By Gbenga Ariyibi
In Ekiti Assembly, no party forms the majority— there are 26 members from the two popular political parties: The ruling Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, with equal numbers in the House. Each party had 13 members each, until recently when ACN lost one of its members following the death of Hon. Saliu Adeoti, the immediate Deputy Speaker of the House.
As a result of the unique outlook, members of the Assembly are said to be back in the trenchies relating like cat and mouse. A similar situation played out for a better part of the period when Mr Segun Oni was in charge of the state affairs.
THE old rivalry among the two political parties represented in the Ekiti House of Assembly is being rekindled as some members are insisting that the House Standing Order which makes it mandatory that the ruling party shall produce the speaker be obeyed to the letter.
The composition of the current House of Assembly is unique in the Federation. In Ekiti Assembly, no party forms the majority— there are 26 members from the two popular political parties: The ruling Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had equal numbers in the House, that is 13 members each, until recently when ACN lost one of its members following the untimely death of Hon. Saliu Adeoti, immediate Deputy Speaker of the House.
As a result of its unique outlook, members of the Assembly are said to be back in the trenchies relating like cat and mouse. And this is akin to the situation that prevailed for a better part of the period when Mr. Segun Oni was in charge of the state affairs
Giving credence to not too rosy relations and which party should produce the speakership and other principal functionaries of the Assembly, the lawmakers threw decency to the wind on June 5, 2007 during the inauguration of the House. They physically engaged each other in a free-for-all, even in the presence of the former Governor, Engr Segun Oni, who quickly rounded off his inaugural speech and left the House.
Due to the rancorous situation witnessed in the House during its inauguration, the following day, all the 13 PDP lawmakers regrouped and stormed the House again to elect Mr. Femi Bamisile as Speaker while Mr. Adebayo Morakinyo emerged as Deputy Speaker. For about two months, AC members stayed away from the House and refused to recognize the leadership of the assembly.
The AC lawmakers decided to take legal action by dragging the House and the PDP lawmakers to court. They challenged provisions of the House Standing Order which, among other things, states that the ruling party would provide the Speaker of the House and other principal functionaries. The court in its judgment turned in its verdict in favour of the ACN lawmakers, declaring provisions of the House Standing Order as null and void.
It held that the provision of the House Standing Order cannot go against the provisions of the country’s constitution. The court further declared that any elected member of the House could emerge its leader or the speaker.
After considerable bickering and with the intervention of some notable traditional rulers and other stakeholders, the lawmakers decided to make truce with their colleagues but not without a ‘sacrifice.’
Morakinyo was dropped as Deputy Speaker while late Adeoti replaced him, while Mr. Funminiyi Afuye was made AC Leader in the House and Mr. Lai Oke, a PDP member in the House, became Leader of Government Business.
However, with the emergence of the new Governor, Dr. Fayemi, one of the PDP caucuses in the Assembly and a principal functionary of the House, Mr. Oke stirred the hornet’s net during a press briefing organised by the lawmakers at the PDP secretariat on Monday, November 1, 2010. Oke said the PDP would still produce the speaker of the present crop of the lawmakers in the state House of Assembly because, according to him, the House Standing Order which had made provision that the ruling party shall produce the Speaker had been declared null and void by the court.
The lawmaker in an interview with Vanguard said: “The person who becomes the Speaker is not the position of our party but the position of law. When we came in, we met a standing order that says the party in power shall produce the Speaker and Deputy Speaker that led to the problem on the day of the inauguration. Our brothers in ACN then decided to go to court to challenge the provisions of the House Standing Order. They argued that the provisions of the Standing Order was against the provisions of the constitution.
“We the PDP members did not appeal the judgment and I learnt that if a judgment of the court is not challenged within three months that the said judgment becomes the law, so as at now that is the law.
“Nobody is saying they cannot produce the Speaker, if they can have two-third majority in the House why not. But it is not the birth right of any political party to produce a Speaker.”
But the arrow-head of the ACN in the House and leader of ACN in the Assembly, Mr. Funminiyi Afuye, has refused to be dragged into controversy on who becomes the next Speaker, saying the issue would be trashed out at the appropriate time.
He said: “Any comment made by me at this time may be regarded as premature and it would affect the person of Mr. Odeyemi, the Speaker, and I don’t want to offend him. ‘Therefore, by the time we get to the bridge, we will know how to cross it.”
In his reaction, chairman of the ACN in Ekiti State, Chief Jide Awe, appeared indifferent to the whole drama on whether or not his party should produce the Speaker of the House of Assembly.
He said, however, that what the PDP government did in the first instance when it insisted that the government in power should produce the Speaker was an aberration, noting that it was time people measured those to occupy responsible positions by integrity, industry, competence and character, rather than basing it on sentiment or party affiliation.
Awe said if the present Speaker of the state Assembly possessed all these attributes, he should be left alone to continue his good job, adding that the AC wants the best for the state. His words: “The House Standing Order had made provision that the ruling party shall produce the speaker. What the PDP government did in the first instance was an aberration and I think the people who are to occupy responsible positions are to be judged by their personal integrity, industry, competence and character
If the present Speaker, Mr. Tunji Odeyemi, possesses these attributes, why can’t we leave him alone to continue to do his good job.
‘’It is time we stopped giving credit to mediocre, we should start from somewhere in this country and if we start such a good revolution in this country from Ekiti, then it is better for this country. We want the best for our state and by extension for this country.”
On whether the same principle would be adopted on the position of Leader of Government Business which is presently occupied by Mr. Lai Oke, a PDP member representing Ijero Constituency II in the state House of Assembly, Awe, said the issue of competence and integrity would still come to play, adding that anybody who occupied the position would definitely be sponsoring Government bills and not his private bills.
He said: ‘’I am sure the Leader of Government Business in the House would be doing government business by way of sponsoring government bills and other things, definitely he would not be sponsoring his private bills.
If such a person is doing what is expected of his office, why do we have to worry ourselves, but if such a person is doing something contrary, definitely his colleagues would discipline him.
‘’People have jettisoned competence with mediocrity. Imagine what is even happening in the National Assembly where people like Mamoras, Gbajabiamilas who had been speakers at one time or the other in Lagos State House of Assembly are not being given their dues and honour in the National Assembly. Let’s start somewhere, may be it would work or not in Ekiti.”
Political pundits in the state have, however, expressed reservation about Awe’s comment. Some of them said it might be a pay back time for the speaker, Mr. Odeyemi, because of the supportive role he played for the ACN members in the state when he was the acting Governor of the state.
Odeyemi, contrary to the expectation of his party-men refused to ‘’play ball ‘’ with them as he was said to have maintained his neutrality throughout the time he was the acting governor to the extent that he was maligned and called a lot of unprintable names by the same party-men. Others said that Awe was merely playing politics with Odeyemi.
But whatever happens, decisions about who becomes the speaker would finally be taken any time the lawmakers settle down to reasonable business of the House which has not happened since Fayemi came on board.