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Absentee Edo lawmakers-elect kick over resolution declaring seats vacant

By Michael Egbejule, Benin City
13 December 2019   |   4:22 am
Tension has continued to mount in Edo State following the power play in All progressives Congress’s (APC) infighting in the state’s chapter that has snowballed into the Edo House of Assembly...

Frank Okiye

APC, PDP chide Oshiomhole over Edo 2020 guber
Tension has continued to mount in Edo State following the power play in All progressives Congress’s (APC) infighting in the state’s chapter that has snowballed into the Edo House of Assembly, pitting the absentee lawmakers-elect against those who have since constituted parliament and are sitting to decide crucial issues in the state.

While the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is at crossroads regarding what stance to take in the resolution of the divided House of Assembly, the electoral umpire has said it would obey any lawful resolution of the parliament, including that of Edo State House of Assembly, which declared the seats of 14 lawmakers-elect vacant.

Pledging the position of INEC to be guided by the law is the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to INEC’s Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Mr. Rotimi L. Oyekanmi, who confirmed to newsmen in Abuja that the commission, as a law-abiding institution, was committed to obeying the law. Oyekanmi, while reacting to last week Wednesday’s proclamation of the Assembly declaring vacant the seats of 14 members-elect who were yet to be sworn-in following controversies trailing the inauguration of the parliament, said he was not aware if the Edo Assembly’s pronouncement had been formally sent to the commission.

“Unless there is a valid court order served on the commission, asking it to take an action or asking it to stay action on an issue, it is duty bound to obey any lawful pronouncement, that is its responsibility,” Oyekanmi said.

But in a swift response to Oyekanmi’s position on the Assembly matter, its Speaker, Mr. Frank Okiye, in an interview a few days after declaring the seats of the absentee lawmakers-elect vacant, said, “We have written to INEC already, informing the commission of the vacant seats and calling for fresh election into all the affected states’ constituencies and we are waiting for its response to our letter. The ball is in INEC’s court now, but I hear that the commission is going to act on it very soon.”

However, the far-reaching decision of the Assembly, led by the Speaker, which declared the 12 members-elect’s seats vacant and asked INEC to, within 90 days, conduct bye-elections into the affected constituencies has drawn the anger of the embattled 12 lawmakers-elect. While reacting on behalf of the 12 absentees, their spokesman, Mr. Washington Osifo (member elect representing Uhunmwode Constituency), said the action of the state assembly was laughable and could not stand. He expressed optimism that the midnight inauguration of the House remains a farce, noting that anything put on nothing could not stand.

“It is a laughable matter because the matter is before the court,” Osifo said his Abuja base, where he and the other 13 members-elect have since relocated away from the state capital, Benin City, and have refused to be sworn-in. “We are challenging the illegal inauguration of the House and anything put on nothing cannot stand. Okiye is a man that is in search of identity; he is working with the governor in the pursuit of a blind ambition, and they have hit the rock.

“Ojezua, the former state party chairman, who was recently expelled from the party, said he has filed a contempt suit against Oshiomhole and Imuse. I have asked my lawyers to initiate contempt proceedings against them.”

Osifo also stated that the Edo Speaker, Okiye, lacked the power to declare their seats vacant.

According to him, “It is a laughing matter because the matter is before the court and when a matter is before the court such action is prejudicial. We are not surprised because illegality begets illegality and for Okiye to be working with Governor Godwin Obaseki, the right thing cannot be done. So we were not surprised, because those who do not mean well for the people are entrusted with responsibility.”

Another embattled lawmaker-elect, Mr. Chris Okaeben, representing Oredo West Constituency, said Edo State currently has no House of Assembly, noting that it does not form a quorum as spelt out by the 1999 Constitution going by the illegality of its inauguration.

While corroborating the position of the other absentee members-elect, a former Speaker of the house, Victor Edoror, representing Esan Central Constituency, said his constituents are pleased with his decision to stay away from what he termed illegal assembly. Another lawmaker-elect, representing Etsako Constituency II, Mr. Seidu Oshiomhole, said the speaker was daydreaming, as he lacked the power to declare their seats vacant.

Peeved by the needless face-off and distraction occasioned by the Edo crisis, which is fast tearing the party apart, a former Political Adviser to former Governor Adams Oshiomhole, Mr. Charles Idahosa, has been vocal in his condemnation of his former boss in not acting as a father to the party in his home state. Idahosa has alleged that the crisis rocking the State House of Assembly and the state chapter of APC was sponsored by APC’s national chairman, Mr. Oshiomhole, insisting that Oshiomhole does not only back the 14 former members-elect and eight members of Edo APC executive, he also accommodates them in Abuja to further deepen the crisis in the state.

Idahosa also said that it was laughable for Oshiomhole to say he would do everything to bring peace to All Progressives Congress in Edo State, when he is actually the one stoking trouble in Edo APC, saying he (Oshiomhole) was in the crisis. Idahosa further accused Oshiomhole of deceiving President Mohammadu Buhari and committed contempt of court by presenting another person as chairman of Edo APC. He, therefore, called on Oshiomhole to humbly tender his resignation letter as the national chairman for the interest and survival of the party both in Edo State and Nigeria as a whole.

Idahosa also said the party was losing its grip in the state due to the alleged overbearing attitude of the national chairman of the party, noting, “From the way we have seen issues under Oshiomhole, APC is dying gradually and there is no way somebody like me can see issues and pretend not to see them.”

He said the national chairman of the party current has no political home base since he has been suspended by his ward, local government area, and by the state chapter of the party and that the only way out for him is to tender his resignation letter, as he lacks the political acumen to lead the party, but could best function as a labour leader.

According to Idahosa, “If, as labour leader, you become very popular, like Lech Walesa was a great labour leader, who led a riot in Poland and for that popularity, they voted him President of Poland and after a few years, he crashed out. He now discovered that trade unionism and activism are completely different from politics.

“Oshiomhole must have been a very good trade union leader, although I have my observations about that, but as a leader of a political party, he does not have the temperament, he does not have the character to lead the party. The best we can do for himself, because we still love him, is to tender his resignation so that the party can have peace because the way the party is going, it is going out of control.”

He also accused the immediate past governor of the state of being the brain behind the 14 members-elect of the Assembly not resuming sitting as duly elected members, thereby denying those who elected them their right to representation and legislative benefits. He, however, expressed optimism that the state governor, Obaseki would get the party’s ticket whether through direct or indirect primaries, noting that it is the party in the state that decides what pattern it would adopt in conducting its primaries.

But spokesman to Oshiomhole, Mr. Simon Ebegbulem, could not be reached for comments, but one of the lawmakers-elect and spokesman for the recalcitrant lawmakers, whose seat was recently declared vacant, Osifo, berated Idahosa, accusing him of not play politics of ideology.

“Idahosa does not play politics based on ideology or principles,” eh charged, “he plays his politics on who is bringing the money. He is saying this because of what he is making from the current system.”

Members-elect, who took the oath of office during at inauguration, are Nosa Okunbor, Henry Okhuarobo, Uyi Ekhosuehi, Marcus Onobun, Ephraim Anebhosele, Roland Asoro, Eric Okaka, Frank Okiye and Yekini Idiaye. Three other members-elect, Emmanuel Okoduwa, representing Esan North East II, and Ojezele Sunday, representing Esan South East Constituency, and Emmanuel Agbaje, representing Akoko-Edo II Constituency, have since turned up to be sworn-in.

The yet-to-be inaugurated members-elect believed to be loyal to APC’s national chairman are Gani Audu, Chris Okaeben, Sunday Aghedo, Victor Edoror, Washington Osa Osifo, Michael Ohio-Ezomo, and Crosby Eribo. Others are Seid Oshiomhole, Vincent Osa Uwadiae, Ahmed Waziri Oshomah, Kingsley Ugabi, and Ugiagbe Dumez. Audu, representing Estako West Constituency I at the Assembly, is a second timer and from the same local government council as Oshiomhole.

Edoror, a third timer in the Assembly, representing Esan Central constituency, was a former speaker and deputy speaker of the house and was impeached on both occasions. He is alleged to be pencil down as Speaker by the lawmakers loyal to Oshiomole. He is also from the same senatorial district as Okiye, the incumbent speaker.

Governor Godwin Obaseki. Photo: TWITTER/GOVOBASEKI

Okaeben, representing Oredo West, was Chairman, Energy Commission in the sixth Assembly. He is from the same constituency and senatorial district (Edo South) as Governor Obaseki. He was reportedly having a running battle with the state governor before the inauguration of the house over issues of political loyalty. He has been purportedly suspended by his constituency.

Sunday Aghedo, representing Ovia South West, is a third timer in the house with much legislative experience and also from the same senatorial district (Edo South) as Governor Obaseki. Also, Ohio-Ezomo, representing Owan West Constituency and Kingsley Ugabi, representing Etsako East constituency, are first timers.

Eribo, representing Egor Constituency and second timer in the Assembly, was the Cairman, Public Petitions in the sixth Assembly. Oshiomhole, representing Etsako West Constituency II, is a first timer and brother to the party’s national chairman, Oshiomole. Uwadiae, representing Ovia North East Constituency II, and Oshiomah, representing Etsako Central constituency as well as Dumez, representing Ovia North East Constituency II, are all first timers. Okaka, representing Owan East Constituency, was inaugurated alongside the nine members-elect, but later claimed he was abducted. He is also in Abuja with Oshiomhole’s loyalists.

Another member-elect and spokesman for the absentee lawmakers-elect, Osifo, representing Uhunwmonde Constituency, was a commissioner in Oshiomhole’s government. He has purportedly been suspended by his constituency over the stalemated activities of the Assembly.

Governor Obaseki’s closeness to President Muhammadu Buhari and his being part of the president’s team attending the Aswan Forum in Egypt designed to set ‘Agenda for Sustainable Peace and Development in Africa’ may be needling Oshiomhole and his loyalists that include the absentee lawmakers-elect. Expectedly, Obaseki could use the opportunity of the trip to lay his cards before the APC party leader and Nigerian president and ask him to call the party’s chairman to order. With Oshiomhole already in the bad books of most APC’s Progressives Governors’ Forum, Obaseki’s other two colleagues in Buhari’s Egypt party – Governors Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa (PDP) and Mai Mala Buni of Yobe (APC) States – could have opportunity to put in good words for their embattled colleague that could swing the tide of political events in Edi State.

AS the political squabbles in the state’s APC reaches a crescendo ahead of 2020 election, where retreat or surrender is no longer an option, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State has cautioned the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress, Oshiomhole, for undermining the party’s ability to reclaim Edo State in the 2020 gubernatorial election.

The opposition party said it is still strong in the state despite setbacks and could defeat the ruling APC, adding that the leadership structure of PDP was unlike that of APC, led by Oshiomhole, that has suffered serious setback occasioned by self-inflicted crises, both at the state and national levels, as a result of Oshiomhole’s alleged meddlesomeness, tactlessness, and cluelessness. Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Chris Nehikhare, in a press statement, said Oshiomhole’s comment that PDP in the state and its leaders would not pose any threat to APC, because it is a dead party ignited the wrath of the opposition party.

The party promised a showdown in the coming gubernatorial election, stressing that APC’s defeat is imminent and that the statement credited to Oshiomhole was only an attempt to divert attention from his many challenges and failures as national chairman of APC.

The statement read in part, “Adams Oshiomhole should be reminded that as national chairman of the ruling party, both at the state and federal levels, he lost Edo State woefully to PDP in last presidential election as PDP gathered the majority of the votes cast in the state, therefore winning two out of the three senators.

“Edo people have not forgotten how Adams Oshiomhole left a prostrate financial legacy of debts and empty treasury as he was handing over in 2016. Even his successor has threatened to expose and probe his tenure better described as a cesspool of corruption!

“Adams Oshiomhole and his party have nothing to campaign with in Edo State. Is it the fight over control of state treasury, the gale of suspensions, the disrespect to the State House of Assembly and the constituents or the unfulfilled promises? Adams Oshiomhole is hereby advised that tatatata (much blabbing) is not an election winning strategy! APC cannot win an election in Edo again. Edo people are tired of APC’s deceit and failure.

“In PDP, we prepare for elections by campaigning, mobilizing and sensitizing the electorate to support and vote for our candidates.”