By Tonnie Iredia
It was quite disheartening to hear the news last Tuesday that legislators in the Edo State House of Assembly resorted to fighting as a means of conflict resolution as their colleagues in Nasarawa State did last month. The issue at stake in the Edo legislature was the removal of the speaker and his deputy. According to reports, 16 out of 24 members of the House wanted the change, but curiously such a majority could not peacefully have its way. Instead, hoodlums who were on standby released gunshots as an institutional statement.
The ‘change agents’ had accused their speaker of financial recklessness adding that he had several cases at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). It is interesting that the lawmakers found their speaker guilty without trial thereby ignoring the constitutional provision which regards every accused person as innocent until proven otherwise. Surprisingly, after finding the speaker guilty and had imposed a punishment of removal from office, the accusers set up a 5-man committee to investigate their charges. This makes their claims suspect thereby encouraging different versions of the lawmakers’ motivations. While one story attributes the squabble to some monies allegedly given by the former local government chairmen, who wanted their tenure extended, another version says the ousted Speaker had fallen apart with the powerful faction of his party ahead of the governorship election in the state.
So, what would the lawmakers do if at the end of the investigation, the speaker is not found guilty or indeed if the EFCC clears him? Such a situation of unsubstantiated charges happens often among Nigerian politicians. Two quick examples will do. First, in 2007, members of the House of Representatives removed their speaker, Mrs. Patricia Etteh on the same grounds of financial recklessness. At the end of the life span of the House, the accusers told the nation that their charges against the lady were fabricated.
Second, in 2013, the Imo State, Deputy Governor, Jude Agbaso was impeached by the State House of Assembly only for the EFCC to ‘pooh-pooh’ the charges against the man. Thus, if the current Edo crisis is essentially political rascality, it is condemnable more so if it was part of a general design as canvassed by some politicians to disable Dr Pius Odubu, the State Deputy Governor and his supporters. Only a few days earlier, Odubu faced an alleged assassination attempt at a rally in Auchi where he had gone to canvass for votes from delegates in the area for the forthcoming governorship primaries of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).
This viewpoint of Odubu’s camp appears cogent when placed side by side with that of the anti Odubu camp that is said to have the Comrade Governor’s support and which issued an official statement that the hoodlums that disrupted the Auchi rally belong to Odubu. We are not as unsettled with this suicidal argument which suggests that Odubu planned to kill himself, as we are with the reality that hoodlums in the state are officially identifiable by factional leadership and that government knows the sponsors of each of them.
Edo State with its unique attribute of several groupings that have a common ancestor ought not to descend into fratricidal killings for political gains. It is in earnest heartwarming that the Edo State born Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase has taken over the investigation of the Auchi attack. But then, the post mortem security design of unraveling those behind such attacks is not as helpful to society as the prevention of avoidable deaths. Edo Police Commissioner, Chris Ezike, who has had a good outing so far, should hereafter get the police and all other security agencies to collaborate on intelligence gathering that can beat criminals to their game
On its part, the present state government needs to use its might and wisdom to arrest the trend whereby certain persons in the state have in the last couple of years developed the guts to disrupt other peoples’ activities. Some are known to have the power to move into any person’s land and forcefully stop him from any development on a land for which he has legal ownership until a fee is paid to the trespassers. Others collect tolls here and there while a large number is ever available to intervene in any political venture as the state witnessed last week when factions in support or against the speaker of the House of Assembly desecrated the Hallowed Chambers of the state legislature. So far, all the tension is coming from the APC, only God knows how the state will fare if the opposition adds its own.
We are therefore constrained to call on Governor Adams Oshiomhole to write his name in gold by bringing an end to this lucrative source of tension in the state. As perhaps the first and only state governor to increase the minimum wage in this hard period of economic recession, he is well positioned to drastically reduce unemployment which as a veteran labour leader he knows can oil hooliganism. In addition, because Edo was a peaceful state when he became its governor some 8years ago, Adams is obliged to ensure that he does not at the end of his tenure, live the state in a worse situation
Edo people by nature are generally law-abiding and hardworking. Once they are gainfully employed, crime will reduce and the state will enjoy growth and prosperity. That is what we all desire. Accordingly, leaders of political factions should halt their penchant to recruit and financially mobilize political thugs to disrupt the activities of their opponents. Here, we commend the open condemnation of the Auchi attack by aspirant Godwin Obaseki and call on all his colleagues to be similarly disposed.
An enlightened and monolithic state like Edo does not deserve political violence. Unlike some other states in the country and indeed many in the south-south geo-political zone, where by convention, some citizens must die to enable their political leaders win elections, Edo must prohibit and disallow violence and anarchy. It is a duty that all political enthusiasts, party executives, aspirants and candidates owe to posterity.