In this exclusive interview with ISAAC OLAMIKAN the Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Rt. Honourable Frank Abumere Okiye, laid bare issues of importance in the polity especially, as it concerns the infighting in the legislative chambers.
Enjoy the excerpts:
Entering your office and seeing all these massive congratulatory cards all over the place is quite intimidating. Is this a pointer to your acceptance?
I don’t know if I have what it takes to measure acceptance. But I know that I am doing my best. I know that I believe in fairness and justice. I believe in equal rights. I also believe that there is God. These cards that you are seeing may not be a reflection of my acceptance. Even your enemy can send you congratulatory message while deep down he is not your friend. Like I said earlier, I don’t know if I have a parameter to measure acceptance. I don’t expect everybody to like what I am doing. I don’t expect everybody to like me. But I must do what I know is fair in the sight of God and the people.
Despite the rich legislative experience that you have a lot of people are of the view that your ascendancy to the position of speaker is a result of the crisis that the House of Assembly is going through while others are saying that it is by divine intervention
I share the view that my coming in is divine. I have tried to share this part of my story with few persons. Before the election when I was nominated some of my colleagues had started saying that I will be the speaker.
The few reservation is that it is not going to be easy to win election for APC in Esan North East. But God was going to prove himself and I won. When I won at least seven legislators hosted me here in Benin telling me that I will be their speaker. Some people had started telling me what they want if I become speaker. We shared the fact that it is not about sharing principal offices that is within my power.
The party have to do the zoning and the leadership of the party must have a say about what goes to where. But for the house committees we are already working on how to give you where you can serve best. To that extent even my main opposition, as we speak now, also acknowledge that I am a material for the speaker’s hip position. The problem of division actually came after the Edo People’s Movement, EPM, came up with their allegations. I know that my being speaker today is not a child of circumstance. It is not because there is a crisis. Like one of the party leaders said, I am only a victim of some sort of stray bullet.
Thank God that I have survived and I will continue to survive. The state has to move forward. Everybody couldn’t have just stayed away. I was not invited to the meeting of the 19 that said that they were protesting. There was never a time that the 24 members met and disagreed. At what point did we agree that we should be fighting somebody. If 19 met and we’re doing some sinister things then five met and were also planning their own and later four out of the 19 now joined joined the five. Like you see the thing is now gravitating. Many more have joined to denounce the sinister act.
At the beginning the thinking of having clandestine meetings was what was responsible for the crisis within the house even though a lot was externally prompted. I still believe that by the grace of God all the members will still agree that I am the right choice.
Hope it won’t get to the stage whereby such ‘exiled’ members elect will lose their seats as a result of not adhering to the time specified by the Constitution for them to be inaugurated?
I don’t think we will get to that stage
But there is a provision to that effect?
Yes, there is a provision in the Constitution that you are supposed to meet a certain number of seating days. We are conscious of that and I also believe that my colleagues, either those that have been inaugurated and those that are not are also conscious of that. Somehow we will not get to that point before these matters are resolved. I think there are moves to resolve them.
How are you going to tap into the experience of some former members to run the affairs of the house?
We are already discussing at various platforms. They are very happy with my emergence as the speaker. I see a lot of them every day. If you are a social media freak you will have noticed that a lot of them have been congratulating me. They have confidence in my capacity to manage the house and return the dignity of the house to what it is supposed to be.
You said that you are like a stray bullet in this saga. As a neutral person what solution would you proffer to end this crisis?
Yes, I am caught up in this battle of the titans. Well, I have been in the leadership cadre for quite some time now and I have gone through a lot of tutorials. I know that these leaders have access to more information.
They have so much information that we may never know. I still believe that there is something that they are not telling us. They have something quite different that they have not told the public. I don’t see any serious disagreement right now. The gist is that during the nomination of candidates for various elections they had differences.
My understanding of this electioneering process is that differences are bound to exist but once candidates are presented for the party all differences vanish. I don’t know why differences that occurred during the party primaries should be carried forward to after the election. I don’t think that is the real problem. I think the problem is beyond that. They may have had some differences outside what we are all assuming to be their differences. If it is about the second tenure of the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki, it is not for any individual to decide.
The delegates that are going to vote in the primaries, whether direct or indirect, are also going to feel the pulse of the people. Certain candidates would be better products to be sold.
If you go and field a candidate that you cannot sell you will lose the election. Democracy makes provisions for all these processes. I am not too sure of what the problems are.
What is your message for the electorates who are affected by this fight?
I tell them to exercise some patience. We will get there eventually. Things will certainly get better. They should have faith in the government.
What plans have you to make legislations that will impact positively on the people?
We have a lot of programmes in the kitty for good governance. When we resume to start making laws the people will marvel at our dedication to provide quality laws for the good of all and sundry. Even the executive arm of government and the media will all be proud of our positive contributions to the development of the state. We are going to introduce an induced transparency as whatever we are going to do here in the house will be felt directly by the people.
There are insinuations that this crisis is a fallout of who controls what.
Like I said, I believe that they are not telling us much about their differences. I don’t think that their differences have the capacity to crack the very foundation of our party to the extent of the way it is going now. I don’t think so.