Ogun State House of Assembly
Last week, the Ogun State House of Assembly exhibited its usual egregious ‘uncomplimentary attribute’ by breaking its symbol of authority, the mace, and elected two speakers. Bunmi Oni chronicles the events
In a move reminiscent of the Gbenga Daniel days as governor of Ogun State, members of the state House of Assembly, last week, threw caution to the wind and did what they know how to do best-engaging in another fracas- that culminated in the suspension of the Speaker, Hon. Suraj Tajudeen Adekunbi, and appointment of Hon. Remmy Hassan, as the new Speaker.
Fourteen of the 26 lawmakers were said to have carried out the suspension, while the remaining 12 distanced themselves from the action. The resultant effect of the scuffle was the destruction of the mace, the House’s symbol of authority, and the suspension of three other members of the assembly.
Suspended Speaker Adekunbi had attempted the previous week to suspend the new Speaker, Hassan, and three others- Adijat Adeleye-Oladapo (Ifo II constituency), Job Akintan (Yewa North II constituency), and John Obafemi (Remo North constituency)- for their “un-parliamentary behaviour” following disagreements over the composition of its Tender’s Board.
On the other side, other lawmakers were hell bent on following due process, claiming that Adekunbi wanted to impose some members on them, especially the Deputy Speaker, Tola Banjo, who the speaker wanted as chairman of the board.
Rationalising the suspension of the four lawmakers- Adekunbi, Deputy Speaker Tola Banjo, Majority Leader Israel Jolaosho and Olakunle Oluomo- Hassan said they were being sanctioned as a result of acts bordering on gross disrespect for legislative institution among others.
The composition of the Tender’s Board had generated some furore the previous week as members of the Assembly had accused Adekunbi, who is the chairman of the selection committee for the board, of attempting to manipulate its structure. This came on the heel of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission’s (ICPC) recent warning to the lawmakers that due process must be followed in the award of contracts in the Assembly.
The anti-graft commission, which had showed its displeasure over alleged inflation of the prices of cars for the lawmakers and principal officers, had also last year quizzed the Speaker. Thus, a seed was sown for the attendant infamy the legislators displayed on the floor of the Assembly as none of the two factions was ready to shift its stand.
However, Adekunbi’s attempt to fight back was resisted by the other camp despite having a detachment of policemen at his disposal. He, with others, had planned to catch the other group unawares and convene another plenary. But the move was thwarted by the other group led by the interim Speaker, Hassan.
With the behaviour exhibited by these honourable lawmakers, though the Assembly is noted for this, indigenes of the state are having second thoughts especially taking into consideration the fact that majority of them are from the same party, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). It is noteworthy at this juncture to ask: Are the lawmakers fighting for the betterment of the citizens of the state or themselves?
Despite the show of shame by the lawmakers, the state Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, had since waded in, resolved the crisis and admonished the lawmakers to sheathe their swords.
While apologising to indigenes of the state on behalf of the lawmakers, Amosun said: “The only thing I want to say is that on behalf of the legislators, I apologise to the good people of Ogun State and all lovers of democracy. This is Ogun State, the home of Obafemi Awolowo, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, and other giants, who have laboured selflessly to make us what we are. So, we can’t afford to descend so low.”
Also, Adekunbi and Hazzan apologised to the people of the state over their action and promised that “henceforth, the proceedings of the assembly would be conducted peacefully and in the way it was supposed to be done in a normal legislature with due process, rules and constitution and with acceptable conventions.”
But how credible are these lawmakers, taking into consideration their antecedents in the previous Assembly?
What remains to be seen now is how the legislators will comport themselves, more so that the previous Assembly during the days of Daniel, equally apologised to the people of the state over their unruly behaviour after 18 lawmakers embarked on the March 2010, suspension of its Speaker, Titi Oseni, and another lawmaker for “uncomplimentary remarks” against the Assembly.
The lawmakers, however, reneged on their promise of peaceful and decent conduct of ‘parliamentary affairs’ when nine of the legislators impeached the then Speaker, Tunji Egbetokun, who is the current Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Affairs, and elected Soyemi Coker as the new Speaker.
The lawmakers used every crooked means possible to achieve their aim, including procurring the mace they used in carrying out their action from a local government. Between then and now, the main reason for the lawmakers’ action was their selfish interest – money.
The present crop of lawmakers quarrelled over the composition of the Tender’s Board, while the previous Assembly enagaged in fisticuffs as a result of Daniel’s proposed controversial N100 billion bonds. The only difference in the two scenarios is the fact that Amosun brokered peace between the two warring factions of the present Assembly, while Daniel remained aloof throughout the stand-off which saw the Assembly locked-up for 15 months and resulted in the massive loss of the Peoples Democratic Party’s stranglehold on the state.
Though there were speculations making the rounds in the state that the pandemonium in the Assembly was as a result of a N150 billion bond proposal submitted to the lawmakers by Governor Amosun, this supposition could not be confirmed as some of the lawmakers were said to have debunked the claims, but said the Tender Board’s composition was the main reason for the furore.
As majority of the lawmakers were elected on the platform of the ACN, it would have been expected that the party in its usual manner of raising issues with ‘uncomplimentary behaviours’ of public officers, especially the opposition, to apologise to Nigerians for presenting this class of individuals as lawmakers to indigenes of Ogun State.
The lawmakers’ action in the state has raised a lot of dust in the polity, especially among the indigenes who wonder if the state is jinxed to have such belligerent legislators whose only way of resolving disputes is to engage in a free-for-all. They opined that the action of the present set of lawmakers does not differ from what obtained during Daniel’s era, as the lawmakers at that time behaved like miscreants.
A resident of Abeokuta, Tobi Ashaolu, said he was baffled when he learnt that the lawmakers broke the mace, adding that it would be appropriate if the legislators are trained on issues bordering on collective bargaining before being allowed to take part in lawmaking.
“One should not be surprised at what the legislators have just done. This is not the first time they will be taking this route. The same thing happened during Daniel’s tenure. They went to the extent of oath-taking in the nude. If they could go to that extent just because of politics, no one should be taken aback. One would have expected them to behave like sane men and women, but you know the overriding issue is money.”
A political analyst in Otta, a suburb of Lagos, Mrs. Adeola Adesiyan, said part of the blame should also go to Governor Amosun, whom she said must have been aware of the crisis before it boiled over. She said instead of the governor taking a belated action, he should have nipped the legislators’ action in the bud, before it got to the stage of breaking the mace.
According to Adesiyan, there was no correlation between the behaviour of the lawmakers and the eminent sons of the state the governor mentioned when he was apologising to the indigenes of the state.
“Why did it take the governor so long before his interference? Does he want us to believe that he is not aware of the simmering crisis in the Assembly? He went as far as equating the lawmakers with eminent sons of the state such as late Obafemi Awolowo and Wole Soyinka. There is no way anyone can convince me that the governor has no hand in the pandemonium in the Assembly.
“Also, you would have expected the ACN spokesperson to have issued a statement decrying the action of the lawmakers, but the Assembly is packed full of the party. So, it’s a matter of hear and see no evil. To me, there is no difference between the ACN and the PDP. They are only interested in themselves.”
As events unfold at the Ogun State House of Assembly, indigenes of the state are looking on with keen interest to see if there will be a departure from the past in terms of the legislative performance, as Amosun, with his appeal, might be held responsible if there is any untoward conduct on the part of the legislators, separation of powers notwithstanding.