After running a one-man show for two years, Osun State governor, Rauf Aregbesola, finally succumbed to pressure and constituted a cabinet, writes Yinka Kolawole

‎Osun State Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola’s refusal to constitute a cabinet drew the ire of members of the public who accused him of running an unconstitutional government.

An Osogbo based lawyer and human right activist, Mr. Kanmi Ajibola took a step further in his campaign to force the governor to do the right thing by filing a case against him before an Osun State High Court sitting in Osogbo. While the case was pending however, Aregbesola announced a cabinet.

In justifying his decision not to appoint commissioners for two years, Aregbesola said that the harsh economic reality in the country was to blame. According to him, there was nothing unconstitutional in not having a cabinet. Many, however disagreed with him.

What informed the governor’s sudden change of heart after all the economic situation he said made it impossible to constitute a cabinet has yet to change?

The governor who claimed that there was no money to finance a cabinet announced a 36-member executive council including commissioners and special advisers, which he said would accompany him in what he called “our home run.”

It was indeed a long list of appointees which included among others, an Associate Professor of Economics, Olalekan Dauda Yinusa who was appointed as the Commissioner for Economy, Planning and Budget; a Doctor of Law, Ajibola Basiru (Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice) and a former Senator, Mudasiru Hussain (Cabinet Matters); Ismail Jayeoba Alagbada (Commerce, Co-operatives, Industries and Empowerment); Miss Mobolaji Akande (Human Resources and Capacity Building) and Kolapo Alimi (Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs).

Others on the list are; Mrs. Mofolake Adetohun Adegboyega (Empowerment and Youths Development); Mr. Emmanuel Kunle Ige (Agriculture, Food Security and Youths Engagement); Mr. Bola Ilori (Regional Integration); Hon. Idiat Babalola (Commissioner for Federal Matters); Hon. Biyi Odunlade (Social Affairs Special Needs); Wasiu Kolawole Omotunde-Young (Education); Oguntola Mudasir Toogun (Special Duties); Idowu Michael Korede (Environment and Sanitation); Alhaji Bola Oyebamiji (Finance); Mr. Adelani Baderinwa (Information and Strategy); Mrs. Latifat Giwa (Women Affairs); Mr. Remi Omowaiye (Innovation and Technology); Dr. Rafiu Kusamotu (Health); Mr. Kazeem Aderemi Salami (Works and Transport); Dauda Adebiyi (Home Affairs) and Akintunde Akinajo (Lands and Physical Planning)

Another 16 special advisers were also appointed bringing the total number of the newly appointed cabinet members inaugurated at the parking lot of Bola Ige House in Osogbo to 38. At the event, Aregbesola himself admitted that the inauguration was long overdue, but he reiterated that the delay was due to funds constraint.

The governor also announced that he and his deputy, Mrs. Grace Titi Laoye-Tomori, would drop heir portfolios in Works and Infrastructure and Education respectively for the new appointees to allow effective policy coordination and supervision.

According to him, just like other states in the federation, Osun was not insulated from the financial challenges that the country found itself. He stated that his state was receiving negative monthly allocations from the federation account during the period, saying ‎what hit Nigeria during this period was the equivalent of economic natural disaster and Osun was not alone.

“I congratulate all the appointees for being considered worthy of service to the government and people of our dear state and for scaling the hurdle of screening. Many of you served in the first term; the rest are fresh hands. Of course, this is long overdue. It should have come up immediately after my inauguration on November 27, 2014. As you all know, we were hamstrung by dire constraint – principally financial.

“Our second term coincided with the onset of a national economic disaster. The first on account of a purported daily theft of 650, 000 barrels of crude oil under the watch of the immediate past Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national government. This is curious and improbable. We must note that 650, 000 barrels of crude oil is the equivalent of 65 super tankers each laden with over 300, 000 metric tons of crude oil. By the way, a super tanker is about 450 metres long, the equivalent of four and a half football fields.

“Indeed, 27 states and the Federal Government were unable to pay salaries of workers. It might interest us to know that the government of Goodluck Jonathan‎, according to his Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had to borrow N476 billion from commercial banks to be able to pay salaries in the last four months of his administration,” Aregbesola told the gathering.

The governor further stated that his government had responsibilities in three broad categories, the most important of which is the commitment to the generality of the people of the state whose mandate he swore an oath to exercise faithfully, adding that state workers whom his administration has a contractual obligation to pay at the end of every month, and the political class who made it possible to campaign, contest and win elections would be carried along in his administration.

‎Explaining how his government coped with the recession, Aregbesola said: “What we have done during the special time occasioned by the emergency period we faced was to play a delicate balancing act between the three categories. Painfully, we came to an understanding with the workers on a realistic schedule of payment.

“We also continued with our programmes and critical social intervention albeit on a reduced scale. Lastly, we have good understanding from the political class on the need for them to make sacrifice as we defer appointments and cabinet formation. Our traducers, rather than reasonably comprehend the situation, went to town to harp on the non-composition of cabinet but in the process exposed their own ignorance.

“They thought by doing this, they would discredit us. However, right thinking people started asking them what business they have got with the formation or non-formation of an APC government cabinet.”

Good as his argument may sound, it is yet unclear whether or not the governor and his administration have escaped the substantive suit by Ajibola, who has vowed to press on with the case.

The plaintiff insisted that of the six reliefs sought by him, only one would be affected by the action of the governor whom “we are told just sworn in his commissioners” and that the remaining five “have life and this is for this generation and generations yet unborn”, he told the court..

According to him, section 193 of the constitution expects the governor to immediately, after his election, appoint his commissioners as he was not expected to be acting alone.

He insisted that by this: “All actions taken by him and which are necessary for the state executive council without the participation, affirmation, ratification and advice of the commissioners should be declared null and void.”

Ajibola further asked the court to dismiss all objections filed by the defendants because they were filed out of time adding that,“it is like the court has no response before it”.

He also asked the court to grant all the reiliefs sought by him.

“However, I want the court to take judicial notice of our sixth relief if indeed the governor has appointed his commissioners because I know as a matter of fact that the defendant rushed to perform the ceremony because they know this case will be coming up today”, he added.

The plaintiff had told the court that Aregbesola was not only a sole administrator but was ruling the state in a way not envisaged by the constitution .

However, the governor in a counter-affidavit deposed to by one Ibikunle Iyanda from the Chambers of Adewale Afolabi and filed in opposition to the originating summons of the plaintiff, said that he had been discharging his duties in line with the constitution in the last two years.

The government applied for a stay of execution but the court, on Tuesday, May 30, dismissed the applications seeking to halt the proceedings. The trial judge, Justice Olayinka Ayoola dismissed the governor’s application stating that the suit was time bound and that the application seeking a stay of proceeding could not be granted by the court. He thereafter ordered counsel to present their case on the substantive matter.

Aregbesola’s counsel, Afolabi, who is also the immediate past Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General of the state had informed the court that the governor had appointed his commissioners and they were being sworn-in as at the time the court was sitting.

According to him, with the swearing of the commissioners, the substantive case has ‘no life’ again and therefore the suit should be dismissed in its entirety.

Besides, he stated that Ajibola lacked locus standi to institute the matter and that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain it

But Ajibola, while opposing the applications asked the court to dismiss them adding that the fact that the governor had sworn in commissioners had not destroyed his case.

The case was adjourned to June 29.

Quote

In justifying his decision not to appoint commissioners for two years, Aregbesola said that the harsh economic reality in the country was to blame. According to him, there was nothing unconstitutional in not having a cabinet. Many, however disagreed with him.