By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, Niger Delta, Alemma-OzioruvaAliu, Benin City
UNQUESTIONABLY, the last one month has been apprehensive in Edo State, especially since the controversial inauguration of the state House of Assembly in the night of June 17 with claims and counterclaims on the legitimacy and ethics of the inaugural ceremony.
However, what has become inexplicable to party stalwarts and onlookers is why the political disagreement, which they thought could be easily resolved, has degenerated into a full-blown war between Obaseki and his supporters and Oshiomhole and his supporters.
Unfortunately, ethnic dimension is little by little creeping into the crisis, as some Benin indigenes claim Oshiomhole, a non-Biniwas bidding to impose his wishes on the Bini tribe, which constitutes the largest ethnic group in the state.
Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku AkpolokpoloEwuare II, who waded into the emergency, at a time, could not comprehend why the problem keeps mounting.
He said he had invited the parties involved, that is Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Governor Godwin Obaseki on separate occasions with the view of resolving it but the crisis keeps escalating.
His words: “Like I told President Muhammadu Buhari,I have on my own been talking to both parties concerned; Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki on separate occasions but things have kept on escalating very fast.”
“I was still planning to see both of them when I heard the House of Representatives has set up an ad-hoc committee to look into the issue,”, he said.
Available reports indicate that the problem came to a head with the opening ceremony of the House of Assembly. Nine members participated in the show, but truth is that security operatives, acting at the behest of some party leaders and state government officials, abducted and whisked four members-elect to the House Chambers, where the inauguration took place, June 17, night. However, officials maintained the inauguration occurred in the hours of daylight.
Until press time, the actual time of inauguration of the House, a critical factor in the unfolding emergency remains contentious. While the Speaker, Hon Frank Okiye, presiding over the House with 10 members claimed severally that the Clerk of the House called members for inauguration minutes after 19 of the 24 members addressed a press conference June 17 afternoon in Benin City, other lawmakers insisted they performed the “illegality” in nocturnal hours.
Only those involved saw it coming a few hours after the 19 protested the non-proclamation by Governor Godwin Obaseki to allow for their inauguration, some lawmakers congregated in the dark of June 17 where they were inaugurated and elected Hon Frank Okiye as Speaker and YekiniIdiaye -Deputy Speaker.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that a team of lawyers studied the implication of the plot and the position of the law before the executors invited three lawmakers for a meeting and their phones confiscated before they herded them in a bus and later sworn-in at the House of Assembly by the clerk with one of them wearing knickers.
As at 10.45 pm that night, 17 police patrol vehicles were parked in front of the House of Assembly complex while additional seven were strategically stationed in adjoining roads and not less than eight security vehicles sighted around the residence of the governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki.
Few hours later,14 of the lawmakers addressed another press conference, faulting the action of the governor, who they alleged issued a letter of proclamation, but directed that those he felt were opposed to his preferred Speaker emerging be shut out.
Spokesperson of the members-elect, Hon Washington Osifo, said insisted that the inauguration was not proper and should be done afresh. Few minutes after, suspected thugs invaded a hotel in Benin City, where they were taking shelter and they were beaten black and blue.
This ugly development was responsible for the lawmakers relocating to Abuja, as many of them feared their lives were at stake. With Obaseki giving clear reasons why he banished thugs from the state, many wonder which planet the thugs that put the fear of the Devil in the lawmakers came from.
The bad blood has sharply divided the political family of the former governor of the state and now National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Oshiomhole visits Odubu, describes crisis as buzzing mosquito
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole when he visited his deputy for eight years, Hon Pius Odubu, whose father died at 103 years, said he would never be part of any plot to destroy the party, APC, which he laboured to build in the state.
In an indistinct reference to the crisis between him and Obaseki, he said the situation was like a mosquito disturbing one’s ear, adding that the mosquito would only get relevance if the person complains of mosquito bite.
Oshiomhole said he would continue to identify with Odubu, his family and others, who were there when he fought to get his mandate from the Peoples Democratic Party in 2008.
Again, Idahosa lambasts Oshiomhole
However, a former political ally of Oshiomhole, in fact, his Political Adviser for the eight years he was governor of the state, Hon Charles Idahosa, accused Oshiomhole of dividing the Binis, who are predominant in Edo South and threatened to quit the party with Obaseki if they force the governor to leave APC.
He accused Oshiomhole of dividing Benin people over what he described as his desperation to see the back of Governor Obaseki out of Edo State Government House.
Addressing a press conference, Idahosa while reacting to comments that Obaseki was ungrateful to Oshiomhole for bringing him to power, explained that Obaseki first helped Oshiomhole raise millions of naira to enable him contest elections in 2007.
But a former youth leader of the party, TonAdun, alleged that Idahosa was a liability to the party and that was the one selling the issue of ethnic agenda to the governor.
“Idahosa should, first of all, resign as a member of the APC for deceiving Governor Obaseki into waging this unwarranted war against the National Chairman of the APC and other leaders of the party, “he yelled.
He accused Idahosa of selling an ethnic agenda againstOshiomhole to Governor Obaseki, who he said bought into it, adding, “No matter how they try to bend the truth, Oshiomhole remains the indisputable leader of the APC and we will resist any attempt by sycophants and political robbers to rubbish his name.”
House of Reps takes position as Senate Committee visits
The House of Representatives took a clear position on the imbroglio, last Wednesday when it directed Obaseki to issue a new proclamation within one week for the proper inauguration of the House.
It recommended: “The governor of Edo State, Obaseki, in the interest of peaceful co-existence of the state, should issue a fresh proclamation within one week in line with section 105(3) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) stating the date, time and venue and publish in any daily and television station.”
“All actions taken by the 7th Assembly members should be declared null and void, pending proper inauguration.
“All members of Edo State House of Assembly, both those who have been inaugurated and those who have not been inaugurated, should dissolve their factions in the interest of peace and stability of the House, with a view to moving the state forward.
“The Inspector-General of Police and Director-General of DSS should shut down Edo State House of Assembly and provide adequate security to allay further fears of intimidating and threat as alleged by members-elect
“Where recommendations (i) (ii) and ( iii )above fail, the National Assembly should invoke the provisions of section 11(4)of the 1999 constitution (as amended) to take over the state House of Assembly until the situation normalizes.
The House of Representatives gave the directives came day the seven-man committee set up by the Senate to look into the crisis” visited the state.
Edo Assembly rejects Order
Reacting to the House of Representatives order, Speaker of Edo House of Assembly, Hon Frank Okiye, in a statement, said,” Considering what we came to know in the course of this process, there commendation of the ad-hoc committee did not come to us as a surprise.
“For example, the chartered plane marked 5NFCT, which brought the committee members to Benin City, Edo State, was paid for by the National Chairman of APC, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, who is a major party in the disagreement.
“Also, the younger brother to the National Chairman, Seid Oshiomhole, in a recent leaked audio conversation, revealed the underhand dealings in Abuja regarding the matter.
“He stated that Oshiomhole and his proxies have been having meetings with the committee members and other actors in the issue in Abuja and dolling out money to ensure the issue goes in their favour.
“With all these, it was clear that the ad-hoc committee was up to no good. Their report was always going to be biased.”
Obaseki, state govt censure APC leadership, NASS
Obaseki, playing host to theSenate Committee, which stated nobody would compromise the members as insinuated, blamed APC leadership for the crisis. He maintained that the failure of the national leadership of APC to investigate issues led to the crisis.
The governor said: “I issued a proclamation. Consultations were held before the proclamation was issued. Various party organs met before decisions were reached. As far as I am concerned, I followed the constitution and issued a proclamation. I believe in the separation of powers.
“Whatever the outcome, we expected that if a higher authority was concerned about the fate of this state, it would have called to see how to resolve the issue but that was not done. The matter has moved to court and all parties are in court.
“I have done my bit. Within the legislature, there are issues, they have gone to the judiciary, and the constitution provides for a clear separation of powers. We have evidence that people are under pressure. Look at this matter in the interest of our country and in defense of our democracy.”
Further to Obaseki’s eruption, Edo state government through the Secretary to State Government, SSG, Mr Osarodion Ogie, also reacted. It said: “There is nowhere in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, where the House of Representatives or even the National Assembly for that matter, is granted the right or power to shut down a State House of Assembly,” adding that “in point of fact such power is expressly excluded by the Constitution.”
Nobody can compromise us — Senate C’ttee leader
Chair of the committee and Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, said, “I do not know about compromise… I want to assure that 109 senators are men of integrity and at any time we are discharging our function, we are guided by the oath of office, to be fair and just to every issue that will be brought before us.”
On reports that there is a restraining order barring them from what they were doing, he said: “We are parliamentarians, nobody has served us any restraining order if a restraining order is coming after we have already kick-started our responsibility, how can that stop? We are not looking into what is in court; we are getting facts, Section 11(4 and 5) is very clear on what we should.”
Court rejects pro-Oshiomhole members-elect application
Apparently,to play a quick one on the state government, which has used the courts in the last few weeks to obtain interim injunctions against their interests, the anti-Obaseki lawmakers stormed an Edo High Court, last Thursday, with a motion to restrain security agencies from barricading and cordoning off the Assembly, so they could have access to the House.
However, the court rejected the motion.
Justice Erhabor ordered the applicants to put the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and other defendants on notice of their suit before him.