Without exaggeration, peace has eluded the Ekiti State House of Assembly since November 15, 2022 when the sacked speaker, Hon Gboyega Aribisogan was elected, Victor Ogunje writes
The South-east Caucus of the House of Representatives last week, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to show statesmanship and fatherly introspection by ensuring the release of the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, from detention.
The federal lawmakers’ appeal came on the heels of the unanimous decision of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, which discharged the IPOB leader of the terrorism charges brought against him by the federal government.
Due to internal upheaval and contrivances, the Ekiti State House of Assembly members are paying allegiance to two speakers, Hon Gboyega Aribisogan elected on November 15, 2022 and the female lawmaker elected after his abrupt removal from office, Hon. Olubunmi Adelugba.
However, the latter seems to enjoy more legitimacy because she is the one recognised by 17 assembly members, Governor Biodun Oyebanji, and party top hierarchy in Ekiti.
Most disturbing was the fact that the names of some powerful bigwigs like former Governor Kayode Fayemi, the incumbent Governor Oyebanji and APC leadership at the state level, had been dragged into the fray, thereby creating the impression that the leadership crisis could be a struggle for control and relevance.
The removal of Aribisogan was nothing new to the House. In the past, Hon. Sola Ajigbolamu was impeached during the second assembly of 2003-2007 to give way for the emergence of Chief Friday Aderemi. The same pulsating scenario played out in the fourth assembly, when Hon. Femi Bamisile was impeached to pave the way for Hon. Tunji Odeyemi, who later acted as the Acting Governor on February 17, 2009, when Segun Oni was removed by the court, which elicited the conduct of the April 26, 2009 rerun. Also in the fifth assembly, Hon. Adewale Omirin was impeached at former Governor Ayodele Fayose’s prodding, using only seven lawmakers. So, the current trend is a familiar occurrence that shouldn’t take anyone by surprise.
Following his removal, Aribisogan, a second-term lawmaker, representing Ikole constituency 1, began appearing on media platforms launching vitriolic attacks against former Governor Kayode Fayemi and branding him the mastermind of his impeachment. He was consistent and persistent in his allegation that the former governor was still desirous to be teleguiding the current government by acting as a godfather. He said such a culture of unbridled power-mustering tendency or godfatherism can’t be established in a sophisticated environment like Ekiti.
The embattled lawmaker called on stakeholders like Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and Femi Falana (SAN), to warn Fayemi against such tendency due to its calamitous effect on the politics of the state.
Before he was finally removed, Aribisogan had a premonition of the attempt by those opposed to him to reconvene at the assembly and get rid of him. Acting promptly, he slammed some members like the Deputy Speaker, Hakeem Jamiu; Hon. Adeoye Aribasoye; Hon. Toyin Lucas and four others with indefinite suspension. How plausible this would be with the present situation is still being awaited. Countering the harsh position maintained by Aribisogan, the pro-Adelugba lawmakers also launched a counter-attack the day the impeachment was hatched by also placing Aribisogan, Hon Kemi Balogun, Hon.Yemisi Ayokunle, Hon. Goke Olajide and three others on indefinite suspension. As of today, 17 members are with Adelugba, with Aribisogan parading seven, while one lawmaker is still maintaining neutrality.
The crisis in the assembly can’t be divorced from the propensity of politicians to muster enough influence to be in firm control of the political situation. Politics is about interest and the possibility of some APC leaders trying to gain control might be there. But stakeholders were incensed with the unbridled fashion at which the situation was being pursued. What Aribisogan said that former Governor Fayemi and other leaders of APC were allegedly plotting to impose leadership on the House corroborated this widespread feeling. But the APC state Chairman, Hon. Paul Omotoso, an experienced politician found the allegation laughable, baseless and spurious.
Omotoso said leadership of any legislature is determined by the party and this he said can’t be done by fiat or imposition.
“What we did was just to provide a guide and let them know the position of the party and its preference. We didn’t interfere in how the assembly was being run, but we also advise so that there won’t be mistake that can cause unnecessary crisis like we are seeing now”, Omotoso said.
He appealed to the lawmakers to forge a common front behind Adelugba for robust lawmaking process that can guarantee good governance for the people of the state.
Apparently aware of the enormity of the damage their alleged involvement in Aribisogan’s removal could trigger, the duo of governor Oyebanji and his predecessor, Fayemi quickly extricated themselves from the factional crisis rocking the House.
However, Oyebanji applauded all the leaders of the APC over their swift intervention in resolving the bedlam, he described as a “family affair”. The governor described the crisis “as a family affair and one of the beauties of democracy”, denying insinuations in some quarters that he was meddling in the affairs of the House. He appreciated the lawmakers for their civility, saying: “You have justified the confidence your various constituencies reposed in you, by doing the right thing at the appropriate time”.
Oyebanji assured the new Speaker of his support, reminding her on the need to accelerate action on the passage of the 2022 budget.
Fayemi in a similar fashion, through a statement signed by Ahmad Sajoh of his Media Office in Abuja, said; “We note the allegation by the former Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Mr Aribisogan, that his impeachment was masterminded by Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the immediate past governor of the state.
“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”.
Meanwhile, Aribisogan has threatened to fight his impeachment through the instrumentality of the law. Based on Aribisogan’s allegation that only 10 lawmakers removed him during the emergency plenary where Adelugba was elected, the lawmakers would have to prove that the quorum of 2/3 of total members of 25 members was met before carrying out the impeachment.
Another issue that is also of concern is that, what would Aribisogan gain in the litigation? This is because the present assembly will be dissolved on June 5, 2023 and by predictions, his case would still be under trial in court by then. However, people are still waiting how this will play out.
Two legal gurus: Chief Olanipekun and Falana, in their individual reactions expressed reservations over the sordid and worrisome happenings in the legislative chambers. They described the scenario leading to the removal of Aribisogan as not only condemnable, but capable of destroying the core values of self- respect, honour and honesty Ekiti was renowned and respected. They appealed to the lawmakers and other political players prodding them to look at Ekiti through a larger and broader spectrum. They added that it would be catastrophic for a few privileged individuals to begin to treat the state as their chiefdom and personal estate, saying this could trigger atmosphere of anarchy that would be difficult to quell.
Olanipekun, in his epistle over Ekiti Assembly imbroglio, suggested that the lawmakers should allow Aribisogan to be, meaning that he should be reinstated back to his speakership position. The legal icon also suggested that the current Deputy Speaker, Hakeem Jamiu, who apparently is the leader of anti-Aribisogan group should retain his position.
The state chairman of the party, Omotoso was not also averse to applying political option to resolve the seeming conundrum, since all the lawmakers are of APC stock. While these were being mooted, Aribisogan was threatening fire and brimstone over his resolve to approach the court to seek redress. Now, three options are available: legal, politics and compromise.
Fingers remain crossed as to which option would be potent enough to broker truce between the two feuding groups to restore sanity to the beleaguered Ekiti hallowed chambers.