Nothing can be so discomforting than to see elected leaders in authority trying hard to sell lies to the citizenry to create a scenario of reality. I have watched and listened to the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, speak about the tempestuous politics that has dominated the political space in recent times.
I am alarmed at the dubious assumptions that are being parroted out there to create a wrong impression that the political contestations in Edo are a function of godfather and godson combat. The governor, Godwin Obaseki, had earlier told Edo people, that the crux of the whole political brouhaha was his refusal to dip his hands in the till to service the bulbous ego of party chieftains. This is a lie from the pit of hell, but the undiscerning might take home this tacky narrative as the rationale for all the contestations.
Far from it. It is like reading a tawdry story in a book of gossips, well scripted to create scenarios that are painted like real time situations. From the ugly narratives and illegalities of the Edo State House of Assembly debacle, to the takeover of the Assembly by 17 lawmakers of the APC, through the politics of immunity and threats, so many lies have flourished in concinnity with the wrongly held assumptions that this is all about dismantling the pillars and walls of godfatherism.
On the 17th June, 2019, Obaseki reportedly and nocturnally proclaimed the House of Assembly which ought to have been done on the 9th June. First of all, proclaiming the House a week longer had altered the established calendar for the legislative arm of government.
The delay easily exposed there was sinister motive. When it was finally proclaimed in line with the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, nine members subscribed to the relevant oath at an ungodly hour about 9:49p.m. One of the lawmakers was seen wearing a pair of shorts, looking very informal, for legislative business as serious as inauguration.
The nine members selected their principal officers and later denied others the opportunity to be so inaugurated. When the 15 others were holding a meeting at the Excalibur Hotel, the following morning, 18th June, to express their rejection of the shabby nocturnal inauguration, thugs descended on them and inflicted various degrees of injuries on some of them.
The footages of the attack were all over the social media. Men of the Nigeria Police later rescued them, and the Chief Security Officer to Governor Obaseki became the first casualty. He was reassigned to a new post outside Edo State, because he was alleged to have masterminded the operation. Those lawmakers kept a distance from the Assembly for fear of being further attacked. It was also obvious, the minority leadership of the Assembly didn’t want to inaugurate the majority members. It became a ding-dong affair.
Only God knows what laws they have passed in the last legislative year aside from the usual Appropriation Law that has become a yearly ritual. Those who were supporters of Governor Obaseki, saw his move for the nocturnal inauguration of the Assembly as a “smart” one.
They clapped for the aberration and illegality of inaugurating a lawmaking house in the thick of the night by saying, the timing for such exercise, was not stipulated in the 1999 Constitution. They hailed and wailed, and those majority members kept their cool. A verdict from the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, validated the proclamation letter from the governor, which was never at issue anyway. On December 4, 2019, the purported Speaker, speaking for the minority members, declared the seats of the majority members-elect vacant, even when the number of days had not reached the constitutional 180 working days allowed for such exercise.
Since then, the 14 majority members stayed away. Following Governor Obaseki’s defection to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), three of the minority members refused to defect with him and that brought the APC members to 17. For over a year now, these members-elect have been denied the opportunity to represent their constituents in the business of lawmaking.
Governor Obaseki presented his budget to a minority Assembly and got it passed within the twinkle of an eye. Edo State has been held captive through criminal imposition of a regime of minority rule that has squandered the lawmaking process and turned it to an appendage of the executive arm.
Rather than be a validly elected Speaker for the Edo House of Assembly and by extension, Edo people, Okiye became Speaker for Obaseki and his deputy, Phillip Shuaibu. Having successfully grounded the Assembly, made the members to become errand boys, financially strangulate them by denying them all the appurtenances of office, subdued them to become kitchen boys and political chefs and waiters in Obaseki’s dining table, Edo Assembly became a deserted sanctuary.
For four solid months running, the Assembly quarters has been in darkness because of cut in power supply. Because of the circumstances of their purported emergence as inaugurated members, more like a gang of “sinners without sins”, they can neither complain nor raise a voice.
Those who often carry out illegalities and hide under the slow administration of justice to perpetrate evil, always have their guilt waiting to haunt them. On Friday, 7th August, 2020, the 14 members-elect stormed Benin City to claim what rightly belongs to them. A minority rule over majority is alien to democracy. Constructive engagement, lobbying, wooing and collective bargaining are part of the ingredients that deepen democratic engagement. They were inaugurated and in the process elected their leadership. Seven members cannot hold superior dominance over 17 members. Democracy talks about majority rule. As we speak, two Speakers are laying claim to legislative leadership.
One Speaker presides over seven members in the governor’s camp, while the other Speaker presides over 17 members that are truly representative of the state in line with majority rule. Those analysts who clapped for the inanities and illegalities of the first attempt at minority rule, have suddenly found their voice, criticising the action of the 17 members. Nigerians could be awkwardly interesting when it comes to analysis.
We saw the Deputy Governor suddenly playing the role of a traffic warden, directing a truck to discharge sands at the entrance of the Assembly Complex, such desecration. We also saw how they hurriedly vandalised the Assembly complex in the name of renovation, even when it was not captured in the 2020 budget. Those are familiar symptoms of godfatherism by actors who lie to the public that they are indeed, fighting godfathers. It has now become a tale of godfathers fighting godfathers.
Only a godfather to the Assembly members could immediately order a vandalism of the legislative building, yet the Speaker became numb. While this was going on, men of the Nigeria Police were watching, with hands akimbo, the rendition of Nollywood drama sketch, without a single arrest. That is the usual rhetoric.
Edo Government’s apologists have shouted hoax over last week incident, a tale of those who live by the gun, not wanting to go near the sword, it has now assumed the theory of contradiction, which will cancel itself out to produce a new set of scenarios. Governor Obaseki would have avoided all these Achilles heels if he had earlier listened to voice of reason to tarry a while in his battle of obfuscation of Edo political players who have since been supplanted by Lagos boys, that have feasted on the state in the last three years.
The discussion about the Edo State Assembly has sent many legal pundits on so many interrogations, but no one has beaten his chest to accept minority rule over majority rule. That is the guilt edge. How can we advocate for a minority rule over majority? I will continue from here next week. Stay tuned.