Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki actions in the state represent the gravest possible assault on constitutional democracy, the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, said on Friday.
In a statement personally signed by him and titled “In Defence Of Constitutional Democracy”, the former Lagos State governor also said Obaseki’s action is against the rule of law and escalates violence and tension in the state he purports to govern.
According to him, the Edo State governor is not satisfied with making a mockery of the constitution by blocking the timely inauguration of two-thirds of the elected members of the Edo State House of Assembly, stressing that Governor Obaseki has resorted to the strong-arm tactics of dictators.
He said: “First, he sponsors hoodlums to deface, indeed destroy, parts of the House of Assembly Building in Benin, feigning the building is undergoing renovation. Then, he imports sand and gravels to prevent access to the assembly complex. In effect, the man has spent state funds to thwart the very apparatus of the state government he was sworn to uphold. He has squandered public money to defeat the very will of the public. This is tragic beyond words.
“As a pretext for his refusal to allow the Edo House of Assembly to function, Governor Obaseki’s actions are perverse. This is a cowardly act and a move to thwart representative democracy in Edo. No renovation has been planned for the state house building. No appropriation was made in the state’s budget. The only reason any renovation could be deemed necessary is the destruction wrought by his own goons.
“Governor Obaseki’s governance of Edo State recalls the worst excesses of our military past and represents a direct threat to the democratic order. By his refusal to permit duly elected members of the Edo State House of Assembly to perform their constitutional duties, Governor Obaseki betrayed contempt for the people of his state and, unfortunately, his ignorance of Nigeria’s constitutional order. As a Governor he ought to know better than to obstruct the functioning of his own legislature, but perhaps he is in need of a quick lesson.
“The legislative function is, perhaps, the most foundational obligation of any government. In the UK, the Parliament was famously said to be “that supreme and absolute power, which gives life and motion to the English government”. In most democratic systems, the legislature is the arm of government containing within itself the people’s representatives in government.
“As such, the legislative arm is critical. It is an important symbol of democratic governance. The voice, will and desires of the people are reposed in their elected representatives sent to the legislature to express and distil their amorphous will into the laws and codes by which the society has agreed to live.
“In the context of a constitutional democracy such as ours, the legislature’s authority stems, in effect, from the recognition that it is the authentic mouthpiece of the people, entrusted with the responsibility of representing their collective will and the power to interpret and mould it into the laws of the land. It is, in short, not to be toyed with as a plaything of an errant and ill-disciplined governor. Undermine the legislature and you imperil democracy and allow governance to descend into anarchy.
“Indeed, it is no coincidence that of the three arms of government, the powers of the legislature are enumerated first, in our Constitution. The legislature is the authority imbued with the power to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the federation and states. Indeed, the Constitution makes clear that a Governor’s role primarily extends to the maintenance and implementation of the laws set down for him by his state’s legislature.
“In placing himself above the legislature, deciding who gets in and who is shut out, Governor Obaseki not only places himself above our nation’s constitutional order, he places himself above the people of Edo State whose representatives he so brazenly tramples upon. One can only wonder, given the desperation with which he has acted and his belligerent refusal to honour the free choice of the people of his own state, what mortal offence the majority members he has shut out have committed to warrant such treatment.
“Although Governor Obaseki’s conduct in the past year is undoubtedly impeachable, these legislators have made no threat to impeach the Governor. Their only desire is to peacefully perform the duties asked of them by the constituents who elected them. What, then, is their offence? By all appearances, the Governor is punishing these legislators for their loyalty to a party that is no longer his own. If every governor behaves as he, obstructing the performance of any legislator who does not pledge to him their undying fealty, the entire edifice of democratic governance in Nigeria would grind to a complete halt.
“In his campaign for re-election, Governor Obaseki promises to represent and defend the interests of all the people of his state. Yet, so blinded is he by his personal ambition, he sees no irony in the fact that his actions have denied two-thirds of the people of his state their right to representation in the state’s only legislative chamber.
“Governor Obaseki must think the people of his state to be as foolhardy and ignorant as he, for even as he courts their votes, he continues to make a mockery of the institution of democracy in his own House of Assembly. If Governor Obaseki believes the people are not aware of this inherent irony, he will undoubtedly learn the cost of this grave miscalculation in the fullness of time.
“The rule of law and preservation of democracy is too important to sacrifice at the altar of any one man’s ambition. Governor Obaseki’s woeful leadership of Edo State will hopefully be brought to an end soon by the very people whose rights he has so carelessly trampled upon. One can only hope that the damage he is doing to the most important of the state’s democratic institutions can just as easily be repaired.”