By Simon Ebegbulem
Respite came the way of the oil producing communities in Edo state last Wednesday, when the Senate confirmed the nominee of Governor Adams Oshiomhole as a member ofÂ the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to the chargin of the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Chief Tony Anenih.
The confirmation of Mr Donald Osakpolo Igiede Omorodion by the Senate is another major political victory for Oshiomhole who has been battling against the political prowess of Chief Anenih both in the state and at the national level.
Prior to the senateâ€™s decision, the people of the oil producing communities suffered untold hardship due to the delay of the senate to confirm the Governorâ€™s nominee because of the crisis between the later and Chief Anenih. Apart from the NDDC, oil producing communities in the state are also suffering due to the sack of former members of the Edo State Oil and Gas Development Commission (EDSOPADEC) by Governor Oshiomhole. The Board was put in place by the administration of Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor.
The members went to the High Court in Benin and the judgment was in their favour but the state government through the Attorney General of the state, Dr Osagie Obayuwana declared that the state government rejected the judgment and would contest the judgment at the Appellate court and until the matter is determined at that level, the battle is still not over.
Three Local Government Councils of Orhionmwon, Ikpoba Okhai and Ovia North East produces oil in the state.
It would be recalled that President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua had agreed to allow governors from the noneÂ PDP states in the Niger Delta to produce the state representatives in the NDDC after the governors led by Oshiomhole informed the President that the NDDC projects in their areas would be better handled if the governors have a say on who becomes the NDDC representativeÂ even though they are not PDP governors. Other governors that met with the President included Theodore Orji (Abia) and Ikedioha Ohakim (Imo), though Ohakim later defected to the PDP.
Following the decision by the President to allow the governors producethe NDDC representatives, Governor Oshiomhole nominated one of the Action Congress (AC) members in the state House of Assembly, Mr Jude Ise-Idehen. This was early last year when the father and son relationship between Governor Oshiomhole and Chief Anenih existed.
Consequently, Anenih asked the three PDP senators from the state to give Oshiomholeâ€™s candidate the needed support in the senate so that he could be able to scale through the senate screening. Senators Yisa Braimoh (Edo North) and Odion Ugbesia (Edo Central) agreed to support Ise_Idehen but Ehigie Uzamere (Edo South) disagreed with them, wondering why he would support the Governorâ€™s candidate when he is obviously an AC member.
Saturday Vanguard learnt that Uzamere who is from the district that produces the oil in the state got the backing of some powerful Edo South leaders who were in the PDP to stop Oshimholeâ€™s nominee. This did not go down well with Chief Anenih who insisted that they must support Ise-Idehen. But Uzamere vowed to defy him, saying that he listens to leaders from his Bini speaking area and not an individual. That was how he became a dissident in Anenihâ€™s camp. Uzamere eventually defeated his two colleagues in the senate and the nomination of Ise-Idehen could not scale through.
The search for a fresh nominee continued.
After the senate rejected the Governorâ€™s first nominee, Oshiomhole presented Donald Omorodion to the senate. But as expected, the duo of Senators Ugbesia and Braimoh fired a petition against him before the senate committee on the Niger Delta headed by Senator James Manager. But this time around, Uzamere was there to defend Omorodion and he asked the committee to go ahead and clear Omorodion since the petitioners could not substantiate their allegations. This again pitched Uzamere against the wishes of Chief Anenih.
It was learnt that Uzamere preferred to work with Oshiomhole rather thanÂ Anenih who certainly will not want him to go back to the senate for a second term due to his rebellious attitude.
However, a close aide of Uzamere told Saturday Vanguard that â€œit is unfortunate that Uzamere is being crucified because he decided to support Oshiomholeâ€™s candidate. But when the father and son relationship (referring to when the going was good between Oshiomhole and Anenih) was on, the same Anenih supported Oshiomholeâ€™s candidate, but Uzamere as a loyal PDP man rejected Oshiomholeâ€™s candidate then. Now he decided to support Oshiomholeâ€™s candidate because he has to listen to his people from Edo South who voted him into the senate and not Anenih. Uzamere is not crazy about a second tenure but we believe that only the people of Edo South will decide that and not a single individualâ€.
Following the frosty relationship between Chief Anenih, Uzamere and the trio of Patrick Obahiagbon, Samson Osagie and Ehigie West-Idahosa, who are PDP members in the House of Representatives, the PDP leadership in Edo South where Uzamere and the House of Reps members hail from, summoned them to a meeting last weekend.Â Saturday Vanguard learnt that the lawmakers were asked to explain why they decided to support all the policies of Governor Adams Oshiomhole contrary to the stand of the party as an opposition party in the state.
Uzamere was particularly tackled on the issue of the nomination of the NDDC representative. Obahiagbon,West-Idahosa and Osagie were queried on why they voted against the resolution passed by the House of Representatives, which condemned the suspension ofÂ three Local Government Chairmen in the state by the Governor and the removal of the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr Zakawanu Garuba.
Saturday Vanguard learnt that after their sins were tabled before them, the lawmakers explained that they have been humiliated and alienated from several meetings called by the party and therefore, decided to pitch tenth somewhere else since they were no longer recognized by their party. They however informed the party leaders to give themÂ time to reflect on some of the issues discussed, as they will get back to the party leadership at a future date. Saturday Vanguard learnt that the party leadersÂ however appealed to them not to leave the party and assured that they will meet with Chief Anenih so as to see how they can settle their differences with the lawmakers.
But Uzamere went to floor of the senate last Tuesday, fought the duo of Ugbesia and Braimoh to ensure that Omorodion was cleared.
Oshiomhole who reacted to the confirmation at Government House, said it is sad that the road to the residence of Chief Tony Anenih in the village which is not an oil-producing community was tarred by the NDDC while the oil producing areas in the state have no good roads. According to the governor, now that the senators at the National Assembly have ratified the appointment of Mr. Don Omorodion from Ikpoba Okha, as the state nominee of the NDDC, the NDDC projects in the state will be refocused.
â€œI congratulate the Senate President, Hon. David Mark, and all the distinguished senators for insisting that what guides them is what is good for Nigerians regardless of political party affiliation,â€. He recalled that since late last year when the board of the NDDC was reconstituted, the commissioner representing Edo State was not approved because of the tussle between the â€œgodfatherâ€ who is not from an oil communityÂ and the forces of democracy in the state. He said, the â€œgodfatherâ€ tried to delay and prevent the nominee of the state government from being ratified but thank God the senate has done the right thing for our people.
Before this time, the people of Ovia North East Local Government Council had gone to court to contest the nomination of Omorodion, arguing that it is their turn to produce the next NDDC representative after Ikpoba Okhai and Orhiomwon had earlier produced. The immediate past NDDC representative, Mr Mathew Iduoriyekenwen is from Ikpoba Okhai.
Saturday Vanguard learnt that Iduoriyekenwen was also tipped by the PDP leadership to continue in the event of Omorodion failing the senate screening. In the suit number FHC/B/CS/34/2010, the people of the Ovia North East Local Council of the state, challenged the nomination ofÂ Donald Omorodion and narrated that while the case was being heard on the 1st of March, 2010, by Honourable Justice I.B.Gafai with the counsel to the senate in attendance, the senate committee on NDDC headed by Senator James Manager started the screening of Mr Omorodion who is the 10th defendant in the suit.
â€œWe are tempted to believe that the haste exhibited by the senate in the screening of Mr Donald soon after receiving the court processes suggests a hidden desire to circumvent the rule of law. We wish to caution the senate to tow the path of honour and suspend the screening and confirmation of the said nominee pending the determination of the case challenging his nominationâ€.
Also, a youth group in the state, South Youth Coalition (SSYC), urged the senate not to confirm Omorodionâ€™s nomination .But countering their claims, Rev. David Ugolor (Executive Director of the Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Dr Sam Igbineweka (Host Communities), Comrade Kaduna Eboigbe (Chairman Edo state NLC) and five others, stated that the nomination of Omorodion received the blessings of all civil society organizations because of their beliefÂ that he will give good representation to the state.