Tony Osauzo, Benin
The political chess game in Edo State, ahead of the September 19 governorship election, shifted to the House of Assembly, yesterday, with the invasion of the legislative complex by operatives of the Anti-Robbery Squad and emergence of Victor Edoror (APC Esan Central) as factional Speaker.
He was elected at a parallel sitting held in a secret location after a motion for the impeachment of the incumbent Speaker, Frank Okiye, was unopposed.
The sordid drama is not unconnected with Wednesday’s impeachment of the Assembly’s Deputy Speaker, Yekini Idiaye who was replaced by Roland Asoro.
Idiaye’s ouster came a day after he declared support for the governorship candidate of the APC, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Yesterday’s drama started in the early hours of the day when some men were busy removing the iconic legislative mace on top of the building housing the legislative complex.
Also, trucks offloaded gravels at the gate of the Assembly Complex.
The drama played out barely 24 hours after government raised the alarm about aa alleged plot by “forces within the APC” to take over the Assembly.
The allegation sparked verbal salvo between the PDP and the APC.
‘Edo no be Lagos’
Residents of Benin City woke up yesterday to behold heavy security presence at the Edo State House of Assembly, following rumour of plans by the opposition to invade and take over the Assembly.
The situation became chaotic when hundreds of youths believed to be supporters of the PDP invaded the Assembly, chanting PDP, PDP, PDP and armed with placards with various inscriptions such as “Edo no be Lagos”, One man, One PVC, One vote”, 4 plus 4.”
Governor Godwin Obaseki who spoke to journalists said he would use the instrument of law to protect the Assembly and the state.
“Nigeria is governed by laws and the Constitution of the country. Mr. President has always insisted that we must follow the rule of law and do things according to the law. Nobody in this country is above the Constitution and so this morning, Mr. Speaker, go about your normal duties as a parliament the way it should and the way the Constitution prescribes.
“For us as executive, we owe you the entire instrument available to us constitutionally to protect you and to protect the state,” the governor said.
Earlier, Speaker Okiyi, who arrived the premises of the Assembly, had sought to confirm from one of the security guards if he noticed any persons trying to gain entry into the premises and the man replied in the affirmative.
But the head of Police Security at the Assembly, ASP, Timi Peter, however, told the Speaker that there was calm in the complex.
Okiye instructed that until the ongoing renovation was completed, nobody should be allowed into the Assembly.
“I am sure this rumour, the presence of the Police would scare the perpetrators away now,” the Speaker said in reference to the alleged plot to take over the Assembly.
Moments later, tippers laden with sand arrived and off-loaded their contents to block the gate of the Assembly, even as other workers were seen removing the Assembly roof, allegedly on the orders of Governor Obaseki.
Following the “invasion”, Okiye, has called on “democrats the world over to remain vigilant and keep vigil over the happenings in Edo State as anti-democratic forces were on the prowl and set to undermine core democratic values such as the rule of law and the constitution.
“The Edo State House of Assembly condemns any attempt to operate the House of Assembly Complex at Ring Road, currently undergoing renovation as the inaugurated members and the Rt. Hon. Speaker have relocated the House via a letter widely circulated to a new address at Dennis Osadebay Avenue,” he said.
He explained that “forceful entry into the premises amounts to trespass, being that the House members have suspended activities at the building; their action will amount to disturbance of public peace which is also an offense.
“Commission of any of the above will naturally attract the attention of the Police and other law enforcement agencies to act by preventing or arresting those involved.”
Reacting to the blockade of the Edo Assembly by security officials, John Mayaki, chairman of the State Media Campaign Council, claimed that the governor besieged the complex out of fear that his illegal house of just five members will be overturned and replaced with a more representative Assembly.
“The outgoing governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has placed the independence of the legislative arm and the democracy of Edo State on trial.
“He has ordered the vandalism, ruin and destruction of the Assembly complex under the pretence of a renovation exercise out of fear that his illegally-formed Assembly of just four members will be overturned and replaced with a more representative one.
“It should be recalled that National Assembly ruled that the Assembly formed by Mr. Godwin Obaseki last year after abducting some members-elect dead in the night was illegally done and, therefore, is unknown to law. Regardless of this, and loud outcry from the people of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki persisted in the illegality and denied representation to 14 members.
“Since then, five more members, led by the Deputy Speaker, Yekini Idiaye, have since renounced the illegal gathering of Mr. Godwin Obaseki and maintained their support for the All Progressives Congress.
“Out of an Assembly of 24 members, 19 members have backed out of Obaseki’s illegality and declared their support for the APC. Is it not against common logic and all principles of democracy for the Governor to claim to have an Assembly of just 5 members out of the elected 24?
“The governor has created needless panic and fear in the state once again because he is afraid that the 19 members, who represent an overwhelming majority, will set aside his illegality. He has invaded the Assembly complex, and the adjoining Ring Road, with thugs and all manner of people to block the Assembly complex, while also commissioning its destruction, including roof removal to prevent any sitting.”
The Forum for Progressive Governance and Accountability, an Edo-based political pressure group, has condemned in strong terms, failed invasion of the Assembly Complex.
Secretary of the group, Ohunyon Festus Egbenososa, in a statement, claimed the failed invasion was an attempt by the APC to takeover government through the back door, urging the leadership of the party in the state to wait till September 19, 2020 to test the popularity of its disabled candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, at the poll.
Regardless, Ize-Iyamu, has congratulated Edoror, describing his emergence as the end of a deformed and lopsided democracy.
“His emergence is a victory for the people of Edo State, for the constituencies previously sidelined and for the House-members’ elect who had been unfairly denied their elective right to represent their constituencies in government,” he said.