By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, Niger Delta
EXPECTED at the meeting hosted by the Senate President, Senator Ahmed Lawan on Tuesday night in Abuja, the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, was conspicuously absent. The Inspector General of Police, Director General of Department of State Services, DSS and other select top government officials, however, attended the meeting where they appraised the embarrassing situation and security implications of the raging crisis in the state House of Assembly.
Despite the denial to the contrary, it is plain as the nose on your face that the forces of Governor Obaseki and the National Chair of All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who crowned him as his successor, were at war.
In the nonappearance of Obaseki, Senate President went ahead with the meeting, which started at about 11.00 pm and ended at about 2.00 am. Saturday Vanguard learned that as a way of out of the crisis, they resolved to ask Obaseki to issue a fresh proclamation letter where the 24 members of the state House of Assembly must be present for inauguration.
The National Working Committee of the party had after deliberation on the Edo conundrum, also arrived at the governor issuing a new proclamation letter.
Obaseki strikingly missing
However, Governor Obaseki, who absented himself from the Tuesday meeting already had an idea of the decision the meeting was likely to take and flew back from Abuja to Edo state to execute a counter plan.
We learned that while politicians loyal to Oshiomhole thought that they had boxed Obaseki into a corner with the Senate President instructing him to issue a fresh proclamation within five days, Obaseki and his political forces had dug out an unanticipated action plan.
At the beginning, multiple sources confirmed to our reporters that there was an unwritten agreement for Obaseki, as a technocrat, to face governance of the state, while his erstwhile boss, Oshiomhole remains the political leader.
Obaseki’s alleged spin on the understood accord is actually part of the cause of the current imbroglio, but those who underestimated his capacity to fight were grossly mistaken.
One, he had vowed even before the Abuja meeting hosted by the Senate President that he would not issue a proclamation letter twice.
Multipurpose court order
Therefore, while Oshiomhole’s forces in the state were waiting, Wednesday, to know whether the Senate President had conveyed the directive to Obaseki, the governor’s kitchen cabinet, already privy of the game plan, were awaiting the ruling from the Federal High Court sitting in Benin City to stay on top of the game.
They secured a court order restraining the party’s National Working Committee, NWC, which first faulted his proclamation, Inspector General of Police, Commissioner of Police in the state, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, all defendants, their servants and agents from interfering, disrupting or obstructing the constitutional duties of the Edo House of Assembly.
Many viewed the inauguration of the Assembly on June 17 with nine of the 24-members and election of Hon Frank Okiye, the governor’s candidate as Speaker, as a direct disrespect of Oshiomhole, the assumed political leader by Obaseki.
The Federal High Court court presided over by Justice M. G. Umar ruled, “That an interim order of injunction is hereby granted restraining the defendants by themselves, their servants, agents, officers or privies from interfering with, obstructing or harassing in any manner whatsoever the plaintiffs in the performance of their constitutional duties as the Legislative Arm of the Edo State Government pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice for interlocutory injunction.”
The court also ordered, “That an interim order of injunction is further granted restraining the 1st defendant, his servants, agents, officers or privies from further publishing in any newspaper or other media any inciting publication concerning the inauguration of the 7th Assembly of the Edo State House Assembly and the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, which took place on 17/6/2019 in the Edo State House of Assembly.”
Justice Umar further declared: “That interim order of injunction is also granted restraining the defendants by themselves, their servants, agents, officers or privies from further committing any act aimed at disparaging the integrity of the legislative arm of the Edo State Government and/or destabilizing the peace, order and good governance of Edo State in general, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice for interlocutory injunction.”
The orders of the court followed prayers in an ex-parte motion of the plaintiffs/applicants, Alhaji Yahaya Omogbai, the Clerk Edo State House of Assembly and the Edo State Government, filed on June 28, 2019. The court adjourned the matter to October 9 2019.
It was obvious that Obaseki knowing that the party’s NWC planned to direct him to issue a fresh proclamation letter, went to the court to outfox the forces arrayed against him. The temporal order would not have been handier, as he could easily use it to ignore that directive, which the Senate President was to convey to him.
12 against 12
Those loyal to him opined that with the Wednesday orders from the Federal High Court, the legal coast is clear for the inaugurated Edo State House of Assembly to continue its law-making function.
Obaseki and the Speaker, Rt. Hon Okiye are also not leaving anything to chance in attracting more lawmakers to its fold to beef up its number from the nine that sat on the inauguration day.
The Speaker, Rt. Hon. Frank Okiye, on Wednesday, July 3 swore-in another member-elect, Emmanuel Agbaje, as honourable member, bringing the number of the inaugurated members of the 7th State Assembly to 12.
Hon. Emmanuel Agbaje represents Akoko-Edo Constituency II. At the sitting on Wednesday, the Speaker said the assembly reconvened to inaugurate the member-elect who has completed the required documentation.
He also announced the compulsory retirement of the Deputy Clerk of the Assembly, Mr. Samuel Efeizokhae. Addressing journalists on Wednesday after his inauguration, Hon. Agbaje said, “Sincerely I would say that there comes a time when one would put his personal interest aside and consider the interest of the people. I was elected to serve my people, so their interest comes first.”
He added, “I may have some reservations about my earlier decision, having reviewed my position and the position of my people; I have decided to toe the line of the masses. That is why I came forward to be inaugurated for my people need to be represented. I was elected to serve them. I did not come on my own. Whichever way you view the situation, I must have to toe the path of my people.”
“I think they will also appreciate that I listened to them. I want to assure them that I will uphold the confidence they have reposed in me, I will not let them down. I will provide that representation which I have received the mandate to do,” he said.
Hon. Agbaje appealed to the other 12 members-elect yet to be inaugurated to complete necessary documentation to be inaugurated as members of the assembly, noting, “My message to my colleagues is this; I urge them to sheath their sword. I granted an interview and said this is a family matter. For intra-party issues there must always be disagreements.”
“But there should be compromise. Therefore, I urge them to sheath their sword. Let them come back home and join forces with the present government and rebuild Edo State. We as House of Assembly Members have our own issues. I think we should join hands and support the present government’s developmental strides,” he added.
Other members of the Assembly at the sitting presided over by the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Okiye include: Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yekini Idiaye representing Akoko-Edo I; Nosayaba Okunbor, representing Orhionmwon East; Roland Asoro representing Orhionmwon South; Hon. Eric Okaka representing Owan East; Marcus Onobun representing Esan West. Others are Ephraim Aluebhosele representing Igueben and Henry Okhuarobo representing Ikpoba-Okha.
With 12 members on both sides as at Wednesday, there is fear that with the way the Obaseki camp swayed seven members to join the five that were on his side, as at June 17 afternoon when 19 members-elect addressed a press conference, urging him issue a proclamation letter, more would join his camp before the October 9 adjournment date.
With the surprising court order, Obaseki let loose a stratagem that bowled over the forces against him, who have gone back to the strategy room.
From our findings, the National Assembly was to take over the administrative functions of the Edo House of Assembly if within five days; Obaseki did not issue a fresh proclamation letter, while the Police were to seal off the Assembly until he complies with the directive.
However, it is a different ball game, as all parties by the court order are to wait until October 9, except a superior Court vacates the order.
Before Hon Agbaje switched loyalty, a member elect had confided in Saturday Vanguard early on Wednesday that the governor’s camp just lured two members of the group opposed to them, bringing the number to 11.
A leading member of the group, Hon Washington Osifo, said he was unaware of such development shortly after, but what happened on July 3 showed that it is not just 11, but 12 on the other side, meaning they are equally matched now. More surprises are likely to unfold in the next few days.
Edo royal fathers seek Buhari’s intervention
On Wednesday, members of the Edo State Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs led by the Oba of Benin Omo N’Oba N’ Edo, Ewuare II, visited President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, pleading with him to quickly intervene in the feud between Comrade Oshiomhole and Governor, Godwin Obaseki.
In a written address at the meeting which was held under closed door, the Oba said, “Mr. President, we as traditional rulers in Edo State, are concerned about the crisis between Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the All Progressives Congress National Chairman and his Excellency, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, and Edo State House of Assembly.
Saturday Vanguard recall, however, that President Buhari had since waded into the matter, directing Obaseki to go and reconcile with Oshiomhole, which he had done with Alhaji Aliko Dangote and some governors, but the crisis is lingering.
The Benin monarch told Buhari: “If this crisis is not resolved now with immediate effect it may jeopardize the progress of the state. On behalf of the good people of Edo State, we kindly appeal to Mr. President to use your good offices to intervene and stop this crisis.”
“Personally even though I do not like to interfere in inter-party or intra party matters and always maintains that the Benin Crown is non-partisan, it is, however, difficult to turn a blind eye because if this crisis is not brought under control, it is likely to jeopardize the welfare of the masses.
“This is where I in my capacity as Chairman of Edo State Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs supported by members of the Council, will endeavor to broker peace between the warring parties.
“I have been talking to both parties on my own and I am about to invite them to the palace for reconciliation. When a date is set for this meeting, I will invite members of the council to join me in this effort. We believe by the grace of God, if we succeed in achieving this, the benefit should trickle down to resolving the impasse in the Edo State House of Assembly, “he said.
Genesis of the crisis
Many are wondering why the disagreement between Oshiomhole and Obaseki degenerated to this level knowing that Oshiomhole personally picked Obaseki and stuck to him in spite of advice to leave him by some leaders across the state.
Signs that all was not well between them started very early in Obaseki’s tenure when he took on some political leaders and removed them from their positions.
His decision to sack alleged political thugs, who the party used to win election and stop them from collecting revenue on behalf of government, which was like a compensation to them, was not well received by the beneficiaries of the policy.
However, any right-thinking member of the society would commend rather than condemn him for the action. Comrade Oshiomhole, however, asked him to provide alternative means for the boys, but Obaseki did not see the reason, mouthing that the boys had raked in a lot of naira from the project and should make do with it.
In terms of performance, hardly would Oshiomhole or any other person in the state conclude that Obaseki has not lived up to expectation, the problem, however, is that he has alienated many party leaders and structure that brought him to power.
He seemed of the opinion that many of the party leaders collected money to work for his election and so, they collected money for services rendered him. But a political leader in the state said, “Leave him, he reasons that way because he is not a politician, which money, how much did he spend, let us see how he is going to win again if he does mend his ways.”
However, Obaseki is banking on his achievements to retain power. And he is ready to fight the battles ahead.