By Tonnie Iredia
With respect to the complicated crisis at the Edo State House of Assembly, Governor Godwin Obaseki and his immediate predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole must have since failed many of their admirers. For us, the intervention of the House of Representatives is a greater disappointment. When names of some Edo representatives who initiated the move to investigate the crisis in their state assembly was disclosed, any person familiar with the unwholesome political culture of the state could guess with some degree of precision, the likely real sponsor of the motion. No wonder, the House immediately raised a team to investigate the matter leading to a prompt resolution ordering the security agencies to shut the Assembly. But then, to ascertain the prediction of who the sponsor is, would be as hard as identifying the same hidden hands that surreptitiously postponed the governorship election in the state in 2016. The leaders of the House of Representatives failed us by taking sides in the crisis; they know that the crisis in the state is not about legislators and decent inauguration; rather, the crisis is about how to recreate Ambode in Edo by stopping Obaseki’s second tenure.
Is not curious that the All Progressives Congress APC has been unable to use its party machinery to resolve a dispute between lawmakers in a state legislature made up entirely of only their own members? We are sad that the party encouraged their leaders in the federal House to complicate the subject which has now led to the obnoxious order to the Police to shut the Assembly despite a court order restraining the security operatives from getting involved in the same matter. It is also disheartening that the House acted as if the Senate was excluded from the constitutional provision which influenced her action. If for instance, the Senate after its own investigation issues a contrary directive what choice would the security agencies have? We are unhappy that the House led by Barrister Gbajabiamila did not remember that the section of the constitution which empowers them to take over the functions of a state assembly also prohibits them from removing the governor. Well, as pained as we are, we have not been stopped from appreciating the Speaker for something else – his commendable appointment of a handicapped citizen, Abdulsalam Idowu Kamaldeen as his Special Assistant on Needs/Equal opportunities.
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If the Speaker can so appoint his personal staff, that meet his satisfaction, why can’t the Senate President similarly act? This question arises because of the decision of Senator Ahmad Lawan, the President of the Senate to withdraw the appointment of Dr Festus Adedayo as Special Adviser on Media and Publicity following what has been described as a public outcry that greeted the appointment, barely 48 hours after its announcement. There was the story that many APC supporters had invaded the social media space to argue that Adedayo did not deserve the position because of his critical views on the APC government of President Muhammadu Buhari, as regularly expressed in his articles in the media. A statement by Muhammad Isa, the Special Assistant to the Senate President on Media and Publicity that the appointment was rescinded in Adedayo’s best interest did not help matters. Even an opposition politician, can be appointed to hold an office where the appointing authority sees him as an asset. The Senate President failed us by agreeing with small minds to withdraw his appointment of a journalist who was critical of his political party. Perhaps, we need to enlighten the APC on the merits of criticism and dissuade her from penalizing political dissent and turning Nigeria into a one-party state.
We are encouraged to make this point because of another report that the Kaduna State House of Assembly declined to confirm one Aliyu Abubakar, nominated by Governor Nasir el- Rufai as a commissioner in the state. According to Aminu Shagali, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, who presided over the screening, “the nominee’s rejection followed his criticism of the el-Rufai’s policy in 2017 on his Facebook handle.” Based on this, the nominee was overwhelmingly rejected by the Assembly. Briefing the media after the session, Tanium Musa chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, said because “the evil that men do live after them, Jaafaru who has been a critic of the state government on social media was rejected.” He reportedly questioned why the nominee now wants to work with the same governor. Unfortunately, no journalist at the briefing had sufficient courage, wisdom and knowledge to draw attention to the fact that governor el rufai was well known for speaking truth to power. Indeed, the governor recently revealed that when he was a member of President Obasanjo’s cabinet, a large majority of his colleagues except himself and perhaps three others, never had the courage to tell Obasanjo the truth for fear of job security. Of course, if the Kaduna legislators were on the same page with their governor, they would not have stopped the only man that could tell el Rufai some truths. But why did the governor not rebuke such an Assembly which like many others in the states have no mind of their own?
In 2016, the 8th Senate rejected another Aliyu Abubakar who had been nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari as a commissioner in the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC). Aliyu was rejected along with Yisa Ezekiel a former Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly on grounds of inadequate qualification and cognate experience in the fields stipulated in the law for appointment of NCC Commissioners. But then, critics can recall that on the day of the screening, Aliyu virtually took the senate to the cleaners when the legislators sought to chastise him for his strong censure of the Senate in the past. As the Kaduna Assembly recently did to the rejected nominee mentioned earlier, the Senate confronted Aliyu with evidence of his criticism of the legislative arm of government, including leading protests at the gates of the National Assembly. Aliyu simply restated his position and that of the common man that the Senate had served as an avenue for wastage of scarce economic resources of the country and should therefore be abolished to save the country’s finances.
We are tempted to believe that the 8th Senate rejected the nominee simply because of his strong views on the Upper Chamber. Our view is premised on the fact that the same nominee has now been cleared by the present Senate on re-nomination by President Buhari with nothing added to his previously rejected credentials. Either way, we have problems with our leaders. If the 8th Senate rejected a mere critic, their leadership failed us. If on the other hand, the present Senate cleared a man with inadequate credentials, their leadership which many people suspect would be a rubber stamp of the executive, has similarly failed us. When added to the failure of the federal legislators as well as that of their Edo colleagues, are we not unlucky?