The matters at hand are very pressing and urgent, and it needs the immediate and comprehensive attention of the people of Edo State and that of the nation at large.
By Patrick Obahiagbon
It has become imperative for us to remind Edo State citizens and Nigerians how the Edo State government under the leadership of Governor Godwin Obaseki descended from the sublime to the ridiculous on the Edo State House of Assembly matter.
Lest we forget, it was the governor’s penchant for jackboot democracy and political intimidation rather than persuasion and constructive engagement that got us to where we are just now on the Edo State House of Assembly matter.
Lest we forget, that the Edo House of Assembly saga, we must remind the world, began with the Edo State government’s unconstitutional bid to sideline majority lawmakers-elect, who he felt were not aligned to his political ideology.
Lest we forget, that seeking to avoid the people’s representatives from expressing the people’s will in the House, Mr. Governor meddled into what ordinarily ought to be an independent matter of the legislature by orchestrating the exclusion of duly elected legislators in a sham inauguration.
Lest we forget, that in an advertent and well-calculated move, the Obaseki led government illegally swore in some members of the House under threat to their lives and unbridled executive intimidation and these details are still fresh in the public domain.
Lest we forget, that in a graphic cameo, the Edo State government, kidnapped few members at the dead of the night, swore them in, effectively imposing a Speaker on them contrary to the clear provisions of section 92 of the 1999 constitution as amended.
Lest we forget, that on the 18th of June 2019, the Edo State government went ahead to attack the excluded majority members with a mob of thugs and criminals supervised by Mr. Governor’s Chief Security Officer at the Golden Tulip Hotel where they had gone to seek refuge as their personal homes were subject of state-sponsored nefarious attacks.
Lest we forget, that at some point in this long-standing drama, the party structure, from the national level, and also the Federal Government of Nigeria decided on an intervention. However, their efforts were met with stiff and overt resistance by the government of Godwin Obaseki. First, were the intervention plans and missions from both the Federal House of Representatives and Nigerian Senate. All genuine efforts by both the Federal House of Representatives and Nigerian Senate to seek a peaceful resolution to the crisis did not enjoy the cooperation of the Governor and he in fact even threatened on one occasion that he would not be available to receive the Federal legislators. In spite of his hostile attitude towards both the Federal House of Representatives and the Nigerian Senate, the committees setup by both chambers of the National Assembly still proceeded on their fact-finding mission to Edo State. They submitted their reports to their respective chambers and advised the Governor to issue a fresh proclamation and inaugurate all the 24 members. This advice fell on deaf ears as the Governor resorted to litigation to truncate the process of reconciliation. Even the attempts by some other Governors to resolve the issues peacefully also met with a rebuff by Governor Obaseki.
It must be said that Governor Obaseki even hardened his heart to the reconciliation efforts made by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This was the height of arrogance and his anti-party disposition. At all points in time, the Governor found ways, both uncooperative and evasive, to resist the attempts at reconciliation and elongate the life of the crisis.
It is the continuation of this disrespect and disregard for the law and constitution that manifested, albeit, not for the first time, on the 6th of August, 2020, wherein Governor Obaseki defiled and desecrated the sanctity of the Edo House of Assembly by mobilizing some of his party members and thugs to prevent elected members of the Edo State House of Assembly from performing their legitimate duties. He had since relocated some seven members of the Edo State House of Assembly to be sitting in the premises of Government House, Osadebey Avenue, Benin City, just to prevent access of the State House of Assembly to the seventeen majority members.
We must set the records straight by letting the world know that it was the Governor who led party members and thugs, who were armed to the teeth, to the premises of the State House of Assembly yesterday just for the singular purpose of preventing the majority seventeen members of the State House of Assembly from performing their legitimate parliamentary duties.
It is good to observe that the Police made arrests of not less than seven of these thugs who were armed with five double-barrel long guns, two single-barrel long guns, and ten live cartridges within the Edo State House of Assembly premises.
We call on the Police to conduct a transparent investigation on who were their sponsors and prosecute all those arrested and make sure the full weight of the law is brought to bear on those arrested and their sponsors.
On this occasion, the governor supervised both the vandalization of the State House of Assembly by ordering the removal of its rooftops, carting away public properties from the House of Assembly and tipping trucks of granite sand at the front of the gate of the House of Assembly’s premises.
The questions to be asked are viz:
Why would the governor lead his party members and thugs to stop the majority members of the Edo state house of Assembly from having and enjoying a peaceful sitting in accordance with their constitutional obligations?
Why would the governor supervise the vandalization of the state House of Assembly by ordering the removal of the Assembly’s roof tops and heaping granites at its premises? Were these actions to prove to the whole world that both himself and the Deputy Governor enjoy immunity as he had boasted? And was it as a result of this naked display of his immunity that the Commissioner of Police became overwhelmed and was now unable to allow the seventeen majority members of the House of Assembly access to conduct their peaceful parliamentary sitting? Does these actions not tantamount to overheating the polity and thus scare away voters from exercising their electoral franchise in the September 19th Governorship elections?
Let us reassure the people of Edo State and Nigerians that the September 19th Governorship election will be very peaceful and free of violence.
While the people of Edo State, and indeed the entire world, bore witness to these monstrous atrocities and repulsed in shame, the outgoing governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, paraded himself before cameras and microphones, offering a defense of his grotesque mathematics and understanding of democracy which holds that seven persons are greater than seventeen. Can seven be indeed greater than seventeen? The answer is NO.
Governor Godwin Obaseki is clearly the aggressor in this plot, the one man who has refused the reign of peace, who has remained standing in the way of justice and fairness, who has put his knees on the neck of our democracy in Edo State. As the trajectory of the election reveals that the odds are against him, one may not wonder what he stands to gain from his anti-democratic practices of jackboot democracy.
However, whatever the case may be, the wise counsel should be that Godwin Obaseki gets off the way of the majority, should stay clear of the people’s will, and let the general will of the people prevail.
The Legislative arm is a co-equal branch of government with a constitutionally protected independence from external interference or pressure under the principles of Separation of Powers. It amounts to Executive recklessness and affront on the constitution and the rule of law for Mr. Governor to unilaterally dictate over the affairs of the House and define its terms of operations and leadership.
The 7th Assembly which Mr. Governor has since allegedly inaugurated and formed now has a new Speaker in the person of Rt. Hon. Victor Edoror, who has been elected by a seventeen-member majority over seven members, to lead the House. It is time for Mr. Obaseki to end his assault on law and order, and unclasp his anti-democratic grip on the Legislative arm of government so it can offer representation to the people of Edo State.
- Obahiagbon is Vice-Chairman, Media and Publicity Committee, APC National Campaign Council