The lingering crisis in the Edo State Hose of Assembly is simply the handiwork of Governor Godwin Obaseki. Those who are not familiar with the crisis presently bedeviling the Edo State may probably not know where to place the blame for the ongoing brouhaha in the State House of Assembly. The fact remains that the outgoing governor of the stte, Godwin Obaseki laid the foundation for an unprecedented crisis in the state’s body polity.
Not at any time in its political history has Edo State seen a governor with a penchant for grandstanding and brigandage as during the era of Obaseki. Though openly at loggerheads with his predecessor and former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiohmole, his action at the State Assembly is what is currently plunging the state into avoidable crisis.
On June 17, 2019, the 24-member Edo State House of Assembly was inaugurated with just 10 members allegedly loyal to Obaseki and ever since then, the haphazardly inaugurated legislative house has continued to make laws for the state. Every attempt to implore the governor to do the needful fell on deaf ears.
Thus, what transpired among the lawmakers on Thursday, when the 14 lawmakers previously shut out by the governor and three more, who dumped him were inaugurated by the Deputy Clerk of the Edo Assembly, was therefore a backlash of the illegality initially perpetrated by the governor and the vandalism of the Assembly Complex, allegedly on the orders of the governor, was his smartest way to ensure that the lawmakers were unable to seat to make laws as provided for in the constitution.
Though Governor Obaseki has said he would deploy all ‘constitutional weapon’ at his disposal to resist any attempt to forcefully take over the state House of Assembly, available facts show that he is the main villain in the ongoing characterisation of the Edo gladiators.
The National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives disapproved the controversial manner the Edo State 7th Assembly was inaugurated with 10 members out of a 24-member House.
The House of Representatives inaugurated Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas (APC-Adamawa)-led 13-member committee on July 10, 2019, to investigate the assembly crisis after a unanimous adoption of a motion moved under matters of urgent national importance by Hon. Julius Ihonvbere (APC-Edo).
The lawmaker was concerned about the improper inauguration of the Seventh Edo House of Assembly on June 17, expressing worries that at that time only nine out of the 24 elected members were sworn in and that was done without the knowledge of the other 15 members-elects.
The clerk, working in connivance with the governor, secretly inaugurated the nine members-elect at about 9.30pm, which according to him, was outside the time of legislative business.
Subsequently, the House of Representatives issued a notice to Governor Obaseki to inaugurate a fresh 7th Edo House of Assembly within one week or it would take over the functions of the Assembly as prescribed Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The House also recommended that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Director-General, Department of State Service (DG DSS), should shut down the State House of Assembly and provide adequate security. This was after the House received the report of the ad-hoc committee on the need for intervention in the Edo State House of Assembly crisis.
But in his usual character, the governor rejected the position of the National Assembly. He resisted the intervention of the federal legislators and carried on with his lawmakers in a lawless manner.
As a result of the governor’s political rascality, Hon. Gani Audu, Hon. Chris Okaeben, Hon. Sunday Aghedo, Hon. Victor Edoror, Hon. Washington Osa Osifo, Hon. Michael Ohio-Ezomo Hon. Crosby Eribo, Hon. Seid Oshiomhole Hon. Vincent Osa Uwadiae, Hon. Ahmed Waziri Oshomah, Hon. Kingsley Ugabi, and Hon. Ugiagbe Dumez, have not only been denied membership, their constituents had been denied representation under Obaseki’s administration.
Two others, who disagreed with the improper assembly inauguration absconded, and their seats were subsequently declared vacant by the Speaker, Frank Okiye.
Politics is a game of interest and the interest is best served by your numerical strength. Unfortunately, in the case of Obaseki, while he does not have the numerical strength, he wants his will to supersede that of the others.
The crisis started because while Oshiohmole wanted Victor Edoro as the speaker, he preferred Okiye as speaker, and rather than either conceding or negotiating further, he opted to ensure that all the lawmakers loyal to Oshiohmole were unable to operate in the House. That has been the grouse and what got the Edo Assembly to where it is today.
The reaction of a former national chairmanship aspirant of the APC, Chief Ibrahim Emokpaire, who urged Governor Obaseki, to issue fresh proclamation on the Edo State House of Assembly and allow the alienated 14 members of the assembly to be sworn in to carry out their legislative duties succinctly captures the mood and the reaction of many party leaders.
Emokpaire, who was unhappy that just a fraction of members of the Assembly continued to legislate on the affairs of the state, had stated that, “His (Obaseki’) action shows that he has no regard for the constitution of Nigeria and the constitution of the party,” lamenting also that, “fourteen state constituencies have not been represented in Edo State House of Assembly for almost a year now.
“It is a known fact that the outgoing governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has treated the House of Assembly, an independent and co-equal branch of government, as a mere extension of his office through the brutalisation of members-elect and the denial of representation to the majority of members.
“In Gestapo style, the outgoing Governor hijacked a tiny minority and purportedly inaugurated them in the dead of the night. The sham inauguration was condemned and set aside by both arms of the National Assembly after their separate investigations revealed that the members, and indeed the Clerk, were forced to participate in the illegality under threat to life.”
Reacting to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Obaseki for pointing fingers at APC and Oshiohmole as the brains behind the purportedly planned forceful takeover of the State Assembly complex, the APC governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu said Obaseki should be the one explaining to the people of the state.
According to him, “Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, or the APC, does not control the police. When Obaseki went to obtain a questionable court order challenging the position of Comrade as the APC National Chairman months back, he was locked out of the National Headquarters of the party in Abuja. If indeed he has any control over the Police, wouldn’t he have instructed them to leave and grant him entry?
“The Edo State Government should explain to the world and Edo people what is going on. And they can start by explaining why a branch of government meant to carry out oversight functions and check the excesses of the executive arm has been holding plenary inside the Government House for months over a supposed ‘fumigation and renovation exercise’ at the Assembly complex’.”
For clarity, the latest development in Edo State barely six weeks before the election is that the alienated 17 lawmakers have re-converged, were to be inaugurated by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yekini Idiaye, while they would have impeached the Speaker, Hon. Francis Okiye on Thursday, but catching wind of the plan, the Obaseki-lawmakers quickly impeached Idiaye.
This explains why Okiye, said Idiaye was impeached, because he was planning with the leaders of the APC and the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, “to illegally and violently take over” the Assembly.
In what is confirming Governor Obaseki’s dwindling political fortunes, the impeached deputy speaker and some lawmakers pledged their support for the APC governorship candidate, Ize-Iyamu last Monday.
From all indications, the governor instigated the Police presence at the Edo State House of Assembly complex on Thursday for fear that the APC lawmakers were up to no good.
The vandalism of the Assembly, which included removing its roof and trucks from the Government House offloading gravels at the entrance of the Assembly complex while the suspected vandals trooped into the building were all orchestrated by the governor to make the complex unavailable to legislative functions.
Though Governor Obaseki has been threatening violence, he must have met his match in the 17 APC lawmakers. The latest development is that they have also elected Hon. Emmanuel Agbaje representing Akoko Edo II as new speaker Extempore for the state as they inaugurated the 12 members left out by the governor’s men.
The last has surely not been heard in this lingering Edo’s theatre of the absurd, where elected lawmakers are prevented from participating in the process of lawmaking simply because a governor does not like their faces.
*Edosa wrote from Benin, the Edo State capital