For the sake of the teeming electorate in Edo State, all the actors in the current imbroglio in the state must give peace a chance now, writes Adibe Emenyonu
When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers, says the age-long proverb. This proverb, however, best describes the feud between the two political gladiators in Edo State that has decelerated governance in the state.
Since the inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly on June 17, the state has been enmeshed in crisis, when nine out of the 24 members-elect were inaugurated by the Clerk, following proclamation from Governor Godwin Obaseki, which in turn elected the member, representing Esan North East II, Hon. Francis Okiye as the Speaker.
From that day, the state has remained in a logjam, because the division created by the nocturnal inauguration, which some persons are now justifying, while others condemn it.
To the state government headed by Governor Godwin Obaseki and its supporters, there is no going back on the inauguration. Justifying their position, once the governor has issued proclamation letter, he has fulfilled that constitutional requirements.
This is in addition to the judicial stumbling block placed on the pathway of opponents of the inauguration by preventing the National Assembly from accomplishing its threat of taking over.
First is the Federal High Court, Benin, followed by the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt and lately, the Federal High Court, Abuja.
In all the injunctions, Obaseki sought, one prayer which was granted: to stopped the Clerk of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate as well as the Speaker of the House of Representatives or their agents, officers or privies from interfering or taking over the legislative functions of the state House of Assembly.
The order was also to stop the Inspector General of Police, DSS from enforcing the National Assembly resolution. This is in addition to favourable public opinion, where various writers and opinion leaders had spoken majorly in favour of the governor especially, that the sanctity of the rule of law must be upheld.
But there’s one question proponents of the inauguration have failed to answer and it is the place of public opinion over constitutionality.
From all indications, the resolution of the Senate nay House of Representatives did not go down well with the Edo State Government, which described it as unconstitutional and a flagrant disregard for the Principle of Separation of Powers.
Querying the resolution of the National Assembly, the Edo government said the resolution directing the governor to issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the assembly was illegal and would not stand.
In the statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, the government declared that the illegality would not stand and advised persons it ascribed as powerful, not to allow themselves to be used to set the state ablaze merely to satisfy their thirst for power and control.
According to the statement: “The Edo State Government watched with alarm as the distinguished Senate of the Federal Republic of and the House of Representatives in a step that was not totally unexpected, purported to pass a resolution in the following terms: Directing the Governor of Edo State to issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly, and Ordering a fresh inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly within one (1) week from the date of the said Resolution.”
It went further to say the move was not unexpected in the light of the enormous political pressure, which had been brought to bear on the officers and members of the distinguished Senate and the House of Representatives by those ascribed highly placed and powerful persons, whose intent was to foist their will and choices on the people of the state.
The Edo government further hinged its argument on a recorded statements purportedly made by one Seid Oshiomhole (a Member-elect and younger brother of the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress Comrade Adams Oshiomhole) wherein the said Saidu boasted that both the Senate President, Senator Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila had been instructed on what to do in this matter.
The statement added that during the visit of the chairman and members of Ad-Hoc Committees of both chambers to the state, they were made to know of the existence of at least three suits pending before various Courts wherein the factual and legal dispute regarding the Edo State House of Assembly inauguration was submitted to by both contending parties for resolution.
Ogie noted that the Ad-Hoc Committee of the two chambers also failed to inform their people of the existence, on getting to Abuja, of a valid injunction in Suit No FHC/B/OS/70/2019, wherein the Federal High Court restrained various parties from interfering in any manner with the activities of the Edo State House of Assembly, which said order had been brought to their attention in the course of their visit to Edo State.
He maintained that: “In point of fact in Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/159/2019 the National Assembly, the Clerk of National Assembly, the President of the Senate and Speaker of House of Representatives amongst others were specifically ordered by the Federal High Court to maintain the Status Quo as at 25th July, 2019.
“The Edo State Government is further aware that in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/815/2019, wherein the Clerk and the National Assembly are defendants before the Federal High Court in Abuja, the National Assembly and the Clerk have not only been duly served with the processes but have entered appearance in the matter.
He further noted that both the House of Representatives and Senate would act in flagrant breach of these various Court Orders and purport to come to factual and legal conclusions concerning a matter in which the parties are already before the Courts and therefore subjudice, emphasising that it is the duty of the Clerk of the House of Assembly to inaugurate the House of Assembly and he has since performed that task.
It claimed that any further pronouncements by the federal lawmakers on the subject (with respect) is clearly misconceived and would amount to interference in the role of the Courts, which may in fact constitute contempt with which the governor would not wish to be associated.
Besides, the Edo SSG warned that the state was not a colony or a vassal of any person or persons exercising power in Abuja, pointing out that all necessary steps within the ambit of the law to defend and validate the state position and actions on this matter would be taken. The committees of both Houses from their findings, which was communicated to the committee of the whole, said during their fact-finding mission to Edo State with the various stakeholders, they discovered that members-elect yet to be inaugurated were not duly informed by the Clerk of the House as required by law.
In other words, that there was nothing concrete to show that they were informed in anyway by the Clerk, which in their opinion was abnormal and against laid down laws.
Besides, that the inauguration was not done with stipulated legislative hours; that is so say within the working hours of 8am to 4pm contrary to the 3pm time given by the Clerk as the time the inauguration took place which has not been challenged or disputed by proponents.
Another crack in the controversial inauguration, according to the committees, which was adopted, is that the advertisement notice placed by the Clerk of the House to notify members, published in one of the national dailies, came a day after the inauguration proper.
Speaking on the Federal High Court restraining order, the Deputy Chairman, House of Representatives Pensions Committee and member, ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Bamidele Salam, representing Ede North, Ede South, Egbedore and Ejigbo Federal Constituency of Osun State, acknowledged the existence of the court orders.
He, however, said there had been several court decisions that the court could not stop the National Assembly from carrying out its constitutional functions.
“I am aware that there have been various decisions of the courts, which say that a court cannot stop the National Assembly from performing its statutory functions. So, if there is a statutory function that has been empowered by the constitution for the National Assembly, I don’t think the court can stop the House from performing that function. There are several decisions of courts on that,” he said.
The lawmaker, who could not quote any relevant court judgment or ruling to buttress his point, merely said “As far as I am concerned, that is an exercise in futility because it is the constitution that gives that power to the House and it is one of the responsibilities, which the House has to exercise wherever a state Assembly is not able to perform its functions as enshrined in the constitution.”
Sadly, while the gladiators fight dirty, there is no one in the crowded gallery with the strength to stop them, just a sea of heads of acolytes cheering from the sidelines to a sharply divided APC.
As the two warring factions continue to flex muscles, the state is the ultimate loser. Governance has since taken flight, including robust legislative functions, which is the hallmark of democracy.
Even with claims that the assembly has been functioning after the disputed inauguration, the fact remains that it is merely crawling with nothing concrete achieved and may never be achieved except the voice of reasoning is allowed to rule over sentiments, which has no place in the present political quagmire.
The electorate of course has remained the worst hit while the shadow boxing lasts with followers wanting it to continue, because of what they are benefiting from the dispute. Monies meant for development have continued to find their way into private pockets in the name of realignment.
This is why good spirited individuals have admonished both Adams Oshiomhole and Obaseki to bury the hatchet in the interest of the governed and make good use of the window of opportunity provided by the National Assembly recess to mend fences.
Luckily for them, since all matters and decisions regarding the Edo Assembly crisis will wait until the Senate reconvenes on September 24, including the ruling of a Federal High Court in Abuja, ordering all parties in the dispute to maintain status quo pending the determination of the substantive suit before it, the time has come for the incumbent and his predecessor to come together for a win-win situation.
They both should realise that in politics, there is always conflicts. This is because while Oshiomhole truly drew applause for his efforts on the social infrastructure irrespective of opposition propaganda), the coming of his protege, Obaseki brought a gentler government, a happy break from the brashness of the past.
In all, both are winners and need not allow the present misunderstanding vitiate their relationship. Just as Oshiomhole is agitated trying to hold down a mentee, he should probably not forget that Obaseki is no longer a suckling that needs teeth when he has grown teeth.
Obaseki should also realise that in politics suffering the consequences of a godfather sometimes is a to let go. Oshiomhole still holds the ace in APC. By subterfuge, he could deny Obaseki the party’s gubernatorial ticket and serve him the Akinwumi Ambode treatment in Lagos State.
And should this happen and from whichever prism one is looking at it, both of them would lose big to the opposition. They therefore must remember that the opposition PDP is waiting like a predator to capture Edo State just like any other party looking at the worsening picture.