By Crusoe Osagie
While many Nigerians may have moved on, the members-elect of the Edo State House of Assembly, who refused to present themselves for inauguration to enable them represent their people for a four-year period as prescribed by the Nigerian constitution have continued to raise dust over their self-inflicted dilemma.
Their decision to abstain from inauguration but rather embark on a wild-goose chase for nearly three years now haunts them. They are faced with a sure-footed fate of going down in history as the most disgraceful lot of politicians ever to run for political office and squander the electoral mandate handed them by their people for self-interests and primordial subservience.
The case of this 14 members-elect is as pathetic as it is unsettling. For their lack of good judgement, 14 constituencies in the state have been left without representation for close to 3 years. It is interesting that this same group of politicians are now trying to hoodwink the public by pushing narratives to infer that their people are being marginalized when in fact, it is they themselves who sold out their constituents for a pot of pottage from their godfathers.
When juxtaposed with history, it becomes even clearer that there is something amiss, as this trend betrays the high values espoused by their forebears. Edo State boasts of an illustrious legacy in representative democracy in the enviable exploits of its revered statesmen such as Anthony Enahoro, who raised the famous motion for self-rule in parliament. These forebears would today be turning in their graves to witness what has become of their legacy with the actions of this group of deserters and their cheerleaders in the political class, who have betrayed this ethos for parochial interests.
For the avoidance of doubt, it is important to state that on December 5, 2019, the seats of these runaway members-elect were declared vacant by the Speaker of the House, after they failed to meet the mandatory sitting requirement of 180 days as explicitly enshrined in the constitution.
This was after these same members-elect had dragged the House of Assembly to court to ascertain the legality of the inauguration of the 7th Assembly, making frantic effort to annul the exercise and conduct a fresh one. They even went as far as setting up a shadow assembly, holding phantom sittings at the House of a politician in the run up to the 2020 governorship election in Edo State.
The then speaker, Rt. Hon. Francis Okiye informed the public that 12 out of the 24 elected members, failed to present the documentation necessary for their inauguration, and another 2 refused to discharge their legislative duties, thereby denying their constituents of effective representation.
Having declared the seats vacant, the speaker then called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct by-election for the affected constituencies within a period of 90 days.
In last-ditch effort to thwart the move, the recalcitrant 14 obtained an order from the Federal High Court, Abuja, on January 2020, restraining INEC from conducting by-elections for the 14 vacant seats until the case is resolved in court.
It is a shame and an abuse of democratic process that after placing the interests of their constituencies of almost 1.6 million Edo people, dancing to the whims of their dethroned godfather, these individuals are now complaining and sponsoring a campaign of calumny against His Excellency, Governor Godwin Obaseki, who in strict legal terms, is a complete outsider to this matter.
As have since been settled by the court, the responsibility of Governor Obaseki with regards to the commencement of the 7th assembly began and ended with the issuance of a proclamation letter for the house to be inaugurated.
As a matter of fact, the inauguration issue which led to their seats being declared vacant is an internal crisis within the legislature.
The governor lacks the power to intervene in the matter as both the House of Assembly and the Judiciary are independent arms of government.
The effort being wasted in the media to beguile the public should be channeled to the judicial system which is currently housing not less than five suits, most of them initiated by the renegade members-elect, which are aimed at stalling the proper functioning of the legislature in the state.
Rather than carrying on with the media charade to whip up sentiments, it is best for the sacked lawmakers to withdraw the cases in court to allow their constituents to elect new members that would better represent their interests in the Assembly.
The lack of effective representation of almost half the population of Edo people in the state House of Assembly cannot and should not be sacrificed for fourteen individuals and their benefactors.
Osagie is the special adviser, media projects to the Edo state governor