The intervention of the National Assembly in the crisis rocking the Edo State House of Assembly is fraught with great dangers for our nascent democracy, if nothing is done now to stop such unnecessary meddlesomeness. We urge all the parties in the conflict to sheathe the sword and give peace a chance.
The crisis in the assembly started when the 7th Edo State House of Assembly was said to be surreptitiously inaugurated. Some aggrieved members of the House picked holes with the way and manner the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, proclaimed the House. In the end, only nine out of 24 members of the parliament were inaugurated. The aggrieved members of the House contended that the inauguration of the Edo House of Assembly with only nine members did not conform to the state parliamentary conventions.
There could be other issues at play other than the alleged infraction in the inauguration of the State Assembly. Nevertheless, the members of the House should come together and settle the matter amicably. Their legislative duties should not be allowed to suffer because of issues arising from the inauguration of the House and its leaders. Nothing should be done to rupture the peace in the state. What is even surprising is that all the elected 24 members of the House of Assembly belong to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Since all the lawmakers belong to the same political party, they should forget their individual differences and interests and work together for the good of Edo people. The APC in the state should have a mechanism for settling internal wranglings. A political problem should be amenable to a political solution. We still hope that it is not late to explore it. But if the political interventions fail, the stage is set for the ventilation of the doctrine of the separation of powers which is central to democracy. Since the matter is in the courts, we believe that rather than resorting to self-help, the concerned parties should be patient with the courts for a peaceful resolution of the dispute.
The 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) is explicit on the functions of the National Assembly. For instance, Section 11 (4) of the Constitution states that: “At any time when any House of Assembly of a State is unable to perform its functions by reason of the situation prevailing in the State, the National Assembly may make such laws for the peace, order and good government of that State…”
Also, Section 11(5) of the Constitution states that: “For the purposes of subsection (4) of this section, a House of Assembly shall not be deemed to be unable to perform its functions so long as the House of Assembly can hold a meeting and transact business.”
Now, this section of the Constitution appears to be the crux of the issues before the court and central to the resolution of the conflict. Therefore, the judiciary should be allowed to interpret the law and resolve the matter. This is the beauty of democracy and why it enshrined the principle of the separation of powers as a basic tenet of its practice. All the parties in the matter, if they must be seen as democrats, must adhere strictly to the rules of the game and wait peacefully for the full adjudication of the matters presently before the courts.
There is no other good way out. The alternative indeed, like it is clearly pointing to, is anarchy which the state and the nation cannot afford at this time or any other time for that matter. In fact, we urge the National Assembly to be very circumspect in its decision to step into the arena of conflict, so as not to hasten the descent of the state into anarchy and disaster. The National Assembly as prime stakeholders in the national project and purveyors of the rule of law must be seen to be encouraging all the parties in the dispute to be patient with all the ongoing legal processes in the courts until the matter is resolved.