Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Muhammed Adoke (SAN), on Tuesday openly engaged each other in a shouting match over the manner in which the investigation and prosecution of suspects in the murder of the governor’s Principal Private Secretary, Mr. Olaitan Oyerinde, was being handled.
The confrontation arena was neither the Edo State Government House in Benin nor the minister’s office in the Maitama District in Abuja but at the Council Chamber of Presidential Villa.
The incident took place shortly before the commencement of the National Council of State’s meeting attended by President Goodluck Jonathan, Vice-President Namadi Sambo; President of the Senate, David Mark; Speaker of the House of Representatives; three former heads of state, three former Chief Justices and governors among others.
Participants at the meeting were still exchanging pleasantries when the exchange of words by Oshiomhole and Adoke caught their attention.
Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State was sighted making frantic efforts to calm down Oshiomhole, who was visibly enraged.
Uduaghan was later joined by the Chief of Staff to the President, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe, who is also from Edo State.
As Adoke was being led away from the scene of the confrontation, Oshiomhole was heard saying, “Look at this man. He has no respect.”
The governor was still visibly angry when Jonathan and three former presidents arrived to signal the commencement of the meeting.
The drama however played out when Mark, Tambuwwal and the former CJNs – Justice Dahiru Musdapher, Justice Alfa Belgore and Justice Idris Kutigi – were already seated.
Trouble started when Adoke approached Oshiomhole and wondered why the governor’s Attorney-General misled him when he knew that Oyerinde’s case was a state matter.
Angered by Adoke’s submission, Oshiomhole asked whether his state owns the Nigeria Police Force.
The atmosphere became charged as they exchanged words, vowing that they could not be intimidated.
Oshiomhole accused Adoke of showing disrespect and added that he was not afraid of the minister.
Sensing that the altercation might further degenerate, a protocol officer quickly alerted Oghiadomhe, who alongside Uduaghan and another aide of the President succeeded in calming down the feuding public officials.
Oshiomhole later told State House correspondents that he was angry because Adoke was trivialising a murder case that he (the governor) was committed to unravelling.
He said if the AGF could not respect him as an individual, he should respect the office he occupies because he was duly elected.
The governor said, “Here I am, my Private Secretary was killed and nobody seems to bother. I am doing my best to raise the issue because that is the least I owe to someone who lost his life while serving me, and someone else does not think life is important. For him it(Oyerinde’s killing) is a matter to trivalise and joke about.
“When it comes to death, I don’t joke, you don’t joke with life and death. The essence of governance is to protect lives and property, that is fundamental, even in poverty, people need to feel safe and secure.
“Nobody has a right under our constitution to take the life of another, except if it has been confirmed by a court of competent jurisdiction. I was surprised that for the Attorney-General, it is something he can afford to joke with, telling me that my Attorney- General didn’t know what to do.”
Oshiomhole said Adoke was wrong to question the competence of his Attorney-General when the case was referred to him by a Deputy Inspector-General of Police.
“The issue is that he was saying my Attorney- General should have known what to do, that he has nothing to do with the matter and I simply asked him who referred the matter to him. Was it my Attorney- General?
“The matter was referred to him by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police and I asked him who should know better? If the Deputy Inspector-General of Police referred a matter that he ought to have referred to the state, and referred it to the Federal Attorney-General, who is the one dragging him into the matter, who is the one politicising the matter?
“Should we assume that the DIG did not know that offence of murder is a state offence? and if he knows it is a state offence, why did he refer it to the federal Attorney-General?
“If he has any complaints, he should complain to the DIG, who referred the case to him. The rest you witnessed.
“The point is that some of these guys don’t realise, that as governors we were elected. He has to respect my office even if he doesn’t respect my person.
“In any event, we are dealing with factual issues. If a case was wrongfully referred to the federal Attorney-General by the Nigeria Police, who is to blame?
“In any event, we also complained that this matter ought to have been referred to the Edo State DPP not federal, because it is a state offence committed in Edo State.
“It is like the case of a he-goat, when the family is happy, they sacrifice the he-goat to celebrate, when the child is sick, the native doctor says sacrifice a he-goat so that the child will be well, so heads or tails, the he goat is in trouble,” the governor explained.
In handling the case, Oshiomhole warned public office holders to remember that power is transient.
He added, “I always say to people that today all of us are in power, tomorrow none of us will be in power. If we leave Nigeria worse off, we will wallow in a hopeless situation. If we build it and make it safe, we will walk in freedom, but let us all know that of all of us today, our next position is ex-this and ex-that. I am always conscious of that.
“And therefore, let that guide our conscience and the action that we take and the one that we abstain from taking. Left to me, the issue of the death of any Nigerian and in particular someone who has worked with me is not something I can compromise; those who think they can compromise, we leave them in the hands of God.” .
Adoke, on his part, told State House correspondents that the governor was at liberty to say whatever he wanted.
He however said he would accord Oshiomhole’s office the highest respect and would not join issues with the governor.
“I will not disregard his office, he is my personal friend; I have the highest respect for him. He is a governor in this country but I will not join issues with him. I did not trivialise his office and I have no reason to trivialise his office. He is at liberty as a governor to say whatever he wants to say but I will accord his office the highest respect and I will not join issues with him,” the minister said.