•Akeredolu trades words with SSG •House divided, Deputy Speaker, two others suspended
•Gov’s loyalists vow to remove deputy
By Dayo Johnson Akure
NO doubt the political developments in Ondo state in the last three weeks ahead of the October governorship election have been electrifying. The events happened in quick succession. From the recovery of the state governor Rotimi Akeredolu from coronavirus infection barely a week after he publicly announced that he had tested positive for the virus, to the division in the 26-member House of Assembly over the planned impeachment of the defected deputy governor Hon Agboola Ajayi, the suspension of the deputy speaker, Hon lroju Ogundeji and two other lawmakers and the resignation of the Majority leader, Jamiu Maito to escape impeachment.
The impeachable drive was further oiled as 14 lawmakers signed the impeachment notice while nine backed out.
Not done yet, three of the nine that backed out of the impeachment process have been showed the way out for alleged unparliamentary behaviours. They include two principal officers, the deputy speaker, Iroju Ogundeji, the only female member, Favour Semilore Tomomewo and Williams Adewale Adewinle.
According to the speaker, Rt Hon Bamidele Oloyelogun the “trio were suspended having violated the House Rules and Standing Orders/Code of Conduct that can put the name of House of Assembly to disrepute”.
Meanwhile, While the constitutionality of the action of the deputy governor resigning from the party but still occupying the position was still a subject of discussion across the state, the Secretary to the State Government SSG, Hon lfedayo Sunday Abegunde threw in the towel thereby further complicating issues for the state government and the ruling party, the All Progressive Congress.
As the party leadership led by the state chairman, Ade Adetimehin was still trying to manage the backlash that attended the resignation of the deputy governor, the SSG, a close friend of the defected deputy governor also decided to resign thereby further aggravating the tension within the party.
Akeredolu recovers from COVID -19 within a week
Although some cynics believed that the speed at which the governor recovered from his asymptomatic COVID -19 virus was unbelievable, the governor who spoke on his isolation said “those days in isolation were defining period for me. They convinced me further of the right track we have chosen, to mobilise our people against the deadly pandemic. After a few days in isolation, my samples were taken and tested again in accordance with the treatment protocols of COVID-19, the results came and I tested negative. One lesson which ought to be clear to all of us with the recent events is that COVID-19 is real. It is also a resounding message that it is deadly, willing and able to wreak the greatest havoc on individuals and families, indeed our entire society, if permitted”. Akeredolu has since resumed duties and even took part physically in the screening of the party’s governorship aspirants which took place in Abuja.
…Trades words with the SSG
After his resignation, former Secretary to the State Government, SSG, lfedayo Abegunde, went to town by accusing the governor of cornering all the road contracts to himself, immediate family and in-laws.
Abegunde pointedly said he abandoned the ship because his principal, the governor maltreated him for over three and half years as the SSG. According to him “majority of the people of the state are hungry and suffering while he and his family and in-laws are enjoying”. He described as unbearable the sufferings he was subjected to for the three and half years he held sway as the Secretary to the state government. He said, “I was unable to cater for the needs of my followers because the governor didn’t release any money to my office. I was suffering in his administration because he didn’t release any fund for my office grants. He has been telling lies that he was giving me N5m every month even when he knew he didn’t give me such money”.
But in a swift response, the governor reacting through his Chief Press Secretary Segun Ajiboye said,
“a quick run of the allegations shows a semblance of sustained recycling of falsehood as well as blackmail contents targeted at Mr. Governor and his immediate family. These are pernicious lies and imaginary thought lines considered perennial and seemingly becoming boring”.
Before now, vanguard learnt that lawmakers loyal to the deputy governor in the assembly were 16 until some incentives were dangled at them by loyalists of the governor and the number was depleted to nine. With 14 members on their side, the loyalists of the governor proceeded to serve the deputy governor an impeachment notice and directed the Clerk of the Assembly, Bode Adeyelu to effect the service.
The camp of the deputy governor was however not caught napping as he not only ran to the Federal High court to halt the planned impeachment and enforce his rights to freedom of association, but equally ensured that the remaining nine members loyal to him including two principal officers of the assembly backed out of the impeachment plan. They include the deputy speaker, Hon Iroju Ogundeji and Majority leader Hon Sulaiman Maito.
The required two third of 26 to impeach the deputy governor as clearly spelt out in Section 188 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 is 18 and from the look of things it may be hard for the anti Ajayi to boot him out. But political analysts believed if the price is high the undecided members of the House may go with the highest bidder.
The lawmakers in support of the impeachment include Aderoboye Samuel; Oladiji Olamide; Festus Adefiranye; Adeyemi Olayemi; Muhammad Oladele; Oluwole Ogunmolasuyi; Borokini Simeon; Gegudu Ololade; Abiodun Faleye; Felemu Olusegun; Akintomide Akinrogunde; Towase Kuti; Oluyede Olusola and Akinruntan Abayomi.
The nine lawmakers, including principal officers in the assembly who backed out of the impeachment plot include the deputy speaker, Iroju Ogundeji; Jamiu Suleiman Maito; Rasheed Elegbeleye; Tomide Akinrinbodo; Samuel Ademola; Favour Semilore Tomomewo; Festus Akingbaso; Adewale Adekunle and Torhukerhijo Success.
The nine lawmakers who dissociated themselves from the impeachment in their letter said, “We the underlisted elected honourable members of the 9th session of the Ondo State House of Assembly hereby append our signatures to clarify that we have resolved not to partake in the impeachment process of the Ondo State deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi. .
“In view of the above, we hereby bring to the notice of Mr Clerk, Mr. Adeyelu Micheal Bode, the entire honorable members of the Ondo State House of Assembly and the General public that we do not support the impeachment process and would not want to be associated with it based on personal convictions.
The deputy speaker, Ogundeji said that the governor and the leadership of the party in the state put pressure on the speaker to suspend them for backing out of the impeachment plan. He insisted that there was no merit in the impeachment of the deputy governor.
We’ll get the required 2/3—Assembly Spokesperson
Speaking with the Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Gbenga Omole, he said, “the first process here was that 14 members signed a notice of impeachment which is the first step. Those people ranting don’t know the procedure. It’s a process and the process is on and it shall be concluded.
Two-third of 26 is 18. Impeachment is a process. In fact, we needed only nine which is one-third, to sign the notice and 14 signed and they were all present at the plenary”.
Also speaking to newsmen after the plenary sitting, two loyalists of the deputy governor, Hon. Festus Akingbaso and Samuel Edamisan said that the impeachment notice was unconstitutional and dead on arrival. They said that “it would not stand because it did not meet two third of the house members required by law.
Contents of the impeachment notice.
The impeachment notice signed by the 14 lawmakers reads:
“Consequent upon listed below, we the underlisted duly elected honourable members of the 9th Assembly moved the impeachment of the deputy governor of Ondo state, Agboola Ajayi with immediate effect based on the following allegations:
*Gross misconduct; Abuse of office with action likely to bring down Ondo state government; Financial recklessness; Abandonment of office, official duties and other assignments; Action on Sunday 21st 2020, likely to cause breach of peace in reference to 1983 political crisis with the intent to incite the citizens against the government of Ondo state in a video clip at Government House ground before the Commissioner of Police Ondo state; Publications dated Tuesday 23rd June 2020 on the new media and print media by his sacked aide, Babatope Okeowo maligning the credibility of the legislative arm of government of cash inducement and Petition from the APC, Ondo chapter on his alleged movement to the Peoples Democratic Party, having been sworn in as the deputy governor on the party’s ticket with the Governor for a four year term”.
I’m unruffled—Deputy governor
But in a swift reaction, the deputy governor said he was unruffled, noting that he had gone to court to halt the planned impeachment process. He declined further comment saying the matter was already in court. Findings showed that the impeachment notice had been served on the deputy speaker and received by his office.