*As lawmakers fightÂ * PDP, AC trade blames
By SIMON EBEGBULEM
Benin City-The battle for the soul of Edo State takes a new dimension as the AC takes over the state AssemblyÂ Â after purportedly sacking the speaker.
The political tension in Edo State heightened, last Monday, following the fracas between 13 members of the Action Congress (AC) and 11 members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state House of Assembly. The incident caused pandemonium in the state.
Three AC lawmakers:Â Messrs Philip Shuaibu, Kabiru Adjoto and Johnson Oghuma, were seriously injured after a colleague allegedlyÂ used an axe on them during the fracas. It is only those who doÂ not know the charged political situationÂ that were not expecting what some persons described as political rascality and madness, that was exhibited at the state Assembly that day. Since after the AC won the House of Assembly re-run election in Etsako Central Local Government Council of the state, it became inevitable that they will gun for the speakership of the House since the state executive is being controlled by the AC.
And to further worsen the problem of Chief Tony Anenihâ€™s BoysÂ in the House, their fellow PDP member, Bright Omokhodion, decamped to the AC to give the party the majority in the House. Since the election in Etsako, the AC lawmakers have been canvassing for what happened in Ekiti where the PDP has the speaker due to the fact that they control the state government, to replicate in Edo. But PDP lawmakers disagreed, arguing that the speaker, Mr. Zakawanu Garuba, couldÂ only go if the AC is able to muscle 16 members to impeach him.
They insisted that Garuba couldÂ only be removed with the same 2/3rdÂ that is needed to impeach a governor. But their position did not go down well with the AC members, who were poised to take over the leadership of the House.
However, in order to thwart the plot by the AC to win some PDP members in the House to its side, which may give them the 2/3rd advantage to impeach the speaker, the leadership of the House, led byÂ Garuba, declared that the House would declare vacant the seat of any member that may decide to cross to another party.
Addressing the press on the issue, penultimate week, the then majority leader of the House, Frank Okiye, hadÂ alleged: â€œWeÂ uncovered plans by some leaders of the AC in collaboration with the state government to use money to induce some PDP members in a bid to join their party. Some of members have been harassed, intimidated and threatened because they want to get majority in the House by all means. We have text messages that were sent to our members to dump the PDP and collect specific amount of money. And it is against the law for any member to cross carpet and we will resist any attempt by the state government to do soâ€.
But, countering theÂ claims, the AC members, led by the then minority leader, Paul Ohuabanmu, described the allegations ofÂ decampment and plans to bribe some PDP lawmakers to defect to the AC as arrant nonsense. According to him, â€œyou cannot force a person to remain in a political party that he no longer believes in. As human beings, we have freedom of speech and association and if I say I no longer believe in the ideology of my party and decideÂ to move to another party, it is my right to do that. So, it is very wrong for the speaker to say that he will declare the seat of any member who decides to defect to the AC vacant.
That is legislative overzealousness. But we want to say that we will defend any of our members who decides to decamp to another party irrespective of the camp he belongs to. As lawmakers, we are not kids that you will say because you are the speaker, you will punish any member who decides to exercise his right of freedom.
That is rubbish and we will resist any attempt by Zakawanu and the PDP lawmakers to try that in the Houseâ€. Sunday Vanguard learnt that there would have been more casualties at the hallowed chambers of the Assembly if the AC lawmakers had known that their plan to take over the leadership of the House that very Monday had been leaked to their PDP colleagues, who allegedly now came prepared.
The AC onslaught was led by Shuaibu, who is a well known ally ofÂ Governor Adams Oshiomhole. But dismissing the allegation that the PDP lawmakers came into the hallowed chambers with arms, the immediate past state representative in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Mathew Iduoriyekenwen, who is a former member of the House, explained: â€œWhatÂ happened was that the AC members had planned that they were going to cause trouble, so our people noticed that they were carrying arms and disarmed them.
The PDP lawmakers are lawful people and we know that it is only Oshiomhole and his AC lawmakers that have been making trouble in this state because they want to get control of the treasury completelyâ€. However, the AC lawmakers resumed, on Tuesday, and elected Bright Omokhodion (Esan West) as the new speaker of the House. He was sworn in by the clerk of the House, Egbe Evbuomwan, at about 3:30p.m., onÂ Wednesday. Zakawanu, who addressed newsmen after the AC lawmakers concluded proceedings, described the impeachment as laughable, saying that heÂ remainedÂ the speaker of the House. â€œIt was not surprising that hoodlums came inside here to take control of the House. Nobody saw any impeachment notice.
I am still in charge, you can see that I am still in my office. We must bring order to this stateâ€. The PDP in the state, through its chairman, Chief Dan Orbih, described the action as â€œa failed coupâ€, saying, â€œThey needed 16 members to impeach the speaker but they were not able to get it and they decided to cause trouble in the state. Where did they get the mathematics that 13 is 16?Â The governor is just doing all he could to cause crisis in this state but we will not allow him. PDP ruled this state for over ten years, we enjoyed peace and the opposition was allowed to operate freely. He claims he stands for one man one vote but he is doing the opposite entirely.
I expected him to tell his boys in the House to look for 16 members before they could come up to say they have impeached the speaker. This is not democracy but democracy in Edo State. â€œThe state government, through the special adviser to the governor on political matters, Mr. Charles Idahosa, absolved the state government of complicity in the fracas, sayingÂ â€œit is an internal affair of the lawmakers to change their leadership any time they wantâ€. â€œThank 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€, he added.
However, after taking the oath of office, Omokhodion and his colleagues passed all the executive bills that the Garuba- led House refused to pass. The AC lawmakers also suspended Garuba, Agbebaku and Okiye. Agbebaku and Okiye were suspended for allegedly bringing arms into the hallowed chambers. A committee was set up to investigate the allegations against them and submit its report next week Monday.
Commenting on the leadership change in the House, Oshiomhole, who spoke on Igbinedion Television (ITV), Benin, Friday, stated, â€œI always want to mind my business because I am not a lawmaker; I am incharge of the executive. And, in a democracy, they have the right to change their leadership. But, all I want to say is that this has been the PDP way of politics. They always knowÂ how to plot against themselves.
Zakawanu has been part of the system and he has participated in the impeachment of other speakers in the state; so I do not think it is a new thing. All I know is that no one godfather can hold the state to ransom, our people are wiser now. We always have the law courts where you can go and seek redress if you feel you have been cheated. It has happened to me and that was how God gave me back my mandate after the PDP stole it. So, I am not surprised with what is happening, all I am saying is that we should all embrace peace. This state must move forward, we owe allegiance to the people of Edo State and not a godfatherâ€.
As things are now, Oshiomhole is in control of the legislative arm and the executive after his men fought the Anenih men head on. The battle for the soul of the Assembly may not be over yet but it is certain that the governor will only accept resolutions passed by the AC lawmakers.Â Sunday Vanguard learnt that the PDP lawmakers moved to Abuja shortly after the fracas to re-strategize and how they will react when they are back will determine the future of the PDP in the state. With the newÂ situation, the governor can comfortably dissolve the 18 local government councils in the state and that willÂ uproot the PDP totally at the grassroots.
They will have to prepare for the next general electionsÂ to be able to have the opportunity to bounce back. That is if they canÂ battleÂ Oshiomholeâ€™s men, now that he has built a political structure for himself in the three senatorial districts of the state.