In Edo, the Battle is Just Beginning

Obaseki flanked by Oshiomhole and former Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode

The brewing supremacy battle between Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and his estranged godfather, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, is looking more like a zero-sum game, writes Adibe Emenyonu

The political war between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor, who is also the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, over the leadership of the state assembly is taking a new and dangerous dimension that if nothing is done urgently, the fire ignited by the war of attrition could badly consume either of both parties or their party.

Just like an Isoko proverb, which says: “He who throws away the soup meant for everybody will also go hungry,” what’s instructive in the ensuing battle is that it is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war, because at the end of the day, those fighting will discover the fight was not only unnecessary in the first place, but that they had opened up their camp to the enemies.

Since the nocturnal inauguration of nine out the 24 members-elect by the Clerk of Edo State Assembly, who transmitted Obaseki’s proclamation to a select few for the purpose of foisting the speaker of choice, Hon. Franklin Okiye, on the assembly, peace has eluded the once enviable political family in the state.

No day goes by without one activity or the other from the warring groups ostensibly to fortify their respective camps in case of any eventuality.

This, it was gathered, prompted the revered monarch, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II to call a truce meeting, inviting both Oshiomhole and Obaseki to resolve whatever differences they had.

According to an APC chieftain from Oredo, who was privy to the meeting, while Oshiomhole made the appointment given by the Oba, Obaseki came at about 4.30 pm “when Oshiomhole had waited and left.

The source, which craved anonymity said, “When Obaseki eventually got to the Oba palace, the Oba was not pleased and told the governor it appeared he did not want any reconciliation and in that case, he’d wash his hands off the matter since he was not a politician.”

Still worried about the state of things in the state, the Oba was forced to select some notable traditional rulers and chiefs from the state and paid a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari, prevailing on him to help bring the two personalities together.

That move by the Oba, it seemed, did not go down well with the governor’s group, because while the Oba and his entourage were still in Abuja, Obaseki sacked eight Commissioners and six Special Advisers believed to be loyal to Oshiomhole, a move many saw as hasty.

The move that was christened “Cabinet Reshuffle” was contained in a statement issued and signed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie Esq.
In the statement, Ogie said: “The Edo State Government has approved the reshuffle of the State Executive Council (EXCO), with the Commissioners named below relieved of their appointments with effect from the date of this announcement”.

Those affected, according to the statement, were Joseph Ugheoke, Commissioner for Energy and Water Resources; Magdalene Ohenhen, Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development; Osahon Amiolemen, Commissioner for Infrastructure; and Dr. David Osifo, Commissioner for Health.

Others were Mika Amanokha, Commissioner for Youths and Special Duties; Mariam Abubakar, Commissioner for Budget; Emmanuel Usoh, Commissioner for Wealth Creation, Cooperatives and Employment and Dr. Christopher Adesotu, Commissioner for Science and Technology.

Even without promptings a good look at the list, one can tell that those affected were Oshiomhole loyalists who were tactically replaced by the governor’s men as the statement indicated.

According to the statement, the nominees were Damian Lawani, former state assembly member representing Etsako East constituency; Joe Ikpea, who lost in the last National Assembly election to the represent Esan North East/Esan South East federal constituency, Segius Ogun of the PDP.

There was also Felix Akhabue, former council chairman; Moses Agbakor; Momoh Oise Omorogbe and Marie Edeko as Commissioners, while newly appointed Special Advisers are: Kabiru Adjoto the immediate past speaker of the Edo assembly who was sacked by the Supreme Court in favour of Peter Akpatason for Akoko-Edo federal constituency; Magdalene Ohenhen; Osaigbovo Iyoha; Andrew Momodu and Ojo Asien.

As part of efforts to fully assert himself, Obaseki has moved to probe the new Central Hospital built by Oshiomhole. In a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, he said the probe was necessitated by the heavy bill for repairs as well as the irregularities in the supply of equipment for use at the now renamed Benin Central Hospital,

He said the state government was under pressure to set up a Commission of Enquiry to probe the billions sunk into the numerous contracts awarded for the building of the hospital.”

The Commission of Enquiry, he said, would have a mandate to ascertain if details of contracts were strictly followed, especially the quality of materials, as heavy bills are being incurred for patch up work at the hospital and determine the extent of irregularities regarding the purchase of equipment, among others.
“Actors within the government are calling on the governor to probe the contracts in which billions of taxpayers’ money was expended on a project that was poorly executed”, Osagie added.

Not done and on the same day, the Edo government approached a federal high court, where it obtained an order of injunction restraining the NWC of the (APC, Inspector General of Police, the Commissioner of Police in Edo State, all defendants, their servants and agents, not to interfere, disrupt or obstruct the constitutional duties of members of the Edo House of Assembly.

The orders followed prayers in an ex-parte motion brought by Alhaji Yahaya Omogbai, Clerk of Edo State House of Assembly as plaintiffs/applicants) filed on June 28.
In the court documents, the presiding judge, Justice M. G. Umar, while issuing the order said: “An interim order of injunction is hereby granted restraining the defendants by themselves, their servants, agents, officers or privies from interfering with, obstructing or harassing, in any manner whatsoever, the plaintiffs in the performance of their constitutional duties as the Legislative Arm of the Edo State Government pending the hearing and determination of the motion on Notice for interlocutory injunction.”

Before adjourning the case to October 9, 2019, the court also ordered “that an interim order of injunction is further granted restraining the 1st defendant, his servants, agents, officers or privies from further publishing in any newspaper or other media, any inciting publications concerning the inauguration of the 7th Assembly of the Edo State House Assembly and the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker which took place on 17/6/2019 in the Edo State House of Assembly.”
In spite of all these, a socio-cultural group under the umbrella of Joint Action for the Advancement of Democracy (JAADE) has decried minority rule over majority in an assembly of 24 members.

The group during a media briefing in Benin City, said the state was being gradually ploughed into political crisis since the inauguration of nine members-elect of the assembly and subsequently election of a speaker and deputy speaker, stressing that the state was fast degenerating into a theatre of war by the action of those responsible for the action taken by the few members of the state lawmakers.

The JAADE leader, Mr. Aiyemenkhue Edokpolo, who was flanked by other executive members, noted that stakeholders were worried, especially 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.
The group however called for a proper inauguration of the assembly and demanded immediate and unconditional restoration to the ideal democratic order, where a proper inauguration of the 24 members-elect would be done freely and fairly. Also, a former member of House of Representatives, representing Owan Federal Constituency Rt. Hon. Pally Iriase, also frowned at crisis in the state assembly, describing it as shameful and undemocratic.

Iriase, who was the deputy majority whip of the 8th national assembly, told the Edo lawmakers to be wary of trading off their independence, and advised that those, who want to assume leadership position should be able to talk to their colleagues instead of relying on outside influence.

Just as the crisis continued, a former National Vice Chairman of the defunct All Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Austin Eweka, who is an Obaseki acolyte, has declared that no Abuja leader can remove Hon Frank Okiye as Speaker of the newly inaugurated 7th Edo State House of Assembly.

Eweka said the era of one person sitting somewhere to dictate to others was over in the Edo chapter of the APC.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has waded into the crisis by setting up a 13-member ad-hoc committee to investigate the crisis rocking the Edo assembly comprising 24 members, who all belong to the ruling APC headed by Abdulrazak Namdas, APC Adamawa.

The motion for the House intervention was moved by Prof. Julius Ihonvbere (Owan Federal Constituency) of Edo State who expressed concern the improper inauguration of Edo 7th Assembly. He said nine of the 24 elected were sworn in without the knowledge of the other 15 members-elect, adding that Section 105 (3) directs the governor to issue a proclamation to facilitate the inauguration of the House of Assembly to commence legislative business to avoid a constitutional crisis.

Ihonvbere who disclosed that four members-elect of the assembly were abducted by state operatives, prayed the House at plenary to takeover the affairs of Edo Assembly as provided by section II (4) of the 1999 Constitution.

Responding to Ihonvbere’s prayers, the House Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila mandated the committee to investigate the matter and report back within one week.
But in a swift reaction, the Edo Assembly Speaker, Okiye has dared the House not to allow them selves to be used by anyone to achieve their personal agenda, maintaining that the assembly headed by him was duly inaugurated and that the business of lawmaking has been going on without any hindrance.

To ensure the House of Representatives does not have its way, Obaseki in a rally Thursday, said his administration was waiting for the committee, adding that he has all it takes to resist the take over of Edo Assembly.

“Those who want to stop us, we are waiting for you. We dare you to come and take over”.

Clearly, the battle line has been drawn between the two warring factions. And from the speech of Obaseki at the rally, two things might likely play out in the imbroglio. One, Obaseki may not get the ticket of APC except there is genuine reconciliation.

Should the ticket elude him, he may likely pitch his tent with any of the opposition parties to actualise his second term ambition riding on his popularity with the people. However, if he wobbled through and secured his re-election ticket regardless, it might be the end of Oshiomhole’s political career in the state.