In recognizing governors as the chief security officers of their states, the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria expects that they will use their offices to protect lives and property within their states. In doing this, the governors are –in all cases –expected to rise above political partisanship and ensure that the peace of the state and security of the citizenry, are upheld at all times. This principle is at the centre of governance.
This calls to issue the spate of violence that has been rocking Edo state, with the active connivance of the state governor, Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, which has done great harm to that assumption. In recent months, the once-peaceful state has been turned into a theatre of violence and all sorts of political absurdities by one who is vested with the duty of ensuring that peace and democratic ethos prevail. Not only have the governor’s political opponents been hounded and brutalized on trumped-up charges, his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), continues to desecrate major institutions of state.
Instances in which the office of governor was brought to disrepute by Oshiomhole in furtherance of his ego and parochial interests abound but the division and violence visited on the Edo State House of Assembly take the top price on the list. Sadly so for that hallowed institution of legislative authority in the state. Since last July when the peace of the House was violated by the high-handedness and the victimization of minority members by the APC, it has split into two factions along party lines.
Till today both factions conduct plenary and other legislative duties separately. Rather than seeking a solution to the Assembly crisis which started June 9 following the unjust (yes, unjust, do not be deceived by the court orders believed to have been induced by the executive) suspension of four lawmakers, the governor appears to enjoy –and continues to encourage –the absurdity in which two ‘Houses’ hold plenary in two different locations.
While the faction being promoted by Oshiomhole is led by Mr. Uyi Igbe and consists mainly of members of his party, the other faction consisting largely Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members is led by the original Deputy Speaker, Mr. Festus Ebea as Speaker. While the PDP with nine legislators, hold their plenary at the Assembly Complex, the majority 15 APC legislators sit at the old complex in Government House made available by the governor.
The wind Oshiomhole sowed in the House last June has since grown and matured into a whirlwind. As if the decimation of the House and abandonment of the Assembly complex for sittings in Government House are not enough assaults on decency, individual legislators are now being hunted down brazenly. It all started with Honourable Abdulrazak Momoh who was beaten to a pulp by APC thugs and, as I write, still lies critically ill at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital. The Speaker of Oshiomhole’s faction of the state House of Assembly, Uyi Igbe, and the Majority Leader, Philip Shaibu, were arrested by the State Police Command in connection with the attack and later released.
As far as the PDP State Chairman, Chief Dan Orbih is concerned, the attack on Momoh, whose seat was last July arbitrarily declared vacant by the factional APC leadership, was carried out by government hirelings after he was sighted around the legislators’ quarters. What happened at the state legislators’ quarters along Ihama on Saturday, October 11 was, from every indication, a reprisal attack. The armed invaders of the quarters, for over 30 minutes, turned the place into a theatre of violence. While the hoodlums attacked and sacked the lawmakers and their family members, vehicles and properties were reportedly destroyed and others riddled with gunshots. The question is, when will this reign of impunity end?
It is commendable that Governor Oshiomhole promptly paid a visit to the legislators’ quarters. It is equally commendable that he spoke so eloquently – almost convincingly — about the evils of violence and why Edo could do without unnecessary bloodletting. But he fouled up his homily with his response to reporters’ question over the attack on Momoh. After describing the reprisal attack on the legislators’ residences as an unfortunate incident, he justified the initial attack on Momoh by his party men, saying the man deserved what he got.
Oshiomhole told listeners that the brutalized PDP legislator was sometime, while still in the APC, pictured holding a gun during the Edo local government elections last year. Why should a governor justify such a wanton attack on a state official, just because he now belongs to a rival political party? Definitely, it does not justify the act of dumping Momoh at the gates of death by the APC thugs. That rationalization by the governor is in bad taste and offends all sensibilities and sensitivities.
It rankles that rather than promote peace and harmony, and bridge the gap of inter-party rivalry, the governor has busied himself fanning the embers of discord in the state. Instead of walking his usual talk about restoring peace, the comrade governor, whose speeches present him as a peace-loving governor, who respects divergent political opinions, veered into the absurd terrain where a supposed law keeper promotes political bad blood only to expect political benefit from the demeanor.
Oshiomhole may have been impressive as a Labour leader when he was in the saddle at the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), but his tenure in Edo has thus far been a disaster of great proportions. Through his indiscretions, he has foisted on hapless people of the state untold hardship by his unnecessary political battles with the federal authorities and the PDP. He has, by so doing, subjected the lean resources of the state to undue pressure. His inability to rise above political partisanship in his actions and utterances is, perhaps, the biggest blight of his administration. And this is unfortunate.
- Mr West-Greene sent this piece from Port Harcourt, Rivers State.