By Dayo Johnson
TO many political observers, the impeachment of the 75-year-old former deputy governor of Ondo State, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, by the state House of Assembly two years ago was justified. Reason was that he defected to the then opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, two weeks before the 2015 general elections after falling out with the governor thereby putting the party in disarray.
Olanusi had been deputy to the former governor since 2009. He was to be dropped during the second term in office due to old age but former governor Olusegun Mimiko, stood his ground saying; “The devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know.” It was like the case of Brutus knifing Caesar from the back. And to the generality of members of the then ruling PDP in the state, Jasper, as he is fondly called by his political admirers, should be severely dealt with to serve as precedent to “betrayals” like him.
His defection, being a politician of repute who had served as a member of the House of Representatives in 1992, shook the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the state to its foundation. Infact that was the second incident within the eight year rule of the immediate past administration that caught Mimiko napping and dwarfed him politically. The first being the defection from the the Labour Party, LP, by its foundation chairman in the state, the late former Education Minister, Chief Olaiya Oni, to the Peoples Democratic Party.
When the former deputy governor defected to the APC, the governor confirmed that he was actually caught napping. Mimiko was busy crisis crossing the states in the south-west selling the gospel of the need for the National conference to garner votes for the second term ambition of the former President Goodluck Jonathan while he left his own house unguarded and porous. He believed that his deputy was watching his back while he was away.
By the time the governor knew what hit him, his former deputy had knifed him at the back by pitching his tent with the then opposition party. He was said to have taken the action going by his alleged “maltreatment” by the governor sequel to some irreconcilable differences between them. In a jiffy, all machineries were put in place by the loyalists of the governor to pay Olanusi back in his coins. He was subsequently impeached by the state House of Assembly who were in a hurry to fight the cause of their master. Whether they were instigated by their master or not is another kettle of fish. However, Olanusi was persecuted for being treacherous and he had no sympathizers even within the State Executive Council.
Compensation by APC: To compensate for his action, the APC chieftains in Lagos gave him security personnel with a good number of exotic vehicles to cruise around. He was equally appointed as a member of the APC board of trustee to keep him busy but the board hardly sat because of the crisis in the party. Acting under duress from the State House of Assembly in April 2015 impeached Olanusi based on the recommendation of the panel presided over by Mr. Olaniyi Stanley Olaniyan. Olaniyan had recommended him for impeachment for defecting from the then ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, to the All Progressives Congress, APC, and for some alleged misdemeanour.
Impeachment suit thrown out: But dissatisfied with decision of the majority members of the House of Assembly, Olanusi, through his counsel, Chief Adeniyi Akintola, SAN, filed a suit challenging the impeachment. But in his ruling, Justice Williams Olamide who presided over the case threw out the suit on the grounds that it was initiated through writ of summons instead of an originating summons. However, Olanusi challenged the verdict of the lower court and asked the appeal court to upturn the decision of the State High Court.
Appeal succeeds: However, two years after he was impeached by the Ondo State House of Assembly as the Deputy Governor, the Court of Appeal sitting in Akure, has annulled his impeachment. In his ground of appeal, the former Deputy Governor formulated one ground of appeal which stated that the lower court erred in law by not holding that the Appellant’s suit ought not to have commenced by way of originating summons. In the brief of argument, Olanusi said there were no facts in dispute that could warrant the suit to be inappropriate for originating summons.
He said the trial court was in grave error to have in effect unilaterally converted the appellant’s originating summons filed before it into a writ of summons and in ordering parties to file pleadings when obviously there is no dispute as to envisaged by the provision of section 188 (2)(b) and 188 (3) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended which justified the ruling of the lower court.
Olanusi said there was no way the impeachment proceedings could have followed due process because all the processes for the impeachment was carried out in a day despite the fact that the allegations against the erstwhile deputy governor were criminal in nature. But in his reply, the counsel to the defendants said there was dispute to warrant the commencement of the suit through originating summons.
On the fate of Alhaji Lasisi Oluboyo who was the deputy governor after the purported impeachment, the Appellate court said since he was not party to the suit at lower court and was not joined in the proceedings, there cannot be order that can be given to the legality or otherwise of his tenure. The appellate court also chided the lower court for not applying the law but dancing around it and described him as unfit for the position of a judge. The three-man panel led by Justice Mohammed Danjuma JCA said since the tenure of Olanusi has expired on February 24 and could no longer return to office, the remedies that can be given to him is for all his salaries and entitlements since the date he was purportedly impeached to be paid to him.
In upholding the appeal, the Justices said the appellant was not given a fair hearing before the impeachment was carried out as he was not personally served with with the impeachment proceedings contrary to the provisions of Section 188 (1and 2) of the 1999 constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria. In dismissing the objection of the defendants, including the Speaker, Olaniyan and Clerk of the Assembly, Justice Danjuma said: “The hurried manner of the impeachment showed that the right of fair hearing of the appellant was reached. Failure to serve the Notice of hearing and charges on the appellant is a breach on his right to fair hearing.”
I forgive all – Olanusi
Reacting to the court verdict Olanusi said he held no grudges against those behind his travails. This is coming as the governor of the state Rotimi Akeredolu SAN hailed the victory saying it was great for democracy. The former deputy governor said his vindication was not by his cleverness, but by God’s work.
“There is no cause for revenge. I am a Musilm to the core, so if God didn’t want all this to happen, it wouldn’t have. The injustice of it all has been exposed to the people of Ondo State and may God reward all accordingly,” he said.
Olanusi also praised the Nigerian judicial system for improvements in granting true justice to anyone who sought it. “I also thank the people of Ondo State who stood behind me in the period of my travails and didn’t lose hope,” he said.
Governor Akeredolu who also reacted lauded the verdict in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, CPS, Segun Ajiboye. Ajiboye quoted the governor as saying “the 79-page judgment delivered by Justice Muhammed Danjuma was well deserved, a triumph for democracy and light over darkness.” The governor also said that the judgment would discourage political leaders from arbitrary actions and decisions and ensure that the tenets of democracy were promoted. He added that “this judgment confirmed that Alhaji Ali Olanusi was maltreated, abused and humiliated by the crop of lawmakers who planned and executed the illegal impeachment.
“In the judgment on Friday, Justice Muhammed Danjuma said Olanusi’s impeachment did not follow due process because he was not personally served the originating summons. “He was also denied presentation before an panel set up to investigate the alleged gross misconduct against him.” Akeredolu said that “the judge maintained that Olanusi remained the Deputy Governor of Ondo State from April 27, 2015, the date he was wrongly impeached by the state House of Assembly.
He said “Olanusi, will therefore remain the state’s deputy governor till Feb. 24, 2017 when the tenure of the former administration will expire.” Political observers saw the impeachment of Olanusi in 2015 as political and his vindication now that the party he defected to now holds sway not only in the state but at the center.