Ekiti Assembly Speaker’s Removal and Repeat of History
Victor Ogunje writes that Monday’s reported removal of Hon Gboyega Aribisogan as Speaker of Ekiti State House of Assembly is unsettling the polity and creating atmosphere of political upheaval that may affect the state negatively if not properly managed
Although the turn of events was a familiar terrain and occurrence in Ekiti legislative arm. It is not something strange as it is gradually becoming a trade mark because the hallowed chamber was always being repleted with crisis.
This current one is akin to a mere repeat of history, and nothing more.
Shortly after the demise of Speaker Funminiyi Afuye, there were predictions that the assembly might be up in flame, except the political players are cautious and circumspect of their action, by gauging their temperament and penchant for power- seeking.
Immediately there was a change of guard from Governor Kayode Fayemi to Biodun Oyebanji, there were charged and frenzy moves for power -grabbing tendency in the assembly on the strength that both the deputy governor and speaker can’t come from the same Senatorial district.
The argument advanced was that since Oyebanji and the deputy governor, Monisade Afuye, hail from Ekiti Central and South districts respectively, the Speaker should oscillate to Ekiti North in the spirit of political balancing.
But sad enough, what ought to be resolved in the political turf was handled by nature. Afuye died barely a week after Oyebanji took over and the already charged intoxicated political players in the assembly and those prodding them seized the opportunity to launch deft and underhand political moves to take absolute control.
So, the fact that two factions suddenly surged in the House was not a surprise. Crisis is gradually becoming the Assembly’s second name. Tracing the trajectory of Ekiti Assembly since 1999, vividly attested to the fact that the legislature is gradually becoming a bedeviled enclave.
The beginning of crisis that has now become endemic in the assembly could be traced back to 2006 under the administration of former Governor Ayodele Fayose. At that time, the then Speaker, Hon Friday Aderemi led a team of 24 Peoples Democratic Party legislators that spearheaded Fayose’s removal over N1.2 billion alleged corruption relating to poultry project he executed for the state.
The then assembly was so polarised that it was permanently under lock and key. The lawmakers were whisked away from Ekiti to far away Lagos for safety. They were brought from Lagos for an emergency plenary that led to Fayose’s ill-fated removal on August 14, 2006.
Also in 2007 under the administration of Segun Oni, the assembly was riddled with crisis because the ruling PDP and the opposition Action Congress had 13 members each. There was a deep-seated controversy over how the principal officers would be shared. This created crisis that did incalculable damage to Ekiti’s corporate integrity.
In fact, the AC caucus of the assembly, had to abandon plenary for over three months before peace was brokered by stakeholders through equal power sharing device with Hon Femi Bamisile emerging as the Speaker and Hon Abayomi Adeoti, an AC lawmaker unanimously elected as the Deputy Speaker.
Crisis also reared its ugly head during the second term of Governor Ayodele Fayose in 2014 when he raised the alarm that the then Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon Adewale Omirin of the All Progressives Congress, was plotting to remove him with the backing of some party’s chieftains.
At that time, the upheaval degenerated to a level that thugs always laid siege to the assembly on daily basis. The APC members could neither sit nor access the assembly. Only seven lawmakers that were loyal to Fayose performed the functions of the assembly until the expiration of that fourth assembly.
The same sordid scenario reared its ugly head in 2017 when the then Speaker, Hon Kolawole Oluwawole prodded by the then Governor Fayose hammered some lawmakers, including Hon. Gboyega Aribisogan, with indefinite suspension over alleged disloyalty and anti-party conduct.
Aribisogan and his ilks were accused of hobnobbing with the late Buruji Kashamu faction of the PDP in the Southwest. Fayose was having a running battle with the late Senator at that time. The protracted and unresolvable crisis forced Aribisogan to defect to the APC and secured re-election ticket.
Taking cognisance of all the foregoing accounts, ardent followers of Ekiti politics as related to the legislature, would decipher that the assembly was experiencing a familiar situation.
Aribisogan in particular is a veteran in this game and the pace at which he was firing his salvos confirmed that he was treading a familiar turf.
The death of Hon Afuye, representing Ikere Constituency 1 created a sudden vacuum that sparked up the current crisis. His death came like a thunderbolt and unprepared for.
However, surreptitious horse trading had begun before his demise with the spreading notion that Afuye would have to step down from the speakership seat to allow a lawmaker from Ekiti North to take charge.
Those who shared this belief thought that since Governor Oyebanji emerged from the Central and his Deputy, Monisade Afuye from the Ekiti South, the Speaker must move to Ekiti North. But some of these lawmakers, who had respect for the late Afuye pleaded for clemency and understanding that he should be allowed to complete his tenure by June 5, 2023.
This must have accounted for why Aribisogan, who is from Ikole constituency 1 in Ekiti North decided to contest against his rival and now Speaker, Hon Bunmi Adelugba, who is also from Emure constituency in Ekiti South, against the wish of the party and its leaders.
In the first election held during plenary on November 15, 2022, Aribisogan won with 15 votes, while Adelugba garnered 10 votes. The embattled Aribisogan was sworn in by the Clerk, Mr Tola Esan.
In astounding fashion, 17 members reconvened a week after to remove him from office.
Ominous signs of disagreement started emerging the day Aribisogan was elected, when it was reported that he could not gain access to some of the paraphernalia and perks of office, like official vehicles, office and many others.
It was also said that he could not even have access to Governor Oyebanji and the party’s leader, Dr. Kayode Fayemi. The embattled lawmaker confirmed this in one of his interviews.
His removal from office gave a sordid reflection of the past, when Governors were being impeached with ease under President Olusegun Obasanjo. Around the assembly, stern-looking policemen were strategically positioned, with no fewer than 10 Hilux vans and anti-explosive vehicles scattered around the assembly complex to ward off any untoward interference.
Lawmakers that attended Monday’s emergency plenary were: Hon. Toyin Lucas(Ado 1) Femi Akindele (Irepodun-Ifelodun 1), Hon. Teju Okuyiga(Gbonyin), Hon. Ayodeji Ajayi(ise/orun), Hon. Lateef Akanle(Ekiti East 2), Hon. Arugbo(Moba 2) , Hon. Babatunde Fawekun(Ido/Osi 1) Hon. Babatunde Joseph(Ekiti Southwest 2), Hon. Ademola Ojo(Ijero), Hon. Adeoye Aribasoye(Ikole constituency 2).
Others included; Hon Akin Oso(Ido/Osi 1), Hon. Reuben Awoyemi(Oye 2), Hon. Tunde Idowu(Ikere 2), Hon. Bode Oyekola(Ekiti West 2), the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Hakeem Jamiu, and the new Speaker, Hon Adelugba.
Various views had been espoused by the contending forces to rationalise their positions. As things stand today, Aribisogan is still laying claim to the speakership seat, ditto Adelugba. This is one puzzle that can only be resolved through a balanced political move or judicial pronouncement.
At every available opportunity, Aribisogan had always accused former governor Kayode Fayemi as the mastermind of his removal. Though, this allegation had been faulted and branded as being spurious and unfounded.
Addressing newsmen during a visit to the party’s Secretariat in Ado Ekiti to introduce the new leadership, Adelugba appreciated the party for not allowing its name to be dragged in the mud despite the tension elicited by the power tussle in the lawmaking chambers.
Adelugba said what transpired Monday at the assembly was the indefinite suspension of Aribisogan and six other lawmakers, for allegedly sabotaging the passage of the revised 2022 supplementary budget presented by the executive.
The lawmaker disclosed that all the standing committees of the House had been dissolved, while a new Leader of Government Business, Hon. Bode Oyekola, was elected to pilot the affairs of the House.
“We have also appointed a chairman, House Committee on Appropriation as part of what we did today at the plenary.
“Let me say that the Assembly is ready to pardon as many of them that are ready to join us. This is about the party and not the Assembly. The action we took today had nullified the first election that produced Aribisogan.
“In the last election, Aribisogan claimed that he had 15, but today, I have 17 lawmakers behind me. Many of the lawmakers said they didn’t vote for him, but he compromised the election” .
Speaking further, the new Speaker said; “I thank our leaders, Biodun Oyebanji, Kayode Fayemi and Adeniyi Adebayo for playing strong leadership role. I want to say that this is the real members of the House of Assembly and we have chosen the real speaker.
“The late speaker was like a father to me, I will continue where he stopped. I want to assure you that you will enjoy the peace you enjoyed under the late Speaker”.
Addressing the lawmakers, the APC State Chairman, Hon. Paul Omotoso, denied the accusation that former Governor Fayemi allegedly arm-twisted the lawmakers and imposed Adelugba, adopting a strong-arm tactics.
According to him: “This is the happiest day of the party. We thank you for the way you conducted yourselves. Some believed the end has come to the House, but you were able to manage the crisis effectively. We read many things that people thought would demean our party. But you demonstrated that we can still have a strong House of Assembly after all this.
“Nobody ever imposed anybody on you. You are adults and enlightened people, very robust minds. Today, we are celebrating the return of peace in the House of Assembly. We do not want division. We will continue to play that fatherly role you have placed on our shoulders.
“With understanding, we will continue to resolve whatever crisis that comes to us as a challenge. Please, you have supported the last government and we want you to stretch same to the present government of Biodun Oyebanji”.
Piqued by his colleagues’ action, Aribisogan, described his removal by his opponents as a nullity, bragging that he remains the leader of the Assembly.
He condemned the gestapo manner at which his removal was allegedly done by lawmakers, saying such will be subjected to judicial scrutiny to save democracy from total collapse.
Alluding to the action taken against him by the lawmakers as a flagrant violation of the extant rules and the Assembly’s Standing Order, the embattled lawmaker; said: “In view of the foregoing, we hereby call on the Government and people of Ekiti State and all constituted authorities to note that Hon.Olugboyega Aribisogan remains Speaker of Ekiti State House of Assembly.
“While we urge Ekiti people to be watchful, they should remain calm in the face of the gross subversion of democratic principles which took place in the House of Assembly today. We remain confident that justice and the rule of law will prevail”.
Quoting relevant standing Rules to corroborate the fact that the lawmakers acted ultra vires, Aribisogan, said; “The general public must note that Order II, Rule 9 of the House Rules clearly prescribed that before the Speaker can be removed from office, he must be served with a formal notice of allegations and given a period of 72 hours to respond.
“The Rules further state that such response will be reviewed by an Adhoc Committee set up by the House for that purpose before a vote on impeachment of the Speaker can be taken on the floor of the House.
“The unlawful assembly of today was so stepped in illegality that the disgruntled members did not care to pretend to comply with these Rules in carrying out the purported impeachment of the Speaker.
“It should also be noted that the members present at the unlawful assembly did not meet the statutory number of 17 which the House Rules state can impeach a Speaker. If the
disgruntled members dispute this fact, they should also provide the video recordings of today’s sham proceedings”.
Aribisogan condemned in the strongest terms what he described as “illegal invasion of the House of Assembly Chambers by seven disgruntled members at the unparliamentary hour of 6.00am, to carry out impeachment against him.
According to him, it was brazen display of naked power and gross abuse of office for the lawmakers to have held a sitting under a stringent cover by the police to carry out impeachment proceedings against him saying such would not stand in the face of the law.
Hos words; “Ekiti people are aware that the House of Assembly adjourned sitting sine die after the election of Rt. Hon. Aribisogan as Speaker on 15th November, 2022. Our people are also aware that a detachment of armed policemen took over the premises of the Assembly Complex since the early hours of Wednesday, 16th November thereby preventing the legislature from undertaking its constitutionally prescribed duties.
“This morning, seven disgruntled members of the House were shepherded into the Assembly Chamber by the policemen for a session that can only be described as an unlawful gathering and definitely not a plenary sitting because, the gathering was not convened in accordance with Order V, Rule 18 (1) of the House Rules.
“In view of the fact that the presence of the members in the Chamber was in contradiction of the House Rules, the purported impeachment of Mr. Speaker and suspension of seven members is illegal, ultra vires, null and void and of no effect.
“The actions are not legally sustainable and would definitely be quashed be a court of competent jurisdiction”, he stated.
Former Governor Fayemi also didn’t keep mute to the accusation of imposition and undue interference leveled against him. He said he was innocent and never meddled in the internal affairs of the assembly.
The former governor, in a statement signed by Ahmed Sajoh of his Media office in abuja, said; “We wish to clarify that Dr. Fayemi had nothing to do with the removal of the former Speaker by his peers as this was the internal arrangement of the State House of Assembly.
“We wish to note that even as Governor, Dr. Fayemi did not interfere with the independence of the House and respected the principle of separation of powers where the House had
freedom to decide on their internal affairs.
Miffed by the hoopla resonating from the Assembly, an Ekiti-born legal icon, Femi Falana(SAN), warned that the contrived crisis rocking the Ekiti State House of Assembly may hinder the House from considering and passing the 2022 Budget as soon as possible.
Falana warned those he described as enemies of democracy in Ekiti State to let the parliament function in line with the country’s constitution.
In a statement, Falana advised the Chief Security Officer of Ekiti State, Governor Oyebanji, to take charge and ensure the immediate restoration of law and order in the House of Assembly.
He said; “Last week, the members of the Ekiti State House of Assembly elected a new Speaker, Hon Gboyega Aribisogan to replace Hon Niyi Afuye who recently passed on.
“Even though the election of the new leaders of the House was adjudged fair and free the Ekiti State Police Command was reported to have sealed off the House of Assembly complex based on intelligence report that some disgruntled elements were planning to set it ablaze and attack the democratically elected leaders of the House.
“We commend the Ekiti State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Moronkeji Adesina for foiling the dubious plan of the criminally minded elements.
“However, we call on the Police Chief to provide adequate security for the members of the House to discharge their constitutional duty of enacting laws for the State and attend to matters of urgent importance.
“We are compelled to advise the Chief Security Officer of Ekiti State, Governor Biodun Oyebanji to take charge and ensure the immediate restoration of law and order in the House of Assembly to enable him to present the 2022 Appropriation Bill of the State. Otherwise, the passage of the Ekiti State 2022 will be unduly delayed to the detriment of the development of the State.”
Now that Aribisogan has threatened court action against the lawmakers, people are waiting how far he will go in the desperate efforts to retrieve his position back, or better still reunite with his colleagues and enjoy the rest of the seven months remaining, before his tenure expires.