Edo crisis: The dust settles
Respite appears to be on the way for the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the two generals battling for the soul of the party in the state appear to be sheathing their swords. In this report, WALE ELEGBEDE asks whether the conciliatory move between Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Governor Godwin Obaseki was real or another phantom political antic
Unlike other human endeavors where the principles of input and output determine results, the business of politics does not operate on the give and take schedule.
In politics, the best of all impossibilities could overnight become a possibility and vice versa. It’s a game where rules are adopted at the convenience of the players.
Thus, the currency of exchange in politics is interest and the warehouses for transactions are basically the constituted hierarchies and political parties. They could make or mar any ambition and they usually look to entrench their influence at every power contest and polls.
Perhaps, the pursuit for this interest is responsible for the crisis that emanated in the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) when the simmering cold war between the state governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole became a talking point across the country.
Curiously, with both the traditional and online media already screaming about the titanic battle for the soul of the Edo APC, the two gladiators in the fray kept keeping a straight face on the crisis, stating repeatedly that there is no animosity between them.
With the proxy war pitching the state House of Assembly and Governor Obaseki against the leadership of the National Assembly, it was quite easy for the Oshiomhole camp to externalized the crisis as one that is about due process.
But the Speaker of the embattled Edo State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Frank Okiye, wouldn’t take the saint role adopted by the former governor in the crisis, stating that the wrangling between the state’s legislature is a smokescreen by Oshiomhole and his loyalists to deprive Obaseki a second term.
Okiye, who spoke with New Telegraph, raised the alarm that the said planned takeover of the Assembly by the Senate, which was roundly condemned by Nigerians, is capable of destabilizing the Big Heart state, urging the federal lawmakers to act as agents of peace and not merchants of crisis.
He said: “The truth is that the Edo State Assembly and my office are not the real targets of this crisis. The plot is actually aimed at Obaseki and the endpoint is to stop him from getting a return ticket as governor next year.
“Comrade Oshiomhole is actually after Obaseki; the state Assembly was only a smokescreen to his plans. The idea now is to take over the house, destabilize the state and possibly impeach the governor. The Edo Peoples Movement that originated this crisis has boasted that it will ensure that the governor does not come back for the second tenure.”
Okiye added that the threat of takeover from the National Assembly was part of the grand plot of Oshiomhole, saying, “I have said it before on several occasions that we know who is beating the drum for them in the National Assembly. They have found themselves in the position of a stooge to make it look like they cannot think outside the box; it’s unfortunate.”
While the leadership tussles in the 7th session of the state Assembly was tendered as the basis for the current crisis, insiders within the state argued that the cold war between the duo can primarily be traced to Oshiomhole loyalists who are said to have been protesting against alleged unfair treatment by the current governor after the departure of Oshiomhole from Government House, Benin. This line of argument was also enhanced by dismissal of eight commissioners believed to be loyalists of the former governor.
The Edo Assembly crisis started at the commencement of the seventh Assembly in June when the inauguration of the principal officers of the state legislature became a cause of crisis between the godfather and his godson.
Obaseki was said to have wanted Frank Okiye representing Esan North East I, as speaker while Oshiomhole was disposed to Vicotor Edoro, representing Esan Central constituency. Incidentally, the APC-led Assembly produced 12 members for Oshiomhole and 12 for Obaseki.
The 12 members-elect loyal to Oshiomhole, who claimed that they were shortchanged by their colleagues, took the fight to the National Assembly, leading to both chambers directing the governor to issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration else the assembly would be taken over by National Assembly.
The Senate took its decision on the plenary before heading for recess giving Governor Obaseki one week to issue a fresh proclamation for the constitution of the Edo State House of Assembly or it would take over its legislative functions.
The Senate took the decision when it received the report of its ad hoc committee led by Sen. Abdullahi Sabi (APC Niger) which had, in the past two weeks, investigated the crisis in the assembly.
The committee had initially recommended three weeks for the take-over, but the recommendation was later amended to a week.
However, Senator Rochas Okorocha (Imo West) faulted the decision of the Senate to take over the House of Assembly, adding that the Red Chamber is overreaching itself on the Edo Assembly issue.
The immediate past governor of Imo State said: “The National Assembly seems to be overreaching its boundary in this matter. We appear to be in a hurry to take over the Edo State House of Assembly.
“We should see this as a family affair in APC and we must not ridicule ourselves in public, rather we should look into the matter instead of this position the Senate is taking.
“I have been a governor before and I think what is happening in Edo is simply a failure of leadership which can be addressed,’’ he said.
President of the Senate Ahmad Lawan, while defending the position, said: “The decision is in conformity with the decision of the House of Representatives two weeks ago.
“If the National Assembly can reach out to the president on any matter, I don’t see any reason the same cannot be done in any state when democracy is threatened.”
But not in sync with the National Assembly, a group under the auspices of the Edo Youth Vanguard, sounded a stern warning to the lawmakers to either be impartial in its intervention in the contrived impasse in the state House of Assembly or incur the wrath of the youth.
In a statement signed by the its president, Nosakhare Oseghale, the youth group said; “We have just decided to maintain the peace and order in the state as encouraged and entrenched by Governor Obaseki but we are privy to the shenanigans of selfish and mindless Abuja political merchants and we shall not allow them to dictate to us who the leaders of our House of Assembly should be. Since when did the national party start interfering in the composition of the leadership of a state House of Assembly if not that there is a particular interest that needs to be served?”
Also baring his mind, former National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, said anyone who opposes Obaseki in the state is undermining the people of the state.
“What is happening is a mystery to me and for funny reasons, we have been unable to get the story behind the story. All I know is that we have a government and the voice of the people says Obaseki deserves all the support that he can get,’’ he said.
“If anyone wants to remove him and destabilise the state, it is wrong. The governor is delivering good governance to the people. They should wait until the party primary. I call on everyone to continue to support the governor.”
To test the veracity of the threat of the National Assembly to take over the state Assembly, the Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, Hon. Yekini Idiaye and Hon Henry Okhuarobo (Ikpoba-Okha constituency), approached the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on the matter.
Ruling on the suit, Justice Adamu Turaki Mohammed restrained the National Assembly, the Police and the Directorate of Security Services (DSS) from interfering or sealing up the Assembly.
Ruling on a motion ex parte with Suit No: FHC/PH/CS/159/2019, Justice Mohammed also ordered the Clerk of the National Assembly, President of the Senate and Speaker of House of Representatives from interfering or taking over the legislative functions of the Assembly.
The court also restrained the Governor of Edo state, Mr. Godwin Obaseki from issuing any fresh proclamation for the state Assembly pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.
The court granted four Order of Interim Injunctions and adjourned the case to August 16 for further hearing.
The order, signed by the Court Registrar, MS Hassan, also restrained the Inspector-General of Police and the State Security Service or their agents or officers from sealing up the Assembly or obstructing the plaintiffs in whatever manner in the performance of their constitutional duties as members of the Edo State House of Assembly.
Speaking on the lapse of the on the one-week ultimatum and the ruling of the court restraining it from taking over the Assembly, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, said the development didn’t warrant any urgent need to reconvene in order to review the developments.
But the crisis took a turn last week during the Sallah celebration when the governor paid a surprise visit to the Iyamho residence of the APC national chairman, a development that many analysts never saw coming.
Governor Obaseki, who had appeared in company with his wife, Betsy Obaseki at the ISO venue of the reception in honour of 80th birthday of the former APC National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, had hurriedly left his wife to attend the meeting with Oshiomhole.
Arising from the meeting from the visit which dragged late into the night of Monday, the APC chairman said the media was responsible for creating factions between them for their own gains.
Oshiomhole, who spoke after the meeting said the rift between himself and his successor, Obaseki was the creation of people with personal interest just as he described Obaseki as his brother.
Speaking to journalists after the closed-door meeting, Oshiomhole said the meeting was not unusual as he was in constant touch with Governor Obaseki.
“From time to time, we have always been meeting. It is not an unusual visit, the meeting afforded me the opportunity to meet with my brother and with people I have worked with.”
He said it was unfortunate that the media liked creating factions for their own gains.
Obaseki also noted that the visit to his predecessor was not unusual, saying that he decided to celebrate Sallah with his former boss.
He said the visit was to celebrate Edo leaders just as the former APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, was celebrated by the state earlier in the day.
“There is nothing unusual about this meeting; today is Sallah and we have just finished celebrating with the former APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun in Benin City, and we decided to come here to celebrate Sallah with my predecessor,” the governor said.
He added that people who think there was a rift between him and his predecessor should stop thinking so.
While some said that the parley is a sign that the two leaders are ready to work together in the interest of the state, others said that the meeting was only a façade meant only for both parties to simmer for a while.
Will the yet to be inaugurated lawmakers take their oath of office after the parley? What happened to the House leadership, will it be reconstituted or status quo maintained? Is the 2020 second term ticket of Obaseki now confirmed or not? Answers to these questions are in the belly of time.