The supremacy battle between governor Godwin Obaseki and the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, has taken a toll on the inauguration of the 7th Edo State House of Assembly.
The Assembly’s members-elect had earlier on Monday called on Governor Obaseki to immediately transmit a letter of proclamation to the Clerk of the house to allow it function and carry out its legislative duties.
The earlier scheduled date for the inauguration of the 7th Assembly, The Guardian gathered, was June 7, but it could not hold because of the absence of Obaseki. However, there was a new twist to the drama as the much-anticipated inauguration of the Assembly took place at 10.00pm on Monday night, The Guardian learnt.
The Clerk of the Assembly, Yahaya Omogbai, was said to have ushered the members-elect into the chamber and read out the letter of proclamation transmitted to his office by Governor Obaseki.
At the nocturnal siting of the members-elect, the Clerk proclaimed the House and lawmakers elected Hon. Frank Okiye (Esan North East Constituency I) as Speaker against Oshiomhole’s preferred candidate, Hon. Victor Edoror, while Hon. Yekini Idiaye (Akoko-Edo Constituency I) was also elected Deputy Speaker.
Immediately after the inauguration, a motion for adjournment was moved by the Speaker and the House was adjourned till July 18.
At the inauguration were House members who were believed to be loyal to Oshiomhole. Notable among such members-elect included Hon. Nosa Okunbor, Hon. Henry Okhuarobo, Hon. Uyi Ekhosuehi, Marcus Onobun, Hon. Ephraim Anebhosele, Hon. Roland Asoro, Hon. Eric Okaka, Hon. Okiye, and Hon. Idiaye who took oath of office.
The 24 members-elect, though all members of All Progressives Congress (APC) had been demanding that they be immediately inaugurated to enable them sit to carry out their constitutional responsibility like their colleagues in other states.
Sources told The Guardian that the duo had shifted their rift to the Assembly where they intended to outsmart each other in a bid to ensure that their preferred candidates emerged as Speaker and other principal officers, a situation that put members-elect at crossroads between Oshiomhole and Obaseki’s camps.
In Edo South Senatorial District, loyalists of Oshiomhole have not relented in giving the governor sleepless nights following their plot to deny Obaseki a second term bid. This move has generated so much controversy and continued to cause disaffection among party leaders and lawmakers who are now grouping and regrouping in their efforts to stop the governor’s re-election bid.
The move to deny the governor second term ticket despite Obaseki’s commitment to delivering good governance is generating interest, as Edo people seem to love and trust the governor for his hard work and dedication to issues affecting the people. These have so endeared him to them that they have already given him a nickname, “Wake and see Governor”.
Obaseki has not only warmed his way into the hearts of the people, he is obviously winning the guber race ahead Edo 2020 by his unusual wit in winning support from most of Oshiomhole’s loyalists from across the state. Obaseki has openly rebuffed the party’s leadership who he accused of exploiting and pressuring him to share Edo taxpayer’s money for politicians which he said he would not do.
How the National Chairman of APC and Governor Obaseki hopes to resolve and unite the party in the build up to the 2020 guber election remains a Herculean task with the bickering and acrimony among party members.
With Obaseki now ahead of Oshiomhole in the game, particularly as he has reduced the powers of Oshiomhole’s camp and produced the Speaker of state Assembly, next on his agenda would be how to get the support of the party’s leadership so he could control the political structure, which is at the heart of the struggle for the soul of Edo State.
Tension in Governor Obaseki’s camp has eased off after the inauguration and election of Mr. Speaker, Hon. Okiye. Other members-elect might likely pitch tent with the new helmsman and abandon Oshiomhole’s camp. The latest development has confirmed that there is no love lost between the former governor and Obaseki, as members-elect are divided over the two political actors.
The 19 members-elect who are now at crossroads whether to join the Okiye group or remain with Oshiomhole are Hon. Gani Audu (Estako West), Hon. Chris Okaeben (Oredo West), Hon. Sunday Aghedo (Ovia South West), Hon. Victor Edoror (Esan Central), Hon. Washington Osa Osifo (Uhunwmonde), Hon. Michael Ohio-Ezomo (Owan West), Hon. Emmanuel Agbaje (Akoko-Edo II), Hon. Emma Ewah Okoduwa (Esan North East II) and Hon. Crosby Eribo (Egor).
Others are Hon. Seid Oshiomhole (Etsako West II), Hon. Vincent Osa Uwadiae (Ovia North East II), Hon. Sunny Ojiezele (Esan South East), Hon. Amhed Waziri Oshomah (Etsako Central), Hon. Kingsley Ugabi (Estako East), and Hon. Ugiagbe Dumez (Ovia North I).
However, these other members-elect of Edo State House of Assembly who were absent at the midnight inaugurated have called on President Muhammadu Buhari, the leadership of the party, and the leadership of the National Assembly to prevail on Obaseki to constitute the Edo State House of Assembly.
Some of the yet-to-be inaugurated members-elect while addressing journalists at the state’s Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Benin City, said there could not be democracy without legislature and accused Governor Obaseki of attempt to truncate democracy in Edo State.
The members-elect who said the tenure of members of the last Assembly expired on 7th June, added that the governor, by virtue of section 105(3) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), is constitutionally required to immediately issue a letter of proclamation for the inauguration of the new Assembly to avoid a vacuum.
“Today, we members-elect of Edo State House of Assembly wish to bring to the knowledge of the people of Edo State and the general public of the attempt by Governor Obaseki to truncate democracy in Edo State.”
The members-elect, who said assemblies in other states of the Federation have been inaugurated, alleged that Governor Obaseki has deliberately refused to allow Edo State House of Assembly to function, thus usurping the powers of the legislators.
Spokesman for the Oshiomhole group and member-elect representing Uhunwmonde constituency, Hon. Osifo, said, “It is public knowledge that all the members-elect in Edo State are all of the same political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). It is also common knowledge that the governor, no matter how powerful, cannot impose individuals either as Speaker or Deputy Speaker on the legislators. At best, he can only lobby for his preferred candidates as was recently witnessed at the National Assembly.
“We urge all well meaning individuals, including our well-respected Royal Father, His Majesty Oba Ewuare II, The Oba of Benin, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, the leadership of our party, APC, and the leadership of the National Assembly to prevail on Mr. Godwin Obaseki, Governor of Edo State, to immediately issue the letter of proclamation to enable Edo State House of Assembly to function and to avoid serious constitutional crisis.”
But the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state said consequent upon the failure of Governor Obaseki to issue a letter of proclamation for the Edo State House of Assembly, the state chapter of PDP, led by Chief Dan Osi Orbih, has directed its legal team to proceed to court and seek an order of mandamus on Governor Obaseki to do the needful. The opposition party noted that its action had become imperative as a responsible political party.
Edo PDP said it could not ignore the obvious drift to tyranny and impending constitutional crisis being orchestrated by the governor and his party.
After the successful inauguration of Okiye’s group, there was heavy presence of armed security agents drawn from the police and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC) which took over the premises of the assembly.