it is most unfortunate that I can no longer be in the party but join the comrade Governor who is focused in his determination to move the state forward in the Action Congressâ€. Peter Aliu, the Acting Speaker received him into the party. After the AC lawmakers concluded proceedings, they adjourned till Tuesday.
However, they met a brick wall when they returned on Tuesday as over three thousand policemen sealed off the Assembly gate. But Aliu and twelve other lawmakers came with a court order which restrained the police from taking over the Assembly and also stopped Zakawanu from parading himself as Speaker. The suit was filed in the High Court in the state.
The police led by the Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, Clement Adoda, informed the lawmakers that he was yet to receive orders from above. The AC lawmakers waited patiently. But the atmosphere became charged when their supporters warned that theyÂ may force the place open and were ready to confront the armed mobile police men if the place wasÂ not opened for the lawmakers.
Tension further heightenedÂ Â when some armed thugs started shooting in anÂ area close to the Benin Central Hospital . The thugs were alleged to be supporters of the PDP. Irked by the gun shot, the over three thousand AC supporters that kept vigil at the gate of the Assembly, pursued the PDP supporters and there was sporadic gun shot in the area
People ran helter-skelter for their dear lives. Journalist took to their heelsÂ . Two persons were caught by the angry AC supporters and they were beaten to a pulp.
Finally, the police later got instruction from above to open the Assembly gate at about 2:30pm. The 13 lawmakers went straight to business and unanimously elected right Bright Omokhodion as the new Speaker. Paul Ohonbanmu and Philip Shauibu as Deputy Speaker and Leader of the House respectively.
Frank Okiye, Blessing Aigbaku, and Zakawanu Garuba were all suspended. Blessing and Okiye wereÂ accused ofÂ bringingÂ Â arms into the House. A three manÂ committee was set up to investigate the allegations against the suspended members and report back to the House next Monday.
All the pending bills that the PDP lawmakers have been flexing muscles with the Executive over were passed by the lawmakers. The House consequently approved the members of the Universal Basic Education Board (UBE), approved the three Commissioner nominees, Dr Cordelia Aiyowieren, Barr, Anslem Ojezua and Barr.
Lucas Okojie. Other decisions taken by House included the dissolution of the state House of Assembly Service Commission, confirmation of the suspension ofÂ the chairmen of Orhiomwon (Patrick Aisien) and Akoko Edo (Chief Johnson Emeasalu) by Governor Adams Oshiomhole.
The House also dissolved the Edo state Oil and Gas Development Commission (EDSOPADEC) and urged the Governor not to pay any form of compensation to the members as the Commission has been dissolved officially. Confirming the names of the UBE members submitted by the Governor, Shuaibu lamented that â€œour students have suffered due to the failure of the House to approve the members earlier.
The only way we can move forward as a people is to ensure that we think about the interest of the generality of the people of Edo state rather than our selfish interestâ€. Garuba who reacted to the Swearing in of Omokhodion as the Speaker of the House, by the Clerk of the House, Barr.Egbe Evbuomwan, described it as illegal, insisting that â€œI am still the Speaker of the House. We only adjourned to allow the on going job at the complex embarked upon by the state government.
Those people are rascals; you cannot impeach a Speaker with 13 persons. Right now, my house is on fire and thugs are all over the place they want to burn down my cars. This is the height of recklessness and irresponsibility. You can only fill the office of the Speaker when there is vacancy.
There is no vacancy in the office of the Speaker, I remain the Speaker of the Edo state House of Assemblyâ€ he declared. Reacting to newsmen the PDP boss in the state, Chief Orbih, said that â€œ politicians should learn to be tolerantÂ if the PDP did what the AC and Oshiomhole are doing today, there will be no AC in this state today.
I am disappointed at the comment of the Governor in Abuja yesterday when heÂ talkedÂ about the PDP. I expected the Governor to distance himself from the politics of the Assembly. this is not the time you say you belong to any particular party.
An apostle of one man one vote should allow every vote to count in Edo state House of Assembly.as at today, the only person that can make pronouncement in that House is Garuba. Omokhidion was suspended because it is in the law that if you cross carpet as he did in this case your seat will be declared vacant what I expect him to do is to go to court to seek redress because one cannot undermine the pronouncement of the Speakerâ€ he stated.
But the Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Matters Mr Charles Idahosa and SSA on Parliamentary Matters and former Deputy Speaker of the House, Omo Ezomo, described the incident as democracy in practice. According Idahosa â€œit is an internal affair of the lawmakers to change their leadership any time they want.
Thank God the Governor is not even in town when this thing happened but you will see them running their mouth that it was the Governor who instigated itâ€. They had 16 signatories and that constitutes 2/3 of members. This is not the first time impeachment has happened in that House and I have been privileged to beÂ a member of that House and IÂ participated in some impeachment proceedings.Â .
So the moment a petition is presented before the House regarding malpractice and irregularities before the House, from that moment the Speaker steps down because he cannot be a judge in his own case.
They have to investigate the allegations and if thereafter the allegations are proven not o be true, he can come back as Speaker. So I think what happened last Monday followed the due process of the law and Zakawanu should accept itâ€ he stated.
But a former member of the House and also the immediate past state representative in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr Mathew Iduoriyekewnen, disagreed, saying that â€œ section 92 sub section c of the constitution, provides that a Speaker cannot be removed with less than 2/3 members. Agreed that one PDP member defected but they are just 13 members.
You are aware that they forged the signatures of three members of the House Segun Saiki,Dr Israel Aguele and Patrick Aisowieren and these people have come out to say soâ€. Reacting also, the Chairman of the PDP in the state, Chief Dan Orbih, described the situation as shameful.