By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Comrade Peter Akpatason is the Deputy Leader of the House of Representatives. He represents Akoko-Edo Federal Constituency of Edo State. He speaks to Vanguard on the crisis rocking the state assembly and why the House of Representatives committee asked Governor Godwin Obaseki to issue a fresh proclamation letter to “properly” inaugurate the Edo State House of Assembly.
You supported the motion and the recommendations of the adhoc committee that investigated Edo House of Assembly crisis. What informed your decision?
The Edo State House of Assembly is said to have been inaugurated by the clerk of the House and the first video that I saw, which was widely circulated clearly shows that the inauguration took place at about 9:30 pm. Some of the people among the nine people inaugurated were not properly dressed and the tradition in the parliament is to be properly dressed. It is shameful for anybody in this country or anywhere in the world to say that he inaugurated a set of lawmakers in shorts, some in bathroom sleepers. Now after the said inauguration, four out of the nine claimed that they were conscripted, they were forced under gun to go to the assembly that night. They still maintained that it was done at night. The other 15 people have maintained till date that they were not informed and about 19 of them granted press interview asking the government to make a proclamation. If the proclamation was in existence, why was it not made available?
I am a parliamentarian, nobody forced me to come to the National Assembly. We all got information well ahead of time, that is the tradition. If somebody said that the law did not state that the time should be stated, where there is a lacuna in law, you fall back on precedence. This is the tradition anywhere in the world. You give a proclamation with date, time and venue and the people are given advanced information because the inauguration of the assembly is a major milestone. It happens once in four years. So, it comes with some ceremony with families, friends and well-wishers invited to grace the occasion and this is what is referred to as inauguration.
What happened in Edo State is short of every known attribute of inauguration. I think we should stop deceiving ourselves at some point. What is happening in Edo State now, as far as I am concerned, is a clear indication of lack of direction.
The people, who went to the hotel to hold a meeting— caucus meetings are allowed anywhere in the world. Those members-elect who were holding meetings and were brutalized, injured and hospitalized; I am surprised that Nigerians are not saying anything about them, nobody seems to be interested in that.
Some people would come and say this is unconstitutional. What is unconstitutional? The only thing that is unconstitutional is holding a purported inauguration at late hour and getting people who were unprepared for it, forced them to go there, whereas a vast majority of the people were kept out, that is the only thing that is unconstitutional.
Why do you think the House took the decision to ask the DSS director, IG of police to shutdown the place?
Several recommendations were made. Number one, they urged the governor of Edo state that in the interest of peaceful co-existence of the state to re-issue a fresh proclamation letter within one week in line with Section 105, sub section 3 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended stating the date, time and venue of the inauguration and is to be published in any national daily newspaper and television station. These are the attributes of a good proclamation.
Two, that all actions taken by the seventh assembly members should be declared null and void pending proper inauguration. You cannot inaugurate two assemblies without first declaring the other one null and void. Do the right thing so that you can move on.
Thirdly, call on all members of the Edo State House of Assembly to dissolve their factions in the interest of peace and stability of the house with the view of moving forward. Except anybody is deceiving himself, there are two factions. Is that going to help Edo State? Is it helping Edo State at the moment?
It pains me that people have decided to associate with blocs and use such platforms to achieve the evil that they have been planning that they have not been able to do for a very long time. You see E-characters insulting Obaseki and Oshiomole as if there is nothing good about him. It is shameful but because there are factions, that is why and this recommendation is saying dissolve those factions in the interest of peace and stability, then you all come together as one with a new proclamation, in Benin, if anybody is interested in influencing lawmakers, go and canvass them, get them inaugurated.
I don’t see an assembly that would be inaugurated and the next thing is to impeach the president or the governor, the people must be crazy. It has not happened anywhere and there is no reason anybody should be afraid of that happening except there is something that we don’t know yet.
Does the House of Representatives have the powers and rights to declare null and void all the actions taken previously by these lawmakers outside the courts?
If a proclamation is not properly done, it means that whatever rests on that proclamation is null and void. It is common sense and it is also law. You cannot build something on nothing. So, it is obvious to every discerning mind except you just want to politicize reality and facts. The fact of the matter declares it null and void not the House of Representatives. We just stated the fact as they were that it has never happened in Nigeria that people wear shorts to go for inauguration, that inauguration is done at night. The constitution empowers the House to do everything that is recommended here.
But take note it is not stated anywhere in this document that you go and take over that place, no. It says in recommendations 1, 2 and 3 that if all these fail you talk about 4 and 5. So I don’t understand why people have failed to look at these recommendations comprehensively rather than just pick an aspect of it and refer it out of context.That is what is going on because of vested interest, because people have seen what is happening in Edo State as the newest industry in Nigeria where people are reaping bountifully.
How do you mean “newest industry”?
We said something about faction now, we talked about people who have taken over the cyber space firing from all cylinders either for or against a group, do they do it for free, some of them were jobless. They just found a new job, that is why this issue is very difficult to resolve. It is just like kidnapping in this country. It has become an industry, people are making money, you cannot persuade them, pastors cannot persuade them to stop neither can imams except you use the constitution and some amount of deterrence. The recommendation of the House is to make that industry nonlucrative for the actors there.
Most Nigerians believe that crisis is as a result of the feud between Governor Gowin Obaseki and his predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole, the APC National Chairman?
Principally, my understanding of the genesis of this whole thing is the activity of people who felt that the governor at some point is not ready to deal with them because of what he considered in his own opinion to be unnecessary for the system. Most of them who are singing the praises of whatever were people who started the crisis itself by attacking Governor Obaseki that he was not servicing them and at some point they became out of job and because they are very experienced politicians, whether for the mischief in it or for positive reasons, they used their vantage position to fuel crisis by telling lies, by blackmailing people and misleading those they can mislead, getting them to believe that certain people are after them and the moment they believe they take arm. The worse thing that would happen to a man is to be in leadership position and you are surrounded by merchants of evil who are ready to poison your mind to promote disunity and crisis that they can make their money from that is what is happening right now in Edo state, basically.
There are some of them who feel they were going into political oblivion and they felt the way to hang on is to either deceive the government house, Benin or to use the social media to pollute the air in Edo political space so that the major actors would be at conflict and they can now attach themselves to camps and begin to make money and all of that or get back their relevance that they were already losing.
Some people also think this whole episode is about the re-election bid of the governor. Do you subscribe to that?
That is the easiest way to deceive them, to make them believe that those are the good people behind them. If a man is sick and he is on life support and someone tells him that someone is coming to take away the life support, what do you think he will do?
If all the recommendations of the House of Representatives fail and it eventually assumes the functions of the Edo Assembly, do you think that would solve the problem?
That recommendation is not to take over and go and run legislative activities in Edo state. It ia to seek amicable solutions to the issues and quickly restore normalcy in that place and let them go on and it has been done in so many places in the past. I don’t know Edo state case is different and people are shouting here and there. People condemn recommendations without relating them to history not even to the laws. It says where recommendations 1, 2 and 3 fails, the National Assembly, not House of Representatives, should invoke section 11, subsection 4. What is unconstitutional in this?
Can the Senate upturn the recommendations of the House or have you sought for concurrence?
It has never happened in the past and not even when the facts are so glaring. So I assure you it will not happen.
Earlier, you talked about factions. What faction do you belong?
I don’t want to associate myself with any faction. I also don’t want to believe that Adams Oshiomole is fighting anybody because I have not heard him say any anything. I have not read it in the papers, in the social media or anywhere. I am not jobless so I am not looking for anything from somebody’s table but I am a core Oshiomole supporter, anytime, any day.