Ex-Speaker, Others Swam In Moral, Financial Corruption – Edo Lawmaker, Iyoha
● The member representing Oredo East in the Edo State House of Assembly and former House Committee Chairman on Housing, Commerce and Industry, Mr. Osaigbovo Iyoha, speaks on the recent free-for-all in the House and the dramatic removal of the Speaker, Justin Okonoboh, in this interview with ALEXANDER OKERE.
Q. Why did the House impeach its Speaker less than 13 months after he was unanimously sworn in?
A. Well, 16 members initially and 19 members eventually signed an impeachment notice on the ex-Speaker, deputy speaker and the majority leader. This was occasioned by legislative lawlessness and there were issues of corruption that we had discovered prior to that day (Monday) and since the inception of the reign of these principal officers. We also felt that at a time when we had a focused governor that was very desirous to work for the people of Edo State with all his energy, we did not want a House that would impede the good work that the governor had already started; the governor is a transparent person. He abhors corruption and he does not want to have any stain on his name. From the way he (governor) had conducted himself before now, we know his pedigree.
So, we had to make sure that we would not have a tainted leadership of the House or one that would try to taint his good work and reputation.
Q.Are there clear instances of corrupt practices against the ex-Speaker?
Yes, there were serious issues of corruption. But the specifics are not what should be made public now because as we speak, there is a three-man committee, that has already been set up to look into all the allegations. It was given three weeks to submit its report. We have seen the books and we know what has happened. When you see an overwhelming number of lawmakers appending their signatures (to go ahead with the impeachment process), then it means there are concrete proofs.
Q. But the impeached Speaker has described his removal as illegal. How do you react to that?
A. It is funny that he came up with that spurious allegation because he was still the Speaker when the clerk did the roll call and there were 20 members seated. A quorum of the House is one-third, which is eight. Whatever he is saying now is academic; it is a case of crying over spilt milk. He sat down quietly and the member representing Akoko-Edo II Constituency read out the (impeachment) notice. He (ex-Speaker) has freedom of speech but he knows that the process was flawless. However, events have taken over that because he later addressed us and told us categorically that if 19 members of the House could say that they did not want him, it meant that there was a vote of no confidence.
Q. What about the suspension he placed on the new Speaker, you and six others, which he said was in the interest of peace in the House?
A. When he was saying that, he lacked the right to suspend anybody. He was no longer the Speaker; he was even under suspension when he was talking to the public. So, how can someone that does not have office paraphernalia suspend people that are in charge? That was a figment of his imagination. It is a nullity.
Q. It was learnt that the House accused the ex-Speaker of allowing his wife to meddle with legislative matters and going about in convoy like that of the Speaker. Is there any proof of that?
A. The reasons that we gave for the change of leadership is on record. So, we could not have stated those things (allegations) from out of nowhere and then the reality would be contrary. Whatever was said formed the reasons why we had a change of leadership. We, as a 24-member House, have the right to decide who leads us. That is the beauty of democracy. It is a matter of choice. It is very simple. If the House had advised a member, who by our convention, we have allowed to lead us, it is a matter of trust. So, it was his duty not to lose the trust we put in him. And he has lost it because if the House tells you not to do some things and you proceed to do those things you were advised not to do, then you do not deserve to be in that position because we all agreed that you should occupy the position. So, if you go against our advice, you have gone against our collective wishes.
Q. Was the ex-Speaker’s impeachment related to the speculation that he allegedly deprived his colleagues of some entitlements, which led to an earlier impeachment plot in May?
A. Well, we do not dwell on speculations. I would rather not go into what happened in May. As far as I am concerned, we are talking about today. But before now, we had already expressed our displeasure with his conduct and other members of the Principal Officers Council. We had spoken to them; not once, not twice, that we should not be led that way. This is a new government. This government is different from others; it is coming at a time when the resources of the state and the country, by extension, are dwindling. So, we must be able to live according to what we produce and according to what we earn. By the time we start living beyond our means, we would only have ourselves to blame.
Q. Is it true that the executive had a hand in the impeachment?
A. The governor and his deputy could not have had anything to do with the proceedings of the House of Assembly. We are a group of adults and there are three arms of government. They (governor and his deputy) have enough headaches to deal with in the executive arms, rather than to come and meddle in the affairs of the legislature. Mind you, this legislature is not like others. The sixth assembly is full of professionals and those who have been council chairmen; so, we are not kids in politics and some of us who were politicians came in with our own mindsets. We have different definitions of success. So, the executive did not have any hand in it (impeachment).
Q. The ex-Speaker accused those behind his removal of being very ambitious and that he was impeached because of selfish interests. How do you react to that?
A. First, if that is true, is there a problem with being ambitious? Second, I want to say that we have a Bini parable that when you beat a child, you do not expect that child not to cry. So, whatever he (ex-Speaker) said after his impeachment was just a way of finding consolation. There is nothing about being ambitious. I was one of those that signed the impeachment notice. I am not the (new) Speaker; I am not the majority leader. So, where is the ambition?
Q. But is it true that you were coerced into appending your signature?
A. I was the first person that signed that document. Who could have coerced me to be the first signatory? No one! We did not like the way we were being led and we had discussed this with them several times, but they were swimming in corruption and did not want to listen to anybody. They were swimming in moral and financial corruption.
Q. With the governor from Edo South, his deputy and new Speaker from Edo North, is the House not bothered that Edo Central is left out as this has created political imbalance?
A. Well, if I say that I do not know about the political tripod, I will probably not be saying the truth. But personally, I think that Edo State House of Assembly is, first, an independent body of 24 people and we have the right to choose who our leaders are. Also, let me buttress my point with the fact that if you look at the central axis that you say is disadvantaged now, you will know that it is the area where our party, the All Progressives Congress, had a little disadvantage. If you compare it with the number of representatives, you would notice that the area had a lot of members from the Peoples Democratic Party and you cannot give leadership to the opposition. So, compared to other areas, our choices were a little bit limited. However, the House of Assembly has the right to choose its leader, tripod or no tripod.
Q. Is it true that the meeting with the governor was deadlocked because the governor asked that the status quo be maintained?
A. That is not true. Like I said before, the governor has no business with the proceedings of the House of Assembly. The only time that the governor is involved is when we forward clean copies of our bills to him for his assent. Apart from him sending us letters, the only other involvement is when we send him clean copies of our bills. He does not have a hand in the politics of the House of Assembly or who should lead it.
Q. Is the House not worried about the free-for-all in the House and its seemingly unstable leadership, having had four Speakers since it was inaugurated two years ago?
A. This is the beauty of democracy; it is democracy in action. The beauty of democracy is the ability of the people to choose who should lead them. When you have laws and someone breaks them, you sanction him. If he does it again, you sanction him again. However, this happens in every parliament. The parliament is a place where you have to sell your views and there would be people who have dissenting views. It is usually confrontational when people get emotional about it.
If you look at Monday’s fracas, you would find out that not everybody was fighting. The fight involved only about three to four persons. So, it is normal for people to disagree to agree. But at the end of the day, like they say, the minority will have their say and the majority will have their way. And that was what happened on that day.
Q. Is there a possibility that the impeachment will be reversed, with ongoing discussions with the leadership of the APC?
A. There is no discussion going on. House of Assembly matters concern members of the House and there are 24 members. If anybody tells you that there is an outsider telling us to reverse the impeachment, then that person is living in a wonderland. There is no possibility of a reversal. The new Speaker, his deputy and majority leader are doing their jobs. In another few days, the POC will be convened and everybody will be going about their jobs. If the POC members and the Speaker deem it fit, they would reconstitute the committee members.
Q. So what is the way forward to end the crisis in the House?
A. There is no crisis in the House. The former Speaker, Dr. Justin Okonoboh, has even relinquished possession of all the property of the officer – the documents, vehicles and the lodge – as of this morning (Wednesday morning), to the Clerk of the House. So, it is left for the other people (ex-principal officers) to toe that path.