The proxy political warfare of intrigues, muscle flexing and backbiting between the foot soldiers loyal to either Godwin Obaseki, Governor of Edo State, and Adams Oshiomole, National Chairman of All Progressives Congress, APC, is not about to abate soon.
With the 24 members the Edo State House of Assembly, EDHA, split right through the middle with 12 members on both sides of the divide, irrespective of claims by one of the parties to having 15 members, it has become necessary for both parties to seek external forces to strengthen its power and advantage.
Herein, the Federal House of Representatives came in handy with a motion moved by the loyalists of Oshiomole in the House of Representatives seeking it to exercise its powers under Section 11 Subsections 4–5 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila had decided to set up an adhoc committee to investigate the causes of the crisis and make appropriate recommendations.
After a visit to Edo State and meeting with all the parties to the crisis, including the EDHA members-elect who are holed up in Abuja, the House Committee recommended inter -lia, that Governor Obaseki should issue a fresh proclamation for all members, including the Abuja based Edo State legislators to be present.
Furthermore, the Federal House recommended that in the absence of that being done, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, and Director of Department of State Security, DSS should seal off EDHA premises while the House of Representatives takes over law making for Edo people.
The response of most patriotic and law-abiding Nigerians has been an outright condemnation of the recommendations. Without over flogging the flaws raised by most informed observers, it is patently clear that the House of Representatives lack the power to take over EDHA under the prevailing circumstances.
For clarity, Section 11(5) states that “for the purpose of Sub-Section (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”.
Obviously, the EDHA under Speaker Frank Okiye is currently conducting legislative duties without fail and hindrance. In short, the adhoc investigative committee set up by the House of Representatives met the members of EDHA in the House of Assembly complex. On what basis is the recommendation for a takeover by the House of Representatives?
Obviously, the Federal House of Representatives is seeking to execute the power it does not have, at least not given to it by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended. Does it make any legal and constitutional sense to request, or ‘urge’ as later explained by the House that Governor Obaseki should issue a second proclamation? Is it within the powers of the House to do so? If anyone is in doubt as to the legality or otherwise of Obaseki’s proclamation of June 17, 2019, the only place to go is the law courts. Certainly, not a nebulous order from the House of Representatives.
Not a few have argued that the Edo State legislators who are in exile in Abuja don’t even have the locus standi to be making demands, as they are not yet full and real members of Edo State House of Assembly since they have not been sworn in. For now, they are merely members elect. One would, therefore, have expected the House of Representatives to take this factor into consideration before making their recommendations.
Truly, if the Abuja-based legislators of EDHA are really sure they have the numerical advantage, why not do the needful, get sworn in, and then use their advantage to right the wrongs that they complain of. But it appears they are more interested in influence peddling and derivation of external help to realise a set agenda. That actually became glaring with the leaked audio recording of one of the Abuja-based members-elect, who indeed, is a younger brother to the National Chairman of APC, Oshiomole. In the yet-to-be-disclaimed audio recording, the younger Oshiomole brazenly claimed that Speaker Gbajabiamila and the House members are playing the script of the APC National Chairman, the power behind the Abuja-based members-elect.
The most befuddling act of the House of Representatives is the attempt to act as law breakers, instead of lawmakers who should lead by untainted example. There is a subsisting court order of the Federal High Court sitting in Benin City, ordering the IGP, DSS, and other relevant stakeholders in the crisis not to interfere with the legislative duties of the EDHA under the leadership of Frank Okiye.
Sadly, the House of Representatives conveniently sidetracked this order of a court of competent jurisdiction to make some ambiguous recommendations which is nothing but ultra vires, null and void.
There is no gainsaying the fact, that Gbajabiamila since the dawn of the 4th Republic has been one of the most eloquent speakers, articulate debaters and virile apostles of legislative activism. Hence, he should not allow himself to be misled by persons of unverifiable academic credentials and dodgy pedigree. It is not too late to retrace his steps and side with the force of the people, posterity and history.
The place to begin is by tendering an apology to all lovers of justice, democracy and the rule of law as the present recommendation of the House of Representatives is tainted, and it amounts to a macabre dance on Edo House floor. No one, not even the House of Representatives can stop the force of history and the people.
Osa Director, a journalist and lawyer wrote from Lagos.