By Dayo Johnson
TONGUES are wagging over the alleged “undemocratic actions” of the one month old administration of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu SAN in Ondo state.
Infact queries are raised that some development rearing it’s ugly heads shouldn’t have in a state not only governed by a member of the silk but a former national President of the Nigerian Bar Association NBA.
Although his predecessor a medical doctor, Olusegun Mimiko did similar thing on assumption of office in 2009 but Akeredolu toeing the same route of illegality is inexcusable. The governors actions within this short period showed that he is biting more than he can chew.
Aketi has he is fondly called is fighting many battles frontally which many opined are unnecessary. While his fight with timber association over the closure of all the forest reserves and ban on all logging activities was yet to be resolved,despite lashes from stakeholders across the state, he has stopped the salaries of political office holders under the immediate past governor Olusegun Mimiko administration despite uproar by those affected and as at last week Aketi has also succeeded through the instrumentality of court sacked the 18 elected council chairmen while his efforts to resolve the over two months leadership crisis in the state house of assembly had failed to yield any positive result following the actiion of his deputy Agboola Ajayi who has further through his kind of politics polarised the 26 members of the eighth assembly.
The accounts of the councils had earlier been frozen by the governor. The governor according to sources had been resisting the the use of political solution by out rightly dissolving the council as suggested by some cabals in his government until this supposed legal opportunity was discovered by some forces within the party.
Akeredolu was said to have yielded to the pressure to allay the fray nerves of his party members who are becoming disenchanted by his nonchalant attitude as regards political patronage. Many believed that the governor is not on the same page with his party leaders on the need encourage members with political patronage.
Aketi whose party the APC was in the opposition when the council election was held boycotted the election describing it as a distraction by the PDP led government. Although Aketi who was an aspirant then supported the party’s participation in the election but the party thought otherwise. But worrisome is the hurried manner the sacked chairmen were replaced barely 48 hours after an high court in the state sacked them.
The governor whose body language since assumption in office showed that he has an axe to grind with the chairmen had denied several times of not harbouring any intention to sack them. But in another breath he was busy digging their graves by looking at legal loopholes that he can feast on to pull the rug under their feet. Hours after the dissolution of the councils which had been predictable by the PDP, there was palpable tension in the state as the premise on which the chairmen were sacked was questionable.
It will be recalled that the Peoples Redemption Party PRP approached the court last year to challenge the state Independent Electoral commission for shutting it out in the last year council poll but before the election the mistake was corrected and the party abandoned the case in court. But the Akeredolu having in mind the recent Supreme Court verdict on the issue of elected councils decided to look for other legal loophole to explore in getting rid of the chairmen.
An opportunity came when some leaders of the party wooed over to the ruling APC two executives members of the PRP and the abandoned case despite the fact that the party later participated in the poll was resurrected and case file dusted. The case assigned to Justice Adesola Sidiq to adjudicate.
The cabals who were behind this ran into troubled water on how to get a legal representatives that would not be disowned by the party.
By the time they secure the service of one Segun Ogodo and the matter had reached advanced stage the national chairman of the Party who is the former Kaduna state governor, Alhaji Balarabe Musa rushed to the court to put the records straight but Justice Sidiq shut him out.
Alhaji Musa who was accompanied by the party Legal Adviser Femi Aborisade to the state high court had a shouting match with Justice Sidiq over the party legal representative in the matter.
Aborisade told the Judge that he was the who filed the suit challenging the State Independent Electoral Commission (ODIEC) on behalf of PRP over the conduct of the election was at the High Court to represent his client and that the matter had been rested following the correction of the anomalies by the state Independent electoral commission.
Justice Sidiq in a ruling after the disagreement over legal representation said he had earlier given a verdict that recognized one Segun Ogodo as the counsel to the PRP urging Aborisade to go to the Court of Appeal to upturn his earlier ruling on legal representation for the party.
The party’s counsel argued that he was not served with any motion by the PRP to remove him as the counsel to the party adding that he has right to be heard as his client has not debriefed him.
Also, the party national chairman, Alhaji Musa who stood up to disclaim Ogodo as his party lawyer and that he had right to a counsel of his choice was ignored by the judge.
Justice Sidiq insisted that since he had earlier ruled about legal representation in his earlier sittings, he would not go back to it noting that Ogodo who he had earlier recognized should be the one to stand in for PRP.
Aborisade and Musa who remained standing said they have application to discontinue with the case. But the judge insisted he would continue irrespective of the applications for the withdrawal.
Aborisade and the Chairman of the party, Alhaji Musa later stormed out of the court but this did not stop Justice Sidiq who thereafter delivered judgment sacking the council chairman saying their election did not follow the regulations of the Electoral Act and the rules of the Ondo state Independent Electoral Commission which conducted the election. He therefore ordered for a fresh election because the electoral body shut out PRP from the processes leading to the council election.
Speaking with Vanguard Aborisade said “the judge surprisingly deprived my client; the PRP led by the National Chairman, the former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, the most respected public officer in this country the constitutional right to be heard.
“My client filed the suit and the course of action has been removed with my client having being allowed to participate in the Local Government election, we have come to inform the court that we have withdrawn the matter.
“Unfortunately, the court is insisting that somebody else who was never briefed by my client is the counsel recognized by the court. This is a violent violation of section 36 sub 1 of the constitution. Every person is entitled to be heard at the court. I can only be heard by the court through the counsel chosen by the PRP.
“This is very strange, it is unconstitutional. But we have informed the court that they do in this case is a nullity because we have filed notice of withdrawal. My client has filed an affidavit that he does not recognize Ogodo in the court. This is a new phase in our experience in our constitutional democracy. “
A drama followed the court verdict immediately as if it was expected. As the court sacked the chairmen on Friday afternoon, governor Akeredolu , appointed 18 members of his party as replacement on Sunday night at about 9pm and on Monday swore them in only to be waiting for the approval of the state house of assembly as the ceremony was in progress.
Vanguard observed that the constitutional approval expected to be given by the lawmakers to give legitimacy to the six months the caretaker chairmen should stay in office was given while the ceremony had reached half way.
The Akeredolu administration almost forgot to do the needful because it was in hurry to install it’s members as caretaker chairmen. The Master of Ceremony, Bode Akinwunmi delayed the ceremony with introductions of personalities until he received signal that the Lawmakers had given approval before they were sworn in.
Only 13 factional lawmakers gave the approval after which a new speaker was elected and working to the cabals script, the speaker Bamidele Oloyelogun led three others of the PDP members to defect to the ruling APC.
However, only four members loyal to the new speaker agreed while four others that voted for Olamide George who contested against Oloyelogun called the bluff of the cabals. So the 13 “rebel” lawmakers have been factionalised because of their ambition.
Meanwhile, the opposition Party in the state had before the dissolution by the court raised the alarm on the desperate quest “to most illegally dissolve the Local Governments administration in the State by the governor through the court.
The Deputy state Chairman of the party Fatai Adams said “in pursuance of this goal, this administration has procured a certain Justice Adesola Sidiq whose handling of the matter leaves so much to be desired.
“In the prosecution of this matter, so many rules of natural justice has been unabashedly raped, disregarded and discarded.
Firstly and curiously, the Ministry of Justice that filed the a counter claim and affidavit to the claims of the PRP over a year ago suddenly withdrew its claims and position in the case at the direction of the Akeredolu government.
“The Judge, granted this action which formed the kernel on which opposition to the matter is based, thereby clearing the way for the implementation of an unfair desire to assault justice and fairness.
“Secondly, the Judge, S A Sidiq decided to shut out the Chairmen and Councillors who are the primary target of this seeming rascality by shutting them out of the case through a series of actions calculated to frustrating their being heard, thereby displaying his undisguised bias and deep interest in a case he is expected to be an impartial arbiter.
“Thirdly, this case is a fraud, the kernel on which it is based is that the PRP was disallowed from contesting the Local Government election last year.
“This is not true as the the names and logo of all the registered political parties in Nigeria were on the ballot paper for that election.
“The PRP originally initiated this case before the local government election when INEC did not include its name in the list of registered Parties sent to ODIEC.
“However, ODIEC used its discretion to include the include the PRP and even Parties like APC that announced its boycott of the election on the ballot paper.
“The PRP therefore abandoned the case and fielded candidates for the election in selected places across the State.
“Therefore the PDP wishes to state its disappointment at the way the Judiciary in Ondo State is being used in furtherance of a desire to use executive privileges to attain a goal we consider insidious and mischievous.
“The APC is merely trying to reap where it did not sow, it deliberately refused to partake in the Local Government election and now that it accidentally found itself in power in Ondo State, is using governmental institutions to muscle the rights of the citizenry to elect those that should manage this tier of government.
“The ultimate desire of the Akeredolu government is to dissolve the local governments and set up Caretaker Committees to run the affairs of the Councils.
“This is unjust and an absolute intent to prosecute a political hijacking. The concept of this action is not only cheap but equally desperate and pedestrian.
The party said “We again wish to state that it is not PRP that is currently prosecuting this case before Justice S A Sidiq but the APC through one of its itinerant lawyers, Segun Ogodo.
To show its displeasure at the hurried dissolution, appointment and swearing in of the caretaker chairmen, leaders of the opposition party alleged that the Akeredolu administration “has taken from the back door, positions it failed to contest during the Local Government elections, this is a clear hijack and it is criminal.
led by a former commissioner and special Adviser on political Matters under the Late Chief Adebayo Adefarati, chief Segun Adegoke said “We also feel disappointed that a government headed by a one time President of the Nigerian Bar Association and Senior Advocate of Nigeria could contrive to abuse the judicial system and commit institutional rape all in the expediency of political machination, this easily.
“It clearly indicates that some people are not committed to what they had previously professed.
“Most disappointing is the indecent haste with which an illegal Caretaker Committee was set up to take over the functions of the elected Council Officials this morning.
“We however want to declare most emphatically that the PDP will contest this development vigorously and we assure our members that Justice is around the corner.
“ We will do all that is required at the higher Court to ensure that the perfidious contraption that the judgment of S A Sidiq represent and the actions of the Akeredolu Government on same issue is reversed swiftly.
“We therefore request of our members to keep hope alive as this travesty will not stand.
On the verdict that sacked the chairmen by Justice Sidiq, the party said “It is equally important to declare that the manner in which Justice Adesola Sidiq handled this matter is anything but professional.
The party added that “Most unfortunately, he compromised the law, rules and order of the Court to perpetrate this illegality.
But the ruling party APC Director of Publicity , Steve Otaloro in his reaction described the judgment victory as victory for democracy and the people of the state.
Otaloro while justifying why the party boycotted the council election last year said that the voters register they wanted to use for the last council election had not been reviewed since 2015 general electionas required by law. hence we refused to support illegality.
Many political observers believed that Aketi should not allow himself to be pushed by desperate politicians in his party who are blind to doing things rightly for political vendetta.