Trouble in Edo APC is beyond me and the Assembly — Okiye
Mr. Frank Okiye is the embattled Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly. In this interview with MICHAEL EGBEJULE, he speaks on the rancour, division and infighting in the legislative chamber and the trouble in Edo APC.
Are all these congratulatory cards in your office a pointer to your acceptance?
I don’t know if I have what it takes to measure acceptance. But I know that I am doing my best. I believe in fairness and justice. I believe in equal rights. I also believe that there is God. These cards you are seeing may not be a reflection of my acceptance. Even your enemy can send you congratulatory message, when deep down he is not your friend. I don’t expect everybody to like what I am doing. I don’t expect everybody to like me, but I must do what I know is fair in the sight of God and the people.
People are of the view that your emergence as Speaker is the result of the crisis in the House of Assembly?
I share the view that my emergence is divine. I have tried to share this part of my story with few persons. Before the election, when I was nominated, some colleagues had started saying I would be the Speaker. The little reservation was that it was not going to be easy winning election for the All Progressives Party (APC) in Esan North East.
But God proved Himself and I won. After my victory, at least seven legislators hosted me here in Benin, telling me I would be their Speaker. Some people had started telling me that they would like it, if I become Speaker.
It is not about sharing principal offices that is within my power. The party has to do the zoning, and the party leadership must have a say in what goes to where. But for the House committees, we are already working on how to give people the positions where they can serve best.
To that extent, even my main opposition also acknowledges that I am a material for the speakership position. The problem of division actually came after the Edo People’s Movement (EPM) came up with their allegations. I know that my being Speaker today is not a child of circumstance. It is not because there is a crisis.
Like a party leader said, I am only a victim of some sort of stray bullet. Thank God that I have survived and I will continue to survive. The state has to move forward. Everybody couldn’t have just stayed away. I was not invited to the meeting of the 19 that said they were protesting. There was never a time that the 24 members met and disagreed. At what point did we agree that we should be fighting somebody? It was a case of19 met and we were doing something sinister, then five met and were also planning their own and later four out of the 19 joined the five.
The thing is now gravitating. More have joined to denounce the sinister act. At the beginning, the thinking of having clandestine meetings was responsible for the crisis within the House, even though a lot was externally prompted. I still believe that by God’s Grace, all the members will still agree that I am the right choice.
Hope such ‘exiled’ members-elect won’t lose their seats, due to not meeting the time of inauguration?
I don’t think we will get to that stage.
Is there is a provision to that effect?
Yes, there is a provision in the Constitution that you are supposed to meet a certain number of sitting days. We are conscious of that, and I also believe that my colleagues, those that have been inaugurated and those that haven’t been are also conscious of that. Somehow, we won’t get to that point before these matters are resolved. I think there are moves to resolve them.
Are you tapping into the experience of former members to run affairs of the House?
We are already discussing at various platforms. They are very happy with my emergence as the Speaker. I see a lot of them every day. If you are a social media freak, you will have noticed that a lot of them have been congratulating me. They have confidence in my capacity to manage the House and return the dignity of the House to what it is supposed to be.
As a neutral person, what solution would you proffer to end this crisis?
Yes, I am caught up in this battle of the titans. Well, I have been in the leadership cadre for quite some time now, and I have gone through a lot of tutorials. I know that these leaders have access to more information. They have so much information that we may never know. I still believe that there is something they are not telling us. They have something quite different that they have not told the public. I don’t see any serious disagreement right now.
The gist is that during the nomination of candidates for various elections, they had differences. My understanding of this electioneering process is that differences are bound to exist. But once candidates are presented for the party, all differences vanish. I don’t know why differences that occurred during party primaries should be carried forward to after the election.
I don’t think that is the real problem. I think the problem is beyond that. They may have had some differences outside of what we are all assuming. If it is about the second tenure of the incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki, it is not for any individual to decide.
The delegates that are going to vote in the primaries, whether direct or indirect, are also going to feel the people’s pulse. Certain candidates would be better products to be sold. If you go and field a candidate you cannot sell, you will lose the election.
Democracy makes provisions for all these processes. I am not too sure of what the problems are.
What is your message to the electorates who are affected by this fight?
I tell them to exercise some patience. We will get there eventually. Things will certainly get better. They should have faith in government.
What are your plans towards making legislations that will impact positively on the people?
We have a lot of programmes in the kitty for good governance. When we resume to start making laws, the people will marvel at our dedication to provide quality laws for the good of all and sundry. Even the executive arm of government and the media will all be proud of our positive contributions to the state’s development.
We are going to introduce an induced transparency, as whatever we are going to do in the House will be felt directly by the people.
There are insinuations that this crisis is fallout of who controls the state party structure…
I believe they are not telling us much about their differences. However, I don’t think their differences have the capacity to crack the very foundation of our party.
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