Against the backdrop of the commotions in Edo and Bauchi states’ assemblies, the House of Representatives has passed a resolution empowering it to intervene in the crisis. Will the move proffer lasting peace; KEHINDE OSASONA asks?
Deadlock in APC
Despite various attempts to douse the protracted squabble that was almost tearing the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) ranks apart in both Edo and Bauchi states, new twists to the crisis appears to have escalated it.
The ugly impasse reared its head again recently when members of the APC insisted on fresh inauguration of Bauchi and Edo state Houses of Assembly.
The APC national leadership recently condemned the inauguration and election of the speaker, describing it as “a charade,” insisting that the governor should issue a proper letter of proclamation to the clerks for proper inauguration.
Worried by the development, the APC had declared that its interest in the two assemblies is that of the rule of law, saying that it must be followed to the letter.
Condemning the situations in Edo and Bauchi during a recent chat with newsmen, the APC national publicity Secretary, Malam Lanre Issa-Onilu, was quoted as saying that the party hierarchy will not going to deviate from the core issues as far as the matter is concerned.
He said: “The issues here have nothing to do with the national chairman of the APC. Do you mean he went to Bauchi as well because what is happening in Edo is also happening in Bauchi? Can we just address the issues without allowing the people who are looking for a way to take us away from the issue?
“We viewed this illegality with shock and disappointment. As a party that has made a commitment to change, we strongly reject any attempt to take recourse to brigandage of the past, when democratic practices were defined by the inordinate whims of people in power.
“Democracy must be governed by the rule of law. A situation where 11 lawmakers in the 31-member Bauchi state House of Assembly and nine lawmakers in the 24-member Edo state House of Assembly were secretly ‘inaugurated’ and purportedly ‘elect’ principal officers behind closed doors is a joke and an embarrassment.
“It is an unfortunate reminder of PDP’s queer brand of democracy. Practices like this are unacceptable under APC-led administration. Our only concern is that rule of law must guide us in whatever we do. We must end the rule of impunity in this country. The issues of godfather, godson and the rest, is irrelevant in this case.”
Meanwhile, in the past few weeks, pundits in the political sphere have continued to attribute the multiple crises that have characterized legislative business in both Edo and Bauchi Houses of Assembly to leadership tussle and superiority war.
Proffering solutions few days ago, the House of Representatives invoked relevant sections of the constitution in wading into the crisis.
Consequently, the two troubled houses have been taken over by NASS and stakeholders in the crisis are being reached out to in order to calm frayed nerves and restore a lasting peace.
At the peak of the crisis, a motion on the matter was brought up on the floor that day, under matters of urgent public importance, by Prof Julius Ihonvbare and two others. During the debate, the lawmakers lamented how “embarrassing” the controversial swearing in of a few members-elect of the assembly had been.
Ihonvbare, who initially prayed that the National Assembly should “immediately take-over the lawmaking activities of the Edo legislature to enable a formal inauguration of the House, later said “there is no law and order presently in the state.”
The lawmaker also said some members-elect of the assembly were abducted by hired thugs, and sworn in by the clerk under duress, thus prompting the majority of the lawmakers to relocate from the state for obvious reasons.
“At the so-called nocturnal inauguration, some of the members forcefully sworn in were improperly dressed with some in their casual wears,” he said, adding that their call was for the House of Representatives to do the right thing is in the interest of democracy.
The question to ask at this point is will the Reps move brings the desired harmony, or better still, will the gladiators sheathe their sword?
After making its findings known to the members, the committee put forward five-item recommendations for the consideration and adoption of the House of Representatives.
Although, the move was not without stiff opposition as few members in the house protested and raised pertinent objections over the issue. However, the committee’s recommendation subsequently scaled through after getting the required support from the majority of the members of the House.
Parts of its resolution was to call on Governor Obaseki to within one week, issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the House of Assembly, in accordance with Section 105 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, and stating clearly the date, time, and venue for the inauguration.
Similarly, the House had in addition declared null and void all actions so far taken by the Edo Assembly since the controversial inauguration of June 17, advising all members-elect of the state legislature to dissolve their factions in the interest of peace and stability of the house.
Members further directed the inspector-general of police, and the director-general, department of state services (DSS), to shut down and protect premises of the state legislature.
They further resolved that, “The National Assembly should invoke the provisions of section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, to take over the state House of Assembly until when situation normalises.
“Governor Obaseki should indicate time of inauguration of the state assembly as his proclamation was largely responsible for the confusion, ‘as members-elect were not aware of the exact time the inauguration was to take place.’
“While nine members were being inaugurated on June 17, nineteen of the members-elect were simultaneously holding a press conference at a hotel in the state, as confirmed by the committee,” the committee stated.
The committee also reiterated the roles played by political actors like Governor Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shuaibu, on the one hand, and the APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, on the other.
Like Bauchi, Like Edo
The political hostility in Edo state, according to an analyst and a keen follower of events in the state, Peter Eboigbe, stemmed from muscle-flexing which is aimed at determining who is in control of the state.
“Beyond the war between Oshiomhole, Obaseki and the purported swearing in of nine members of the House of Assembly, I think there is an element of ‘second term’ in all of these,” Eboigbe was quoted as saying.
“You saw that at a point, the ‘Oshiomhole 15’ as they are called relocated to Abuja to avoid being attacked by hoodlums allegedly sponsored by the state.
The Bauchi assembly on its part has been enmeshed in a crisis when elected members of the assembly held a parallel inauguration leading to the emergence of two speakers.
While Abubakar Suleiman was elected by 13 members, who are allegedly loyal to the governor and inaugurated by the clerk, 18 other members elected Kawuwa Damina as the factional speaker, at an event held outside the assembly complex under the statute of the mace.
The assembly consists of 22 members of the APC, eight of the PDP and one of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
The Bauchi state Governor, Bala Mohammed, had during a courtesy call on him by the mediation committee set up by the speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to intervene, described the situation in the House of Assembly as “shameful,” insisting that “there is just one speaker” in the state.
He had said, “We are really ashamed with the situation here in Bauchi; my deputy and I are high-ranking senators, only to find ourselves in this logjam, but certainly, politics is dynamic. Some of the democratic manifestations come with crisis, some salutary and some negative.
“We are, by this, loyal to the people of Bauchi and we respect the autonomy and the sanctity of the parliament. What happened in Bauchi is very regrettable.”
Speaking from the constitutional angle, an Abuja-based lawyer, Abdulmutallab Usman, justified the take-over, saying that the Nigeria’s constitution provides for the national assembly to take over.
“When there is crisis, NASS can take over state assemblies pending when the crisis would be over so that governance and legislative business as the case may be can continue.
“When reminded that the take-over has already generated ripples and could amount to an infringement on the Houses rights to assemble. If there is crisis and house cannot sit, should the ordinary citizen suffer?”
Also, lending his voice, another legal practitioner, Mohammed Ibrahim Tola, said whenever there is crisis in any House of Assembly, it is incumbent upon the NASS to take over the administration of such House until they resolve their differences, adding that it has happened before during the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
“The action is constitutional so that proceedings can continue but NASS do not have any rights to remove any member or take sides in the crisis,” he said.
It remains to be seen how the NASS take-over will remedy the situation.