Ekiti Assembly Battles the Loyalty Card

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Onthewatch

A crisis of confidence and trust might have hit the Ekiti State House of Assembly, writes Olakiitan Victor

Ekiti State House of Assembly has been known to be operating under a perfect and serene atmosphere since its inauguration on June 6, 2015. What actually accounted for this cohesiveness was not far from the fact that all the 26 members belonged to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). One would understand the importance of peace in the legislature taking cognizance of what was the order of the day during former governor Segun Oni’s regime, when the PDP and the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) had numerical strength of 13 members each.

Events of recent past have elicited a lot of surprises to the people, who hitherto believed that the House was under the firm grip of the governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose. But last week, crisis of confidence hit the assembly, leading to the suspension of the former House Committee Chairman on Information, Hon Gboyega Aribisogan over alleged disloyalty to Governor Fayose.

This is going by what the Speaker of the assembly reeled out in the assembly’s resolution penultimate Thursday after an emergency plenary, where Aribisogan was alleged to be hobnobbing with perceived enemies of the governor, describing the action as a flagrant betrayal of trust. Prominent among the governor’s perceived enemies, Aribisogan was accused of holding clandestine meetings with in Lagos and Abuja were Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Femi Falana (SAN) and Senator representing Ogun East, Mr. Buruji Kashamu.

What further created anxiety was the fact that Aribisogan has been an ardent and unwavering supporter of the governor. He as the Director of Communication to the ex-State Chairman of the PDP, Mr Makanjuola Ogundipe, joined the fray to kill the consensus to select the governorship candidate for the 2014 poll. He put his political life on the line to defend the governor, thus the present turn out of event is a surprise and one of the few wonders associated with the game of politics in the state.

Without mincing words, Ogundipe, who incidentally is Aribisogan’s uncle, was a fierce proponent of the consensus arrangement, which would have produced the former Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Capt Caleb Olubolade as candidate, as against Fayose. Oubolade was backed by his principal and former President Goodluck Jonathan, but some critical stakeholders like the embattled Secretary of the party, Dr Tope Aluko and Mr Talabi Arinka killed the dream. Surprisingly, the trio has now fallen out with Fayose, politically.

Before the suspension, insinuation was rife in town that two principal officers of the assembly would be hammered. The rumour mentioned the name of the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Segun Adewumi and Aribisogan, but the rumour was hard to believe because of the sobriety and good disposition of the number two lawmaker, whose civility and loyalty to Fayose has never been in doubt.

What was initially seen as mere rumour later blew open during the October 2 parliamentary session, where it was gathered that the issue of alleged disloyalty of some members were debated. A source in the assembly confided in some newsmen who had been on top of the development that the assembly had secretly set up an ad hoc committee to try the two lawmakers and this was taken away from the public glare, probably to prevent people from reading political meanings to their actions.

It was gathered that the lawmakers, after exhaustive deliberations at the parliamentary, urged the deputy speaker to retain his position and was mandated to write a letter of apology for not divulging the series of meetings Aribisogan allegedly held with the governor’s perceived political enemies.

The silent war came to a dead end on Thursday, October 6, during the plenary. Critical decisions that indicated that all was not well were taken. The Assembly, presided over by Oluwawole, however suspended Aribisogan for 180 legislative days, with the condition that “his conducts henceforth would determine further actions on him.”

To further send a signal that allegations of treachery would not be treated with levity, Aribisogan was also barred from holding any position of responsibility on behalf of the House of Assembly during the period of his suspension, while all benefits associated with his office were suspended. It also resolved that he must not be seen in and around the Assembly complex within one kilometer radius.

Before the last straw that broke the camel’s back, the lawmaker had met and perused the report and recommendations of the seven-man Ad Hoc panel, headed by Hon Biola Jeje, representing Ido/Osi constituency 1 and submitted to the Ethics and Privileges Committee of the House.

Going by the terms of reference of the committee, the panel had investigated allegations bordering on gross misconduct and acts capable of destabilising the House made against Aribisogan. The leader of Business and Rules, Hon Tunji Akinyele moved the motion for the adoption of the report and was seconded by Hon Tope Fasanmi.

Other members of the seven-man panel include Sina Animasaun, Dr Samuel Omotoso, Akinniyi Sunday, Dele Fajemilehin, Cecelia Dada and Fasanmi Temitope.
However, in order to adhere to the principles of fairness and justice, Aribisogan was invited by the panel for questioning. Before the panel, he was said to have been confronted with an audio tape evidence containing his voice recording, where he was accused of running down other lawmakers and making caustic statements about the personality of the governor. The embattled lawmaker, however, denied the allegation, saying it was a desperate attempt by a member of the assembly to suffocate him politically.

Presenting the committee report to the Assembly, Chairman of the Ethics committee, Hon Fajana Ojoade, said it was established after thorough investigation through interviews, review of facts and unassailable evidence made available to the committee that Aribisogan actually committed the offence.

The committee chairman said the deputy speaker confirmed both in writing and orally that Aribisogan confessed to him at a popular hotel in Ado Ekiti on the evening of Friday, September 30, 2016 that he did meet with some elements that are against the governor in Lagos on Saturday, September 24, 2016.

“In a manner that has rubbished the integrity and confidence that the Ekiti people have in the State House of Assembly, Hon. Adewumi also said truly, Hon Aribisogan visited Lagos to allegedly connive with opposition elements in an attempt to destabilise Ekiti State.

“Instead of showing remorse and apologising for his embarrassing actions despite all overwhelming evidences, Hon. Aribisogan persisted in his shallow denials. It is hereby determined and declared that Hon. Aribisogan is guilty of these allegations and should be punished adequately to minimise the bad image his shady movements and conducts have caused this honourable house, while also serving as deterrent to others,” the report read in part.
Adopting the report, the House resolved that Aribisogan’s office should remain sealed throughout the period of the suspension and that he should submit all properties of the Assembly to the Clerk.

Explaining the rationale behind the assembly’s decision to punish Aribisogan, the assembly’s new chairman, committee on information, Hon. Samuel Omotosho, who addressed journalists shortly after the session, accused Aribisogan of involving himself in acts capable of destabilising the peace and orderliness of the state by allegedly having unholy alliance and relationship with those, who have constituted themselves as enemies of the state government and presented false information for pecuniary gains, thereby casting aspersion on the assembly.

Omotosho said it was to serve as deterrent to anyone, who might be nursing same act to desist from it and also show that “We want to live above board in our ways. Aribisogan remains our brother and we are quick to forgive if he shows remorse and genuineness to change.”
Aribisogan has not kept quiet to the onslaught against him, as he threatened to approach the court to nullify his suspension. The lawmaker said he would consult widely with his constituents before taking the decision.

According to him, “The so-called audio was a superimposed voiceover to tarnish my reputation. At the panel’s sitting, there was a presentation of inaudible voiceover claiming that they recognised my voice and I discarded it as a cheap blackmail.”

The lawmaker said the battle for the 2019 House of Representatives election in Ikole/Oye federal constituency had begun in earnest and expressed resentment that the assembly was being used as a testing ground. He specifically accused Omotoso, who came from Oye local government of allegedly planning to smear him before the governor to gain upper hand at the primary.

A vivid dissection of Aribisogan’s allegation confirmed that the duo have a clash of ambitions, culminating in the dangerous political chess-game akin to survival of the fittest. Aribisogan said he remained a loyal person to Fayose and nothing, including political interest would drive him to engage in any act that could be injurious to the governor’s political interest.

“What they were planning is to make Fayose naked, because if you check your records, about nine of us began the journey with Fayose and today, I am the only person that remains with the governor. Dr. Tope Aluko, Odunayo Talabi, Tunji Olanrewaju, Mrs. Modupe Oyebode have been schemed out. This is a game plan and Governor Fayose must beware; he must look at his back.
“But let me tell them that I won’t go down the way of these people. I will fight back to retain my integrity and my honour. I never held any meeting anywhere with these personalities. They only wanted to rope me and this is unfortunate,” he said.

As the issue gained statewide attention, a former federal lawmaker, Hon Bamidele Faparusi and the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) described the lawmakers’ action as a confirmation of the public impression that they are surrogates of the governor.

Faparusi, who is a member of the seventh House of Representatives said: “This is a desecration of the legislative arm because the offence they accused the man of committing was tagged anti-party activity and only a political party can take punitive action over this. I want to plead with the lawmakers not to create the impression that somebody somewhere was remote-controlling them to do the hatchet job. They must be loyal to the people of Ekiti State, who elected them instead of any individual,” he advised.

Meanwhile, the publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Jackson Adebayo has absolved both the governor and assembly of any complicity, saying the assembly is being guided by the standing order, which stipulates certain punishments for whoever engages in action capable of causing division in the legislative arm.

“The House only acted in compliance with the rules. There is minimum standard expected of the lawmakers in terms of behaviour. Again, this is not the only assembly in Nigeria, where members had been disciplined. Even the House of Representatives just suspended Hon Jibrin Abdulmumumin for gross misconduct, so what the assembly did was
in order,” he said.

As it is, it could be assumed that Governor Fayose has had his way. He has been able to show his supremacy over the lawmakers. But a school of thought reckons it could be disastrous for him to overestimate himself or despise the lawmakers. The current scenario appears a signal that no permanent friend in politics. As a result, the governor too must up his game and tread cautiously to prevent history from repeating itself.

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Events of recent past have elicited a lot of surprises to the people, who hitherto believed that the House was under the firm grip of the governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose. But last week, crisis of confidence hit the assembly, leading to the suspension of the former House Committee Chairman on Information, Hon Gboyega Aribisogan over alleged disloyalty to Governor Fayose