In special interviews with Francis Onoiribholo in Benin, leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oredo local Government, Franco Osazuwa and the immediate past Edo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Henry Idahagbon, disagree on the National Assembly’s order that Governor Godwin Obaseki should issue a fresh letter of proclamation to re-inaugurate the Edo State House of Assembly. Excerpts:
Obaseki Can’t Go Against The Law – Osazuwa
What is your reaction to the National Assembly’s directive to Governor Godwin Obaseki to issue a fresh letter of proclamation for the re-inauguration of the State House of Assembly?
First of all we were told that President Muhammadu Buhari has directed Governor Al- Rufai of Kaduna State to tell Governor Obaseki to issue a fresh letter of proclamation for the re-inauguration of the state House of Assembly before the National Assembly’s order. Neither the said President Buhari’s order nor the one of the National Assembly has any effect on the state government. The alleged statement of Mr. President is not true, it is not correct; I do not think that it is President Buhari’s position to issue an order to a good civilian government like Edo State. If he has to order the governor to issue a proclamation there should be a proper channel to send the message to governor Obaseki and not in the face of a newspaper. That cannot be true. Again the National Assembly cannot ask or order Obaseki to go against the law they are aware of, it is not possible.
In the absence of a fresh proclamation how do you think this crisis can be resolved?
The crisis is not really a crisis, the question is asking Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to direct his boys now staying with him in Abuja to return to the state and to go to the House of Assembly to take their seat in the Assembly so that they can be sworn in and once they are sworn in then we will have a complete Assembly rather than waiting on their godfather to direct them.
Are you very sure that Comrade Oshiomhole is the one directing them on this issue?
That is the cause of the whole thing. That is the whole issue. Oshiomhole is meddling into the activities of the Edo House of Assembly. If you can recall in his own time he pulled the roof off the House of Assembly to get his vote across to them when late Chief Tony Anenih was trying to use the PDP members of the House to overturn certain of his actions, so at that point he decided to relocate the state assembly to be meeting in the Government House and removed the roof of the state assembly complex. So, while is he doing whatever he is doing now, he should know that he was once a governor and he knew what happened when he was a governor when Chief Anenih was trying to dominate his government. So, I do not see why he should now try to dominate the present government of the state.
Are you accusing him of trying to make himself a godfather of Edo politics?
It is very true, if you walk like a duck and act like a duck you are a duck. From what he is doing now it seems he wants all appointments to go through him, all the Federal appointments coming into the state he has hijacked every one of them, the state governor has no power to appoint somebody into the Federal Board. Oshiomhole has hijacked the system and which is wrong, I do not know why the Federal Government is even cooperating with him. If he is the National Chairman he is responsible for all the states in the country not only the state where he comes from.
The allegation is that all that is happening now is geared towards Obaseki’s 2020 re-election and that they want to stop him at all costs. How true is that?
I don’t think Adams Oshiomhole is in a position to stop Obaseki, where he comes from in the state he has about seven percent of the state population and Obaseki is from a part of the state that has about 65 percent, so I don’t see how a minority can stop a majority tribe from holding any position in this state.
Assuming those members-elect fail to report in the Assembly to join others to continue the session, what will be their fate?
Eventually what will happen is that their constituency will ask for a recall and send in a fresh member of the House of Assembly, they should listen to their constituency, their constituency wants them to go and seat with other members to make law for development of the state and they are refusing their call. They should remember that they were elected by the people and they should listen to the people and once they refuse to listen to the voice of those who elected them they will recall them. Even the man from Oredo East here has already been suspended from the party by his Ward for insulting the office of the governor. So somewhere along the line we are waiting for the number of absenteeism to complete so that we can issue an action against them. The number of list should be complete constitutionally so that we can issue for a recall.
But can they be counting when he has not been formally inaugurated?
So far what is happening now we will declare them to be at war with the party and their constituency as it is if they still refuse to appear in the house.
How soon are we expecting this?
As soon as the members of the party are able to meet and we decide the way forward. Shortly I think we should be calling for a meeting so that we will be able to resolve this ourselves to elect new members to replace this absentee legislators.
I see you as one of those who really supported Oshiomhole and Obaseki to rule this state, how do you see them so far and what is your view about them?
First of all let me start with Oshiomhole. Oshiomhole like I said is a man full of contradiction, he talks from both sides of his mouth and at the same point the man is a pathological liar. You can tell, you can see from Obaseki point the man is a complete gentleman and he is a contrast of whoever Oshiomhole is, you cannot compare both of them, you can only contrast them.
With the way things are now presently how do you see the position for Oredo which you are a chieftain?
At Oredo we are firmly behind Obaseki, we believe in a constitutional government and you know the saying that wherever Oredo goes others will follow us.
Assuming they try to stop him like what is playing out now, what will be the position?
I don’t see the possibility of that taking place, how are they going to do that, how would they have the people to stop him? Obaseki should continue doing what he is doing, he is working well for the people of Edo State and whoever wants to truncate that would be the enemy of the people and in this society there are people who want to arrogate to themselves to be enemy of the people but we will not allow that to happen here.
So what is your general advice to all these absentees?
My advice to them is that they should report to duty if they truly mean well for their people, they were not elected by themselves they were elected by the people they should put all those personal matters aside and go and represent all those people who elected them.
A Fresh Proclamation Is Legal –Idahagbon
You heard the Senate has given a one week ultimatum to Governor Godwin Obaseki to re-issue a letter of proclamation for the re-inauguration of the state House of Assembly, how legal is that order?
Well it is very legal and that is what we have been saying ab-initio that the issuance of the proclamation letter and the inauguration done on the 17th of June at 9:30 pm was illegal and a contravention of the law. If we go strictly by the law the governor ought to have issued that proclamation letter on the 6th of June that is the day the life span of the previous Assembly ended but he waited since on the 6th of June to on the 14th of June. So, there was a vacuum and then a proclamation is a notice to the members-elect and to the entire world, informing Edo people of the inauguration but this proclamation was done secretly, it was not published whether in the electronic or print media, it was not, it was not even announced on state radio and of course members were asked to present themselves at 3:00 pm and the inauguration was done at 9:30 pm, that is no proclamation in law and I am therefore not surprised that the Senate and before them the House of Representatives they did the right thing by nullifying that proclamation and calling for a fresh proclamation which is notice to the Members-elect and the entire world.
And the seven days ultimatum of course we are happy with it, we hope the governor will do the right thing this time around, he will issue a proclamation, he will inaugurate the 24 members in the House and allow the members of the House the privilege of conducting the affairs of the House in such a way as it please them and as it please we the members of their various constituencies.
With this National Assembly’s order, is the Presidential system that gave component states autonomy not been eroded?
No as the Senate Leader said, if the Senate can regulate the activities of the President why can’t they regulate the activities of the state governors as long as it is done within the rule of law, the Senate is only saying the governor must comply with the rule of law, with the laid down procedure.
Members of the Senate themselves were inaugurated the House was not done nocturnally. You recall that when the House of Representatives Committee visited Edo, the Clerk of the House told them that the inauguration was done by 3:00 pm but you heard from the Senate report today the Police Commissioner stated that the inauguration was done at 9:00 pm, it is nocturnal. Was the governor’s inauguration at Ogbe Stadium done at 9:00 pm? So he had the subterranean motive for doing it at 9:30 pm or 9:00 pm so, he should do the right thing, the Senate is only saying, there are two issues here, the issue of law, the issue of constitutionalism and then parliamentary procedure and convention.
Parliamentary procedure and convention is that the way it has been done before now, we have had inauguration before in Edo State, it is not a nocturnal affair. So there is no interference with the autonomy of the state.
As a lawyer, have you ever seen where a state governor issued a letter of proclamation twice to inaugurate a House of Assembly?
Well I have also not seen any House of Assembly in Nigeria or is it anywhere inaugurated at 9:30 pm with a member wearing shorts and another wearing flip tops or what you call bathroom slippers to an inauguration. Inauguration is a ceremony that friends and well wishers, political leaders attend, members come with their wives, their family and their children, so why is our own different, I have not seen such.
What is actually the problem and its genesis?
The problem is that we have a governor that has little regard, in fact a governor that has no regard for the party that brought him into power and for the membership and leadership of the party. A governor that demonizes his party members, a governor that humiliates his party members, a governor that has completely dissociated himself from his party members and leaders and that is a problem. The problem can be resolved today if the governor can call the leadership of the party and apologize for the almost three years of maltreating the members and the leaders and pledges to turn a new leaf then we will be ready to work with him and face the next elections but as long as he continues to despise us, as long as he continues to denigrate us, as long as he continues to abuse us, you do not expect us to work with somebody that abuses us, somebody that does not have respect for us, that does not have regards for us, somebody that calls us greedy, calls us thieves, calls us lairs, you do not expect us to willingly embrace such a person you run away from such a person so we have ran away from him.
Assuming he remains adamant and ignored the Senate order, what happens?
The Senate told him what will happen and it is in accordance with the law. Section 11 (4) gives the National Assembly the power to take over the House of Assembly. National Assembly now is neither the Senate or House of Representatives, it is both Houses that have the power to take over legislative function for Edo State, it means all the legislative functions of Edo State will be performed by Abuja, so if he wants to submit any request for anything like clearing of his commissioners now he will go to Abuja, budget he will go to Abuja, anything that has the power of the State House of Assembly will be exercised by the National Assembly, that is the consequence.
Assuming there is resistance by the governor and his people, what will happen?
What makes a governor different from an ordinary man, what makes the governor different from you and me is Police and SSS, without Police and SSS the governor is an ordinary person like this Mallam that is selling fish, what makes him different, it is Police and SSS, so if he says no, Police and SSS will withdraw from him and he will become an ordinary person, he cannot say no, he cannot. Is he bigger than the National Assembly, no, he is not bigger than the National Assembly, the National Assembly is a representative of the entire Nigerian states, they have told him what he did wrong what is difficult in it. If I were in his shoes I will issue a fresh proclamation calling for the inauguration and they will be inaugurated and we will all move on.
Perhaps he is afraid that you have an ulterior motive?
What ulterior motive, are we not the one who elected him, who showed him to the people, did any person know Obaseki in this town by 2015, we showed him to the people so why should he be afraid. If he inaugurates them and call all the leaders and say, leaders enough is enough, let us stop this fight we belong to the same family, let us not throw the baby away with the bath water, let us start on a clean slate we are alright, we are ready for peace, we are ready for settlement but you can only settle when both parties are ready for settlement, he is not ready, he is the belligerent one, he is the aggressor. He is the one that has tagged us Abuja politicians, he is the one that has said we should not enter Benin again, he is the one that is hunting us with his thugs in the town, so he is the aggressor, he is the belligerent one, so if any person should initiate settlement he should even be the one. But we as elders of the party we are prepared to resolve this issue, let him just do the right thing, call everybody and apologize then we move on and together we will jointly start preparations for next year’s election.
Next election is the issue because that is where the fear is coming from that you are saying you people don’t want him for second term?
Why should he be afraid, if he has done well he should not be afraid, it is because he is not doing well that is why we establish the EPM with one of our objectives being to shop for a suitable replacement, but he can make amends, he can reach out to the leadership, that is what politics is all about, it is horse trading but he is not prepared to do any horse trading, he is sitting on an Olympian height and he is like now the emperor he must give instruction and everybody must follow no, this is not a stock market, this is politics.
But some people are also tagging you as being used by the former governor to handcuff the governor in the state, how true is that?
I am not a policeman, I cannot handcuff him and I cannot be used, what do I stand to benefit by being used, why should I be used, I am not being used I am fighting in the interest of the party and the former governor unknown to so many people is not involved in this at all. He was not there when we set up EPM, myself and Samson Osagie are the co-conveners of EPM, Oshiomhole was not there but it is because he is a popular person, once you call his name, you get his name involved you will think you will get the necessary attention, we are not being used by anybody let alone the former governor. The former governor met us in politics so he is not using us, we are only saying what this guy is doing is wrong, if he was doing the right thing we will also be supporting him and let him change he can change, it is not too late.
What is your final advice?
A fly that does not have adviser enters the grave with the corpse, the governor should be appropriately advised, he should obey the resolutions of the National Assembly, he should invite party members and let us resolve these lingering issues in an amicable way and move together as one party, one family to prepare for next year’s election.
Are you not aware there is a court order standing against this action?
I am not aware and the National Assembly I am not sure they were served with any court order, if they were served with any court order they will not be taking the matter, because once a court order is made whether rightly or wrongly it must be obeyed until it is vacated or discharged. I am not sure they were served and until you are served, the court’s jurisdiction over you is not invoked until you are served so I am not sure they were served.
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