On the Edo State horizon are suspense, intrigues and power game that will define the shape of things to come in favour or against Governor Godwin Obaseki’s favour. Adibe Emenyonu writes
From all indications, the relationship between Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, and his predecessor and National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole has given way to animosity to the extent that supporters of both parties now clash at the slightest provocation.
The problem between the two allegedly began, when the erstwhile political godfather admonished godson to stop alienating party faithful, who worked for his election in favour of his friends in Lagos, Abuja, and other places.
As a way forward, Oshiomhole was said to have advised the governor to constitute boards as a means of ‘settling’ party members, who are crying of marginalization.
But since then, the two have refused to see. Even at that Obaseki appears to be who does not like to mix politics with governance as he had said at different times that doing so would promote indolence.
As a one who wants value for money, he appears not cut out for doling out money in the name of party patronage, a thing he wants to eradicate in the state. This has no doubt pitted him against his predecessor, who believes governance must come with a human face, because the welfare of the people is the sole aim of government anywhere.
To wriggle out of this, the governor began quietly to create his own political structure so that he could be his own man.
The first signs of a disagreement between the two began during the last party primaries in the state. It was gathered that the interest of the governor was parallel with that of Oshiomhole on the choice of candidates to fly the flag of the party in the state both at the State and national levels.
To this extent, Obaseki was accused of not backing a majority of those chosen for the national assembly elections, because he believed they were Oshiomhole’s boys, which accounted for why they failed in the elections.
Worst hit is his own senatorial district where APC lost abysmally in Oredo, his own immediate constituency as well as the senatorial seat to the rival PDP except for Edo North that came to the rescue.
However, during the House of Assembly elections, and having learnt from the mistakes made in the National Assembly elections, more enthusiasm was shown and the state recorded 24 out of the 24 state assembly seats.
Ordinarily, the electoral victory is supposed to be a blessing for the party in the state. But it has turned out to be a test of political strength by the two gladiators over who takes control of the legislature as the only tool of leadership.
While Obaseki wanted a former Majority Leader, Frank Okiye, (Esan North East I constituency), Oshiomhole preferred Victor Edoro (Esan Central constituency).
This created a division among the elected assembly members with five members backed by Obaseki; and 19 queuing behind Oshiomhole.
Sensing the futility of going into a contest should the entire elected member be inaugurated at the same time and going into a contest for the position of leadership and other principal officers of the house, which could be best described as a coup was staged when nine assembly members met on Monday night and elected Frank Okiye and Yekini Idiaye as speaker and deputy speaker respectively with the inauguration of the House presided over by the Clerk, Alhaji Audu Yahaya Omogbai.
Among members present at the inauguration are Nosa Okunbor, Orhiomwon II; Hon. Henry Okuarobo, Ikpoba-Okha; Hon. Uyi Ekhosuehi. Oredo East; Marcus Onobun, Ewan West; Ephraim Anehbosele; Orhiomwon South; Roland Asoro, Orhiomwon I; Eric Okaka; Frank Okiye, Esan North East I; and Idiaye, Akoko-Edo I.
The inauguration, which followed a letter of the proclamation from Governor Obaseki to the Clerk of the House and dated June 14, was held between 9.30pm and 10.30 pm amid tight security. It came a few hours after the 19 members-elect protested the non-proclamation of the Assembly by Governor Obaseki earlier that day.
To perfect the planned inauguration without the knowledge of others, three lawmakers among the 19 that protested earlier in the day were invited for a meeting and in the process, their phones were allegedly taken from them before they were driven to the Assembly and sworn in by the Clerk along with six other members who were already at the House of Assembly.
Before the clandestine inauguration took place, a team of lawyers was allegedly assembled to study the implication. Soon after, the lawmakers adjourned sitting until July 17 before they were driven to meet the governor at his private residence.
During the inauguration, 17 police patrol vehicles were parked in front of the Assembly complex while additional seven were strategically stationed in adjoining roads. About eight other security vehicles were also sighted around the governor’s residence.
Upon completion of the process of swearing-in, the Speaker, Okiye took charge of proceedings and thanked all the members present for the confidence reposed in him, promising that he would work for the people of Edo State. He also called on members-elect who have not satisfied the process of swearing-in, which includes the completion of the asset declaration form, to do so speedily so they could be inaugurated to undertake the task for which the people elected them.
The speaker also declared officially open, the lines of communication with the executive arm of government and all other organs of government.
As it stands, the 16 members have not been sworn in and cannot be referred to as legislators. A source close to the party, who craved anonymity, said those who were not part of the swearing-in could not be regarded as members of the state assembly yet. He said until that is done and they meet all the requirements and were sworn in by the clerk, they are as good as ordinary members of society. Nevertheless, the 16 lawmakers-elect have denied knowledge of any invitation to the inauguration ceremony of the Assembly by the clerk, noting that whatever was done at the hallow chambers was null and void and of no effect before the law.
Addressing journalists, spokesman of the 16, Mr. Washington Osifo (Uhunmwode), said they would have been present at the inauguration if they were invited.
Osifo said the clerk called them at about 5:30 pm to inform them that he has been called from the government house and they were happy that the press conference has pricked the governor to do what the constitution demands of him.
He said the clerk told them he would call back 30 minutes later but that they didn’t hear from him again, noting that some of their brothers, who were supposed to be at a meeting with then were absent and when they tried calling them, they could not pick their calls “until about 9:30 pm, when photographs began to filter into our phones suggesting that a kangaroo assembly was being inaugurated”.
He added: “We were disappointed. One of us was spotted with a short and slippers taking the oath of office. That was an offence in the hallowed chamber. They humiliated him. Two of them were also kidnapped to make up the nine members. What they needed because they lack understanding of what a quorum could mean.
“There can be no quorum until the House is properly inaugurated. What the law requires is inauguration of the entire members. They got eight and said they have a quorum. It was for the Clerk to announce or cause invitation to be sent to us. That was missing. They gave information of the inauguration only to those they wanted to be there. We would have been there.
“We have done the needful. We want to encourage Edo people to defend democracy and stand up for the right of men. We have 16 members present here. Others not here are still in shock after they were kidnapped. Two of them are still in shock. They are receiving treatment because their blood pressure went up.”
Corroborating Osifo’s statement, two of the lawmakers, who were present at the inauguration ceremony, said they were abducted and forced to the Assembly premises to make the numbers for a quorum.
Eric Okaka elected to represent Owan East and Nosa Okunbor (Orhionmwon East), said they were forcibly taken unto the hallowed chambers. He said he does not know where they brought a suit for him to wear, adding that the oath-taking at the chamber was an illegal one and that the inauguration was done under duress, because he was offered money, which he refused.
To compound this, thugs suspected to be loyal to the state government, Tuesday night attacked the 16 members-elect. The thugs allegedly led by one Shaba was said to have unleashed mayhem on the lawmakers-elect, inflicting serious body injuries on them.
The attack took place at lden Tulip Hotel, Etete, in Benin City, shortly after they held a press conference. From the video clip, watched, a staccato of gunshots could be heard as people ran helter-skelter in the ensuing pandemonium.
Presently, the yet-to-be inaugurated members have gone underground, because of the stern warning coming from the governor and chairman of the party in the state, Mr. Anselm Ojezua. In a statement, Ojezua condemned the actions of the members-elect, who were throwing tantrums over the emergence of the leadership of the newly inaugurated 7th Edo State House of Assembly. He said the actions of the members-elect were a betrayal of the trust reposed in them by Edo people when they elected an APC-controlled House.
He, therefore, called on the National Chairman of the Party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, whom he said should be aware of the issues, to call the members-elect to order, in the interest of the party in the state.
Similarly, in a different statement, the governor sent a stern warning to those he referred to as individuals and groups with the intent to disrupt peace in the state by re-enacting the era of thuggery and civil disturbances to desist, because his administration would not tolerate any form of violence in the state.
The statement signed by the Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Paul Ohonbamu, said the state government would deploy all apparatus of the state to ensure that peace is maintained in the state and that well-meaning, law-abiding citizens are assured a free space to go about their businesses without hindrance.
He said by the notice, the government was sending a strong warning to individuals and groups with the intention to cause violence in the state to do away with any such thought because any attempt to re-enact the era of violence would be met with the requisite response from the relevant apparatus of the state.
With all this, it is clear that the battle for 2020 governorship has begun. As it is, Obaseki has shown Oshiomhole that he is no longer the political neophyte of yesterday but also a political headmaster.
But the question is how far he can go especially that Oshiomhole is silent? Again, whatever political victory Obaseki thinks he has made remain pyrrhic except there are forces bigger than Oshiomhole that are backing him which is yet to be uncovered.
First, Oshiomhole is the national chairman of the party with the powers to supervise the primary elections that will deliver Obaseki for a second term except he is removed before then.
Political analysts are of the opinion that Obaseki was quick to fight Oshiomhole. They are of the opinion that those who fight before second term ticket always have a bitter tale to tell. How all this will play out is yet to be seen.