In a bid to balance the political tripod in the state, Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly, Elizabeth Ativie, resigned her position, paving way for the emergence of another speaker. Adibe Emenyonu, in Benin City, reports
Eleven weeks after impeaching its speaker and replacing him with a female speaker, Elizabeth Ativie, who represents Uhunmwode constituency, another speaker was last Monday sworn in by the Edo State House of Assembly. He is Justine Okonoboh, who represents Igueben state constituency.
Before his emergence, Okonoboh was the deputy speaker of the Assembly, making his elevation a mere change of baton, more so as Ativie was made the deputy speaker. Ativie was on May 3 elected as the speaker after Victor Edoro (Esan Central) was impeached over alleged impropriety and high handedness.
The motion for the new change of leadership was first moved by the Majority Leader, Folly Ogedengbe (Owan East), and was seconded by Chris Okaigben (Oredo East) under matters of urgent public importance.
Moving the motion, Ogedengbe explained that the change was necessary to ensure fairness in the political equation so that the three senatorial districts in the state will be represented in the power sharing formula.
But to achieve this, the house rules 1 (2), 20, 22 and 73 were relaxed before the majority leader asked Ativie to step down for the lawmaker from Igueben, a first timer, to assume the post of speaker, while she took oath of office as deputy speaker with other positions remaining intact.
Speaking further, Ogedengbe said: “I am going to move that there is a change of leadership in the house in order that this state move forward so that there will be fairness and equity in the system. That the three senatorial districts will be properly accommodated. I am going to move with a heavy heart.
“I move, therefore, that the Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Mr.s Elizabeth Ativie, should step down and assume office as deputy speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly and that that the deputy speaker, Dr. Justin Okonoboh, be promoted as the new Speaker.”
The motion was supported by the member representing Oredo East constituency, Chris Okaeben. It was gathered that the cooperative manner with which Ativie accepted the change was an indication that what took place was a mere rehearsal of a well written script.
In her acceptance speech, Ativie said her stay in office as speaker recorded tremendous achievements as the members worked as a team. She commended her colleagues for giving her the opportunity to serve and urged them to accord similar cooperation to her successor.
According to her, “Although this is a huge and difficult sacrifice to make, I believe that it should be done for the sake of the people of Edo State. No sacrifice will be too big to pay in meeting the yearning and aspiration of our people who elected us to this House.
“Today, I lower my pride and my ambition for the general good of the people and the state through which I emerged as a legislator.”
On his part, the newly elected Speaker, Dr. Justin Okonoboh, described his emergence as a result of wide consultations within the All Progressives Congress family in the state. He noted that the new development was a family matter devoid of any interference from the governor, and commended his predecessor for her willingness to step down in a manner unprecedented in the country. He assured that all the appointments made by Ativie would not be changed as a mark of respect for her.
Ativie’s step down was also said to have been agreed by the ruling APC leadership following the emergence of Godwin Obaseki from Edo South senatorial district as governorship candidate and Philip Shaibu from Edo North as his running mate.
It would be recalled that when the Speaker of Esan extraction, Victor Edoror (Esan Central state constituency) was impeached on May 3, he was replaced by Ativie (Uhunmwonde state constituency) from Edo South. Against this backdrop, the people of Edo Central cried out, accusing Governor Adams Oshiomhole of marginalising the area.
However, after the APC primaries on June 18, which was won by Obaseki from Edo South senatorial district, and the eventual nomination of a running mate, Phillip Shaibu from Edo North senatorial district, APC leaders in the state, sensing the danger posed ahead of the September 10 governorship election, met with Oshiomhole and resolved to return the speakership to Edo Central senatorial district.
It was also gathered that when Oshiomhole, the APC lawmakers, and leadership of the party met, it was resolved that the impeached Speaker Edoror must not return hence, the choice of Okonoboh.
With the latest arrangement, the three senatorial districts have been carried along in the scheme of things in the state, said Anselm Ojezua, Edo State APC chairman, who is from the same zone as Okonoboh.