The Chairman of the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress, Anselm Ojezua, in this interview with ADEKUNLE PETER, speaks on the controversial inauguration and emergence of presiding officers of the state House of Assembly
The crisis at the Edo State House of Assembly has got many people wondering what actually went wrong. What is the origin of the crisis?
For me, I think it’s just difficulty on the part of some members to comply with party directives. That is, in my opinion, what could have gone wrong. Otherwise, why would somebody contest an election into the House of Assembly? Essentially, it is to represent his constituency. It’s not to go and hold a principal office. That (holding a principal office) is the prerogative of the party. It’s the party that determines who becomes what in the parliament; that is the tradition. They (members-elect) want to be legislators but they don’t want to follow the rules associated with that practice.
All the members-elect belong to the APC. So, why was the inauguration fixed for 9pm with only nine members present?
I don’t know anything about 9 o’clock. I don’t also know whether there is a dress code or not. What I do know is that there are some constitutional requirements. The governor must issue a proclamation letter and he will address it to the Clerk of the Assembly. The clerk will use that letter to initiate or inaugurate the House. And when he inaugurates the House, he must do so with the mace, which is the symbol of authority present.
The constitution also tells us that one-third of a House is what is required to form a quorum. The Clerk of the House told me that as of the time he received the proclamation notice, only 10 of them had satisfied the condition precedent to being sworn in. That is to say they had to go and declare their assets at the Code of Conduct Bureau. Out of the 24 members-elect, only 10 of them satisfied that condition. Out of the 10, nine of them were present, and so, he had the confidence to proceed because he needed eight.
But two of those sworn in had alleged that they were forcefully taken to the Assembly for the inauguration. Are you aware of that?
They didn’t allege that to me. I’ve met all of them; none of them has mentioned that to me. I’ve also heard about it on the social media. But if somebody is kidnapped, where would he go to? You know, the parliament is a place where strange things happen, generally speaking, across the world.
The belief is that it was all about the conflict between Obaseki and Oshiomhole and that Oshiomhole wants to have a domineering role in Edo politics while the governor didn’t want that. How would you respond to that?
Well, Oshiomhole is the national chairman of the party. I believe his hands are full in Abuja, but by the same token, he comes from Edo State. So, I won’t put it pass some of our people carrying our problems and going to pester him in Abuja. And by his disposition, he is not the kind of person who will not respond when people seem to be in distress. I believe that may be responsible for some of these frictions we are experiencing.
A former aide to Oshiomhole, Charles Idahosa, has accused the former governor of playing the godfather, having been responsible for Obaseki’s emergence, as well as your emergence as state chairman. He was said to have been responsible for the emergence of the present governor’s commissioners and majority of those who emerged as lawmakers-elect. Is that true?
Yes! It is true.
Some of these old members have vowed that the governor would not be given another ticket because he has not been ‘carrying party members along.’ Do you think he will get a second term ticket?
I think Obaseki deserves another term and I believe he will get it. That is my desire and I’m going to work towards it. If you have a governor that is working, acknowledged by the generality of the people, the party is proud to present him again. I’m not going to be shopping for a new unknown candidate when I already have one that can sell itself; it won’t make sense.
But that is my own personal opinion and I’m going to be working along that line. If there are others who feel differently, they can also work to achieve it. That is what politics is about, it’s about contest. But, in accordance with our rules as a party, that is how it works.
Since he is not in good terms with the party’s national chairman, won’t there be a showdown in the months ahead?
What gives you the impression that they cannot settle in months to come? I think they should and I believe they would, if not for their own interests, at least, for the interest of the people they lead. They should consider our interest now. So, I believe they should and I believe they would. I hope they would because, this is a kind of a situation where nobody will eventually emerge a winner
But don’t you think that Obaseki wants a rubber-stamp Assembly by inaugurating the House at an odd hour?
No. Every governor will naturally want to have a friendly legislature, not necessarily a rubber stamp. There is no serious thing you will want to do in government, particularly if you are reforming in nature, that you will not need legislative support. So, to that extent, of course, everybody will want a friendly Assembly.
The unfortunate part in all of this is that the guy who is contesting with (the Speaker, Frank) Okiye, (Victor) Edoroh, was once Speaker when the national chairman was the governor. The circumstances under which he was removed from office are not very clear. Now, if those same people who said he was not fit at that time, or for whatever reason didn’t want him, now suddenly want him, if you were a governor, what would be your disposition? If you say you don’t trust this person, hence, he was removed, why do you now trust him?