By Imman Ekpeneru
The resolution of the Senate instructing Governor Godwin Obaseki to issue a fresh proclamation order to re-inaugurate the Edo State House of Assembly is an interesting dimension to what had until lately been seen as a political tussle.
It indeed opens up a constitutional issue that until the life of the present 9th National Assembly had never been envisaged. To wit, the powers of the National Assembly to issue directives to a sitting governor.
Even more, it also opens up a question as to the sovereignty of one legislative house over the other.
Indeed, the drama unfolding between the 9th National Assembly and the 7th Edo State Assembly besides the gapping constitutional issues also raises the moral issue for the presiding officers of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The crux of the political melee in Edo State is that the 7th House of Assembly was inaugurated in the absence of some members-elect who were away when the other legislators who formed a quorum were inaugurated. Indeed, there is no gainsaying that the majority of the members were absent when the 7th Assembly in Edo State was inaugurated on June 18, 2019.
In throwing back the issue to the National Assembly, it is easily remembered that four years ago, a similar scenario played out in the Senate when the majority of the legislators opted to attend a meeting outside the National Assembly when the Senate was inaugurated.
Senator Ahmad Lawan who was one of those outside the chambers on realizing the reality of what had faced him ran back to the Senate chambers. By the time he returned to the Senate the inauguration was over!
He did not return to the International Conference Centre where the meeting had been called. In fact, the meeting at the ICC broke up immediately and Senator Lawan and the majority of the senators who were at that meeting fled back to the Senate chamber where the newly elected President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki superintended their inauguration.
It is the same scenario, albeit with assumed political hues that played out in Edo State.
It is sufficient to state that Senator Lawan persevered in the Senate and was no sooner lifted to the position of Senate Leader in the Eight Senate.
It was from there that he rose to his present position as President of the Senate.
President Muhammadu Buhari despite the apparent political loss was not compelled to issue another proclamation order for the inauguration that would bequeath an assembly leadership favourable to him.
It is difficult to find a difference between what happened in Abuja concerning the 9th Senate and what happened in Benin in the Edo State House of Assembly.
It is in this respect that one is now bound to question the rationale for the Instruction from the Senate and the House of Representatives to the governor of Edo State to issue a fresh proclamation order.
Even the propriety of the federal legislature issuing a directive to a state governor is not envisaged in the constitution just as the aptness of the federal legislature issuing a directive to a state House of Assembly is not envisaged.
The only window opened to the National Assembly to meddle into the affairs of lawmaking for a state is when the state House of Assembly is not able to sit as stipulated in Section 11 (4) of the constitution.
However, Section 11 (5) of the same constitution says
“For the purpose of Sub Section 4 of this section, a House of Assembly shall not be deemed to be unable to perform its functions, so long as the House of Assembly can hold a meeting and transact business.”
It is understandable that advocates of the takeover of the Edo State House of Assembly continue to gloss over this defining provision of the constitution in the desperate act of pushing an agenda to satisfy their desire.
The Edo State House of Assembly having been inaugurated on June 18 has continued to hold meetings and conduct the business of oversight over the executive arms of government.
Just as the Senate under Senator Saraki worked before all the members of the APC who went for the ICC meeting were inaugurated, so the Edo State House of Assembly is meeting , waiting for those who went to a hotel on June 18 to come for their inauguration.
It is trite that the Senate and the House of Representatives have repeatedly adopted a knee-jerk response to the situation in the state. It is understandable given the overwhelming influence Comrade Adams Oshiomhole played in enthroning the leadership of the present National Assembly.
However, the relationships between the different levels of government is strictly defined by the provisions of the constitution. It cannot be shadowed by predilection towards persons or parties.
Indeed, what is happening in Edo State against the background of what happened in the 2015 Senate gives bearing to the popular saying that what is good for the goose is good for the gander!
- Imman Ekpeneru, wrote from Lagos