Edo and the menace of Tuketuke politicians: A Rejoinder

by Muminatu Oyarenua

Louis Odion has betrayed his sentiments and soft spot for the Executive branch in Edo state by dedicating his pen to writing in a sewer language that is the stamp of a citizen hired to rubbish his nation, albeit a mercenary, a chop writer! But not a few Edo people were surprised considering the fact Odion was flown into Benin City, in the middle of November 2009, quartered in a palatial hotel, fed, chauffeur-driven for 4-days, paid and flown back to his base, all at Edo tax payers expense, to do exactly what he did on his “The Bottomline” column of November 22 – November 28, 2009.

However, he can be excused on grounds that he came in search of a better job. He was seen inspecting the office in the Edo Government House of the former Special Adviser to Oshiomhole on Media and Strategy, Mr. Eric Osagie of the SUN Newspapers. He is said to be eying Mr. Abdul Oroh’s job as Information Commissioner, since the latter wants to be the Local council chairman of Owan East in 2010.

That said ideally it would not have been necessary to reply to Odion’s peevishness occasioned by his journalistic license but his misrepresentation of facts as it affects the State Assembly elected by the good people of Edo state to represent them and watch over the activities of the Executive branch at all times, makes this unavoidable.

Take his ignorance of the fact that the Universal Basic Education situation in Edo does not have anything to do with passage of an enabling law. The true patriot that he claims he is, one who hardly visits his home state except to curry official favors or political appointment, there is no way he would have known that the Assembly passed the Edo UBE enabling law two years ago. His sponsors did not tell him. They assumed he knew. Little wonder his conclusion and erroneously too that “the over N5billion scheme which would have given Edo kids more access to a better Education has so far been stalled because the PDP-dominated assembly will not pass the enabling law”.

Like Rt Hon Zakawanu Garuba, the Speaker of the Edo State Assembly said on several occasions and also very recently at a press conference in Benin City addressed by the Edo state PDP chairman, Chief Dan Osi Orbih, where the NATIONAL LIFE newspaper was obviously represented, the issue of the UBE has to do with the confirmation of the members of the state UBE Board or SUBEB. Whereas the Assembly received a list of nominees for the board, it was prevented from confirming the list by a valid court order from the Benin High Court. This is public knowledge. As a lawyer and the state’s premier and lawmaker, Odion and his sponsors who came to power through the rule of law, ought to know that Speaker Garuba cannot and would never disobey a court order. For the information of the likes of Odion, Professor (Senator) Oserheimen Osunbor, the immediate past governor of Edo State, a member of the PDP like the Speaker and majority members of the state assembly, faced an almost similar situation in that he could not get his nominees for the same SUBEB approved by the assembly as fast as he would have wished.

The Speaker has also advised the Executive to use available state resources to develop other sectors of the state’s educational system like secondary schools and the tertiary institutions like Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, the State Polytechnic, Usen and all the Colleges of Education and Agriculture which are all yearning for his intervention. Elsewhere the Speaker has also emphasized that using the matter of the SUBEB nominees, as a channel by the Executive to instigate and sponsor unwarranted attacks on the legislature in the state is wrong and henceforth would no longer be tolerated.

As aptly captured by Odion, the Edo condition of today is far too critical to be left to the zigzag of trivial politics. He also said elsewhere in his column, which was once popular but is fast becoming a vacant space for misinforming readers that to revamp Edo State is a matter of emergency and all true Edo patriots must see the challenge and be a part of it. He is one person who will agree that at a time like this, many Edo people who felt that the victory of Mr. Adams Oshiomhole at the Court of Appeal would herald a new dawn of governance in Edo State are worried. But was evident during the activities marking the last one year of the former labor leader’s tenure, there is really growing concern if his ride to power on popular appeal and sentiments will usher in the much expected revamping of Edo State.

Odion also looked at the roles played by founding fathers of Edo like General Sam Ogbemudia, Rtd, and Chief Tony Anenih, two key leaders of the Edo PDP and labeled them party barons, kingpins, godfathers and so on. Our people say that only a foolish boy, whose wish is not to grow into an adult, would insult his father in the village square like Odion and his sponsors’ have genially done in the media. He left out the roles of emerging godfathers to Oshiomhole like Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, Chief Tom Ikimi, Former Foreign Affairs Minister and Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu, a former Lagos State Governor since Oshiomhole took office.

Yet despite the venom poured on Ogbemudia and Anenih and the reference to their millions of disciples across the state and beyond as idol worshippers, it is a surprise to many, that Governor Oshiomhole still found General Ogbemudia, who is a serving member of the PDP board of trustees and Leader of the party in Edo state worthy to play prominent roles at the Wole Soyinka Lecture and the Town Hall meeting that formed part of the hyped celebration of Oshiomhole’s one year in office. No need to delve into details of Anenih’s support for Oshiomhole before and after he became governor and his interventions in resolving Oshiomhole’s disagreements with the assembly due to his poor handling of state matters owing to lack of poise and political prudence.

Be that as it may, Odion was sensible enough to appreciate the fact that Soyinka did not come to Benin City to celebrate the patching of Benin City, which the Executive called construction of new roads or the planting of flowers on the Kings Square in the ancient city, but to draw public attention to the reality called democracy which is in full gear in Edo state, with the Executing playing its role alongside the Legislature devoid of political sentiments.

On this note, the reference to the Assembly’s advise to the state’s civil commissioners and before them all the 18 local council chairmen to forward to the assembly briefs of their activities since they came to office by Odion comes into perspective. According to Odion, “one could, therefore not but be alarmed by what appears the determination of the PDP-dominated state assembly to pull the state in a different direction”. He said that in the past the assembly maintained a conspiracy of silence because the governors then like Osunbor and Igbinedion, before him were PDP members. He added that “the new legislative hyperactivity in Benin today” is an attempt by Anenih to deal with Governor Oshiomhole at all costs.

From all indications, Odion’s understanding of the principle of separation of powers as enshrined in the Constitution is to say the least blurred. Else he would have appreciated the fact that it would not be the first time civil commissioners, who were nominated and screened by the Edo State assembly would be asked to submit briefs to the assembly. He could not have known as a visitor to his home state that it was from the briefs by civil commissioners during the Osunbor regime that some contractors were found to have collected full final payments for the construction of a road and an erosion control project, they never completed. The contractors were subsequently referred for sanctions and recommended to the Economic and Financial Crimes EFCC, for further investigations and prosecution.

He would also have known that the Edo

State local government enabling law authorizes the Assembly to ask local council irrespective of party affiliations to submit similar briefs. But writing from the point of ignorance his quandary can be excused. For his information it was also during the briefings by council chairmen that lawmakers discovered that the Executive branch headed by Osunbor, caused to be opened, a secret bank account for excess oil crude funds meant for the Local councils. The assembly ordered that the monies be released to them in 72hours. But Osunbor complied in 48hours!

The assembly is an independent arm of the Edo State government but myopic people see as a tool that can be in the hands of political parties or so-called leaders. The case of the elder statesman, Chief Anenih who is preoccupied with national matters of state at Abuja as Chairman of the largest ports authority in Africa, the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA comes to mind. Can he really be accused of wasting his energy on the rudderless regime of Oshiomhole in Benin City by dictating to the Edo State Assembly, which is a constitutional institution? It is on record and even the Governor can attest to the number of times the Speaker has ensured that politics does not stand in the way of approving legislations to move the state forward.

A case in point is the 2009 Appropriation bill, which obviously unknown to Odion, requires the Executive is constitutionally expected to submit before the end of December 2008, but Oshiomhole chose to submit in February 2009, 3months into office as Governor. To kick start the government, the Assembly led by the Speaker got the bill passed in 4-weeks, the fastest time it would do so, since 1999. But rather than return the bill with relevant amendments to the assembly the Executive reading politics into Assembly’s actions, sponsored street protests in vain and held the bill hostage for three whole weeks. The bill with the total sum of N75billion was approved in April 2009 for the Governor with huge allocations for roads such as the conversion of two federal roads, Ugbowo and Airport to six lanes. 2009 is days from ending, can Odion ask his sponsors if it is the leader, Chief Anenih or the assembly that has prevented the Executive from acting on the budget till date.

There is no danger looming in Edo State as a result of the resolve of the Edo State Assembly to perform its assigned role. The real danger is having an Executive which trades on falsehood and rather than attacking state problems head on, with a view to providing solutions having been empowered to do so by appropriate legislations choose to chase the shadows.

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