- Edo Deputy Gov in a dilemma
The roiling crisis between Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and his predecessor-cum-political godfather, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, may snowball into a conflagration that may shake the state to its foundation if not speedily curtailed.
Rather than thin out, the sabre of war continues to rattle at ear-tearing decibel and may make nonsense of the peace initiatives of stakeholders.
Recall that only yesterday, Tuesday, July 9, 14 All Progressives Congress, APC, lawmakers from Edo State stormed the National Assembly to demand proper inauguration of Edo Assembly by Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Watchers of events in Edo State said that action, spearheaded by Professor Julius Ihonvbere, an ex-presidential aide and APC member representing the Owan Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, had the imprimatur of the APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.
Oshiomhole, political watchers insist, is hell-bent on seeing Obaseki out of the Government House in Benin. They backed their position with what they described as the latest grand plot to impeach Obaseki. If not aborted, they averred, the move by Oshiomhole would set Edo on fire as the governor has the backing of the people.
One of those who know about the intrigues playing out in the state said the APC Chairman, over the weekend, told “his foot soldiers and loyalists” that the plot to remove Obaseki had got to the “point of no return”.
“It is now or never,” Oshiomhole reportedly told the loyalists.
And the puzzles in the plot, according to sources, are rapidly falling in place. They supported that by fingering the setting up of a 13-man ad-hoc committee by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila. The committee is headed by Abdulrazak Namdas (APC-Adamawa).
The observers noted that Speaker Gbajabiamila is a dyed-in-the-wool Oshiomhole loyalist and would do “everything and anything” to pay back the APC Chairman for his emergence as the nation’s Number 4 citizen during June’s inauguration of the 9th National Assembly.
That is not all. Sources said Oshiomhole is deploying all the weapons in his armoury in an all-out onslaught to get Obaseki out of the Government House “as quickly as possible”. They said Oshiomhole’s calculation is that if the governor is allowed to stay in office till next year when Edo governorship election will hold, “it will be difficult to deny him APC ticket, whether direct or indirect primary is used to pick the candidate”.
In this onslaught against Obaseki, it is believed Oshiomhole is desperate to use the National Assembly, some of his loyalists in the Edo House of Assembly, security agents and anti-graft agencies.
So far, the anti-graft agencies – the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) and the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) – have gone through the financial records of the state government “and they are yet to find anything indicting”.
From the home front, the 12 state lawmakers loyal to Oshiomhole have moved to Abuja, citing security reasons, but apparently they are in the nation’s capital to perfect the impeachment plot.
“The lawmakers are heavily guarded in Abuja”, said a source.
Last Sunday, they signed a letter indicating their intention to commence impeachment proceedings against Obaseki.
The letter was signed by Edoror Victor Sabor, Saed Aliyu Oshiomhole, Ojiezelu Osezua Sunday, Vincent Osas Uwadiae, Osifo Osa Washington, Sunday Aghedo, Okaeben Ewere Christopher, Crosby Eribo, Okunbor Nosayaba and Ugiagbe Onaiwu Dumez.
The letter titled ‘PRIVATE MEMBER RESOLUTION’ reads: ‘Be it resolved that this honourable House has no confidence in the government of His Excellency, Godwin Obaseki, to effectively carry out the duties of his office throughout the remainder of his tenure and hereby moves the motion for the immediate impeachment of the governor based on the following grounds:
1. Sabotaging the activities of the legislature by actively preventing the legal swearing in of elected members of the State House of Assembly.
2. Masterminding an attack on elected members of the House of Assembly.
3. Masterminding the unlawful swearing-in of selected members of the State Assembly to further his personal agenda without the knowledge of the grand majority of the members-elect.
4. Acts of severe intimidation, bribery and high-handedness.
5. Gross insubordination towards the All Progressives Congress, her chairman and the very ideals that make up this great party.
6. Lack of transparency in the awarding of government contracts.
7. Mismanagement of state funds.
8. Gross incompetence especially in the areas of security, job creation and rural development.
9. Establishment of state agencies without due consent and approval from the House of Assembly.
The lawmakers are lodged at the Penthouse Suite of Wells Carlton Hotel and it is believed that Captain Hosa Okunbor is a major financier of the ‘rebel’ state legislators.
“In fact, he has organised a tight security for them in and outside the hotel premises”, said the source.
The same day, a meeting was held with Oshiomhole presiding at the Abuja hotel to finalise strategies for the impeachment.
The plot was that the National Assembly would have pronounced the Edo State House of Assembly unsuitably constituted, so that the 12 remaining members would be sworn in in Abuja, and thereafter, impeachment plans implemented.
Unfortunately, the National Assembly only established a committee to investigate the circumstances leading to the impasse in Edo State, leading the legislators-in-waiting and their sympathisers to suspend their impeachment plans temporarily.
Some of the members-elect have been shuttling between Abuja and Benin with air tickets which are bulk purchased and discounted as a courtesy to the office of the APCNational Chairman.
Normally, such tickets are discounted as special provision for the office of the National Chairman solely for the purpose of conducting and facilitating the affairs of the party. It would appear, according to our investigation that the planned impeachment of Obaseki is now being treated as a top priority by Oshiomhole.
During an earlier meeting on July 1 at the residence of an Edo APC member of the House of Representatives in Abuja, it was resolved that Edo House of Assembly members-elect from Edo South will be specially rewarded as leaders of the impeachment drive.
The representative of the caucus of the Edo South lawmakers-elect was informed at the meeting that arrangements have been concluded to ensure that their role in theimpeachment plan will be preferentially rewarded far more than what their colleagues from Edo North and Edo Central senatorial districts would be paid.
Strangely at the meeting was a member of the House of Representatives from Lagos State who was described as a special observer at the clandestine meeting.
It is strongly believed that the Lagos lawmaker is acting on behalf of outside political forces close to Oshiomhole.
A clear resolution was adopted at the meeting regarding specific strategic moves and timeline of action for the impeachment plot.
But, since Oshiomhole doesn’t control majority of the 24-member House of Assembly, attention has now been shifted to the House of Representatives to perfect the plot.
This led to the setting up of the Namdas Committee, after a motion under matters of urgent national importance by Julius Ihonvbere (APC, Owan Federal Constituency), at plenary on Tuesday.
Ihonvbere, who is close to Oshiomhole, expressed concern over the improper inauguration of the 7th Edo State House of Assembly on June 17.
Ihonvbere prayed the House to take over affairs of the Assembly as provided by section 11 (4) of the 1999 Constitution.
But when the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, saw that majority of the lawmakers were not favourably disposed to taking over functions of the Edo Assembly, he mandated the Namdas Committee to investigate the matter and report back within one week.
Because of that, the committee members will visit Benin City, the Edo State capital on Friday to get first-hand information.
Now, there is too much pressure on the committee members from the Oshiomhole and Obaseki camps to influence the outcome of their recommendations.
In this wise, some former governors, such as Senators Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Rochas Okorocha (Imo) and former Governor Abdulkadir Yari of ZamfaraState are already talking to federal lawmakers from their states not to join the ‘Oshiomhole crowd’.
Obaseki is also close to many governors and the governors (APC, PDP and APGA) are also using their influence to stop the plot “at the federal level”.
Some members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who do not like the dictatorial nature of Oshiomhole are also against the impeachment move.
It was also learned that the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Muhammed Adamu, has not really bought into the plot “or else, some of the lawmakers with Obaseki would have been arrested”.
The source said the APC National Chairman had already contacted the IGP and top echelon of the Department of State Services (DSS) “but they don’t want to be seen to be taking sides in the crisis”.
Oshiomhole is also said to be facing some challenges from the Bini, the largest ethnic group in Edo State.
“Governor Obaseki is Bini and everybody in Bini Land is supporting the governor in this fight. It will be difficult for anybody to impeach Obaseki now. You can even see that some of those lawmakers with Oshiomhole have moved to the governor’s side. The Bini affinity has really depleted the Oshiomhole camp. I can categorically tell you that we are going to organise a mass rally on Friday against Oshiomhole”, he said.
The source said that Obaseki’s deputy, Philip Shaibu, “is in a sort of dilemma because he is loyal to his principal but Oshiomhole, who brought him to be the deputy governor, is putting him under pressure to come to his side”.
But, an APC chieftain and one of the conveners of the popular Edo People’s Movement, Henry Idahagbon, is already mobilising support for the plot to impeach the governor.
The former Attorney-General and Justice Commissioner of Edo State declared that Oshiomhole had directed his group to commence the immediate process of seeking a replacement for Obaseki.
Idahagbon said that the APC in Edo State was sure to lose the governorship elections of the state if it presents Obaseki as its candidate for a second term in the 2020 elections.
He blamed the governor for his intransigence and arrogance in dealing with loyal party members who fought tirelessly for his emergence in 2016.
It is, however, believed that some members of the movement are already backing out of the plot to remove Obaseki.