By Michael Egbejule, Guardian NG
As Edo State governorship election, slated for September 19, draws close, indications emerged yesterday the state was headed for anarchy.
The potential for breakdown of law and order is being fueled by the attempt to occupy of the state House of Assembly by security operatives.
The police siege has ignited intense tension between the Peoples Democratic (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). The new wave of crisis forced the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue warning yesterday, threatening to sanction erring parties.
Fierce-looking policemen, suspected to be a team of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad deployed from Abuja, yesterday, chased away policemen guarding the complex.
It was alleged that a retired deputy clerk of the House, Samuel Efezokhae, was hired to inaugurate a parallel Assembly to take over the function of law making in the state hence the police presence to facilitate the plot.
Reacting to the development, the Edo State chapter of the PDP on Thursday called on Edo people to resist the alleged plot.
State Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Chris Nehikhare, in a statement in Benin said: “It has come to our knowledge that the APC, led by Adams Oshiomhole this morning, Thursday, August 6, 2020, led thugs to the premises of the state House of Assembly in an attempt to take over the House and legislative arm of government.
“He has over the last few weeks disbursed over N500m to entice and purchase members of the House for his illegal take-over attempt in a Gestapo style operation.
“All Edo persons of goodwill should reject this brazen attack on our democracy and resist it.”
The Speaker of the House, Frank Okiye, had, on Wednesday, raised the alarm over an alleged plot by the Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, and stakeholders in the APC in Edo State to use a fake mace to violently take over the Edo State House of Assembly.
Okiye, who spoke after plenary on Wednesday, in Benin City, said the plot was to be executed with the impeached Deputy Speaker, Mr. Yekini Idiaye.
Okiye had said, “The dubious plan by the Governor of Imo State, Sen. Hope Uzodinma and stakeholders of the APC in Edo State to import a fake mace to take over the Edo State House of Assembly working in cahoots with the Deputy Speaker, who recently declared support for the candidate of the APC to congregate in a secret location to illegally and violently take over control of the Assembly has been brought to our notice.”
Warning of the grave consequences such a move portend for democracy in Nigeria, Okiye called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Presidency to ask the Imo State governor and others working with him to execute the alleged plan to shelve it.
PDP accused the APC of inviting security operatives and called on the Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, to stop what it called the invasion and attempt to forcefully take over the House by illegal security operatives.
The PDP raised the allegation at a press conference addressed by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan.
He said, “The invasion and illegal occupation of the state legislature by security agents allegedly deployed by sacked national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, is a direct coup against the democratic order of Edo State and a recipe for anarchy, chaos and bloodletting.”
In a later development, the National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, reinforced his party’s stand, declaring that Nigeria was sitting on a keg of gunpowder.
He urged President Buhari to restore order in states like Edo, where, he observed, the law had been taken for granted.
Secondus spoke when the Ogun State PDP chairman visited him in Abuja.
“We use this opportunity to call on Mr. President that Edo election is coming. The people are depressed because of the political and economic situation in the country”
According to him, the only way people will have hope is for Mr. President and INEC to conduct free and fair election.
“We don’t want what happened in other states to happen in Edo because Nigeria will be heading to a place that is unknown. How can a country continue to conduct its affairs as if we are in a Banana Republic,” he queried.
BUT the APC dismissed the allegations and launched a counter-attack on the PDP.
A statement by the Chairman of Edo Media Campaign Council, Mr. John Mayaki, read: “It is a known fact that the Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has treated the House of Assembly, an independent and co-equal branch of government, as a mere extension of his office through the brutalisation of members-elect and the denial of representation to the majority of members.”
Edo State Politics: Oshiomole has no power to control the police
On the allegation that Adams Oshiomhole invited the police to the complex, he said the ex-governor had no power to control the police., recalling how Oshiomhole was once locked out of the APC national secretariat by the police.
“When Obaseki went to obtain a questionable court order challenging the position of Comrade as the APC National Chairman months back, he was locked out of the National HQ of the party in Abuja. If indeed he has any control over the police, wouldn’t he have instructed them to leave and grant him entry?”
It also accused the PDP and Obaseki of vandalising the Assembly complex.
He accused Obaseki of leading thugs to vandalise the complex in his bid to enforce the continuation of what it described as an “illegal formation of partial Assembly.”
“He has ordered the vandalism and destruction of the Assembly complex under the pretence of a renovation exercise out of fear that his illegally-formed Assembly of just four members will be overturned and replaced with a more representative one.”
“Recall that National Assembly ruled the Assembly formed by Mr. Godwin Obaseki last year after abducting some members-elect dead in the night was illegally done and, therefore, is unknown to law. Regardless of this and loud outcry from the people of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki persisted in the illegality and denied representation to 14 members.”
He claimed five members, led by the Deputy Speaker, Yekini Idiaye, had since renounced the moves by Obaseki and expressed their support for the All Progressives Congress.
Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, also condemned the crisis. He tweeted his yesterday via his Twitter handle, @atiku, warning that Nigeria was on the edge due to the “brinkmanship of those charged with the constitutional leadership.”
Warning against escalating the already tense atmosphere in the country, he said, “What is happening in Edo State is a threat to constitutional order nationwide, and I strongly urge belligerent forces to reign in their proxies, and abide by the rule of law.
He said Edo people should be allowed to choose who they wished to govern them. That choice is to be made on September 19, 2020. Pending then, everything legally possible must be done to preserve the status quo,” he stated.ON the rising tension, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) warned that the crisis was capable of returning the country to the 1983 era.
The statement said the opposition coalition viewed the development as an affront to all our past and present heroes who fought hard for the enthronement of democracy in the country.
“The attempt to use former members of Edo House of Assembly whose seats have been declared vacant to take over the House is an invitation to anarchy and an act of treason.
“We therefore call on President Muhammadu Buhari and his men to halt all actions and inactions capable of pushing the nation towards a crisis like the 1983 crisis that led to collapse of democracy,” it said.
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) also expressed worry over the development.
It described the attempt by the police to take over the Edo State House of Assembly as unconstitutional and illegal.
In a statement signed on Thursday in Abuja by the National Media Affairs Director, Zainab Yusuf, the association added that If the IGP was the one that gave the order, the person behind it should be arrested and prosecuted.
“We hereby without reservations, absolutely condemn as despicable, reprehensible and odious any attempt to destabilise the Edo State House of Assembly and all those involved, if confirmed, must be rounded up and prosecuted for treasonable felony,” the statement added.
INEC has, however, warned that it would sanction political parties or individuals violating set rules.
INEC gave the warning in a statement titled, ‘Escalating Violence and Incendiary Statements on Edo, Ondo Governorship Elections.’ The statement was signed Mr. Festus Okoye, National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee.
The commission had met on a number of issues, including preparations for the Edo and Ondo governorship elections.
It stated that it had observed with deep concern the escalating levels of violent actions and statements by political parties, candidates and their supporters in the run up to the Edo and Ondo governorship elections.
“These actions include destruction of opponents’ campaign materials such as billboards, violent campaigns and use of offensive language,” it stated and warned political parties, candidates and their supporters “to keep in mind that there are extant laws and regulations that they must adhere to during campaigns.”
“The commission will not shirk its responsibility to enforce the rules of the game.
Consequently, parties and candidates must on no account underestimate the resolve of the Commission to enforce the rules and regulations and apply appropriate sanctions against those who choose to break them.”