By Prince Kassim Afegbua.
My last edition elicited some reactions from rodents, cockroaches, bedbugs, e-rats, and media halleluyah boys from slave camps who are quick to dabble into any discussion without due diligence. Persons with dubious ancestry who can never run a home let alone understand the full import of responsible parenting also expressed their mercantile skills, in their vainglorious effort to impress their paymaster. During the day, they adorn the stained garment of being APC members, at night, they hobnob with mammons, shrines, and flirt with chieftains of the PDP. Those whose capacities are better defined by their insatiable libidinal mendacity, producing children on pay-as-you-go tenor, also had the temerity to question some of my statistics. Rather than controvert the import of my submissions, they went bunkers, and struggled to smuggle in some false statistics to rationalise their intervention. I read one of such lame responses from one unknown quantity with a pseudonymn @St. John Clarke at-large, who, rather than address the talking points in my submissions, laboured so hard to locate my personality, as if my biography was the subject matter of my elocution. But the traits of hirelings and media gigolos are easily decipherable once you painstakingly apply the eagle eye to dissect their personae.
From what has happened in the last ten days, it is obvious there are still unsettled issues and tempers are still very high. If Governor Obaseki had heeded the earlier advice to avoid this needless political imbroglio, all the junketing around from Benin to Abuja, forth and back, on chattered jet, to seek for ways out, would have been avoided and tax-payers money saved for some other burning state issues. But power is a crazy aphrodisiac. It gives a false sense of pride to those who occupy the power rostrum. It creates a different ambience around those who wield power; they do not see tomorrow as the terminal date of their tenure, nor do they bother about the ephemerality of power. They confront powerless conscience with conscienceless power and often times, assume the unmajestic role of givers and takers of life. They never see the end of power. To them, power lasts forever no matter its constitutionally guaranteed terminal date. When the applecart alters its mobility, human depravity, betrayal and knavery become the essential themes, and their capacity to make 360 degree turn instructively stares them in the face. When they step out of power, the reality of their actions begins to dawn on them. Their friends-in-power begin to look elsewhere. Their phone hardly rings. Loneliness sets in and the full import of their action begins to take its toll.
I spent five days in Benin City last week during which time I was able to attend the birthday ceremony of my cousin, Distinguished Senator Franca Afegbua, Nigeria’s first democratically elected Female Senator, who proved bookmakers wrong in 1983 to defeat other contenders for the coveted Bendel North senatorial seat under the National Party of Nigeria, (NPN). The ceremony was organised by Mrs. Betsy Obaseki, the Edo First Lady, who felt Senator Franca Afegbua has remained largely an unsong heroine of our democratic struggle. The event was so touching as it afforded me the opportunity to unveil some aspects of Senator Franca Afegbua’s political trajectory; the storming petrel of old Bendel state politics of the second republic. The event took place in the serene conclave of the newly built civil servants’ rotunda. In her usual elements, Franca’s voice still resonated with the familiar soundbites of her youthful days when she traversed the corridor of national politics and the global arena with uncommon panache and elegance. The Edo state government, in rare show of magnanimity, gifted her a house and made further promise for her upkeep and care. To this generousity, I thank the Governor and his adorable wife of sublime humility, for the recognition accorded Senator Franca Afegbua, even though, I did state at the event, that it won’t stop me from constructively engaging the government in order to get its compass right. As a party man, it will be natural for me to support the candidate of the PDP at the next gubernatorial election to upstage the incumbent Governor, no matter the achievements his supporters are mouthing for him.
In concluding this episode of my intervention, it is worthy to state in unequivocal terms that the politics of the Edo State House of Assembly has given the state bad publicity in recent times. From June 17, 2019 when the House was reportedly proclaimed till date, it has been one theatre too many between actors loyal to the Governor, Godwin Obaseki and the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. I have read too many literatures on the propriety or otherwise of the Edo House of Assembly, and I am compelled to align myself with the considered view that the Edo House of Assembly does not yet exist as we speak. The reasons for this are quite obvious. First, by virtue of section 91 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, (as amended), an Assembly cannot be less than 24 or more than 40 as the case may be. And it is obligatory for members-elect to be inaugurated by a letter of proclamation by the Executive Governor of the state. Even though I do not quarell with the fact that the Governor did transmit a letter of proclamation, I am unable to see the propriety in inaugurating the House of Assembly at about 9.30pm on the said date, in a gestapo manner that brazenly murdered the beauty of representative democracy. On that date, 17th June, 2019, only 9 members-elect out of 24 were inaugurated and made to take the oath of office. That figure ridicules the whole essence of representative and participatory democracy that talks about majority rule.
It is true that the Edo Assembly has been forum shopping for legitimacy, junketing from one court to another, but the real problem lies in the reality that a minority rule currently prevails in Edo state as we speak with respect to law making and legislation. Rather than be an independent arm of government that oversights on other arms of government, the current Edo Minority House has become an extension of Dennis Osadebe Avenue. And the latest declaration of the seats of the members-elect vacant has further compounded the already fractured politics of the APC in the state. The framers of the 1999 constitution did not envisage this kind of legislative cul-de-sac when it stated unambiguously in several provisions in the Constitution what a House should be composed of, the number and its modus operandi. Can a member-elect of a legislative house who has not been inaugurated or sworn to an oath of office, assume the full rights, privileges and nonclamentures of a member that has fully been inaugurated? Does a member-elect who is not entitled to salary and other appurtenances of office be said to possess a seat that is now declared vacant? At what point does a member-elect become a member of a House of Assembly? Does the Edo minority House possess the nonmenclature to be called Edo House of Assembly in view of its minority status and the questionable circumstances upon which it was purportedly inaugurated? Whose interest is the present minority rule serving? Is the state as a constituency fully represented in the business of lawmaking as we speak? All these and many others are questions that should agitate our minds in our search for solutions to this present legislative logjam. Shifting the goal-post to suit the whims and caprices of the Executive arm against an imaginary godfather elsewhere is to me, an exercise in overkill. Those 14 members who have not been representing their constituents have unwittingly submitted to minority rule, which is not representative enough.
Someone asked me a very simple but loaded question concerning the absentee lawmakers-elect. Who chased them out of the four walls of the House of Assembly complex? Why haven’t they submitted themselves for inauguration? Who is to be blamed; the lawmakers-elect or the Governor? Edo state is presently volatile politics-wise, hence it might be suicidal for any of those persons to approach the Anthony Enahoro Complex for inauguration especially as it is known that they are not supporters of the Governor. Secondly, if the Nigeria Police can guarantee their safety and security, I want to believe that they would be willing to present themselves for inauguration, that also means if the Clerk of the House, who is a member of the state public service will be available to prescribe the right oaths, without fear or favour. Being under the direct control of the state civil service, I am yet to see how much of erection he can possibly muster to go against the wishes and dictates of the Chief Executive of the state, if contrary directive is given. It is easier to admonish that the lawmakers-elect should return to Edo state for the inauguration ritual, but the politics of Edo politics has gotten to an anti-climax, following push from some of Governor Obaseki’s colleagues to force Comrade Adams Oshiomhole out of the National Chair seat. The National Chairman, not used to chickening out of any engagement without a fight, given his years of many struggles, is apparently winning the political battle, judging by the number of Governors and state chairmen that are queuing behind him. Both APC Governors and their States Chairmen met differently with the President last week, and the reports went contrary to the expectation of Governor Obaseki and his co-travellers.
President Buhari does not appear to know how to play the politics of politics, but his directive to some of the party chieftains to follow due process if they are desirous of removing the elected National Chairman, was a political uppercut kind of. It is pretty difficult to remove any National Chairman of a party, except he or she is forced to resign willy-nilly. And those who should participate in the process are not just the overbearing Governors, but the states chairmen, principal officers of the National Assembly, three members of Reps each from the six geopolitical zones, the National Working Committee (NWC) members and the National Executive Committee (NEC) members. To strike a two-third number out of this population has been a tall order for those who want Comrade Oshiomhole out of the way in order to factorise the politics of 2023. Putting Governor Obaseki’s Edo state brouhaha forward is just a teaser. The real reason is the 2023 politics of the APC and how the factors will play out. If per-adventure the National Chairman is made to eat the humble pie, I doubt, if he will bow out without extracting a deal. The deal would be to the point that both Obaseki and himself are made to bow out, whilst a new thinking will sprout from the ashes of the political contradiction. For anyone to think that the National Chairman will just be eased out on the promptings of a Governor and his five other colleagues, will surely not come easy.
But, if men were to be respectful and loyal to relationship and friendship, should we get to this sorry level of broken hearts to the extent that they now search for ways to undue each other? I will still repeat my earlier homily, that Governor Obaseki needs to take a more proactive step to resolve this lingering crisis than anyone else. He needs votes if indeed he intends to seek re-election. In Edo state, the fortunes of both APC and PDP are almost at par, reason why it is incumbent on any candidate of the dominant parties to reach out to the people for votes. Those who are clapping for Governor Obaseki are doing him political harm because in the final analysis, a mere statement from certain quarters can upturn political gains. The days and months ahead will unveil the direction of this political pendulum, but it won’t certainly end without casualties.
Note: Kassim Afegbua, former Edo State Commissioner for Information wrote in from Abuja