Ondo Assembly: Disquieted by Leadership High-handedness

The foiled attempt to impeach the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly has not only created cracks among members of the Assembly but may also affect the Executive-Legislature relationship in the Sunshine State, writes James Sowole

The relative peace and cordial relationship between the Legislature and Executive arm of government since the coming on board of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko Administration in 2009 was last Tuesday put to test with the impeachment notice signed by 18 out of 26 members of the Ondo State House of Assembly and slammed on the Speaker, Hon Jumoke Akindele, and her deputy, Hon Fatai Olotu.

The action of some aggrieved lawmakers marked the second major crisis that rocked the Assembly after the December 31, 2014 boycott of the House plenary meant for the presentation of the 2014 Appropriation Bill by Mimiko. The boycott of the sitting was adduced as one of the factors that worked against the desire of returning to the Assembly of many of those that boycotted the December 2014 sitting.

The absence of open confrontation between the House leadership and members even after the resolution of that particular Executive-Legislature face off was not enough to conclude that all lawmakers were comfortable with the management of the affairs of the Assembly.

However, the fact that many members of the House particularly those elected on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won their election due to the intervention and deep involvement of Mimiko and some members of his executive made many of them to continue endure situation of things in the House

The lawmakers had been enduring the situation because of the belief that any revolt against the leadership of the House may be considered as a revolt against the governor. The belief of many in the state was that the House had become an appendage of the Executive while the leadership was being castigated.

To the governor, the cordial relationship among the three arms of government was not because the executive dominated other arms unduly, but was brought about by the maturity of the leadership of these arms and the openness with which he had been running the affairs of the state. At every opportunity, the governor had never hidden the fact that he had been enjoying the cooperation of other arms of government.

However, the current economic situation in the country, which had led to many unfulfilled expectations, pitched the lawmakers of the Eight Assembly against the House leadership as they interpreted the relationship with the executive as a weakness on the part of the head of the legislative arm.

The lawmakers had been complaining of lack of official vehicles, denial of allowances and other benefits which they ought to use to serve their constituencies. According to many of them, going to their constituencies had been very difficult because they lack the resources to meet many of the requests of the people that elected them to the House and which they said would work against their future political careers.

The bubble burst on Tuesday, March 8, when the news filtered in around 10.00pm that the speaker who is representing Okitipupa II Constituency and her deputy, Fatai Olotu, of Akoko North East Constituency had been impeached.

The news generated a lot of questions not only from the State Government side but even members of the public. Some of the questions raised include: Where was the sitting of the House held? At what time of the day did the sitting hold? Who presided over the meeting? Who among the lawmakers attended the meeting?

Discussion commenced immediately on the social media when it was disclosed that out of the 18 members that signed the impeachment document, only four were elected on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC) with only one APC lawmaker standing aloof. The remaining were those elected on the platform of the PDP.

The action of the lawmaker generated suspicion as it was the belief of many people that though the complaints were against the leadership of the House, the ultimate target was the governor because it was already being rumoured that the leadership of the APC were already discussing with some lawmakers and some of the commissioners in the cabinet. So, a popular cliché on the situation on social media, facebook, in particular, was ‘on rugbo bo’ meaning, “it is roaring, trouble is looming”

Again, the identities of some of the signatories to the impeachment document generated another controversy that bothered on whether the matter actually emanated from the lawmakers.

Those who signed the impeachment paper were Arowele Ayodeji ( Owo 1), Iroju Ogundeji ( Odigbo 1), Olusola Oluyede (Ose), Akindiose Olusiji ( Ondo East), Akintimehin I Tuyi (Idanre) and Akinruntan Abayomi (Ilaje 1).

Other signatories were Fajolu Abimbola ( Ileoluji –Okeigbo), Araoyinbo Olugbenga ( Akoko North East), Olusegun Ajimotokin (Irele), Jamiu Suleiman Maito ( AKoko North West 1), Felemu Olusegun ( Akoko South West II). Coker Adeniyi Malachi ( Ilaje II) Towase O Kuti ( Akoko South East) and Kazeem MOS (Akoko South West 1

The remaining signatories were Obadiah Vincent ( Ese Odo), Ade Adeniyi (Ondo West 1) Olamide George ( Akure North) and Mukaila Musa ( Owo II).

The aggrieved lawmakers accused the speaker of high handedness, lack of vision and inability to represent them well before the executive saying that she had turned the Legislative arm of Government to the stooge of the Executive.

The lawmakers subsequently announced Hon Iroju Ogundeji of Odigbo I Constituency and Hon Ayo Arowele of Owo I as the new Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively.

Since there were insinuations that the ultimate target of the impeachment plot was the governor, the appearance of some signatures on the impeachment document came as a surprise not only to people in government but those who knew their political antecedents. It was being said that many of them cannot on their own win councillorship position in their wards not to talk of wining the real election that Mimiko personally put everything into.

On the other hand, it was the position of many people that the governor had no choice than to ensure that his party (PDP) had the majority in the Assembly in view of the situation of things after the announcement of the 2015 Presidential and the National Assembly Elections, which favoured the opposition APC.

By the following day, neither the Executive nor the Legislature was comfortable again with the development in the Assembly while members of the public including opposition party members were waiting for what would follow.

To avoid being caught napping, police and other security agencies beefed up security at the State House of Assembly located on Igbatoro Road, searched vehicles entering into the Assembly Complex and also confirmed identities of people going into their offices.

While security men were watching events as they were unfolding within the Assembly premises, the lawmakers were summoned to the Government House for a meeting by the governor.

Though, the meeting which lasted for about five hours was held behind closed door, a source said the aggrieved legislators agreed to let peace reign after much assurances from the governor to intervene and address all issues raised by the lawmakers.

The decision of the Assembly, which came less than 24 hours after 18 out of the 26 member House announced the impeachment of the speaker, and her deputy, was conveyed at a press briefing addressed by the Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Hon Olamide George.

Addressing journalists at the Cocoa Conference Hall of the Governor’s Office, George, who was representing the Akure North Constituency and one of the legislators that signed the impeachment notice, said sizeable members had agreed to allow the status quo ante to remain.

Flanked by the lawmaker representing Ondo East Constituency, Hon Siji Akindiose, George read a five paragraph press statement and departed the hall without entertaining any question from journalists.

He said: On Tuesday, 8th of March, 2006, sizeable number of Ondo State House of Assembly met on some burning issues touching on the leadership of the House.

“Before the plenary today, Wednesday 9th March, 2016, members at a larger and official gathering met to review the situation and consequently resolved to allow the status quo ante on the leadership of the Ondo State House of Assembly as at 7th March 2016 to remain.

“The House of Assembly remains united, cohesive and alive to its constitutional responsibilities.

“The issue of leadership of the House is an internal affairs and has been treated as such”.

The 18 lawmakers had in the impeachment notice alleged the Speaker of high handedness, lack of vision and her inability to fight for the interest of members as some of the reasons for her impeachment.

Though, there was no doubt that the immediate issue was resolved going by the fact that the House sitting where the 2016 Appropriation Bill was passed into law was presided over by Akindele and without any rancour but it was generally believed by many that there were still unresolved issues that may soon begin to unfold.

According to some people, the fact that such an action was taken in the first instance showed that things were not the same and cannot be the same within the House because suspicion game has started.