MEMBER-ELECT of Edo State House of Assembly representing Owan East Constituency, Hon Eric Okaka, yesterday, narrated how he and three others were kidnapped and forced at gunpoint to the House of Assembly for what he described as “illegal inauguration” on June 17.
Okaka, who spoke exclusively to Vanguard, debunked media report that the lawmakers were currently 12-12 on both sides, saying: We are 14 lawmakers on the side of those opposed to the illegality in the state and they are 10 on the other.”
We didn’t force members for inauguration – Govt
However, the state government has denied that any member-elect was forced to be inaugurated, insisting that the only role that Governor Godwin Obaseki played was to issue the proclamation letter.
Reacting to Okaka’s claims, the Special Adviser Media and Communication Strategy to Governor Obaseki, Crusoe Osagie, denied that lawmakers were forced to the Government House and then to the House of Assembly for inauguration.
He said: “Those are completely false allegations. We have said for the umpteenth time that the role of the executive arm in inauguration began and ended with issuance of proclamation letter. After the proclamation letter was issued to the Clerk of the House of Assembly, the role of the governor and the executive arm of the government ended there.
‘’The inauguration process is handled by the House of Assembly, which is a completely independent arm of government from the executive. So, if anybody is making any allegation, it is probably for their own political benefits. It has nothing whatsoever to with us, it has no basis in truth that the people who were inaugurated had anything to do with the Government House. The inauguration was widely publicized in the media. It was done in the chambers of the House of Assembly. The chambers of the House of Assembly is easy for anybody to know. These allegations are baseless. Let these people who are making these allegations come out and face the media and publicly say these things instead of releasing press statement allegations. These things are being concocted.”
They forced four of us
Okaka Said: “What happened on June 17 was those of us agitating that the lifespan of the Sixth Assembly had expired addressed a press conference, calling for inauguration of the new House.
“19 of us addressed the press. The governor’s group has only five members from the beginning. Immediately after the press conference, my leader, Abdual Ganiyu Lawani, aka Abu Millionaire, called and asked me where I was. I told him I was at the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Press Centre. We had attended a meeting the previous day and he told me he was going to Lagos, the following day.
“Therefore, when he called me, I thought he was already in Lagos but he he said he was in his hotel room and I asked him if he did not go again. He said no, that there was something urgent and I should come. Because I respect him and I am loyal to him, I drove to his hotel room. Some of my colleagues were still leaving the NUJ press centre at the time. I got there, he told me he was invited to Government House, they told him that they were disappointed in him, that he could not bring his own representative and that he was not sincere with them. He said a lot of things.
“And I told him that if they were telling you that, you would have asked the Deputy Governor, there are four House of Assembly members-elect from Etsako, who he (deputy governor) brought. He does not have one. He said no, you know the battle we fought, that he was really there for us.
“I told him okay, would you want me to go there and tell him that you wanted me to come to their side, but it is me that is saying no because of my principle and what is on ground I cannot belong to the group. I do not see how after spending four years in the House, I will not have any constituency project to show because they have said that there will be no more constituency project. What will I now tell my people I went to do in the House? Clearly, I cannot subscribe to them imposing a Speaker that will be a lackey of the executive.
“We agreed that we should go so that I will speak my mind there. My leader did not drive, I drove. One of my other leaders, General, joined and three of us drove to the Deputy Governor’s house and when we got there, as soon as the deputy governor saw me, he said eh, Okaka, what is happening again?
“I told him nothing was happening, he said he saw me in the press conference, I replied that we addressed the press for everybody to prevail on you people to inaugurate us, that we are ready to work.
“He said now that I was there, they were going to write a retraction to what transpired at the press conference and I will sign it. I told him no. He said he was coming and left. Abu Millonaire and General were pressuring me to sign and I told them that I cannot do that.
“Later, the deputy governor came in and said we should go to the main sitting room, we sat down. But I had to go to my car to bring my power bank. As soon as I stepped down and was about opening my car, two policemen came and blocked me. I challenged them that it is my car, they said they knew, but asked where I was going.
“I became really suspicious and wondering what was happening. But because I came with my leaders, I drove them down, I did not want to leave them. I told them that I came to collect my power bank. They said okay, okay. I collected it and went back to the house. When I went back to the house. Not long after, they brought another member-elect out of the 19 of us, Uyi, representing Oredo. I asked Uyi what happened, he said he did not understand what was happening.
‘The next moment, they brought in another member of our group too, he even came in knickers and I asked him what was happening, he said he did not want to die, that some people double-crossed him and cornered him to the place.
“I was shocked when they brought in the fourth person, so we knew that out of 19, they were able to abduct four to join their own five. Before we know it, the deputy governor said we want to discuss at the dining table, that everybody should drop his phone, they seized our phones. He said well, that they just want us to give them support.
“My mind did not go that they were going to inaugurate the House. He continued, saying what we are going for, as soon as we come back, it is N5 million for each of you. He said whether anybody had anything to say, I raised my hand and said that I will not do anything that is against my conscience and I am not collecting any kobo from anybody.
“I am a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God; I will be the last person to collect money from somebody to do what is against my conscience. He said said no, leave that your pastor thing aside.
“The next thing, they marched us at gunpoint to a waiting bus outside, pushed us into the bus, drove straight to Edo State House of Assembly. They opened the place and marched us inside and when they saw that what I was wearing was not looking that good because they know that camera will capture some of those things, I just saw a Department of State Services, DSS, operative, pull his suit and put it on me, I said no, he said I should shut up and he forced the suit on me.
“He forced another suit on the man wearing knickers, he was now wearing suit on top of knickers. He made us to sit down. I was shocked when the key actors were shouting that if anybody misbehaved, they would take the person down, that was when it dawned on me that they were out for a very deadly mission.
“Therefore, I had to just maintain, we did it and when we got back to his House, I demanded for my phone. He said the money, I said I am not collecting money from anybody, I met my leaders, who were still there and I said let us go.
“I felt pity for myself. How will my colleagues see me because I have always been a voice in the group. But I said well, the truth will be out and when they hear what really happened, they will free me. I also felt there was need for me to go back and explain to them exactly what happened.
“So, I went back to Golden Tulip hotel, when I got there, I met two of the four of us that were kidnapped, already there. I was now the third person, but before I got there, they had already videoed the two of them and they played the video to me.
Therefore, to show that I have not dumped my group, I had to give my account of what happened. The other two are not lawyers like me, so I touched all the issues the way it transpired. I stated clearly that I was not part of the illegal inauguration and I made it very clear that anything that comes in the night must also go with the night.
On the claim that lawmakers were 12 on both sides, he said, “It is not 12-12, we are 14 intact. By their report, they are counting me and Uyi as having been inaugurated and we have denied any inauguration. So, I and Uyi representing Oredo are part of this group. We are 14 here now, on their side, they have 10.