Obaseki, Oshiomhole and matters arising from Edo Assembly crisis
Most of those who predicted the unfolding crisis of confidence between the incumbent governor and his predecessor express the belief that nothing succeeds like an idea whose time has come, explaining that Governor Obaseki’s leadership acumen and developmental master plan have become sources of envy for the APC national chairman and his acolytes.
But watchers of Edo politics say the ongoing squabble is certainly not a good time for political actors in the state chapter of APC to ruffle feathers, particularly as the members of the state House of Assembly stand divided.
In spite of their initial efforts to keep their differences out of public knowledge, former governor Oshiomhole and his successor, Obaseki, have thrown caution to the win and are ready to wash their dirty linen in the public if only for the court of popular opinion to give verdict.
Most politicians have also joined the fray as they openly take sides to fight for and or against the duo, thus defeating Governor Obaseki’s initial attempts at denying the simmering rift. Party chieftains siding Obaseki against Oshiomhole accuse the APC national chairman of hypocrisy, alleging that he failed to practise what he preached by playing the very same godfather role he fought against as labour leader and governor.
These APC party stalwarts marvel at the disingenuous role being played by forces loyal to Oshiomhole, describing it as the highest level of godfatherism. While condemning Oshiomhole’s current shameful role, a party chieftain in the state, Mr. Charles Idahosa, urged the national chairman to resign. Idahosa, who is also a former Political Adviser to Oshiomhole, accused his former principal of “desecrating the temple of democracy by sponsoring anti-democratic practices.”
It is intriguing that the former Oshiomhole’s aide could not restrain himself in attacking his former boss. But Idahosa’s outburst shows the level of animus against the meddlesome distraction from the APC national chairman, especially he is acknowledged as an outspoken and dogged politician who has grassroots presence and clout.
Apart from being in prominent political circles for a period spanning several decades, culminating in his visible presence in government since the return to civil rule in 1999, it would be recalled that Idahosa featured eminently in Chief Lucky Igbinedion’s administration in the state.
The former political adviser challenged his former boss, Oshiomhole, “to come out with a public speech to absolve himself of any role” in orchestrating the tension in Edo APC.
While addressing journalists in Benin City, Idahosa recalled how the governor repeatedly told party leaders that he has no issue with the national chairman. While dismissing Oshiomhole’s claim that he did not send anybody to form any group against the governor, Idahosa wondered why the national chairman failed to speak on the crisis rocking the party, insisting that his silence means he is complicit in the crisis.
He condemned the disagreement that snowballed into the House of Assembly imbroglio, which has further divided the state legislators-elect, noting, “I make bold to say that Adams Oshiomhole is responsible for the problem of APC in Edo State today by his silence and people like us know that these boys on the streets are his boys.”
Short of stating that the APC national chairman was operating as a sole administrator in the party, Idahosa decried his penchant for unilateral disposition and dictatorial decision-taking process on strategic issues concerning the party.
As the crisis in Edo APC degenerates, some party faithful have started circulating documents chronicling what they call the antics of Oshiomhole, dating from when he appeared on the political scene. They conclude that the former governor has always believed in suppressing other people’s ideas.
It is possible that Idahosa might have come across the leaflets, based on his claim that “no past governor ever intruded in the activities of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole when he served as governor and advised Oshiomhole “to allow Governor Godwin Obaseki to continue ventilating his desire to deliver dividends of democracy to Edo people.”
Some of the past political misdeeds of the APC national chairman, according to the pamphlets, include some uncomplimentary remarks he made against prominent sons of Bini extraction, including the Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion, his son, Lucky Nosa Igbinedion, the late Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, among others.
That could be why Idahosa noted that it was high time the Binis worked together to avoid a re-occurrence, even as he urged APC leaders to check “the unbecoming attitude of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in order to protect the party from disintegration.”
THE culmination of Edo APC crisis in the division within the state legislature could be traced to one scary word: ‘impeachment.’ Most observers hint at the possibility that APC stalwarts loyal to Oshiomhole are gearing up for an impeachment scare as option to beat Obaseki into submission.
As it turned out, the Assembly crisis seemed to have forced Oshiomhole to take a stand that belies his differences with Obaseki. Speaking to journalists in Abuja, the APC national chairman picked holes in the governor’s handling of the crisis, saying that though there was nothing to hide anymore he was ashamed at the development in Edo State.
He stated: “What is happening in Edo State, I am ashamed to talk about it. But there is nothing to hide. We have 24/24 all of them APC, but somebody wants a particular person as Speaker, 19 out of 24 are opposed to this person,” insisting that the rule of law should be paramount.
Despite the seeming ambush, some party scribes have been urging aggrieved Edo lawmakers-elect to support Obaseki’s drive for good governance and eschew divisive politics and selfish tendencies.
For instance, the APC secretary for Uhunwmonde local government council, Osagie Ogieva, called on member-elect representing Uhunmwonde state constituency, Mr. Washington Osifo and other aggrieved members-elect to toe the path of collaboration if the objective is to provide leadership through legislation.
While expressing dismay at the actions of Osifo and his cohorts, Ogieva said the press conference he addressed, where they cast baseless aspersions on Obaseki was in very bad faith, stressing, “We want all Nigerians, particularly the good people of Edo State, to know that Hon. Osifo does not have the blessing of Uhunwmonde people in embarking on the self-seeking political tirade against the state government.
“We voted for Washington Osifo to go to the House of Assembly to make laws for the good governance of the state, but we are surprised that instead of attending the House of Assembly inauguration on Monday, he decided to engage himself in unprofitable ventures.”
Recall that the APC spokesman had described the Edo State Assembly election of principal officers, during which nine out of the 24-member legislature as “a charade and illegality.” But the Speaker, in his response reminded Issa-Onilu, told him to be guided on the independence of the three arms of government.
From the tenor of the exchanges, it is possible that the new speaker and his group of nine lawmakers see the APC national spokesman as doing the bidding of the party’s national chairman. In the statement by his spokesman, Aigbefo Iretiose Jnr., the Speaker challenged Issa-Onilu to seek redress in court if he feels strongly about the issues of Edo State House of Assembly.
While recalling how the national spokesman earlier stated that “not every issue that the national leadership responds to,” the speaker wondered what changed within 48 hours, stressing: “The sudden u-turn leaves us wondering if it was the same Mallam Issa-Onilu speaking or if it is somebody else with vested interest speaking through him.
“We are certain that we carried out an inauguration and election of principal officers for the 7th Assembly according to the provisions of the 1999 constitution as amended. The issue of inauguration and election is now behind us and we are now poised to carry out our constitutional responsibility of lawmaking.”
CRITICS of the development in Edo State are divided over Oshiomhole and Obaseki as they have turned the legislative arm of government into a ‘game of chess’, warning the two principal actors to be careful of the consequences the development may likely pose to the state. While some of the critics believe the constitutional provision ought to have been adhered to in the circumstance, others said the governor, who appears to have had the upper hand than his immediate predecessor, Oshiomhole, did not insist on the rule of law.
For instance, a former member of the House of Representatives and current Chairman of Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Mr. Wale Oshun, said what took place in Edo State House of Assembly was the height of impunity that must be condemned in totality. Although, Oshun agreed that the election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker must be done at the plenary, where the lawmakers are expected to form a quorum, the idea that minority would have to decide for the majority is undemocratic.
He said: “Whosoever is supporting what happened in Edo State Assembly is backing arrant nonsense. This also indicated that Nigeria does not have democracy yet, but a civil rule.”
He also admonished governors that it is now time for them to move away from the mentality of militarising our democracy through unconstitutional proclamation.
Former president of Igbo Think Tank group, Goody Uwazurike, disagreed with Oshun, saying there was nothing anybody could do to reverse what happened in Edo State House of Assembly.
According to him, “As far as the lawmakers formed the constitutional required 1/3 majority and the plenary was proclaimed through a letter read on behalf of the governor by the House Clerk to declare the Assembly open it settled the matter, noting, “Any other thing done outside the plenary was nullity.”
Citing part 2 and section 94 of the 1999 Constitution, Uwazurike said the lawmakers present at the plenary in Edo had the backing of law, adding that for the incumbent speakers and their deputies to be removed, they need 2/3 majority to achieve this.
However, a former member of House of Representatives, Mr. Lanre Odubote, disagreed with Uwazurike’s view, saying, it is important for all Nigerians to condemn the development for the sake of preserving Nigeria’s democracy.
He queried: “Why were the majority lawmakers-elect not at the plenary if they were not locked out or prevented by superior forces? This is a complete state of anarchy and it ridicules our democracy.”
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