Bloodbath was averted last Wednesday at the hallowed chambers of the Edo State House of Assembly by the state Police Commissioner, Foluso Adebanjo.
It was a day Adebanjo would not even wish for his enemies, as he kept vigil for over 13 hours as warring lawmakers engaged in a free for all following the failed attempt by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members in the House to effect leadership change.
The crisis heightened tension in the state as youths and elders monitor Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s political enemies to ensure they do not use their minority in the House to impeach the governor.
Genesis of crisis
Sunday Vanguard had reported penultimate week an alleged plot to impeach Oshiomhole, his deputy, Dr. Pius Odubu and the Speaker of the House, Uyi Igbe.
It was alleged that huge sums of money had been budgeted for the project while some lawmakers were said to have collected N50million each to execute the plot.
Sources said the money was withdrawn from a new generation bank in Benin City. Part of it was said to be in dollars loaded in milk cartons and transported from Abuja to Benin by road.
It was believed that the alleged plot by the PDP in the state, in collaboration with some APC members who recently joined the party, was to destabilize Edo and create an atmosphere of anarchy so as to distract the governor from continuing his developmental strides before the February 2015 general elections.
The leadership of the PDP also realized that it would be difficult to defeat the APC if Oshiomhole is allowed to remain in-charge of the party when campaigns commence.
Therefore, the best bet was to impeach him and the entire APC lawmakers while one of the lawmakers who defected to the PDP from Edo South is made Speaker and later governor. The PDP lawmakers denied any plot to impeach the governor, but one of them, Friday Ogierhakhi, added that they would not hesitate to do that if any impeachable offence is levelled against Oshiomhole.
He went on to debunk the allegation that they collected N50million, describing it as a ploy by the state government to blackmail them. What is still not clear is whether the Presidency is backing the plot but analysts said some elements at the Villa were giving tacit support to it.
Hell was let loose when some youths learnt about the alleged inducement of the lawmakers to impeach the governor. There was protest in the streets by the lawmakers who asked for the recall of the lawmakers.
Oshiomhole, who addressed the youths when they thronged the Government House, each of the lawmakers received N50million to defect to the PDP and impeach him, adding, however, that the plot will not succeed.
He said: “I thank you for recognizing that we all went round to campaign for these people who have decided to sell their mandate for naira and kobo. What is sickening is that they are young men who should be anxious to break from the past.
However because they believe they do not have any chance of being re-elected in February next year, because they have either done two terms or of their poor performance, they know their constituency will not re-nominate them.
They now decided to benefit from the desperation in different parts of the country to sell their mandate for N50 million each, collect advance payment of N35 million.
When I read this in the newspapers, initially, I didn’t believe. But going round, people tell me they are buying new vehicles, others are rebuilding their hotels. Suddenly money is flowing.
Obviously, I think it is important that if democracy is going to survive, each promise must be kept because in the last election, I had to go and do a television advert when the PDP people said this election is not Oshiomhole’s election, therefore vote for individual candidates.
I went on television to say that a vote for these House of Assembly members is a vote for Adams Oshiomhole. I had to do that because Edo people were not going to accept some of these people and I had to remind them that if they do not vote for them they would create problems for me.
Now the vultures have come and they are offering money and people are collecting money and making all kind of excuses. As far as I am concerned, there is no cause for alarm. A lot of these people cannot win election on their own merit in their own booth. They were voted for as ACN with the broom. If you were voted for as ACN, with the broom, how can you now go and replace it with an umbrella that is torn and abandoned?
“People with little mind will think that they can sell their constituents for N35 million or N50 million depending on when they will get their balance and, with time, more truth will be revealed and when it is revealed a lot of these people will not be able to walk through the streets.
Those who voted some of them do not have a thousand naira but those they have voted for have chosen to sell it for a huge sum. As far as I am concerned, we are stronger. Edo politics will be cleaned up and the cleaning is already here”.
It will be recalled that after Edo APC leader, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, and his supporters joined the PDP, four lawmakers loyal to his group: Jude Ise-Idehen, Rasaq Momoh, Friday Ogierhakhi and Patrick Osayinmen, also defected.
The defection of the APC lawmakers leaves the party with 16 members out of the 24-member House. It was learnt that the governor’s loyalists knew that the Deputy Speaker, Festus Ebea, had switched camp but Sunday Vanguard understood that they tried to convince him to remain in the APC and support Oshiomhole. But when the crisis started, it was obvious he had moved on.
As a result, he became one of the targets of the APC lawmakers. Leading the war against anti-Oshiomhole lawmakers were the Speaker, Igbe, the Majority Leader, Philip Shaibu, and the House Committee Chairman on Information, Kabiri Adjoto.
The tension in the state heightened last Monday, when 14 members of the House suspended the Deputy Speaker, Ogierhakhi; Ise-Idehen and Osayinmen for alleged misconduct. Their suspension followed a motion which accused Ebea of allegedly running a parallel leadership just as he was accused of alleged attempt to get APC lawmakers to join PDP.
Explaining the reason for the defected lawmakers suspension which, according to him, was not as a result of their defection, Adjoto said “The four lawmakers were suspended as a result of misconduct and not because they defected. The Deputy Speaker is still a member of APC as long as we are concerned because he has not said he has decamped. Rasaq Momoh defected but was not suspended.
They offered some of us N50-70million to join the PDP, but that is a poisonous offer because we don’t want to go back to the dark days of the PDP. Our people are happy that Oshiomhole is working, so why must you remove him due to your selfish interest. So that offer was a poisonous carrot and they were using it to destabilize the House. They also took the House to court and that is also against our rules and they know it.”
The battle in the House resumed on Tuesday when the PDP lawmakers came to the chamber at about 9am, sat for about three minutes without the mace before the APC lawmakers stormed the House and drove them away. After the incident,the suspended Deputy Speaker claimed he had become the Speaker.
He described his suspension and that of his three colleagues as null and void, saying that it did not follow the due process. At about 6am, on Wednesday, the PDP lawmakers drove into the House premises in company of over 30 armed mobile policemen. They allegedly broke into the chamber to sit with a mace.
As they began their sitting, APC youths had already laid siege around the Assembly premises and alerted their party’s lawmakers who stormed the place. However, there was attempt by the armed policemen to stop the APC lawmakers from entering the chamber to allow the PDP lawmakers effect leadership change. Sources claimed there was serious resistance from Shaibu and Adjoto who challenged the policemen to shoot them.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that some of the lawmakers wore bullet proof vests and were prepared for bloodshed. It was learnt that the APC youths disarmed the policemen and that was how the APC lawmakers pounced on their colleagues. APC lawmakers allegedly confiscated the mace and used it to give some of the PDP lawmakers thorough beating before the arrival of the state Police Commissioner, Foluso Adebanjo, at about 7am.
The chamber was in tatters at this point. Adebanjo and his men were able to take control of the premises and chased away the youths. Sunday Vanguard learnt that guns were found in the premises.
Adebanjo the peacemaker
The warring lawmakers were said to be panting when CP Adebanjo arrived. He addressed them and urged them to make peace before leaving the chamber. He warned against actions that will cause crisis in the state, just as he asked them to talk to their supporters.
Speaker Igbe then started presiding over the meeting while CP Adebanjo was monitoring the situation. The APC lawmakers argued that those who were suspended should leave the chamber and that even if the suspension was going to be lifted, a committee will be set up to do that and not them breaking into the House.
But the PDP lawmakers insisted that they were not leaving the chamber and urged their colleagues to restore their position so that the status quo will remain. Both sides started consulting with their god fathers through their cell phones on what to do. That situation compounded the problem as Sunday Vanguard learnt.
For instance, sources said it was almost agreed that the suspended lawmakers should leave so that, by tomorrow, the suspension may be lifted. But it was gathered that a PDP chieftain informed the PDP lawmakers not to agree, that they should insist that the suspension be lifted immediately.
At about 2pm, the lawmakers’ were exhausted and hungry, they sent for rice. Everybody ate together and exchanged banters but no deal yet. At about 4:30pm, the negotiations changed, after a court injunction which restrained the four suspended members from entering the Assembly premises was displayed to the PDP lawmakers.
The affected ones said they were not aware of the injunction, but their colleagues urged them to abide by it while the search for solution to the crisis continued. The lawmakers were at the chamber till 7pm that day before they left. CP Adebajo was with them throughout the meeting.
Commenting on the mace which was recovered from the PDP lawmakers, Adjoto said it was in possession of the Sergeant at Arms.
The suspended PDP lawmakers, in a separate briefing, told journalists they will attend the House sitting tomorrow, adding that they have legal backing.
Though it was not clear the legal backing they have, the state chairman of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih, said the party had appealed against the injunction against the lawmakers. Meanwhile, CP Adebanjo disclosed that 37 suspected thugs were arrested during the three days crisis at the Edo House of Assembly.
The suspects were arrested with cutlasses, long axe, large quantity of broken bottles and stones used as missiles. The suspects were arraigned in a Magistrate Court in Benin City for offences ranging from conspiracy, riotous act and unlawful assembly to conduct likely to cause the breach of the peace and have been remanded in prison custody.
Copyright – Vanguard