By Josef Omorotionmwan
SOLO:I heartily congratulate the APC on a most successful National Convention, which culminated in the election of Chief John Odigie Oyegun as the party’s First Citizen. Bravo! A better choice, none could be! APC is now set to make history.
Mac: I join in congratulating the party and the newly elected officers. I was just thinking that we should invite Professor Godfrey to come and organise a refresher course on Pol. Science 101 so that we can be reminded of the rudiments of representative democracy. Our legislators ought to know that they are there to represent us because it is practically impossible for all of us to be there at the same time.
Solo: You are damn right! They must be told that the fat salaries and the sundry allowances they collect belong to us. Whatever they get must be kept in trust for us.
Mac: Well, that argument is right only for strict constructionists. To the extent that we all have our different callings where we earn a living, we should allow them to keep their salaries and allowances. After all, the labourer is deserving of his wage. Besides, he is entitled to all those summer trips abroad along with the “man-no-be-wood” fringe benefits.
Again, we must constantly remember that every occupation has its hazards that must be borne by those engaged therein, which cannot be shared by those outside. With the chamber of the legislative assembly virtually becoming a boxing arena, we cannot easily rule out the possibility of a member coming out any day with a broken head from a flying maze. And there is always the threat of Boko Haram invasion. In the event of such an invasion, the legislator can only count himself lucky if he is taken to a faraway evil forest and not killed outright. These are risks that cannot be shared with anybody.
Solo: OK. The points have been well canvassed and properly articulated. But where does this leave us with the purchase price of the defecting members? Should they also keep that?
Mac: Emm… We are not unmindful of the obvious fact that the legislator is expected to look continually to the people who elected him; to speak to their convictions and uncertainties; to protect their interests; and to defend his actions before them. To the extent that in a marriage situation, the bride price is paid to the family instead of the bride, the purchase price of a decamping legislator must be eaten by the generality of the electorate.
Strangely enough, these things are not hidden anymore, thanks to our electronic age. In the particular case of the “Edo Four”, Comrade announced that each of them got N50 million from the federal might. Did they quite deny this? They only spoke in a tone that suggested that Comrade was offering them N30 million not to go. This Comrade must be tight-fisted. He must have some glue in those palms. How could he be offering N30 million to people who were already on display for N50 million? All the same, the “commodities” did not say what would have happened had Comrade upped his offer to say N60 million. Who can really out-give the federal might? We hear they are gearing up to offer more than N200 million as 2015 gathers momentum. Is this the type of money we are expecting those blokes to chop alone? The money must be brought home before it begins to purge them.
Solo: And whether we like it or not, that money is already becoming stale. In the next few months, those guys are unlikely to be flamboyant in their expenditure patterns since their purchase prices are already commonplace. They will recoil into their shells.
Mac: Did those decampees really need to rush to the court to prevent their seats from being declared vacant? They perhaps concentrated their attention on Section 109(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution, which stipulates that a member shall vacate his seat if he decamps from the political party that sponsored his election.
The framers of the Constitution realised that a member could be thoroughly oppressed and he would have no choice but to remain in the party. Beyond this point, a continued stay in the party would be nothing short of slavery, hence they provided that the member may not vacate his seat if his departure is as a result of a rift in his former party.
It is an established fact that the APC in Edo State has been factionalised beyond measure for some time now. Ideally, no one wants to leave a house in which he is comfortable. From a distance, it is clear that the “Edo Four” lost their comfort in that Assembly since the days of the turbulent debates on the Property Tax Bill. They had been mere hangers-on. That’s why the court had no problem in granting their request. They were granted an empty power, the power they already had.
Solo: The court ruling did not, however, buy them the right to behave in any way that is unbecoming of Honourable members. If they did, the House would deal with them with its Rules and there is hardly anything the court can do about that. That’s where we are now.
Mac: Come to think of it, we are faced with more questions than answers. Have these members really decamped from the APC? It appears to me that they have merely given notice of their intention to decamp. These are people who came into the party individually. At registration, they made individual applications on the basis of which they were admitted and given personalised membership slips. What justification do they have to form themselves into a trade union at the exit point?
Essentially, all those motions about: “We are fed up with the APC and we must move en-masse to the PDP… Those of the opinion say Aye, contrary say Nay” are motionless motions. They are, therefore, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever. I beg to move.