Tension Persists in Edo as Pro-Oshiomhole Lawmakers Fail to Access Assembly

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•Obaseki: Attempt to invade Assembly, a coup d’etat
•Tinubu: Obaseki’s actions, assault on constitutional democracy
•US worries about ‘deteriorating political climate in Edo State’
•Buhari receives Ize-Iyamu, urges APC to avoid Rivers, Zamfara pitfalls

By Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Chuks Okocha and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja; Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City

Supporters of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State turned out in large number in the early hours of yesterday at the state’s House of Assembly, in solidarity with Obaseki and the Speaker, Francis Okiye, impeached by factional lawmakers on Thursday, and prevented the pro-Oshiomhole lawmakers from accessing the Assembly.

On the same day, Governor Obaseki, in a statewide broadcast, described the failed invasion of the Assembly complex as an attempted coup d’état that was tantamount to treason and contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution.

However, a Chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu said Obaseki’s actions so far in the Edo House of Assembly crisis “is an assault on constitutional democracy.”

The crowd that consisted members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and women groups, condoned off the Edo Assembly complex, preventing pro-Oshiomohole lawmakers, who arrived at about 8 AM, and the police, who were allegedly on ground to assist them enter the complex, from achieving their mission.

Also, the women group, led by Edo South woman leader of PDP, Lady Uwa Osunbor, denounced the purported impeachment of Okiye by the 17 factional members of the House who were allegedly inaugurated on Thursday and which produced Mr. Victor Edoror as their Speaker.

Lady Osunbor said: “We voted for them since last year, they are supposed to be in Edo Assembly to perform their duty, but they relocate to Abuja.

“They are aware that the election is approaching, now that we are ready to vote to reelect our Governor, they don’t have what to campaign with, they decide to use the House of Assembly to cause confusion, and we are not going to agree with them.

“When we elected them, they preferred to stay put in Abuja. Let them remain in Abuja. They should not come to disturb us here. We are not tigers and lions, we are compassionate mothers. We are here to beg Edo women, Edo youths, not to listen to them.

“All those illegalities they did in somebody’s private living room is not for Edo state. We have not inaugurated them; the people we inaugurated are already doing the legislative business. Let them go back to Abuja with their trouble. We are preparing for election to re-elect our Governor and they cannot disturb us.

“That is why we are here to show solidarity with our Speaker, Hon. Okiye. He is the Speaker that we know.”

The impeachment saga also took a spiritual dimension as priestesses of Benin extraction, who are traditional worshippers, laid curses at the assembly gate.

Speaking on behalf of others, the priestess of Ekutetebite Negwogho group, Princess lnibokun lmasemwenbor, said she inherited her symbol of authority as juju priestess from her grandfather and that whatever she pronounced on anyone would come to pass.

“I was at home when I saw on television the crisis at the Edo Assembly. I heard some of the things said that some people from other ethnic groups are trying to turn Benin upside down. We Benin people don’t like what they are doing.

“APC is oppressing Obaseki; that is mere oppression, they want to oppress our Obaseki.

“Why I am interested in the matter is that we did not have access road to my community before Obaseki became Governor. We used to spend so much to come to Benin. But now, we can travel in and out of our community with ease, no more erosion.

“For that reason, I must support Obaseki for a second term. Whoever says he will turn the state upside down to rig the election, let the heads of our ancestors torment them.

“Obaseki is a peace maker, he gave us amenities of life and for that reason, I have to back him up with my strength.

Obaseki: Attempt to Invade Edo Assembly, a Coup D’etat

Governor Obaseki condemned the failed invasion of the Assembly complex, describing it as an attempted coup d’état that was treasonable and contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution.

Obaseki, who said this in a statewide broadcast yesterday, assured that his administration would do all that was necessary to defend the rule of law and democratic ideals.

“Any person or group of persons who set out to test our will in this regard will meet with the full wrath of the law,” the governor warned.

He noted: “These events portend grave danger to the safety and security of our polity. It had all the hallmarks of an attempted coup d’état.

“The people of Edo State rose as one to prevent the desecration of our democracy. It is however worrisome that certain persons are willing to plunge the society into avoidable anarchy and conflict just to satisfy their illegitimate objectives.”

According to the Governor, “The crisis in the Edo State legislature dates back to June 17th, 2019, when upon my proclamation of the 7th Edo State House of Assembly, some members-elect refused to present themselves for inauguration.

“The Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in a judgement delivered on the 12th of September, 2019, decided that my proclamation of the House of Assembly was lawful and that the National Assembly could not take over the function of the Edo State House of Assembly as the conditions for doing so did not exist.

“The court judgement affirmed that the Assembly was duly inaugurated and held that the Governor or any other person could not issue another proclamation.

“Even after this judgement, the 14 members-elect stayed away from the House and refused to be inaugurated to perform their elected role of representing their constituencies. Having failed to sit for over 180 sitting days, the leadership of the House of Assembly had no option but to declare their seats vacant and requested the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct fresh elections to fill the vacancies that had then been created.

“Following this action by the leadership of the House, the 14 members-elect approached the Federal High Court, Abuja, to challenge the constitutionality or otherwise of the declaration of their seats vacant. This suit is still pending in the court.

“I want to salute the resolve of all well-meaning Edo people in standing up to thwart the evil plans of these undemocratic elements who are bent on perpetrating an illegal assault on our democracy by the purported inauguration in a private residence.

“These acts are tantamount to treason, contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution.

“Be assured, dear people of Edo State, that this government will take all steps necessary to defend the rule of law and democratic ideals.”

US Expresses Concern about Political Climate in Edo State

The United States Government has expressed concern over the deteriorating political climate in Edo State.

It also expressed disappointed with the role played by some political actors in the state and the alleged interference by security forces in political matters.

The U.S. Mission in Abuja, in a statement issued yesterday, said as the 2020 off-cycle elections in Edo and Ondo draw nearer, all stakeholders should work towards a free, fair, transparent, and peaceful process.

The U.S. also urged all stakeholders, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), political parties, and the security services, to continue to improve the electoral process.

It stated: “As long-time friends of Nigeria, we continue to follow political developments ahead of off-cycle elections in the country. The United States supports a democratic process where the will of the Nigerian people is reflected in the results, and does not favor any party or candidate.

“We are concerned with reports of the deteriorating political climate in Edo State and are disappointed with the role played by some political actors in the state. We are especially concerned with allegations of interference by security forces in political matters, which we will continue to monitor closely in the run up to gubernatorial elections in the state in September.

“We look to Nigeria as an important leader on the African continent. As a democratic partner of Nigeria, the United States remains committed to working together to achieve our mutual goals of peace and prosperity for the citizens of both our countries.”

Buhari Receives Ize-Iyamu; Urges APC to Avoid Rivers Experiences

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja received the governorship candidate of the APC in Edo State, Ize-Iyamu, urging party leaders and campaign team to do all that was necessary, following legal and constitutional means, to win the election.

Buhari received the governorship candidate at the State House alongside Caretaker Committee Chairman of the APC and Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni; Chairman of Progressive Governors Forum and Governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, and APC Campaign Chairman for Edo State elections and Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje.

In a statement, the President’s Spokesman, Garba Shehu, quoted the president as charging the party leaders to avoid the pitfalls that affected the party’s victory in Rivers, Zamfara and Bayelsa states in the 2019 elections, pointing out that with the resolution of the “acute crisis” in the party in Edo State, he was optimistic that the party would regain its pride of place in winning elections, and serving the people.

President Buhari urged party leaders at the national and state levels to follow the electoral process in an open and transparent manner.

“What I want is a transparent process so that the confidence of the people will be strengthened,” Buhari states.

Earlier in his remarks, the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee, who presented the candidate, told the President that: “Pastor Ize- Iyamu is a seasoned grassroots politician who is loved by his people,” noting that the president’s blessings on the candidate further validated the party’s confidence.

In his response, Ize-Iyamu assured the president of his commitment to ensuring good governance in the state if elected in September, recalling that he served as Deputy Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee of the APC at its formation.

Tinubu: Actions of Obaseki, Assault on Constitutional Democracy

A chieftain of the APC and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu in a statement yesterday said the recent actions taken by Obaseki on the Edo State House of Assembly crisis “represent the gravest possible assault on constitutional democracy and the rule of law and escalation of violence and tension in the state he purports to govern.”

Tinubu state: “Not satisfied with making a mockery of our constitution by blocking the timely inauguration of two-thirds of the elected members of the Edo State House of Assembly, Governor Obaseki has now resorted to the strong-arm tactics of dictators.

“First, he sponsors hoodlums to deface, indeed destroy, parts of the House of Assembly Building in Benin, feigning the building is undergoing renovation.

Then, he imports sand and gravels to prevent access to the assembly complex.

In effect, the man has spent state funds to thwart the very apparatus of the state government he was sworn to uphold. He has squandered public money to defeat the very will of the public. This is tragic beyond words.

“As a pretext for his refusal to allow the Edo House of Assembly to function, Governor Obaseki’s actions are perverse. This is a cowardly act and a move to thwart representative democracy in Edo. No renovation has been planned for the state house building. No appropriation was made in the state’s budget.

The only reason any renovation could be deemed necessary is the destruction wrought by his own goons.

“Governor Obaseki’s governance of Edo State recalls the worst excesses of our military past and represents a direct threat to the democratic order. By his refusal to permit duly elected members of the Edo State House of Assembly to perform their constitutional duties, Governor Obaseki betrayed contempt for the people of his state and, unfortunately, his ignorance of Nigeria’s constitutional order. As a Governor he ought to know better than to obstruct the functioning of his own legislature, but perhaps he is in need of a quick lesson.”