The beauty of democracy all over the world is the freedom, on the part of the people, to choose their leaders, at all levels, in a free and fair atmosphere. That is why this system of government, with all its variants, has been widely accepted as the best form of government.
But in Edo State, even after the people have performed their constitutional duty of choosing their representatives, a clash of personalities and of other interests are denying them the benefit derivable from their effort. That is to say, the contributions their elected representatives were expected to make in the governance structure, are being hampered by sundry considerations.
We recall that in 2019, the disagreement between the former chairman of the All-Progressive Congress (APC) and former governor of the state, Adams Oshiomhole, and the incumbent Governor, Godwin Obaseki, split the state assembly into two factions. Nine lawmakers loyal to Obaseki were secretly inaugurated in June, leaving their colleagues in the camp of Oshiomhole stranded.
Frank Okiye, Obaseki’s preferred candidate who emerged speaker, had said other elected lawmakers who were not at the inauguration would take their oath of office after completing their documentation processes.
Matters became complicated and the senate had to intervene. At the end, the upper arm of the National Assembly gave Obaseki what looked like an ultimatum to issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the state House of Assembly. Even that was not able to resolve the issues at stake as Okiye later declared the seats of the 14 elected lawmakers vacant for “failing to present their certificates of return to the clerk for inauguration”.
According to Okiye, the lawmakers-elect were excluded from the inauguration into office in June because they deliberately refused to do the necessary documentation.
However, in August 2020, the crisis took another turn when the lawmakers loyal to Oshiomhole, were inaugurated and Victor Edoror, who was removed as deputy speaker in 2018, emerged as speaker.
The lawmakers were said to have taken their oath of office at an obscure location in Benin, the state capital, and were reportedly mandated by their godfather to remove Obaseki, who had defected to the PDP after he was disqualified from seeking a second term on the platform of the APC.
In the considered opinion of this newspaper, we think it is time the crisis in the Edo House of Assembly was resolved amicably so that the members, all of them, as a body, can proceed with the business of making laws for the good governance of the state.
It is incontrovertible that the election has been won and lost and that Obaseki is the governor of all. Similarly, the legislators on both sides of the divide should see themselves as representing the people and not some godfathers who are out to serve their own selfish interests. While this ego trip is on, the people are denied the dividends of democracy.
Unfortunately, for more than a year now, the electorate in that state are not getting the needed representation in the state assembly because of petty politics. This, in our view, deviates from the hallowed tenets of democracy.
What is happening in Edo state where elected representatives owe allegiance to their godfathers, both serving and past governors, is dangerous and must not be allowed to continue. Those individuals, no matter how highly placed they may claim to be, have no right to secretly inaugurate some members excluding others. If anything, they are, by their actions and inactions, making democracy look like a charade.
This, again, brings to the fore the argument about the separation of powers in states. In most states in Nigeria, the legislature is tied to the apron strings of the governor. Or to put it in another way, the legislators make themselves willing tools in the hand of the governor. In that position, they unwittingly lose the power to check the executive excesses that fly in the face of probity. The judiciary in the states is not faring better.
Still, it will be unfair to put the entire blame regarding the situation on the governors alone. From the foregoing, we call on the state government to look for a political solution to this impasse and inaugurate the remaining 14 lawmakers. For now, it can be said that Edo does not have a House of Assembly.
From the scenario playing out in Edo state, we appeal to state governors in all the 36 states to rein in their tendencies to be in total control as that disposition could be injurious to democracy. There is a reason for the doctrine of separation of powers. One arm, which considers itself powerful and decides to emasculate the others, may be unknowingly shooting itself in the leg.