Edo lawmakers take belligerence too far as parallel speaker emerges

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*Ize-Iyamu, Obaseki

As countdown to the September 19, 2020 Edo State governorship election begins, the state house of assembly had a parallel speaker yesterday.

Seventeen lawmakers believed to be loyal to the ousted national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Adams Oshiomhole congregated somewhere in Benin City and removed the speaker, Mr. Francis Okiye.

Okiye was replaced by Mr. Victor Edoror, representing Esan Central, as the new speaker.

Also elected was Mr. Emma Agbaje (APC, Akoko-Edo II), who became the deputy speaker.

Mr. Sunday Aghedo of Ovia South-west constituency moved a motion signed by the 14 members-elect calling for Okiye’s removal.

He was seconded by Mr. Ohio Ezomo, (APC- Owan West).

The motion nominating Edoror was moved by Mr. Washington Osifo (APC Uhunmwode) and seconded by Mr. Eric Okaka (APC, Owan East).

Mr. Chris Okaeben (APC, Oredo West) moved the motion that got Mr. Emma Agbaje (APC, Akoko-Edo II) who acted as speaker extempore to be elected as deputy speaker.

In his reaction, the state governor and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the election, Mr. Godwin Obaseki condemned what he described as the desperation of his major opponent and his supporters for allegedly planning to take over the assembly complex and occupy it in order to disrupt the democratic process and rule of law.

He said he was determined to ensure that the rule of law and one-man-one-vote was accomplished in the state.

The governor vowed to ensure the lawmakers and the people of the state were protected.

“I want to assure you that as the governor of Edo State, I will do all within my constitutional powers to protect the sovereignty of the legislative arm of government. 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. So,

“For us as executive, we owe you the entire instrument available to us constitutionally to protect you and to protect the state,” he said.

Meanwhile, the former vice president, Mr. Atiku Abubakar said the unfolding political development in Edo State is a threat to constitutional order.

Abubakar, in his verified twitter handle on Thursday, urged the forces behind the development to reign in their proxies, and abide by the rule of law to allow the people elect who they wanted to govern them.

“Nigeria has been on the edge due to the brinkmanship of those charged with the constitutional leadership.

“We must, as a nation, not escalate the already tense atmosphere in our polity.

“What is happening in Edo is a threat to constitutional order nationwide.

“I strongly urge belligerent forces to reign in their proxies, and abide by the rule of law.

“As I have previously said, without the rule of law, there will be no rule at all.

“The current goings-on portend grave danger, not only to law and order in that state, but to the coming Edo elections.

“The people of Edo should be allowed to choose who they wish to govern them, and that choice is to be made on Sept. 19.

“Pending then, everything legally possible must be done to preserve the status quo,” he said.

However, the APC candidate in the September 19, 2020 governorship candidate Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu congratulated Edoror describing his emergence as the end of a deformed and lopsided democracy.

Ize-Iyamu in a congratulatory message said Edoror’s emergence as speaker was a victory for the state and all constituencies previously denied representation.

Reacting to the development the PDP accused Oshiomhole of allegedly deploying security agents to take over the state house of assembly.

The national publicity secretary of the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, stated this while charging the inspector-general of police, Mr. Adamu Mohammed, to stop the attempt to take over the assembly.

Ologbondiyan, in a statement, entitled, ‘Stop invasion of Edo Assembly now’ said: “The party posits that the invasion and illegal occupation of the state legislature by security agents allegedly deployed by sacked national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, is a direct coup against the democratic order of Edo State and a recipe for anarchy, chaos, and bloodletting.

“We urge the Inspector-General to act with dispatch to curb this nefarious situation, which has heightened tension in the state, and if not halted, may result in a bloody clash as the citizens are already charged to defend their symbol of democracy from a forceful takeover.

“The police hierarchy is urged to note that this provocative and lawless act by the APC is part of its plans to overheat the polity and create a security situation with the view to unleash violence on the people, derail the democratic order in the state and blame it on security agencies.“

Ologbondiyan also condemned what he referred to as “this notorious resort to self-help by the APC and their agents to forcefully take over power in Edo State through the back door.”

The party restated its call to President Muhammadu Buhari to rein in Oshiomhole before he triggered a serious crisis in the state.

However, the APC alleged that Obaseki was responsible for numerous siege to the Edo Assembly complex.

In a statement by the chairman of the state media campaign council, Mr. John Mayaki, the party accused the state government of carrying out several onslaughts against the constitutional independence of the legislative arm of government by attacking its members-elect and denying them representation.

“It is a known fact that Governor Obaseki has treated the House of Assembly, an independent and co-equal branch of government, as a mere extension of his office through the brutalisation of members-elect and the denial of representation to the majority of members.

“In a Gestapo style, the outgoing governor hijacked a tiny minority and purportedly inaugurated them in the dead of the night. The sham inauguration was condemned and set aside by both arms of the National Assembly after their separate investigations revealed that the members, and indeed the Clerk, were forced to participate in the illegality under threat to life.

“With these criminal antecedents, we believe if there is any unwholesome activity ongoing at the Assembly complex, it is Mr. Godwin Obaseki who is in the best position to explain to the world what is going on and why. Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, or the APC, does not control the Police,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) threatened to suspend the Edo and Ondo governorship election process if the actions of political actors led to a breakdown of law and order.

The commission’s commissioner and chairman, information and voter education committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, announced this on Thursday in Abuja after a meeting where stakeholders deliberated on a number of issues, including preparations for the elections.

He said the commission had observed with deep concern, the escalating levels of violent actions and incendiary statements by political parties, candidates and their supporters, in the run up to the elections.

“These actions include destruction of opponents’ campaign materials such as billboards, violent campaigns and use of offensive language.

“It is important for political parties, candidates and their supporters to keep in mind that there are extant laws and regulations that must be adhered to, during campaigns.

“The commission will not shirk its responsibility to enforce the rules of the game.

“Consequently, parties and candidates must, on no account, underestimate the resolve of the commission to enforce the rules and regulations and apply appropriate sanctions against those who choose to break them.

“The commission remains determined to conduct peaceful elections in the two states and in the outstanding National and State Assembly bye-elections.”

Okoye said that political parties must realise that Edo and Ondo governorship elections were taking place at a time of a global pandemic and the commission was working assiduously to observe and comply with all health and safety protocols issued by the commission and health authorities.

He said with the pandemic taking its toll on the citizenry, the people of Edo and Ondo states must be saved from the added burden of violent and raucous elections.

“Political parties must remember that Edo and Ondo governorship elections have strict constitutional and statutory timelines and threats of violence or actual violence can disrupt those timelines and create a constitutional crisis.

“The commission will continue to engage stakeholders in the two states on the need for free, fair, safe and peaceful elections, given that it has committed enormous public resources in preparing for them.

“The commission will view gravely any disruptive actions by political actors,” he warned.

Okoye said the commission would work with, and collaborate with the security agencies to contain incidents or threats of violence before and during the elections.

“Regulatory agencies with roles in the elections, especially those dealing with insecurity, hate speech and abuse of mass media, must step up their activities and ensure that people caught breaking the law were held to account,” he said.

The commission reassured the people of Edo and Ondo of its determination to conduct credible and safe elections in the two states, and urged residents to support the process.

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