Edo State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief Anselm Ojezua, in this interview, faults the recommendations of the House of Representatives committee on the Edo legislative crisis, saying the federal lawmakers’ Intervention has worsened the problem in the state.
Anselm Ojezua What is the real story behind the crisis in Edo State?
It seems to me to be more of how well we are managing our success in Edo State. This is the first time we have recorded an absolute victory in the sense that all 24 seats of the House of Assembly are from the APC it has never happened before. With that as background, whatever you see now looks like irony or paradox. It is true that we are having issues in relation to the leadership of the house but it does not amount to a crisis because Edo is functioning even the house of the assembly itself is also functioning. They have leadership in place and they are working. The house has been inaugurated, leadership has emerged. Some members are not happy with it and they are taking the step they feel is necessary to change what they cannot have. Some have gone to Abuja, they have also been to court and the National Assembly. All that put together is to stimulate the prospect of crisis. In Edo state, there is no crisis. If they have gone to court, we subscribe to that because that is what the law says, that should there be any disagreements they cannot resolve on their own they should seek redress. They should not resort to self-help. The issue in Edo state is already in court, so we await the courts’ decision. We are also taking steps to seek reconciliation of our members. If you recall, when the house was inaugurated there was nine members, today they are 12. We expect that the number will increase. What has actually restrained or now an impediment to a peaceful resolution is the intervention of the National Assembly. So, if their intention is to help us in Edo state I think they have compounded the problem. How? The threat that they will come and take over our house of assembly— the ordinary man in the street is seeing it as if there is going to be an alien invasion of our state; as if Edo state is a colony of some people in Abuja. That is the impression and we are having a hard time convincing them that, that is not the intention.
Given the relationship between the Governor Godwin Obaseki and Comrade Adams, what really went wrong?
What is happening should not have happened. I agree wholeheartedly that what is happening should not have happened. I think both of them have the responsibility to do the right thing.
Is it true that the National chairman is trying to impose leadership on the house in order to remove the governor?
I don’t have that information and I cannot say I shared that view. You know when things are happening people are bound to speculate. It gives room for speculation. So unwillingly we have opened ourself to all sorts.
As the leader of the APC in the state, what steps are you taking to resolve the crisis?
We have been working with leaders of our party in various parts of the state particularly leaders of those concerned. We are recording some progress, three other members have been sworn in to make the number 12. On the day that the motion was moved in the House of Representatives, two of those members were at the airport waiting to come to Benin to be sworn in when they were informed that they should return because the National Assembly was coming to take over the house. So, they returned. For, me it is a minus rather than a plus in terms of National Assembly Intervention. When their Intervention dissipates we will continue the process of reconciliation that we have started. We don’t even believe that the National Assembly has any business in this matter. We don’t believe it is right for them to take a step but you know we are obliged to be polite when they came calling for obvious reasons. We made all the facts known. If we had rebuffed them the tendency would have been to believe that we have something to hide. They came and they have all the facts. The facts are: the house was inaugurated, there is a leadership in place, the house is functioning and the matter is in court. With that knowing what we expected them to report and recommend is “they should seek a political solution and watch the judicial pronouncement.” They didn’t do that, they did not even wait for the National Assembly process to be completed before they went to town. Therefore, in doing that they may have justified the speculation in town arising from audio were one of the members-elect was boasting that the matter had been resolved, that the senate president and speaker of the House of Representatives had already been told what to do. Two or three days, they did what the member-elect said even prematurely of their own processes. That to my mind has compounded the problem rather than help to resolve it. That is why I said when the problem created by the National Assembly dissipates we will continue with our reconciliation. We are on course. This problem will be resolved, this is not the first time we are having problems in Edo state House of Assembly. Just as I was elected as chairman in 2014, you remember when PDP wanted to buy up our members in order to impeach our governor, we had figured as high as N50 million. At a stage, we had to take steps to renovate the House of Assembly, and the members were moved to the Government House. If the need arises we will do anything we have to do to preserve our independence as a state. On the allegation that four members were abducted and sworn in to make those on governors side 9, that the figure is 14-10 against the governor In politics, some times you have this drama playing out. If a man is kidnapped and released, what does he do? He will go to the police, make a statement and seek to prosecute his abductors particularly when they are known and can be identified. So, all that is part of the drama. But 12 out of 24 members have been inaugurated, as a party, we are working to see that everybody is complete as part of the family. You said the party leadership took a collective decision to zone the offices, how come the other camp didn’t buy into it and is so opposed to the house leadership? One thing that is significant for which I am particularly grateful is that since I made my statement several weeks ago in at least two national dailies, nobody has come out to say it is not true. Whether they agree or not is a different kettle of fish. In politics, you don’t seek 100%, you seek consensus which is measured in terms of majority. In those meetings that I alluded to there was a consensus and everybody signed up on it. They decided to go against the position of the party, we feel it should neither be tolerated nor condoned in the interest of the party. When you keep a first aid box you don’t know for whom it is kept. Today, it is Governor Obaseki, who knows tomorrow?
Will there be sanctions?
The first thing we want to do is to ensure peace and reconciliation. The sanction will be the last step. After we have exhausted all avenues of reconciliation sanction will follow. The good news is that the house has been inaugurated, they formed a quorum. What is even interesting is that the constitution makes provision for 24 members but now we have 12 and when you want to calculate quorum it is based on 12. That is the peculiar nature of parliament. As far as we are concerned there is no problem unless a court of law makes a pronouncement to the contrary. His message to the National Working Committee, NWC, of the APC, and President Muhammadu Buhari, the leader of the party, on the matter I would rather not send a message to them through this medium. I have made my position clear. I honestly do not think they need to get involved in this. For those of them, who have got involved, their involvement is not helpful. I think it is time for them to let go and allow us to handle it at home. Message to Edo people? To continue to live in peace and not to be worried about this so-called threat of an invasion. There would be no invasion against the people of Edo. Edo state remains a sovereign of part of Nigeria. We are federating partners, we are not anybody’s houseboys. Edo is not a colony of the National Assembly, anybody, or entity. So, they should not worry at all, all that is playing out is politics and would be resolved politically.