Talking Stealthy Steps Like a Thief in the Night

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Adibe Emenyonu writes that the political crisis in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State, which led to the nocturnal inauguration of nine out of the 24 members has deep inferences for governorship election in the state, next year

Before and after the March 9 House of Assembly in Edo State, the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) controlled 20 out of the 24 members that constitutes the house. Then, there was no stiff opposition from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), that had just four seats.

Then came the House of Assembly election and the APC won all the state constituency seats. Shortly after, the feat became, 24-over-24 became a slogan .

The sweat victory, however, came after the initial tears that followed the trashing by the PDP in the National Assembly election. Against all permutations, The PDP won five out of the nine federal constituency seats; and two senatorial seats out of the three. Worst for the APC was the abysmal performance in Edo South district which parades notable names like Governor Godwin Obaseki, former APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; immediate past Minister of State Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, APC current Secretary, Lawrence Okay; former chairman of the party, Chief Osaro Idah; former deputy governor, Dr. Pius Odubu and a host of others.

Based on this outcome, Obaseki was said to have literally wept and vowed to right the wrongs with the state assembly polls. The resolution apparently paid off as the state APC recorded 24 out of the 24 seats.

Ordinarily, with such victory in its kitty, the expected harmony and smooth relationship within the party many say would further strengthen the state assembly. This thinking, however, remained in the realm of imagination as the victory rather than being a blessing has led to a lot of ripples, as a result of the sharing of election booty at the centre of quarrel.

Today, the party is divided into two: torn between those loyal to the APC National Cjairman, Adam Oshiomhole and followers of Governor Godwin Obaseki. While six are on the side of the governor, 18 are perceived to be backed by the APC National Chairman.

Before the present crisis engulfed the assembly the party in conjunction with the governor was said to have called a meeting with elected members of the house intimating them of the party
position, as to who takes what regarding principal officers of the house.

At the meeting, the party had zoned the Speaker to Edo Central; the deputy speaker to Edo North, excluding Estako, that had produced the Deputy Governor; while the majority leader was to come from Edo South.

Curiously, the meeting did not discuss names of those to occupy such position neither were members elect approached on who should be elected into any of the principal offices in the house.

But in a twist, information began to fly that Obaseki wants Frank Okiye (Esan North East I), a former Majority leader of the assembly who decamped from PDP to APC, while Oshiomhole preferred former speaker, Victor Edoror (Esan Central). Incidentally, both are from Edo Central where the speakership position was zoned.

This, nevertheless, created division within the assembly. Not only that, it also created a wide gulf between Oshiomhole and Obaseki; generating a fight of supremacy between the two.

Apparently, realising that going to battle with ill-equipped infantry, the governor in connivance with the party chairman, Anselm Ojezua conspired and drafted the Clerk, Alhaji Yahaya Omogbai as the chief executioner.

In order to perfect the plan, the clerk, on Monday, June 19, informed all the elected members of a proclamation from the governor for the inauguration of the assembly and promised to get back. This, he never did but choose to inform just six of those said to be loyal to the governor.

Sensing that six will not be enough, the plotters decided to employ an unusual tactics to perform the inauguration at about 9.30 pm. Before this, three members from the other side were allegedly abducted to be part of the inauguration as later confirmed by Eric Okaka (Owan East) and Nosa Okunbor (Orhionmwon East) who told reporters they were forcefully dragged to the hallow chambers to give what was done a legitimacy.

Okaka specifically said, “I didn’t know where they brought a suit for me to wear. The oath taking was an illegal one because I am a child of light.”

This was after some legal experts were said to have been engaged to look at the constitutionality of the act when carried out. Having given their nod, the plot was carried out with security agencies giving cover and the house was inaugurated with nine members and Okiye, (Esan North East) and Yekini Idiaye (Akoko-Edo II) emerged as speaker and deputy speaker respectively.

When the information broke out at the wee hours of next day, there were reactions for and against the propriety or otherwise of what happened at the assembly.

Explaining the legality of the action, a top government functionary accused the 18 lawmakers of failing to do the needful before rushing to the press to embarrass the governor over non transmission of proclamation. To the official, who is a lawyer but refused to have his name mentioned, the constitution stated the procedures to proclaim an assembly. He said the constitution only stated that after the governor’s swearing in, he shall issue a proclamation. The governor, he argued was not sworn in on May 29 and so nobody should apply what happened in other states to Edo.

According to him, “Obaseki was already a sitting governor when the state lawmakers were elected. The constitution did not provide for such situation.”

Besides, he said: “The assembly already had a quorum before it was inaugurated. Section 105 (3) of 1999 Constitution did not specify whether a quorum should be at plenary or at committee level.

He maintained that after every election there are processes. First, he said is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which issues Certificate of Return; the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) for assets declaration before approaching the clerk for inauguration.

The anonymous state official asked how many of the elected lawmakers fulfilled all the requirements and presented himself to the clerk and refused? He pointed out that the constitution stipulates that it is only the the governor can issue proclamation and send it to the clerk who shall read it to members who present themselves.

In a counter, a member from Uhunmwode, Washington Osifo said the law requires the inauguration of the entire members and not a few at odd hours, insisting he and others were not invited for the inauguration ceremony.

Osifo disclosed that the clerk merely called to inform that he is in possession of the governor’s proclamation and promised to call back in 30 minutes time which he never did until at about 9.30 pm when photographs of the inauguration began to filter into their mobile phones.

Similarly, a Benin-based legal practitioner, Mr. Douglas Ogbankwa, faulted the inauguration on the ground that due process was not followed. He said the inauguration process requires clerk of the house to issue notices to all members-elect before the date of the inauguration, adding that in the instant case, there is no evidence to show that such notices were issued, as a video clip that went viral, showed one of the lawmakers-elect wearing a suit atop a short while subscribing to the oath of office. Such outfit, he declared, is forbidden by the 2015 Rules of the House.

Besides, Ogbankwa explained that the rules stipulate the sitting time of the assembly as 10 am and not at night, arguing further that the issue of quorum, can only come into play after the house has been inaugurated and has commenced sitting. Even at that, he queried why only the Clerk and no other staff of the House was present at the inauguration.

According to Ogbankwa, “The whole thing is a charade‎ and cannot stand the test of law.”

Lending its voice, the Benin-based Civil Society Organisation condemned the show of shame at the Edo assembly, saying the minority rule foisted on the assembly is an assault on the collective intelligence of people of the state.

The group under the umbrella of Joint Action for the Advancement of Democracy in Edo (JAADE), said with the rule of minority over majority in the Edo State House of Assembly (EDHA), the state has been plunged into a political crisis with the inauguration of nine members-elect out of 24.

At a press conference, the group stressed that the state is fast degenerating into a theatre of war prompted by the action of those responsible for what happened. Leader of JAADE, Mr. Aiyemenkhue Edokpolo who was flanked by other executive members during the briefing, noted that stakeholders are worried by the violence that followed the midnight inauguration of nine out of 24 members-elect on the 17th of June, during which some members-elect were assaulted at a hotel in Benin City.

He condemned what he described as the varying tendencies behind the impasse in the Edo assembly and called for a proper inauguration of the house as well as the immediate and unconditional restoration to the ideal democratic order where a proper inauguration for the 24 members-elect would be done freely and fairly.

According to Edokpolor, “This is clearly a case of conjuring minority rule in an assembly that is organically positioned as the melting pot of democratic ethos, and the indefatigable symbol of democracy all over the world. We believe that Edo is a congregate of some of the most enlightened Nigerians; and thus we view the motor park styled inauguration of the assembly as a generational disgrace that some nine members in a show of unnecessary bravado outplayed their colleagues in an unholy hour to install minority rule.

“This, in our view, is most uncivilised, barbaric, and a threat to the democracy and peace. This is happening at a time when Nigerians are in a sober reflection of the watershed of June 12, 1992 elections, when some nationalists shared their blood to regain democracy from military rule”.

In spite the call by the Human Rights body, the Okiye-led assembly as presently constituted has sworn in two other members from the other camp. They are Emmanuel Okoduwa (Esan North East II) and Sunny Ojiezele (Esan South East), thus swelling the number of those in his camp and further depleting the numerical strength of the other faction.

With all this, it is clear that the battle for 2020 governorship has begun as Obaseki has demonstrated that he is not the political neophyte of yesterday but a matured grandmaster.

But how far he can go depends on Oshiomhole’s attitude. The APC National Chairman is keeping his strategy close to his ches. Again, whatever political victory Obaseki garnered remains pyrrhic. Before daring Oshiomhole, he should have understood the rules of the game, and that is “you don’t dare the master while running your first tenure.”

Little wonder, political analysts are of the opinion that Obaseki was quick to fight Oshiomhole. They are of the view that he who fights before a second term ticket usually has a bitter tale to tell. How all these intrigues will play out remains anyone’s guess. One thing is sure. The unfolding drama is about the Edo governorship contest in 2020.