Several weeks after the inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly by the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, the state is still presumed not to have an ‘authentic’ inauguration as some members-elect of the state House of Assembly claimed that they were not invited for the inauguration. This is in spite of the fact that the Clerk of the Assembly insists that they were invited. The assembly crisis at Edo State House of Assembly has reached such a feverish pitch that the National Assembly has waded into the matter. Already the House of Representatives has sent a committee to Edo State to investigate what is amiss and report back to it.
Section 11(4) of the 1999 constitution empowers the National Assembly to make such law for the peace and good government of a State at any time when the House of Assembly of the State is unable to perform its functions. It states inter alia: “At any time when the House of Assembly of a State is unable to perform its functions by reason of the situation prevailing in that State, the National Assembly may make such laws for the peace, order peace, order and good government of that state with respect to matters on which a House of Assembly may make laws as may appear to the National Assembly to be necessary or expedient until such time as the House of Assembly is able to resume its functions; and any such laws enacted by the National Assembly pursuant to this session shall have effect as if they were laws enacted by the House of Assembly of the state…”
However, this columist holds the view that there were no crisis in Edo State House of Assembly. This is so because, the Edo Assembly had been inaugurated according to the requirements as detailed in the constitution!
The 9th Edo Assembly is well constituted and it has since started carrying out its legislative functions.
As the constitution clearly stipulates, those yet to be sworn can be sworn by the speaker but until that is done, those members not sworn in remain members-elect until sworn in. What is playing out in Edo State is simply a phantom struggle generated and sustained by forces outside of Edo state. This view is reinforced by a Notice of Impeachment of the Edo State Governor signed by some of the members elect who insist that they will not recognise a sitting speaker who was elected in compliance of constitutional processes.
By that notice of Impeachment, it is quite clear that the fight in Edo is a proxy fight signed at the 2020 Edo gubernatorial elections and the power plays thereto!
In Edo State House of Assembly leadership tussle, it is clear that the State Branch of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is solidly behind the new leadership of the state Assembly while, while the National Chairman of the same ruling APC is backing the recalcitrant members-elect who are opposed to the already elected speaker!
One wonders why the National Executive and the State executive of the same party are clearly on differing sides in this matter.
While we may not know why the members-elect are opposed to the present leadership of the House, which in their estimation is an “illegal contraption”, what we are certain is that the leadership of the APC in the state were not carried along by the protesting members-elect. In a recent interview the Edo State chairman of the APC, Anslem Ojezua claimed that the party and the members-elect had taken decision together on the leadership of the new Assembly before the inauguration and that the following day some of the members-elect who were yet to be inaugurated went behind the party to take a contrary position and issued a statement claiming that the state governor was trying to impose speakership on the House.
The Edo State chairman of APC while admitting that it is the prerogative of the members-elect to elect the leadership of the House, insisted that in exercising that right the members-elect should do it accordance with the wishes of the party that sponsored them on the platform they were elected, citing the National Assembly where the national leadership of the APC insisted on the emergence of the party’s preferred candidates as Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Deputy Speaker respectively.
What is happening in Edo State House of Assembly is unprecedented. How can the national exco of APC be opposed to a sitting governor who is a member of APC? Why Edo in particular? Is it that the Edo state chapter of APC is incapable of piloting the affairs of the APC within the state?
These rumblings are not in the best democratic practices particularly when one realises that the state chapter of the APC is opposed to the intervention of the national in what it considers its internal affairs.
We all witnessed the emergence of leaders at the national assembly. We saw how the APC at the national level put its foot down and insisted on the emergence of the present leadership of the National Assembly and no one can claim that the same did not happen in most of the APC controlled states in the country.
In most of the state Houses of Assembly, leadership of the House is filled by consultation with the executive. We saw it happen here in Abuja. This is the tradition in democracies all over the world. For parties in power, assembly Speaker and other Parties in power are chosen in consultation with state governors.
Judging from an interview I read in a newspaper, (not LEADERSHIP) the Edo APC chairman, claimed that wide range of consensus was reached regarding the Edo assembly as was the case in other APC controlled states.
One therefore begins to wonder why Edo State is different and why it is a taboo for the governor to play any role in the emergence of the leadership of the state assembly?
It is also common knowledge that President Muhammadu Buhari was consulted severally by the leadership of the APC at the national level all through the period that the APC was doing everything within the law to ensure that it was its preferred candidates that emerged as leaders of the National Assembly. It is important that we encourage political parties at all levels to enforce party discipline. Where this is lacking, it affects the delivery of good governance as was witnessed in President Buhari’s first term when the President had to deal with antagonistic NASS leadership.
If party discipline was needed to enforce the choice of National Assembly leadership, the same should also be expected in Edo State where the state governor like President Buhari, needs a leadership of the state Assembly that would help him drive development of Edo State.
While we are on it, it is important to note that party discipline is not only an issue for the APC alone. The leading opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had a taste of it when the Rep members-elect and Senators-elect of the party voted contrary to the directive of the party during the election of the National Assembly leadership recently and the party is already reeling from the effects of that breach party discipline!
It is important that elected officials know that they are not bigger than the party under whose platform they came to power, as such they should strive to obey the lawful directives of their parties and pursue programmes that are in line with the manifestos of their parties. In this way our democracy grows and development is assured.