BY KOLADE LAREWAJU
In Ogun State, the Legislative Arm had always had a good rapport with the executive arm but for the last legislature, which was for the better part of two years at daggers drawn with then Governor Olugbenga Daniel, who not only ensured that the House was locked but also allegedly annihilated that arm of government.
At the inception of democracy in 1999, the ruling party Alliance for Democracy (AD) dominated the House with 20 members with Mr. Muyiwa Oladipo as Speaker while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) shared the rest. Although the House was always quick to say its mind and support programmes they believed in, the camaraderie in the House and with then Governor Olusegun Osoba did not suggest that they were from different parties as due respect was given to each member and his party.
However towards the end of their tenure, two AD representatives from Ifo Local Government Area- Dapo Adeyemi and Sikirulai Ogundele, defected into the PDP and were suspended. In fact there was the incident of one of them, Ogundele, breaking the pot of some fetish objects on the floor of the House. Before closing the House in 2003, their suspension was lifted while Ogundele went on to win his seat on the banner of the PDP, his new party.
Following the ‘capture’ of the South-West in the 2003 election, the PDP not only won the governorship but also swept all the House of Assembly seats but for that of Ogun Waterside Local Government Area, which was won by the AD.
With Chief Mrs. Titi Oseni as speaker, the AD member who was refused Minority Leadership position, subsequently defected to the PDP and from then it was a field day for the ruling party without any word of opposition from the House. The House was in fact a rubber stamp.
Governor Daniel had a field day until some members in the House started grumbling about how bad things had become. The situation persisted till the end of their tenure in 2007.
Some of those believed to be the grumbling were not given party tickets in the 2007 polls. While a few of them sort other political posts such as local government chairmanship, special advisers and special assistants, other folded their arms.
The rubber stamp nature of the Assembly continued until Thursday May 16 when some Turks decided to change the situation. Leading the pack were the likes of Mrs. Adijat Oladapo, Mr. Leye Odunjo and Tunji Egbetokun. The sitting of the House that day removed the Speaker and his Deputy bringing in Speaker Tunji Egbetokun and Remi Hazzan as his Deputy.
The new leadership was one with verve and some dynamic intellectualism. It was a new dawn for the House as it was able to look at the Executive in the eyes and said, “no more” to its garrison like operation.
Though it started slowly, some members of the House apart from the leadership, which included Adijat Oladapo, Dr. Tokunbo Oshin, Leye Odunjo and a couple of others became a thorn in the flesh of the Daniel administration. Soon it was public knowledge that the Executive was merely doling out whatever funds it felt the House required to it.
Its capital vote was been spent for it while the running cost fell short of what was contained in the budget. Speaker Egbetokun said, “no more,” adding that the interest of the people should be the bedrock of government’s performance. And the House was set for a showdown with the executive.
Apparently exasperated and at its wits end, the Daniel administration allegedly caused a naked photograph of one of the lawmakers, Olawale Hassan Alausa representing Ijebu_Ode Constituency to be published on the front page of a National Newspaper (not Vanguard). Alausa is the son of a Senatorial Chairman of the ruling PDP, Alhaji Agboola Alausa.
The shit then really hit the fan as members were not just irked but incensed that such a thing could be done to one of them. They felt that it was the worst debasement that could be done to a fellow human being especially somebody in government and from the same party too. The members found out that the Daniel administration had no rules of engagement. It was the worst period in the lives of members of the House. As such, the legislators were divided into two: a Group of 15 led by Speaker Tunji Egbetokun and Group of 11 under the leadership of former Speaker Titi Oseni and later Soyemi Coker.
The war raged leading to the allegation of an attempt on the life of Speaker Egbetokun by the Chief of Staff to Governor Daniel, Chief Yomi Majekodunmi. Plans by Governor Daniel to obtain a N50 billion bond, which eventually rose to N100 billion, was scuttled. The House through Resolution 167 barring all Financial Institutions from extending loans to the State Government soon followed. The House went on to set standards making things difficult for the administration, which hitherto easily had its way.
Gradually, the situation degenerated to an extent that the House had to adjourn sine die, citing insufficient funding for its operation as the Executive was said to have refused to release money adequately for its operation.
But on Monday Septembe 6, eight legislators stormed the House with what has now been found out to be a fake mace and announced the removal of Egbetokun and installed Soyemi Coker as Speaker and Ayo Odugbesan as his Deputy. The “new House” then went ahead to grant approval for so many things including the N100 billion bond. The Group of 11 lawmakers led by Coker then began to sit at the Valley View Auditorium of the Government House. Governor Olugbenga Daniel heaved a sigh of relief when the Presidency was said to have ordered the closure of the House. He subsequently had field day.
Respite did not come to the legislature until the 2011 election which flushed out the PDP and his newly formed Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN). With the swearing in of Governor Ibikunle Amosun, he brought some sanity into the whole issue and allowed the House to sit to wind up since the House was actually inaugurated on June 7, 2007. It was then that the Egbetokun-led House could enter the premises leading to drumming and dancing by members of staff, who had been away from their offices since September. The House then took some far reaching decisions, which nullified some of the things the nine- man gang had approved for Daniel.
The new House of Assembly, which after its inauguration, elected Mr. Suraj Adekanmbi as Speaker is expected to be a better one as the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has 17 members, the PDP; six and the PPN one.
The House because of the mix is expected to have robust debates and ensure that the best is achieved for Ogun people. This is more reinforced because of the fact that within the House there are no fewer than five ranking members including the former Deputy Speaker, Remi Hazzan and the amazon – Adijat Oladapo as members while a former Local Government Chairman, Chief John Obafemi is the Minority Whip and another ranking member, Salmon Adeleke as the Minority Leader.
Residents of the state are optimistic that it would be a new dawn for the state in terms of legislation and administration of the state.