The political rivalry between the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, and his predecessor in office, who doubles as the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has taken a new dimension and now taking a toll on the political harmony in the state. The political hostility, aimed at determining who is in control of the state, had hitherto been in the realm of speculation, until now as the supporters and traducers of the godfather and the godson recently took the ‘war’ to the state House of Assembly. The cold war took a new dimension last Monday following the purported swearing- in of nine members of the state House of Assembly, out of the 24 lawmakers elected to make laws for the state
In a carefully orchestrated plan, the assembly was inaugurated on Monday night and only the nine members said to be loyal to Obaseki, were available when the Clerk of Assembly, Alhaji Audu Omogbai, inaugurated the House. The factional nine thereby elected Mr. Frank Okiye from Esan North East I as Speaker, and Yekini Idiaye of Akoko-Edo I as Deputy Speaker, and immediately adjourned till July 17. The ‘Oshiomhole group of 15’ however kicked, insisting that the election was a nullity and went ahead to elect their own speaker, even as the governor has shown open support for the minority group by publicly congratulating the group of nine. ‘
Oshiomhole 15’ runs to Abuja, wooed with cash, cars
The situation has now led to a full blown division within the APC as checks by Saturday Telegraph last night revealed that the ‘Oshiomhole 15’ have relocated to Abuja to avoid being attacked by hoodlums allegedly sponsored by the state, just as our correspondents gathered that there are intense consultations and lobby from the state government to bring the 15 into the fold under the leadership of Okiye. Sources close to the ‘Oshiomhole 15’ informed Saturday Telegraph that the group was already being wooed by the government while negotiations are ongoing to give them between N5m and N10m with a Pajero SUV each. One of the lawmakers who confirmed the imformation, said that the battle is not being orchestrated by Oshiomhole but they are fighting a just cause.
He said: “Some of us still have integrity, Oshiomhole has no hands in this crisis. We are only fighting for the children yet unborn and this fight must stand.
“They are begging us with N5m for those of us they believe have less influence and N10m for others that are strong. We have relocated to Abuja because they want to kill us; they sent thugs after us,” he said. The source also informed that there is pressure on Okiye by some key stakeholders in the APC to ensure that the Clerk carries out another inauguration ceremony for the group of 15 on Monday. Both sides are now trading blames as the crisis continues to rage. While a section blame Oshiomhole for not speaking out since the imbroglio began, the group loyal to Obaseki insists the governor must be allowed to go for a second term The situation has led to a sharp division among the political class in the state and they are now giving different reactions and interpretations to the situation. While some call the assembly crisis a comedy, satire, melodrama, others say it is a political quagmire and a show of political power by the incumbent governor who wants to tell his former boss that he has come of age and now charge of affairs in the state.
We have no reason to induce anyone, says govt The state government however denied the allegation, saying that there is no need to induce the lawmakers either in cash or kind. Speaking with Saturday Telegraph, the Special Adviser (Media) to governor, Crusoe Osagie, said It was a blatant lie. “Why do we need to induce anyone? The EDHA has already been inaugurated and the main principal officials have been elected. All these were done independently and that is all that is important to us as the executive arm. “These are two independent arms of government and as the executive arm, we do not meddle with the affairs of the other arms of government. We are happy that the House has been inaugurated and a substantive speaker and deputy speaker have been elected meaning that legislative functions are actively being carried out in the House. “All other discussions will take place only among the members and executives of the EDHA. The governor and the executive arm have absolutely nothing to do with their internal affairs in the legislature”, he said.
I’m ashamed of Obaseki – Oshiomhole
Speaking last night when he received APC memberselect of the Bauchi Assembly, Oshiomhole said: “Unfortunately, the situation in Bauchi is also similar to the one that is happening in Edo State. I am ashamed to talk about it but there is nothing to hide. “We have a similar situation in Edo where in our own case we have 24/24 all of them APC but somebody wants a particular person as a Speaker, 19 out of 24 are opposed to this person.” We have a similar situation in Edo where in our own case we have 24/24 all of them APC but somebody wants a particular person as a Speaker, 19 out of 24 are opposed to this person.
They them decide to carry 6 members into the house who were willing why they invited the other ones as if for dinner only to arrive and be bundled into a vehicle, some of them in their nickers to be innauguared at 9.30pm. ”I have briefed the President in full having met with you earlier in the day when you shared with me the details. I have had conversations with the governor so I have all the facts. We members of the NWC have met with the IGP after deliberating on the issues. ”We will prevail on him to ensure that the police do not provide security for an illegal act, because the worst form of robbery is political robbery, it is worse than robbing people of their property.
“If you rob people of their right to govern, the people of Bauchi in their wisdom have chosen to entrust the leadership of the Bauchi State House of Assembly in the hands of the APC by voting for 21 of you while they allow PDP Only 10. That is that APC should control the legislature. There is nothing anybody can do in a democracy to change the fact.”
It’s a descent into anarchy, say Oshiomhole supporters
Speaking with Saturday Telegraph, one of the supporters of Oshiomhole, Mr. Henry Idahagbon, said the purported swearing in and inauguration of nine members was “nothing but Wake and See”, a popular slogan for Obaseki’s kind of politics. He said: “It signals a descent to anarchy in our dear state, and it shows the hypocritical disposition of the governor. He has ceded his authority and power to the deputy who is now the defacto governor. The inauguration cannot stand; it was done by the minority members and outside the sitting hours of the Assembly. It is a charade, the minorities have their say, and the majority will have their way in no distant time. “It also shows the how myopic those people are politically. In this democratic era, things are done according to the constitution of the land, no governor or president is bigger than the constitution, those of them there are just buying time. “I am a lawyer, I know what the law says, Edo people are peace-loving people, we do not want anything that will derail our democracy, and the right thing should be done so that the legislative arm of government will hit the ground running”, Idahagbon said.
In the same vein, an APC chieftain, Tony Adun (aka kabaka), said those in support of Oshiomhole were not worried but waiting for the appropriate time to change the government. “We are worried about what is happening in our state. What we know is that Obaseki has failed the people, most especially those who worked tirelessly to ensure that he became governor. We are very loyal to our National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, and on him we stand. Whoever the party brings out for 2020 governorship election is the person we will give our support to”, Kabaka asserted.
Also, a party chieftain from Edo North, who refused to be named, said what happened in Benin on Monday night was nothing but a foolish display of power by Obaseki. “When comrade was the governor of the state, things were not done this way, he did not divide the party that brought into power. And you cannot fight your master and succeed. No matter what people say about Oshiomhole, he is one governor that Edo people will not forget. Oshiomhole made so many people and brought democratic dividends to the door step of Edo people. “Obaseki has just invited more trouble for himself. How can you inaugurate just nine assembly members out of 24? What it means is that we do not want the problem to be resolved. Oshiomhole is a leader as far as APC is concerned in Nigeria. The files starts and ends on his table, he is a strategist and I know that when the time comes for the 2020 election, we will know where to belong”, he said.
Obaseki in order, says commissioner, factional speaker, others
But the state Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Paul Ohonbanmu, disagree with those in Oshiomhole’s camp, insisting that the governor has done the right thing, while justifying the inauguration of the Assembly. “Those castigating our governor are pure enemies of development. Our governor did not impose any leadership on the House; he was only aligning with the party’s position. Our governor is working, and for him to deliver the dividends of democracy to the good people of Edo State, he needs the legislative arm of government to get on board.
“We cannot afford a repetition of what happened in the past, a situation where there were four speakers in the House within four years. The lawmakers are happy with the newly elected Speaker of the House. We are very comfortable with the arrangement. A speaker has been elected for Edo Assembly and I appeal to all Edo people to support Mr. Governor to enable him to deliver the goods”, he said. In the same vein, the factional speaker, Hon. Frank Okiye, said he and his group were ready to take up the challenges and prepared to deal with the complexity associated with the current situation. “We are set to commence work immediately. As legislators, we are ready to collaborate with the executives for easy delivery that will lead to greater Edo through motions and bills. There is no course for alarm; we are equal to the task.
Toeing the speaker’s line, one of the newly elected lawmakers, Hon. Washington Osifo, said Obaseki is working and should be supported at all levels of governance. “You will agree with me that the tenure of the 6th Assembly members expired on June 7th 2019, so by the virtue of Section 105 (3) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, requires the governor to immediately issue a letter of proclamation for the inauguration of the new Assembly to avoid vacuum. “So what the state governor has done is in order. My advice to my colleagues is for them to join hands with us so that we can move this state forward”, Osifo said.
APC condemns inauguration
The APC national leadership has however condemned the inauguration and election of the speaker describing it as a charade, while calling on the state governor to issue a proper letter of proclamation to the clerks for proper inauguration. The APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, in a statement, said: “The APC condemns the charade being presented as the inauguration of new houses of assembly in Edo and Bauchi states. “We viewed this illegality with shock and disappointment. As a party that has made a commitment to change, we strongly reject any attempt to take recourse to brigandage of the past, when democratic practices were defined by the inordinate whims of people in power.
“Democracy must be governed by the rule of law. A situation where 11 lawmakers in the 31-member Bauchi State House of Assembly and nine lawmakers in the 24-member Edo State House of Assembly were ecretly ‘inaugurated’ and purportedly ‘elect’ principal officers behind closed doors is a joke and an embarrassment. “It is an unfortunate reminder of PDP’s queer brand of democracy. Practices like this are unacceptable under APC-led administration.
As a party that is committed to higher ideals, we would use all democratic means necessary to ensure the right thing is done.” Issa-Onilu also referred to the recent inauguration and election of Principal Officers of the 9th National Assembly as a standard, as he said, “Perhaps the actors in the inauguration sham in Edo and Bauchi need to be reminded of the recent and widely-commended election of presiding officers in the newly-inaugurated 9th National Assembly. Our party has set new standards in party politics by upstaging the rule of force, while upholding the rule of law. “It needs restating that every elected lawmaker has a legitimate right to participate unhindered in the inauguration of the legislative arm in which he/she belongs.
The plot to arm-twist the majority in favour of the minority in the legislative arm died with the defeat of the PDP in 2015.” Advising the governors, the party called on Obaseki and Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed to urgently do the needful by issuing a proper letter of proclamation to allow for the lawful inauguration of their respective states House of Assembly and subsequent election of presiding officers in a transparent manner.”
‘Obaseki 9’ says no to APC
But in a swift reaction, the leadership of the Edo Assembly faulted the stance of the APC, noting that the party lacked the powers to adjudicate on the election of house leadership. In a statement issued last night, the factional speaker, Okiye, said, “the APC lacks the powers to adjudicate on constitutional functions of the legislature.
“We have read with disappointment the flip-flop of the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, on the issue of the election of the leadership of the Edo State House of Assembly. We recall very clearly that, he said that the APC has a structure, noting that the state chapter of the party was in the best position to intervene in the issue.”
Okiye quoted the APC publicity secretary as saying in a newspaper publication: “It is not every issue that the national leadership responds to. That is why we have structure; you can relate to the APC in the state. I can’t respond to that; we have structure. It has not gotten to what the media was trying to make it look like. “In about 48 hours, his stance has dramatically changed. He declared that the national leadership of the party is disappointed with the emergence of rt. Hon. Frank Okiye as Speaker of the 7th Edo State House of Assembly, calling it ‘a charade’ and an ‘illegality.’ “This sudden u-turn leaves us wondering if it was the same Mallam Issa- Onilu with his faculties intact speaking or if it is somebody else with vested interests that is speaking through him.”
‘Oshiomhole 15’ reacts
In the same vein, the spokesman of the group of 15, Mr. Washington Osifo last night challenged the APC to speak out more forcefully over the matter, now that there is a ceasefire between both sides. He said the members elect were fighting a cause they believe in, pointing out that “whatever we do must be borne out of good conscience. On the collection of Code of Conduct form and other relevant documents as pointed out by Okiye, Osifo stated that his group were among those that first collected, filled and submitted the forms even before the speaker. He maintained that what the government is attempting, is to exclude the majority “in order to ensure that the minority continues to rule and that we will not accept. “If there are things to be said, the party should speak. I am more interested in the process than the outcome; it is about the issue of credibility. You cannot promote minority over the majority.
We resolve in favour of those we represent. The truth is that we will not accept the situation where the minority will rule over the majority. We have collected the form even before Okiye collected with date and time even before the kangaroo thing they did and that is not an issue; this things are there for people to see,” Osifo added.