James Sowole in Akure
Workers at the Ondo State House of Assembly were gripped with tension yesterday as police personnel early stormed the Assembly Complex.
The tension came less than 24 hours after the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Uche Secondus, formally received Ondo State Deputy Governor, Mr. Agboola Ajayi to the party from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The State Working Committee (SWC) of APC had on Monday issued a statement that asked Ajayi to resign his position honourably as deputy governor of the state.
A source within the assembly said that many workers packed their personal vehicles outside the Assembly Complex out of fear that there may be crisis.
However, some of the workers who witnessed the scene said the police visit to the Assembly Complex lasted for a brief moment, adding that the 26 state lawmakers were on recess.
It was learnt that the police had received instructions to provide security to the lawmakers who would soon begin the impeachment process of the deputy governor.
Another staff of the assembly, who pleaded anonymity, said: “We woke up to see the policemen in our complex this morning and manning strategic locations. I overheard one of them saying they were asked by the Commissioner of Police to stay here.
“There have been plans to impeach the deputy governor since he defected to the PDP on Sunday and the presence of the policemen is to provide cover for some of the lawmakers loyal to the governor to carry out the hatchet job.
“As I speak to you now, I have found my way out of the complex while other workers are just staying with suspicion that anything may happen.”
The deputy governor declared on Sunday that he would not resign his position as the state’s deputy governor until his people asked him to do so.
Several attempts to speak with the State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Tee-Leo Ikoro, to confirm the presence of the police personnel in the Assembly Complex proved abortive as he didn’t pick his calls.
Also, the Chairman of the House of Assembly Committee on Information, Hon. Gbenga Omole, said he would not speak with anybody when he was on his mobile line.
In a swift reaction, the Chief Press Secretary to Ajayi, Mr. Babatope Okeowo, described the alleged move to impeach the deputy governor as illegal.
Okeowo said that the deputy governor discovered the move to impeach him through financial inducement of members of the Ondo State House of Assembly to the tune of N10 million each.
“We wish to state that the deputy governor is a tested politician of note who is not unprepared for this type of kangaroo and infamous move from the desperate and drowning Governor of Ondo State, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, and his group.
“Agboola Ajayi has not committed any impeachable offence by joining the PDP. He has only exercised his constitutional right of freedom of association. Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) provides as follows: ‘Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular, he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any association for the protection of his interests.’
“For the avoidance of doubt, we state unequivocally that the governor and his allies do not have and cannot muster the requisite majority in the House of Assembly for the removal of the deputy governor under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 in any free, fair and transparent process.
“We remain undaunted in the move to throw off the combined weight of those kneeling on the neck of Ondo State. Our state shall not be allowed to suffocate. At the appropriate time, the people of Ondo State shall decide the right person, who will serve as the arrowhead of the bid to save the state from the nepotistic clique kneeling on her neck,” Okeowo said.
However, the Ondo State’s Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Donald Ojogo, lambasted the deputy governor over the alleged impeachment plot.
Ojogo said: “This is the height of perfidy, another pernicious warp from an intellectually challenged and treacherous personality. Knowledge cannot be procured, but only be acquired.
“For anyone to aver that lawmakers have been financially induced is a gross display of emptiness. It becomes more laughable when such comes from someone who had boasted about having majority members in the assembly.
“Clearly, while the executive led by Mr. Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN, does not believe in inducement, it is left for our very reputable legislative arm to either confirm or debunk this spurious allegation.”