AS the muscle flexing between the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki rages, TAIWO AMODU underscores some of the inherent
EDO State lives with the sobriquet, The Heartbeat of the Nation. It is living up to it. Its pulsating sensation and attendant rhythmic beat of recent, constitute a cause for concern not only to citizens of the South-South state, but all Nigerians, irrespective of political affiliations. The peace in the state can best be described as the one that resides in the grave yard.
The combatants this time are not outside the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state. The sitting governor belongs to the ruling party at the centre, while all the elected lawmakers in the state assembly are equally members of the APC. But at the heart of the unnerving political impasse in the state is the power tussle between incumbent Governor, Godwin Obaseki and his estranged godfather and predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Despite initial denial of a cold war, both were called to a peace meeting facilitated by the governors elected on the APC platform, led by the governor of Ekiti State governor and chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), Dr Kayode Fayemi and a business mogul, AlhajiAlikoDangote.The peace deal has since broken down: the APC national chairman, Comrade Oshiomhole and the embattled governor have since returned to the trenches.
The beginning of the end…
Indication of a love lost between the APC national chairman and his political son became an open secret last June, following the tussle for the position of the Speaker of the State Assembly.
Findings revealed that Honourable Victor Edoror, the preferred candidate of Comrade Oshiomhole, lost the coveted seat of the Speaker to Honourable FrankOkiye (Esan North-East constituency I) the anointed candidate of Governor Obaseki.The Clerk of the Assembly, YahayaOmogbai, was said to have ushered the members-elect into the chamber at midnight and read out the letter of proclamation transmitted to his office by Governor Obaseki.
At the inauguration were lawmakers believed to be loyal to Oshiomhole. The list included NosaOkunbor; Henry Okhuarobo; UyiEkhosuehi; Marcus Onobun; Ephraim Anebhosele; Roland Asoro; Eric Okaka;Okiye, and Idiaye who took oath of office.For the camp of the APC national chairman, who had been smarting for a showdown with governor Obaseki, the development was perceived as a serious setback as a victory for them at the election of speaker was meant to test the political waters ahead of 2020 governorship election.
Battle shifts to NASS, courtroom
Barely a week after the inauguration of the Edo Assembly, Comrade Oshiomhole had given indication that he was prepared for a fight with the governor of his home state.
Addressing party chieftains from Bauchi State, who had stormed the APC national secretariat in Abuja to protest over similar imposition of HonourableAbubakar Suleiman Ningi as speaker by 11 lawmakers loyal to the Bauchi State governor, BalaAbdulkadir Mohammed, in a 33-member parliament, Comrade Oshiomhole decried the emergence of HonourableOkiye in Edo State.
The APC chairman said Okiye’s victory was instigated by Governor Obaseki and said he was prepared to join forces with the aggrieved lawmakers against Governor Obaseki as he submitted that seven members could not elect speaker in a 24-member parliament.
Following the formal notice of the National Assembly by the aggrieved lawmakers in Edo, both chambers of the federal parliament had since passed resolutions squealing against the development and demanding for fresh proclamation from governor Obaseki. They separately issued an ultimatum to the Edo State governor with a threat to take over the operation of the state parliament.”
The Senate and the House of Representatives premised their resolutions on the findings of committees led by Senator Sabiu Aliyu Abdullahi and Honourable AbdulrazakNamdas for the respective chambers.The upper chamber in its resolution stated: “In the event that a new proclamation is not issued as recommended within the period of three weeks, the National Assembly is at liberty of invoke section 11, subsection 4 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).”
The red chamber constituted the committee following a Point of Order raised by Senator OpeyemiBamidele (APCEkiti Central) about the crisis rocking the State House of Assembly. The House of Representatives had, in its adopted report, threatened to take over the Edo Assembly over the crisis rocking it in line with Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Court halts Lawan, Gbajabiamila
The threat by the National Assembly to take over legislative functions in the state was however aborted by a court pronouncement.Delivering judgment in a suit brought by YekiniIdiaye, the deputy Speaker of the Edo Assembly, and Henry Okhuarobo, the member representing Ikpoba-Okha State constituency, Justice KolawoleOmotosho of the Federal High Court Abuja had, in a ruling, declared that the National Assembly could not compel Governor Obaseki to issue another proclamation within the lifespan of an existing proclamation for inauguration of Edo Assembly.The two lawmakers from Edo had approached the court to challenge moves by both chambers of the National Assembly to take over the functions of the Edo House of Assembly.
The court also ruled that the NASS lacked the power to take over the functions of Edo Assembly or any other state House of Assembly in the country.
Justice Omotosho further declared that the NASS lacked the power to direct the Edo governor to issue a fresh proclamation to the state Assembly as this would lead to extending the tenure of members of the Assembly.The judge further ruled that the Senate and the House of Representatives could not seal or direct anybody to seal the State House of Assembly in Edo because the House was not its appendage.Checks revealed that the leadership of the National Assembly is not relenting in its stance to take over the state assembly despite admonition to President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila that only a political solution could resolve the frightening logjam in Edo state.
Speaking when the principal officers of both chambers met with governors on the platform of the APC, who came on a courtesy visit, Honourable Gbajabiamila said the National Assembly was not comfortable with the judgment of the federal high court and would challenge it at the Court of Appeal. The speaker further claimed that the Nigerian Constitution empowered it to take over legislative functions of state assemblies in crisis.At the gathering which had Governor Obaseki in attendance, Gbajabiamila expressed his frustration that while the National Assembly had been able to solve a similar crisis in Bauchi which he described as an opposition party state, the parties in Edo state which belonged to the APC had remained intransigent.
Why they are after me- Obaseki
Governor Obaseki has consistently claimed that he played no role in the emergence of HonourableOkiye as speaker. He continues to accuse Comrade Oshiomhole of instigating crisis since he was not allowed to dictate who gets what by proxy.
He further claimed that his determination not to allow certain forces to continue to rip the state of a collective patrimony was the cause of a siege on his government.
He said:” If you understand what happened in Edo up to 2006, the non-state actors had become empowered by political class. They were collecting revenues, they were an alternative government and they constituted themselves into an army that were used for political activities.
“I don’t have a feud with the national chairman. There are political issues in Edo which have been resolved. And as far as I am concerned, they are not major issues. They have a House of Assembly that has been inaugurated. A few members have not accepted those that have been inaugurated. But these issues will be settled. What is happening in Edo is not unusual.”
Oshiomhole’s Freudian slip?
The APC national chairman at a recent session with newsman in Abuja denied claim that the cause of the faceoff between him and his political son was as a result of the latter refusal to be bullied and take dictate from an estranged godfather.
Comrade Oshiomhole response was however revealing and instructive as he said he felt betrayed by his successor removal of the only commissioner he nominated to his cabinet and perceived countenance of Governor Obaseki to rubbish some of the projects he inherited.
He said:”We have no argument over money, we have no argument over appointment. In fact in a meeting that we held with four governors, including Governor Bagudu, governor Fayemi, Chief Niyi Adebayo now minister and AlhajiAlikoDangote, I asked the governor,‘how many commissioners did I nominate in your cabinet?’ And he agreed that I nominated only one out of 20 commissioners. And after that first meeting, the governor decided to remove that one commissioner along with seven others. The governor will not tell you that I dictate for him but the only thing I feel worried about is that some of the projects we started together have been abandoned, including the Benin Water storm master plan. Where I left it, they did not continue with it and if they don’t continue with it, flood will return to Benin.
“These are not personal issues. As the national chairman of the APC, I want the progress of our governors, so I must be interested about what they do. The governor had agreed at the beginning that since he is not a politician, he will want help. Now, when you start fighting politicians that is not governance.”
Comrade Oshiomhole further argued that it was wrong for Governor Obaseki to move against touts at motor parks who contributed their quota to the APC victory in the state. “My idea of leadership is that when people have worked with me and make all those sacrifices and I am elected, I cannot abandon them. I think I have a duty to rehabilitate them and give them a sense of belonging and a sense of ownership of the outcome of the elections. Motor parks will always be motor parks; whether it is in Lagos, Maiduguri or Port Harcourt, they have their code. The responsibility of government is to engage them and manage them in a way that they can do their lawful business because the National Union of Road Transport Workers and the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria are registered trade unions in Nigeria, they have a right to operate. And it is not for a governor to proscribe them. I defended those rights when I was the president of the Nigeria labour Congress (NLC) and I cannot accept that particularly when they have supported us to win election. That we just carry computer boys to motor parks and purport to be collecting revenue.”
Who blinks first?
The judiciary has since halted the move by the National Assembly to take over legislative functions in Edo State. The belligerent camps of both Comrade Oshiomhole and Governor Obaseki have remained unyielding while the crisis festers. Ahead of next year’s governorship election in the state, Nigerians continue to ask: between the godfather and his political son: who blinks first?