By Dayo Johnson, Regional Editor, South-West
NO doubt, the shaking of the table in Ondo State House of Assembly last week by 18 of the 26 lawmakers was obviously targeted at the ‘recalcitrant’ Governor Rotimi Akeredolu who has been having issues with the leadership of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), over the primaries of the party ahead of the 2019 elections
Although Akeredolu had engaged the National Chairman of the party, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, in a fight over the primaries alongside some outgoing governors of the APC, he must have beaten a retreat after being reminded that he is a first term governor and that sustaining such a fight was as good as saying bye- bye to his second term ticket.
But Akeredolu, according to his aides, don’t seem to care much about a second term even if the aides care for their survival.
It’s an open secret that the governor had courted problem following his frontal attack on Oshiomhole believed to be a close associate of the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Succinctly put, Akeredolu had, by his action, pulled the tail of the tiger.
With the South-West back in the kitty of Tinubu, Akeredolu is not sure of a return ticket in 2021 unless he mends fences with Oshiomhole and Tinubu.
The Ondo governor’s relationship with Tinubu has not been cordial since he declared his intention for the governorship seat in 2016 as the National Leader had a preferred candidate, Dr Olusegun Abraham, who has since dragged Akeredolu to court to contest the party governorship primary held in 2016.
The Oshiomhole dimension came when Akeredolu failed to support his emergence as the National Chairman of the party because of the Tinubu connection. He and others had queued behind the immediate past National Chair, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
Many analysts say the unsettling of the water in Ondo via the state House of Assembly was targeted at Akeredolu by some powerful forces outside the state who have the ears and eyes of Oshiomhole and Tinubu.
The governor’s situation was said to have been made worse by the betrayal of trust by the APC leadership which, after assuring the lawmakers of return tickets, shut the door against them during the primaries.
Akeredolu must have seen the handwriting hence his government’s alleged tactical approval of the invasion of the Assembly by thugs that Friday barely one hour after the impeachment of the leadership had been successfully carried out.
Same scenario had played out during the parallel state congress of the APC when members of the National Assembly in the other faction of the party and journalists were beaten by thugs.
Some top security officers in the state were said to have been present at the House chamber when the thugs invaded and beat up the 18 lawmakers, journalists and staff members of the Assembly.
The thugs had unleashed terror on their victims only to express regret that they were misinformed that the lawmakers were about to impeach the governor.
They declared that they would not allow external forces to unseat Akeredolu.
Addressing newsmen before the attackers came calling, the new Speaker, Olamide George, had said that his predecessor and his deputy were impeached over gross misconduct and abuse of office, pointing out that 18 members of the assembly signed the impeachment notice.
George pointedly asked the governor to steer clear of the affairs of the Assembly, adding that the removal of the duo would not be reversed.
“They are incompetent to lead the Assembly. That is why the members came together to change the leadership. In line with the constitution of the House, the election was conducted and I won as the Speaker while Abimbola Fajolu emerged as Deputy Speaker. We assure you that there won’t be crisis in the Assembly”, he said.
“lt is an open secret that N1.3bn was approved and released for the 2018 Budget of the Assembly. The former Speaker and Deputy Speaker jointly expended over a billion in the first quarter of 2018 without approval.
“This is unacceptable to the people of Ondo who we are representing and that’s why we removed them”.
Later, while briefing newsmen, the Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Fatai Olotu, said the removal of the Speaker was done in good faith and in the interest of the state, adding that two- thirds of the members of the House removed the Speaker and his deputy over their incompetence to run the affairs of the House.
Olotu doused tension when he denied that their next plan was to impeach the state governor.
“The governor has not committed any impeachable offense and there is no justification for us to impeach the governor”, he said.
Meanwhile, while the 18 lawmakers have relocated to lbadan, Oyo State under the guise of threat to their lives, the two sacked principal officers of the Assembly and five others loyal to them have held plenary in the chamber under heavy security provided by the state and have announced the suspension of other lawmakers and adjourned plenary indefinitely.
A new vista was introduced to the crisis when two of the 18 lawmakers, Sunday Olajide – Akure South Constituency 2, and Olusola Oluyede – Ose Constituency, both of whom had purportedly signed the impeachment notice, backed out alleging that their signatures were forged.
They insisted that they were not in the state when the said impeachment was effected.
But the new Speaker, George, was quick to challenge the two lawmakers “to swear to an affidavit in law court that their signatures were indeed forged as they were part of the decision to impeach the leadership of the Assembly”.
According to him, “the meeting where the decision to impeach the leadership of the Assembly was held in Olajide’s house”
He added, “The two lawmakers have confided in us and asked us to protect them as the party has threatened to withdraw their return tickets or frustrate their re-election if they did not rescind their decision on the impeachment notice within 24 hours”.
Speaking on his sack, former Speaker Oloyelogun declared that the purported impeachment carried out by the “disgruntled members was null and void”, adding, “The purported impeachment did not satisfy the constitutional requirement of the House as signatures collated were not up to 18 which represents the two – third requirement for the impeachment of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House.
“They claimed to have formed two-third as a condition to impeach the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker whereas they were less in number as Hon. Sunday Olajide and Hon. Olusola Oluyede were not part of the attempted impeachment.
“The essential authorities of the House such as the original mace or gavel, standing order, book of oath and proceedings were not honoured and followed in the purported impeachment. “
He asked George to stop parading himself as Speaker of the House, saying the attempted impeachment had been foiled.
Oloyelogun asked security agencies to investigate and prosecute the members of the House “who have been suspended” for their unruly behaviour and disrupting the peace in the state.
The state Information and Orientation Commissioner, Yemi Olowolabi, has, in the meantime, absolved Akeredolu, saying his principal “had no hand in the crisis of the assembly”.
Olowolabi said, “Impeachment of the leadership is not; it is the business of the House to determine the tenure of its leaders.
“What the governor does is to invite the warring parties and try to find amicable solution to the crisis”.
Also, the state APC Chairman, Ade Adetimehin, said that the party had begun moves to resolve the impasse in the Assembly just as he said nothing had changed in the leadership of the chamber.
The opposition party in the state, the PDP, through the Zonal Publicity Secretary, Ayo Fadaka, has decried the occupation of the Assembly.
With the 18 lawmakers escaping to Oyo State to seek refuge and two of them Malachi Coker and Vincent Obadia on admission in hospital after being injured during the attack on the House, the seven lawmakers loyal to Akeredolu are walking free with heavy security. And an end to the imbroglio seems not in sight.