7th August, 2020
By Kazeem Ugbodaga
On Thursday, large number of policemen stormed the Edo State House of Assembly sending panic and fear in Benin City, Edo capital. Passers-by took to their heel, shop owners close to the Assembly locked their shops as they sensed danger.
Over 30 vehicles of policemen, marked ‘Operation Wabaizighan’ and others, blocked the entire section of the Assembly premises of the Ring Road.
The policemen took over the Assembly, while on the other hand, an immediate and compulsory renovation of the edifice was stamped by Governor Godwin Obaseki. The roofs of the Assembly were removed while sand and gravel were brought to the scene.
As the scenario unfolded, Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu stormed the Assembly in solidarity and used the opportunity to campaign and cast aspersion on the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Obaseki said: “I want to assure you that as governor of the state, I will do everything within my power to protect the sovereignty of the House. Nigeria is governed by the constitution and Mr. President has always said we must follow the rule of law and do things according to the law.
“Nobody is above the Constitution of our country and so go about your regular duty as a parliament, the way Constitution prescribed. For us as Executive, we will use the instrument available to us constitutionally to protect the House and the state.”
On social media, the purported invasion was attributed to the APC. The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, also blamed the APC for sending police to the Assembly. Obaseki appears to have scored a cheap political point and victory for making the public finger the APC.
Who sent police to the Edo State Assembly? Can it be APC or Obaseki and his PDP? From the scenario that unfolded, it was clear that Obaseki did the hatchet job as he got wind that the 14-pro APC lawmakers who had been shut out of the Assembly were going to use the platform to impeach the Speaker and inaugurate a parallel legislative executives.
The elected members have been thrown into the cold by Obaseki since last year, preventing them from taking their oath of office. The present speaker of the House, Frank Okiye was elected by nine other members, at the inauguration that took place at night.
Political analysts are of the view that if it were the APC that sent large number of policemen to the Assembly from Abuja, Obaseki would not have been allowed to access the Assembly with the crowd that accompanied him to the legislative chamber.
Why did an emergency renovation of the Assembly supervised by Obaseki kicked off without the purported APC policemen stopping the move? This is another question political watchers are asking. Again, no member of the APC was spotted at the Assembly.
Vice President Atiku Abubakar seemed not to have gotten his information right before hurriedly going out to issue a statement.
According to Atiku, Nigeria had been on edge due to the brinkmanship of those charged with democratic leadership.
“We must, as a nation, not escalate the already tense atmosphere in our polity. What is happening in Edo State is a threat to constitutional order nationwide, and 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 portends grave danger, not only to law and order in that state but to the coming Edo elections,” he said.
Chairman, Edo State APC Media Campaign Council, John Mayaki, accused Edo 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.
While noting that the APC, as a political party, does not control the police, he insisted that the state governor was in the best position to tell the world who was behind the police blockade on the Assembly.
He also claimed the 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 all these going on 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,” he said.
But with 14 lawmakers-elect and three others deciding to take the bull by the horns to inaugurate a parallel legislative executives, more crisis will brew in Edo in the coming days. One the one side, we have seven lawmakers loyal to Obaseki who have been calling the shots at the Assembly and the 17 majority lawmakers, led by Victor Edoror on the other hand. The political bickering in Edo has just begun.