The recent news that Adams Oshiomhole, the Edo State Governor, and Mohammed Bello Adoke, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, verbally assaulted each other at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, may have come as a big surprise. A hot argument had ensued between both public officials when they met at the State House for the Council of State meeting on the recent Presidential pardon granted to some VIP ex-convicts. The bone of contention was the shoddy handling of the investigation of the murder of Olaitan Oyerinde, Oshiomhole’s Private Secretary. It almost got out of hand but for the quick intervention of those who witnessed the ugly scene.
Trouble reportedly started when the AGF told the governor that Oyerinde’s matter should not have been referred to his office as it was a state matter. Oshiomhole said he was enraged because the AGF seemed not to have respect for his office. According to him, Adoke should have directed his anger at the Deputy Inspector General of Police that referred the case to the federal level.
Oshiomhole said: “And I asked him who should know better? If the Deputy Inspector General of Police refers a matter that he ought to have referred to the state to the federal Attorney General, who is the one dragging him into the matter? Who is the one politicizing the matter? And I said if he has any complaint he should complain to the DIG who referred the case to him.”
Oshiomhole was not done yet: “The point is that you know some of these guys. I am a Governor. I am elected. A minister is appointed. He has to respect my office even if he doesn’t respect my person…We also complained that this matter ought to have been referred to Edo State DPP not federal because it is a state offence, committed in Edo State. I am doing my best to raise the issue because that is the least I owe someone who gave his life. And someone else who doesn’t think life is important is attacking me. For him, it is a matter to trivialize and to joke about.”
‘It is just as important that all Nigerians, and not only Oshiomhole, strive to get to the root of Oyerinde’s murder without making real and imaginary enemies at every turn and bus stop’
When he was cornered by journalists on his way out of the Villa after the meeting, all Adoke could say was that he had no reason not to accord due respect to a sitting Governor like Oshiomhole. He said, “I will not disregard his office. He is my personal friend. I have the highest respect for him. He is a Governor of this country but I will not join issues with him. I did not trivialize his office and I have no reason to trivialize his office.”
Ever since the news broke out, I have watched the video clips of the altercation several times. It is very shameful to say the least. When one considers that such a thing could happen right inside the Executive Chamber of the Presidential Villa where important decisions that could make or break this great country are taken, then it becomes an abomination altogether. During those fleeting moments the altercation lasted, it was as if the sanctity of the chamber was desecrated.
In the first place, there was no reason for such an altercation to have occurred. If, as the governor rightly said, the AGF walked up to him where he was seated and said that the Edo State AG should have known what to do when the Police referred the murder file to the AGF for advice, Adoke could have done this on a lighter mood, not jokingly as the governor claimed. By this, the AGF’s action could be interpreted to mean that he only wanted to open a window of opportunity to explain certain things to the governor.
Perhaps, the AGF thought that he could put the governor on the same page with him and shed light on the Oyerinde’s issue as a way of breaking the logjam in which the case is now enmeshed. It thus appears as if, rather than be calm and allow the AGF to unfold his real intention to him, the governor suddenly grew impatient and blew up the whole thing. I am sure that Adoke could not have been joking with such a sad, sensitive and controversial issue.
When Oshiomhole took the Police to task in Abuja recently over the shoddy manner the investigation into Oyerinde’s murder has been carried out, this column celebrated the governor for his doggedness in the pursuit of justice for his slain personal secretary. However, this latest show by the governor looks more like the product of uncontrolled temperament, which cannot be excused. Therefore, my take on this avoidable altercation is that, in as much as the AGF publicly said he had “no reason not to accord due respect to a sitting governor like Oshiomhole” and that “he will not join issues with him”, the governor should have reciprocated his gesture in a more cordial manner. As they say, “respect begets respect”. If a governor can ‘vibrate’ on or holler at a sitting AGF like Oshiomhole did, how will he treat those who are genuflecting before him in Benin City?
The governor said while he was elected, the AG was appointed and so what? Who cares? The governor has a duty to perform just like the AG also has a duty, nay, a daunting task to perform as well. The issue of trying to accord one more importance than the other does not arise. Both are very sensitive and important positions. Perhaps, if you engage lawyers on this issue, they might want to say that the position of a federal attorney-general carries more responsibility than that of a governor, but that is not the intention of this piece. What this piece is all about is to point out the fact that the governor may have over-dramatised his pent-up anger against the AGF. That was why he may have scuttled the AG’s good intention.
I think the governor should have been patient enough to allow the AGF conclude his speech when he approached him. I do not believe that the AGF was out to trivialise the case of Oyerinde. He was probably trying to look at the issue from a lighter mood which the governor resented and it blew up in his face.
After the entire scenario had died down, Adoke refused to be ‘tricked’ by anxious journalists who had expected him to fume like the governor did. He simply maintained that the governor was a “personal friend” and that he had the highest respect for him. I doff my hat for him for that. But if it is true that Oshiomhole is, indeed, Adoke’s friend, then it means, perhaps, that the governor could have possibly woken up from the wrong side of the bed on that fateful day and that accounted for his sudden burst of anger.
A lot of things are happening in the polity these days such that can work up many a chief executive of a state. Administering a state as tempestuous and volatile as Edo State might not be a tea party after all. So many issues are in contention for attention. The civil servants are at war over the appointment of someone out of the civil service as a permanent secretary. The governor had recently turned down the request of the Minister of Information to open the State’s vault for the purpose of hosting the jamboree called “good governance tour”. Many other issues like that could be a positive source of migraine for a governor.
It is quite shameful that even at the position of a governor, justice is still elusive in this case. That goes to show the level of rot in our Justice system in this country. And Adoke alone cannot be held responsible for that. It is just as important that all Nigerians, and not only Oshiomhole, should strive to get to the root of Oyerinde’s murder without making real and imaginary enemies at every turn and bus stop.
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