Edo: Fresh moves to save APC

Edo: Fresh moves to save APC

Undeterred by the failure of several earlier efforts by a number of its well-meaning chieftains to resolve the political face-off between groups loyal to Governor Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor and national chairman of the ruling party, Adams Oshiomhole, Assistant Editor ‘Dare Odufowokan reports that stakeholders within the All Progressives Congress (APC) are now making fresh moves to nip the worrisome crisis in the bud and save its Edo State chapter from electoral misfortune next year.


SINCE the stalemate over the disagreement that trailed the controversial inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly earlier in the year by Governor Godwin Obaseki, top party leaders in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), within and outside the state, have been divided over the development. While some have been busy persuading the governor to see reason and issue a fresh proclamation for the assembly as advised by the leadership of the national assembly, others are prevailing on Oshiomhole to allow Obaseki have his way with the leadership of the assembly for peace to reign in the state chapter of the APC.

The hitherto silent war between the erstwhile political godfather and godson went full blown following the controversial inauguration of the assembly last June and the subsequent election of Hon. Frank Okiye as the new Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly. All the 24 members of the state assembly belong to the APC. But nine of them, allegedly aided by the state Obaseki, hurriedly met at night to be sworn in and also elect a speaker following what the Oshiomhole camp insists is a nocturnal proclamation by the governor for the inauguration of the house.

Opponents of the governor within the party argue that the other lawmakers-elect were intentionally excluded in order to prevent the lawmakers from choosing their preferred leaders. “The governor was scared Oshiomhole had plans of taking over the assembly. That informed the step he took with minority members of the house to elect a Speaker. That is the root cause of the current crisis and one wonders how this will be resolved with both parties determined to have the house under their wings,” a source explained.

Following his controversial emergence, Obaseki wasted no time in congratulating Okiye and pledged to work with the new leadership of the assembly, even at a time Oshiomhole and others were faulting the process that produced the new Speaker. This was the first sign that the crisis between the two camps may have festered more than many people thought. Oshiomhole rejected the inauguration and called for a fresh exercise. He described Okiye’s emergence as “illegal and embarrassing”.

But the Edo government in its response said the national chairman of APC was being biased to have accused Obaseki of having a hand in the affairs of the assembly. Okiye said he remains Speaker and the remaining lawmakers-elect would be inaugurated when they are ready.


Failed interventions

Determined to prevent the crisis from escalating, members of the House of Representatives intervened with a 13-member ad-hoc committee, chaired by Abdulrazak Namdas, to investigate the crises in the Edo State House of Assembly. Later, the house gave a one-week ultimatum to Obaseki, to issue a fresh proclamation for the Edo State House of Assembly. The lawmakers arrived at the resolution while adopting the report of an ad-hoc committee mandated to investigate the crisis in the state legislature.

“All members of the Edo State House of Assembly, both those who have been inaugurated and those who have not been inaugurated should dissolve their factions in the interest of peace and stability of the house with the view to moving the state forward. The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and the Director-General (DG), Department of State Service, should shut down the Edo State House of Assembly and provide adequate security to allay further fears of intimidation and threat as alleged by members-elect,” the recommendations read.

The house agreed that where the above recommendations fail, the National Assembly shall invoke the Provisions of Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which empowers it to take over the State House of Assembly until the situation normalises. But the governor rejected the call and dared the House of Representatives to take over the assembly if it can. In a statement in Benin City, Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, insisted that “there is nowhere in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) where the House of Representatives or even the National Assembly for that matter, is granted the right or power to shut down a State House of Assembly.”

And in August, the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered both the Senate and the House of Representatives to halt their plan to take over the legislative duties of the Edo State House of Assembly. Justice Taiwo Taiwo made the order at the resumed hearing in the case instituted by the Edo State government to challenge the directive by the chambers of the National Assembly to the governor of the state, Godwin Obaseki, to issue a fresh proclamation of the state’s House of Assembly.

A month later, Justice Kolawole Omotoso, of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, also declared that Obaseki cannot issue a fresh proclamation. Omotoso also ruled that the National Assembly lacked the powers to direct Obaseki to issue fresh proclamation to the House of Assembly. According to him, a fresh proclamation would amount to an extension of tenure for the lawmakers.

The ruling followed an application filed by some Edo lawmakers to challenge moves by the National Assembly to seal off the state legislative chambers and take over their statutory functions following an internal crisis of the house. Omotoso said only a court of competent jurisdiction and not the National Assembly could issue such a directive. But the court pronouncements also failed to end the face-off over the inauguration of the assembly.


Worsened crisis

Findings by The Nation revealed that prompted by Omotosho’s ruling and other court pronouncements, Edo lawmakers loyal to Oshiomhole may have approached the courts too to get the governor to reverse himself and issue a fresh proclamation. “We are determined to challenge this abnormality to the very end. Obaseki and his advisers cannot hold Edo people to ransom. The rule of law will not be thwarted just like that. We will fight this to the very end,” one of the lawmakers told The Nation.

The Nation gathered that the Oshiomhole group is currently waiting for the judiciary to rule in its favour and get the governor to issue a fresh proclamation. “There is no way nine members will elect a leadership for a 24-member house. And don’t be deceived by their G15, G20 claims. What they still have till today are those original nine members. The one or two they threatened to join them will retrace their steps quickly once the courts throw out the illegality currently parading itself as leadership of the house,” another source said.

Member-elect representing Uhunwmonde constituency, Hon. Washington Osa Osifo, while explaining the situation back then, had said, “It is public knowledge that all the members-elect in Edo State are all of the same political party, the 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, 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 his advice went unheeded till date.

Also, while the disagreement was escalating, the governor dropped eight commissioners, including Oshiomhole’s nephew, from his cabinet and allegedly replaced them with his perceived loyalists. Also, many political office holders in the 18 councils of the state have been sacked with observers claiming those affected are loyalists of Oshiomhole. Of course, the state government has vehemently denied any witch-hunting while giving reasons for the sack of the affected people.

About four council chairmen, Eghe Ogbemudia (Egor);  Patrick Aguinede, (Esan West); Alhaji Yakson Musa in Etsako West and Alhaji Aremiyau Momoh of Etsako East, have also been suspended for alleged corrupt activities. Other affected council officials include special advisers, senior special assistants, secretary to local government and supervisory councillors.


Fresh peace moves

In spite of the seeming difficulty to resolve the festering crisis, party leaders and other stakeholders are said to have decided to save the party from any form of electoral misfortune by ensuring the resolution of the dispute. According to findings by our correspondents, some prominent party leaders recently met in Abuja to discuss the state of the party. It was gathered that the crisis rocking the Edo State chapter featured prominently on the agenda of the meeting held in the private residence of one of the founding fathers of the party.

“Oshiomhole was in attendance at the meeting and he expressed his readiness to support any effort aimed at restoring peace to the party in his home state. One of the leaders present also briefed the house about an earlier meeting he had with Governor Obaseki in Lagos. According to the party leader, the governor is also open to peace talks having expressed his willingness to have party leaders intervene in the festering crisis. The meeting then resolved to encourage all organs of the party to work towards unifying the chapter,” our source said.

The Nation gathered that one of the resolutions at the meeting is that the governor and his godfather, Oshiomhole, must first be reconciled before their supporters can be pacified. Subsequently, two committees were said to have been set up to look into the matter. The leaders also urged members of the NWC of the party to remain as neutral as possible over the matter. The NWC was also advised to set up a committee to investigate the crisis before taking any other action.

On Wednesday, the party’s National Working Committee also raised a five-man facts-finding committee to look into the crisis rocking the Edo State chapter of the party. Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, was named as the panel chair. According to a statement issued by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, the committee has a mandate speaking with all sides to the crisis and report back to the NWC.

Issa-Onilu said in the statement: “The National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has appointed the Governor of Kano State, Alhaji Abdullahi Ganduje, to head the party’s five-member fact-finding committee for the APC chapter in Edo State. Other members of the committee are: Governor of Katsina State, Aminu Bello Masari; former governor of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi; former governor of Borno State and serving senator, Kashim Shettima, and Honourable Ahmed Wadada (Secretary).

“The Committee is expected to meet with all disputing interests and present its findings to the party. You would recall that the party took a decision earlier in the week to constitute a committee of prominent party leaders on the lingering crisis in our party in Edo State. This marks another step in our party’s effort to find a lasting solution to the crisis and ensure our party comes out of it even stronger.”

With the current moves, many concerned people within and outside the party are hoping that the Edo State APC will put its house in order ahead of the guber election next year.

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