•Who can stop us when the people are with us?
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, Niger Delta
WHEN Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, last month, stated that he was demonstrating what his predecessor and unquestionably, political mentor, National Chairman of All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, taught his followers, including him, many accused him of impertinence, but cautiously looking at events in the past few months, he seemed to have spoken the unpleasant truth.
Since the crisis in Edo APC broke out, especially after the controversial inauguration of the House on June 17, the governor has left no one in doubt that he is a fighter and a hard nut to crack with his nimble moves.
Though Oshiomhole would certainly feel dissatisfied with Obaseki roles so far, but deep inside him, he would probably have surmised that whatever a snake gave birth to have to be long. In fact, a few days ago, he (Oshiomhole) declared, “Some people said to me that I am too combative and I said to them that I was not coming to copy their method, but coming to impose my method to change the system and not for the system to change me.”
In his elements during a reception by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, for the Director General of the International Labour Organization, ILO, Guy Ryder, Oshiomhole adumbrated, “Whatever I am doing today, my style and choice of what I do and what I abstain from doing, I owe to Labour. If you study the Nigerian media, there is this saying that as national chair of a governing party, I am not supposed to be combative. I am even more convinced now about the need for combat.”
“If this country is going to change and deliver to the poor, deliver decent jobs, we need not diplomacy, but aggressive engagement to force those who are benefiting from the status quo to change and in such a way that will make the country to work for the people who live on their wages.
“I refuse to be changed by the system. My hope is that with more comrades coming into politics, we will work together to change the system for a better future,” he asserted.
Oshiomhole’s combat strategy come into view as what Obaseki has adopted and utilized to the consternation of those who underrated his capacity to fight back.
Daring the tiger
Addressing his supporters at a public rally in Benin City, July 11, the governor, who showed off his battle readiness described his opponents as ‘Abuja politicians’ and dared them to take over the state House of Assembly if they could.
His words, “We have not started politics; they want to pull us out early. INEC has not announced timetable for Edo election, they have only come out with timetable for Kogi and Bayelsa and even in those states, they have not started heating up the polity as much as they are doing in Edo.”
“I want to leave you with these words that those people who are parading themselves, who are speaking on the internet for themselves and their pocket, we are watching you. For those people who have gone outside, Abuja politicians, to tell people from outside to come and invade Edo, split our house of assembly, we are waiting for you.
“We have no fear at all, we are resolved that we will continue to do what is best for our state and country. We have no doubt that we are on the right path; we know that God is with us, we know that people are with us. So, if all these people are with us, who can stop us? Anybody that can stop us should come, we dare you.
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“So, those Abuja politicians whom we refuse to send back and for those who got there by mistake, they cannot disrupt the peace of Edo. We will not let them. Nobody can stop the progress in Edo state,” he stated.
Few days after when members of the adhoc committee of the House of Representatives set up to look into the crisis in the state House of Assembly visited the state, he fired, “What we have here is somebody trying to use the House (Edo House of Assembly) to control the executive. We feel that we have fought godfather. Oshiomhole led us to a strong fight to rescue the state from the hands of godfathers in 2006.”
Speaking through his deputy, Philip Shaibu, he asserted,”We have joined the crusade Oshiomhole started in 2007. We will not go back on the crusade because it is helping Edo people. We can now galvanize the people because they can see roads, they can see schools and infrastructure. This is because the money that used to go the godfathers now goes to the people.
“Oshiomhole has taught us to follow the path of the people. He told us to do the needful and make sure we fight the godfathers and take the money back to the people. That is what he taught us and we will not depart from it,” he said.
Laying in wait with the law
Until now, the governor has not given any slice to his challengers, including the National Assembly. Even when the House of Representatives, July 16, gave him one week to issue a fresh proclamation for inauguration of Edo Assembly and asked security agencies to seal up the House pending observance, he cared no hoot, for the government had earlier obtained an interim injunction upon an ex-parte motion, restraining the security agencies and others.
Indeed, a Federal High Court sitting in Benin City, Wednesday, July 3, ordered the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Inspector General of Police, the Commissioner of Police in Edo State, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, all defendants, their servants and agents, not to interfere, disrupt or obstruct the constitutional duties of members of the Edo House of Assembly.
The presiding judge, M. G. Umar, ordered, “An interim order of injunction is hereby granted, restraining the defendants by themselves, their servants, agents, officers or privies from interfering with, obstructing or harassing, in any manner whatsoever, the plaintiffs in the performance of their constitutional duties as the Legislative Arm of the Edo State Government pending the hearing and determination of the motion on Notice for interlocutory injunction.”
The court also ordered, “An interim order of injunction is further granted restraining the 1st defendant, his servants, agents, officers or privies from further publishing in any newspaper or other media, any inciting publications concerning the inauguration of the 7thAssembly of the Edo State House Assembly and the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, which took place on 17/6/2019 in the Edo State House of Assembly.”
It further declared: “That interim order of injunction is also granted restraining the defendants by themselves, their servants, agents, officers or privies from further committing any act aimed at disparaging the integrity of the legislative arm of the Edo State Government and/or destabilising the peace, order and good governance of Edo State in general, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice for interlocutory injunction.”
The orders followed prayers in an ex-parte motion of the plaintiffs/applicants Alhaji Yahaya Omogbai, the Clerk Edo State House of Assembly and the Edo State Government, filed on June 28. The court adjourned the matter to October 9.
Obaseki anticipated the action of the House of Representatives before it struck and had the court order ready, which the state government and Speaker of Edo House of Assembly, Hon Frank Okiye, reminded the ad-hoc committee of before the Representatives finally slammed the order for fresh proclamation.
Senate joins the fray
The one-week ultimatum by the House of Representatives lapsed July 23 with the governor issuing no fresh proclamation, but the House of Representatives, which had no means of enforcing its resolution, extended the date as a face-saving measure.
A special committee constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari, headed by the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state tried to find a political solution to the impasse, but the governor outwitted the committee so to speak with his startling approach.
The Senate, which was to some extent wary in taking a specific stand on the matter, giving room for further negotiations, got tired of waiting and on July 30, gave Obaseki one week to issue a fresh proclamation. The concurrence of the Senate is required to make the House of Representatives’ resolution effective.
Another bolt from the blue
However, just when critics thought they had at last boxed Obaseki to a corner, he sprang another shocker. A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, August 2, restrained the Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, in the interim, from issuing a fresh proclamation letter, as directed by the Senate.
The court also restrained the Clerk of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, their servants, agents, officers or privies from interfering or taking over the legislative functions of the Edo State House of Assembly.
Furthermore, the court granted an order restraining the Inspector General of Police and the State Security Service, their servants, agents, officers or privies from sealing up the Edo State House of Assembly, or obstructing activities at the Edo Assembly.
According to the court, the orders followed requests sought by the Deputy Speaker of the Edo House of Assembly, Hon. Yekini Idiaye; and the member representing Ikpoba-Okha Constituency in the Edo Assembly, Hon. Henry Okhuarobo, who are the plaintiffs/applicants.
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In the order paper, dated August 2, 2019, the court said, “The plaintiffs/applicants are granted an order of interim injunction, restraining the 1st-3rd Defendant/Respondents (Clerk of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives), their servant, agents, officers or privies from interfering or taking over the legislative functions of the Edo State House of Assembly pending the determination of the substantive suit.”
“The plaintiffs/applicants are granted an order of interim injunction restraining the 6th Defendant/Respondent (the Governor of Edo State) from issuing any fresh proclamation for the holding of another first session for the Edo State House of Assembly pending the hearing and the determination of the substantive suit” the court said.
The plaintiffs, Hon Yekini Idiaye and Hon Henry Okhuarobo had prayed the court in suit number, FHC/PH/CS/159/2019, to restrain the Clerk of the National Assembly, President of Senate, Speaker of House of Representatives, Inspector General of Police and the State Security Service ( all defendants) from taking over the duties of the Edo House of Assembly.
One man, who is happy with the way Obaseki has fought the battle is former Political Adviser to Oshiomhole, Hon Charles Idahosa, who is one of the top politicians in the state in support of the governor. He does not want to hear anybody saying that Obaseki committed any infraction.
Abuja court worsens situation for NASS
The one-week ultimatum by the Senate to Obaseki to issue fresh proclamation expired, Wednesday, but at the time of this report, there was no word yet from the Senate on its next line of action. However, as if to pre-empt any further incursion by the National Assembly, the Edo state government secured another court order against the National Assembly.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, Wednesday, ordered the National Assembly to cut short the plan to take over the legislative duties of the Edo State House of Assembly.
He gave the order at the resumed hearing of the matter, Wednesday. Edo state government had filed the case challenging the National Assembly’s directive to Governor Godwin Obaseki to issue a fresh proclamation of the state’s House of Assembly in seven days.
Justice Taiwo directed parties in the case to maintain status quo pending the determination of the case, putting the National Assembly in a fix over its next move. With the manner the case is going, more surprises are likely in the next few days or weeks.
Bauchi case no longer tenable – Groups
The party’s NWC and other leaders had referenced the happenings in Bauchi where APC, which is in majority, lost the Speakership of the House to the rival Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and could not get the governor, Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir, to issue a fresh proclamation because of a similar scenario in Edo. Nevertheless, the contention fell like a pack of cards, as the dissenting Bauchi lawmakers, unlike the Edo counterparts, ate the humble pie and went for inauguration, last week.
The 16 aggrieved APC lawmakers led by factional Speaker of Bauchi House of Assembly, Kawuwa Shehu Damina, took oath of office and allegiance, last week, at about 8.00 pm at a session presided over by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Danlami Ahmed Kawule.
Thirteen members of the House with Clerk presiding over the sitting on the floor of the Assembly complex, elected Abubakar Suleiman as Speaker, June 20 and they enjoyed the support of the PDP governor, Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir, who lobbied the nonconforming lawmakers to back down.
One of the protesting Edo lawmakers confided in Saturday Vanguard that Obaseki rather than lobby them was determined to continue the fight, adding, “We are not going to cowed either.”
However, Concerned Citizens of Edo State, an umbrella body comprised of trade associations, youth and professional groups, market women amongst others, which took sides with Governor Obaseki, Monday, urged the dissident members-elect of Edo House of Assembly, currently in Abuja, to follow the example set by Bauchi State lawmakers and present themselves for inauguration.
According to the group, “We read with delight, news report of the inauguration of the factional lawmakers in Bauchi State. We laud their maturity and recommend similar bold and people-spirited move for our Edo members-elect.”
Chair, Edo State chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Sunny Osayande, also added: “We advise the 12 (14) Edo House of Assembly members-elect currently in Abuja to put aside sentiment and come forward to be inaugurated so that they can assume their law-making function for which they were elected.”
He noted that the absence of the 12 (14) members-elect from the activities of the inaugurated Edo State House of Assembly is denying those that voted for them representation in the Assembly.
The State Chairman of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Odion Olaye, asserted, “These members-elect were elected to represent their various constituencies in the Edo House of Assembly. But their absence means that the issues that affect people in their constituencies are not mentioned, highlighted or debated on the floor of the assembly.”
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Lamenting the development, state chair of butchers association, Akere Odigie, noted, “This is bad for our democracy. We urge the members-elect to put the interest of the voters, who stood in the sun and rain to elect them, ahead of personal squabbles.”
Bauchi lawmakers’ volte-face after meeting Buhari suggests battle not over
New twist as Bauchi APC lawmakers renege
However, just when Obaseki and his supporters appeared to be enjoying some reprieve from the various court orders, a twist emerged in Bauchi when APC lawmakers shortly after they visited President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, during the week turned a new leaf.
Governor Nasir el-Rufai had revealed the president’s mindset on the Edo APC crisis when he declared that the president wanted a fresh proclamation issued, but the state government debunked the alleged directive.
However, the recant of 17 APC members of Bauchi Assembly, inaugurated, August 2, after a meeting with Buhari, undoubtedly signposts the position of Buhari and the party.
The 31-member Bauchi Assembly is comprised of 22 APC members, eight Peoples Democratic Party and eight New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) members.“Speaking with State House correspondents after the meeting with Buhari, the lawmakers said they would no longer abide by the reconciliation they reached with their colleagues and the State Governor, last week.“Factional Speaker, Damina said: “The purpose of our coming to see Mr. President is at the instance of our party. So we came to brief him on what is happening in the Bauchi State House of Assembly since the purported inauguration which as you are all aware, two leaderships emerged. Primarily he (the President) was fully briefed directly from us.”
“The situation is as it is now because in Arithmetic, there is nothing that will make 11 to be greater than 20; and later that 11 grew to 13. So that is the position. All we are saying is that the right thing based on constitutional provisions should be done – with a proclamation issued, specifying date, time and venue should be announced.““Once that is done election should be conducted and whoever emerges as leader, fine and good.”
“If you are following the event where parallel leadership emerged, our senior colleagues at the National Assembly threw a motion by one representative from Bauchi, which resulted in its adoption and later setting up a committee.““They even visited Bauchi and reported back to the plenary for the House of Representatives, which already a decision was taken, given a four weeks ultimatum to the State Governor within which to issue a fresh proclamation for proper inauguration of the state assembly to take place.“
“So we have briefed Mr President being the leader of our party and father of the country and a custodian of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria as amended, to seek his advice,” he said. “On the propriety of the governor issuing another proclamation, he said, “I don’t want to go into the details. What actually happened was, on the day the initial proclamation was made was for a date, which was Thursday, a time of 10am and venue, House of Assembly Chambers.““All of us especially of the APC were ready in compliance with the invitation.
We arrived in the chamber at 7:53am and to our dismay as at the time of our arrival, 11 out of the 31 members of the Assembly members were already there and had conducted election for the speaker and other principal officers.““So what we did since the invitation letter was reading 10am, we decided to wait in the chamber. But unfortunately just as we were trying to wait at the chamber, a tear gas was released forcing us to leave the chamber and one of us who is an asthmatic patient was affected and rushed to hospital.“
“What we did was to comply with the constitutional provisions of waiting for 10 o’clock which we did.““We gave an additional time of one hour to see if the governor and other members would come so we can do the needful but they didn’t so we conducted our elections. That is how the second parallel leadership emerged,” he said.