Tony Osauzo, Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin, Ndubuisi Orji And Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The crisis rocking the Edo chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) may soon boil over, as the principal actors in the imminent battle are poised for a showdown over the control of the state’s political structure.
The dramatis personae are led by the state governor, Godwin Obaseki on one hand and his godfather and APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, who leads those regarded as the Abuja politicians, on the other hand.
From the stand of party members on both sides of the divide, there are indications that it is surely going to be a journey into the ‘long night’ with the two camps accusing each other of crossing their red lines.
Speaking on the development, the members-elect opposed to the inauguration of the 7th Assembly in the state, raised the alarm that Governor Obaseki was after their lives. One of the members-elect, Vincent Uwadiae, representing Ovia North-East Constituency (2), Edo State, said the members relocated to Abuja because the state was no longer safe for them.
Uwadiae said the atmosphere in Benin became very insecure and no longer safe for some of the members-elect.
He said they (members-elect) have written a petition about what he called the charade that took place in the Edo State House of Assembly where about nine members were taken to the hallowed chamber to be inaugurated at about 9:30 in the night.
His words: “We have written a petition to the IG (Inspector General of Police), we had written a petition to the DG, DSS and we have equally given a copy to the National Assembly. And based on that, we were invited to the plenary about three days ago where a motion that touched on Edo State House of Assembly was taken, to the extent that the National Assembly was called upon to go into what is going on in the House of Assembly and make its position known.
“We condemned it in entirety on the 18th at a particular hotel in Benin. While we were in that hotel, thugs were deployed to attack every one of us. Rooms were broken into, property worth millions of naira were vandalised by the thugs.
“We all relocated to different places on the 19th. On that 18th, we were equally arrested. The police that came to rescue us from where the threat to life took place, where we were addressing a press conference, they arrested some of us when we got to the police station on the instruction of the power that be in Edo State. We were branded as holding unlawful assembly.”
On whether they are fighting for the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, he said the demands of the members-elect are very clear and has nothing to do with the former Edo governor.
“The national chairman ruled the state for eight years and he has finished his tenure. He brought in a successor in the name of the present governor. The present governor worked with the former governor and he exited gracefully and he became the national chairman.”
He dismissed speculations that they were planning to impeach the governor, saying there was nothing like that on their agenda. “We have nothing against the governor. As a matter of fact, I am from Benin-City; I am from Edo South, coincidentally, where the governor is from. It is our interest to protect the governor against any impeachment. And in any case, that is not even part of our agenda at all. We have not been inaugurated even. So, if we have not been inaugurated, we are not yet Honourable Members of the House”, he said.
A member of the House of Representatives, representing Owan Federal Constituency, Prof Julius Ihonvbere, had sought the intervention of the Green Chamber in the crisis rocking the assembly so that all the 24 members of the House can be inaugurated.
Ihonvbere told Saturday Sun that he decided to speak out on the crisis because God will not forgive him, if he kept quiet.
He condemned the crisis in his home state of Edo and insisted that the right thing must be done in terms of having a proper inauguration of the state assembly.
“When I led the debate, it has nothing to do with individual interest. It has nothing to do with the Governor. It has nothing to do with the rumored disagreement between the governor and the APC national chairman.
“I am glad that when I moved the motion, across parties, people rose to support it, even those who called for amendments, which I fully agree with, supported the motion, that nobody, no governor has the power to prevent the inauguration of a state assembly. It is an offence. No matter how you manipulate.”
On the controversial inauguration of the assembly and election of speaker, he said: “That day, ask me, they inaugurated nine out of 24, how many of them had a family member present. Have you ever seen any inauguration where people do not come with their spouses, their party leaders?
“ They don’t cook. Some bring band to celebrate. Have you ever seen one anywhere in this country? Nobody. At 9.30 pm, outside the sitting hours. Your proclamation will state the time and venue. So, why were some of them dressed as if they were just coming from a bar, in short knicker? Some wearing slippers, that is against the dress code.
“When Oshiomhole was governor, he wore his khaki to the House and the House sent him back that he was not properly dressed, that they would not listen to him. He went home and wore a suit and came back before they admitted him.
“Look, what is not good is not good. I know there are political interests, political anticipations, political expectations and even political anxiety here and there. But the strategy is to approach those issues, rather than violating the law.”
He added: “if you inaugurate nine, out of 24, is that the majority? And of those nine, three came out to say that they were kidnapped and forced there, that they are not with them.
“It is not fair. I will not say because the governor is my friend, the deputy governor is my friend, I will not speak the truth. No. The man dies in him, who keeps quiet in the face of tyranny, injustice and abuse of due process.”
Reacting to the development, the State Chairman of the APC, Anselm Ojezua said Prof. Julius Ihonvbere has crossed the red line for inviting people from outside the state to come and take over the state House of assembly.
Ojezua said Ihonvbere’s threat for the House of Representatives to take over the Edo House of assembly, is meant to undermine the sovereignty of Edo State.
His words: “It is him who crossed the red line. Edo State is not a colony. Edo State is a federating unit of Nigeria and therefore, Edo citizens deserve to be represented by their own citizens but for him, a citizen of Edo to go and invite people from outside Edo State to come and take over Edo House of assembly, in my own opinion, that is the crossing of the red line.
“Since 1999 to date, I am not aware of any house of assembly that has been constituted in Edo State that did not have the blessing of the governor. Why should it now be that in the case of Obaseki, the reverse should be the case? That is an abnormal thing and it is raising a lot of questions and to the motives behind those who are agitating against Obaseki having a say as to who should be the head of that assembly. So, that is the problem.
“The party has taken a position even before the house was inaugurated. The party took a position, it communicated that same position to the members and expected that the members will comply just the same way as it was done by the national working committee at the national assembly.
“So, what I would have expected responsible party leaders to do, will be to defend the party’s position.
“I am very worried that the leaders of my party in my state, in Abuja, are the ones encouraging rebellion at home.
“It worries me, they want to undermine the party’s position. That the party is no longer supreme? Or is it that the party is supreme at the national level and not so at the state level? What are they trying to do? I do not understand.
“So, as far as I am concerned, Edo State APC is united behind the governor. When the party has taken a position, the party must stand to defend the position and that is exactly what is going on.”