Our attention has been drawn to the above titled article authored by Dr. S. I. Gavin Dauda, the legal adviser to the Nigerian Bar Association NBA, Benin. The author is apparently a true democratic citizen in the classical sense judging by the deep concerns and anxieties he strongly expressed regarding the illegitimacy of Edo State House of Assembly as presently constituted, which he described as “unforgettable bad precedent”. The writer passionately called on the fourteen Members -Elect of the House of Assembly to apologize to the Governor and simultaneously appealed to the Governor to extend the forgiveness of Tony Kabaka to the fourteen members concerned.
We believe strongly that the intervention of the author is well intentioned, sincere and conscientious. But we are constrained to respond to the write up in order to properly situate the issues in contention in the interest of the reading public who might not be well informed on the matter. It would appear that the writer deliberately played down on the substance of disagreement in order to project his troubleshooting objectives. But as widely known, any peace making effort is bound to hit the rocks if the strategy is founded on wrong premises and presumptions. It cannot be stressed enough that on matters of high profile disputation such as this; facts are sacred and any effort at reconciliation must be properly guided.
A recapitulation of the crises herein is absolutely needful in order to refresh our minds; The State House of Assembly election was conducted on Saturday March 19th, 2019. After the party’s victory in the election, the Governor suddenly became suspicious of the newly elected members, alleging that the loyalty of a majority of us including the two members he led to victory in Oredo LGA, being his immediate constituency, were loyal to Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, his predecessor in office, former boss and the then National Chairman of his former party, the All Progressives Congress, APC. You will recall that the same Comrade Oshiomhole helped to see him become Governor. Without reaching out with the tools of political gamesmanship and persuasion, plans were secretly made to inaugurate only those considered loyalists of the Governor as members of the 7th House of Assembly in Edo State. If a Governor could neither trust nor win the trust and loyalty of the representatives of his immediate constituency, then something must be wrong with his style or idea of politics. The reason given for the nocturnal inauguration of a handful of members without due regard to constitutional provisions was that the Members-Elect, had planned to impeach the Governor without any shred of evidence. The accusation turned out to have resulted from infantile phobia! Things degenerated inexorably thereafter. Rather than intensely and reasonably engage members for confidence building, on the 17th of June, 2019, he caused the Clerk to organize nocturnal inauguration of eight members who were recruited and conveyed to the Assembly House in a commando style and thereafter maliciously caused to be published a proclamation letter three days after the nocturnal inauguration. Since then every effort made to get him to do the needful and allow the 14 Members-Elect to be inaugurated has failed.
Given the above summation of events, no one should be mealymouthed or in doubt regarding the identity of the oppressor, aggressor and the guilty. Governor Obaseki refused to transparently issue a proclamation and when it was issued, they conspired to keep it secret without informing majority of the Members-Elect and without giving it any publicity in the media only until days after the nocturnal inauguration. The story of how some members were conscripted and conveyed to the House of Assembly chambers at night is already in the public domain. There is no doubt whatsoever that Governor Obaseki successfully implemented a plan to govern without the legislature, which is the main attraction in a democracy. A dictator dread the power of the people represented by the legislature. He cannot deploy the tools of conversation, negotiation, superior logic and compromise. He is alien to compassion and empathy! That is exactly where we are in Edo State. It also explains why till date, Edo State has continued to be in the national news for the wrong reasons; ‘the bad precedent’ of running a dictatorship, fighting self-induced battles with politicians, religious and traditional rulers. One would have liked to see the Governor deploy his energy to deliver his campaign promises such as the Benin River Seaport ( Gelegele), the Benin City Industrial Park for which the Vice President was invited to do the ground breaking. Edo state also deserves to be in the national news and national discourse for positives of such mega infrastructural accomplishments.
Obaseki epitomizes the idea that politics is when you say you are going to do one thing while intending to do another. Then you do neither what you said, nor what you intended!
We call on those who sincerely and conscientiously seek amicable resolution to the impasse to first seek audience with Governor Obaseki or speak truth to him in the media. We shall be worse for it if we incentivize the executive intransigence of the Governor because you cannot shut out the truth and achieve reconciliation. We must understand that being Governor does not increase the value or validity of his opinion. Therefore, pandering to his opinion at the expense of truth is an act of cowardice! As Governor, he must be prevailed upon to set in motion the process of salvaging and restoring damaged relationships, to express the right sentiments and thereby diminish the pains of those hurt and to restore the positive image of Edo State which has recently been negatively referenced due to lack of legitimate legislative body. It falls squarely within the province of Governor Obaseki to reflect and reverse himself since he has suddenly realized that he is not God but a public servant whose responsibilities are clearly defined by law. The politics of the state is rigged if the law doesn’t apply to all equally. Let no one bury his head in the sand or suddenly become deaf and dumb. We are in one of those rare moments where real men step up to speak out bluntly until the guilty own up to his excesses.
It is ironical and illogical to call on the victims of an unconstitutional act and abuse of power to bear the burden of apology. It will be tantamount to double jeopardy. No one should ever apologize for acting right and for demanding his legal entitlement. Apologies have the power to heal the injured, mend broken relationships and engender reconciliation, only if, the guilty is large hearted enough to admit guilt and proceed with making amends. There is no doubt that it takes wisdom and courage to apologize and we know that it is in the character of a narcissist not to act seemingly weak. He would rather have a thing not done if not done his own way. A narcissist rank as one of the vilest of men! Those who have been at the arena fighting a just cause have truth embedded in their hearts and need not fear the want of persuasion. Let me close with these instructive words of Charlie Chaplin: ‘’We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed”
Let compassion reign in the heart of a good man and let evil reign in the heart of a demon for every single act of compassion and evil has its reward in due season! Indeed, evil has its retribution. It is a case of when, not whether.
Washington Osa Osifo, Ph.D.
Spokesperson, The Fourteen Patriots.