Baba tope Okeowo reports that the Ondo State House of Assembly has, again, been thrown into crisis over a plan to change its leadership
The scenario that played out few days to the expiration of the tenure of former Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State when some lawmakers elected under the platform of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rebelled against his leadership and removed Princess Jumoke Akindele as speaker has again played out as lawmakers under the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have rebelled against the leadership of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and removed Bamidele Oleyelogun as the leader of the legislative arm of government.
The first time crisis broke out in the chambers of the Assembly was in the twilight of the administration of the immediate past government of Dr Mimiko, when some members of the Assembly, led by Malachi Coker removed Princess Jumoke Akindele and Fatai Olotu as the speaker and deputy speaker.
The second time was last weekend, when Akindele, also led members of the Assembly to impeach Bamidele Oleyelogun and Iroju Ogundeji as speaker and deputy speaker, respectively. Interestingly, the leadership of the Assembly on the two occasions was accused of corruption in the running of the affairs of the house.
The Akindele-led leadership was accused of withdrawing N15 million from the coffers of the Assembly without approval, while the Oleyelogun leadership was accused of abuse of office and misappropriation of N1.5 billion meant for the Assembly. Both Akindele and Oleyelogun battled to retain their positions despite the fact that majority of the members were against them. When she was impeached as speaker, Akindele said her colleagues, who were ready to dump PDP for APC were behind her removal. She said the members are ready to prove their loyalty to the administration of Akeredolu instead of the platform through which they were elected.
She also averred that signatures of members were forged in order to meet the constitutional requirement for her removal. Now that the table has turned, Oleyelogun said no impeachment took place on the floor of the Assembly as the lawmakers that purportedly carried out the impeachment did not meet up the constitutionally required number to carry out the removal. The lawmakers had exchanged blows when they tried to impeach Oleyeloogun and Ogundeji as the embattled speaker and his supporters tried to prevent the sitting for the day.
Akindele, who presided over the plenary as protem speaker in the absence of Oleyeloogun was thrown out of the chair, when the embattled speaker stormed the Assembly. But, other lawmakers including Mukaila Ayinde Ajakaye, Olamide George and Dayo Akinsoyinu removed the embattled speaker from the chair and asked Akindele to continue with the proceeding.
As he tried to regain the seat from Akindele, other lawmakers pinned him to the wall and he looked on helplessly as the impeachment proceeding went on. He was still pinned down to the wall, when George and Bimbo Fajolu were elected as speaker and deputy, respectively by the lawmakers present at the sitting.
The duo were sworn in by the Clerk of the Assembly, Mr. Bode Adeyelu. Giving reasons for the removal of the leadership of the Assembly, Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Olotu accused Oleyeloogun of financial impropriety, gross incompetence and high handedness.Olotu, who also announced the indefinite suspension of four members including Oleyeloogun, Ogundeji, Prince Abayomi Akinruntan and Suleiman Jamiu Maito said the leadership of the Assembly had expended the N1.5 billion budget without the knowledge of other members.
His words: “Two-third of members of the Ondo State House of Assembly today removed the speaker and his deputy over their incompetence to run the affairs of the House. I want you to know that changing the leadership is an inherent right of members of the House. The two officials have shown great incompetence in running the affairs of the House.
They ran the House aground financially and committed a lot of financial impropriety that members can no longer condone. As at June this year, they have exhausted all the budgetary allocation for the House, which runs to the tune of N1.5 billion without the knowledge of the House of Assembly.” However, Oleyeloogun, who addressed reporters shortly after, said the lawmakers who hatched the impeachment plot did not have the majority to remove him from office. Also, he said the mace which is the symbol of authority was still with him and remains with him indefinitely. He announced the suspension of George and 15 other lawmakers for removing him from office.
The embattled speaker revealed that the purported impeachment did not satisfy the constitutional requirement of the House as sig-natures collated were not up to 18, which represent two-third requirement for the impeachment of both speaker and deputy speaker of the Assembly. He maintained that signatures of Hon. Sunday Olajide and Hon. Olusola Oluyede were forged by the other group.
“They claimed to have formed two-third as a condition to impeach the speaker and deputy speaker, whereas they were less in number as Hon. Sunday Olajide and Hon. Olusola Oluyede were not part of the attempted impeachment,” he said. Oleyelogun said that serious business was not officially done on Fridays, when the purported impeachment was carried out, adding that he observed that the impeachment notice published in some national dailies on Sunday, November 11 only sought to impeach the deputy speaker. His words: “It is observed and confirmed that the letter written to the Clerk of the House of Assembly on November 9, was doctored. Among other irregularities on the doctored letter were: They intended to impeach the deputy speaker and not the speaker, but failed again. You can check the conclusion of their letter. Hence, the same letter written during a previously attempted impeachment against the deputy speaker was doctored without the consent or the members.”
The lawmaker also accused George of misleading the Assembly to cover up an ongoing investigation into the allegation that he was collecting money as a lawmaker and from the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), where he was currently serving as vice president. “He is not a patriotic Nigerian as he engages in holding two public offices at the same time. Panels had been raised to check out this before he led this attempted impeachment on November 9. I guess he did this to cover up his misdoings. That’s a conflict of interest,” Oleyelogun said. But, George insisted that the lawmakers that signed the impeachment letter were 18, which met the constitutional requirement of impeaching the Assembly’s leadership.
The names he gave included Abimbola Fajolu; Malachi Coker; Araoyinbo Olugbenga; Ade Adeniyi; Sola Ebiwonjumi; Olusegun Ajimotokin; Tuyi Akintimehin Jumoke Akindele, Fasogbon Akinyele; Olugbenga Akinsoyinu; Samuel Arowele; Vincent Obadiah; Fatai Olotu; Mukaila Musa; Sunday Olajide; Akindiose Olusiji; and Oluyele Folusho.
However, Olajide and Oluyede said they were not in the state, when the purported impeachment was done. Although Olajide was sighted during the melee that followed the impeachment, he, however, said he was neither informed nor briefed on the purported impeachment. He said he got wind of the impeachment story from a friend via telephone.
The lawmaker added that it was criminal for anyone to forge his signature. He stressed that he was not part of any meeting and did not participate in the foiled impeachment. Similarly, Oluyede said he was not part of the attempted impeachment, adding that he was shocked to find his name and signature on the notice. But, George challenged the two lawmakers to swear to an affidavit in law court that their signatures were indeed forged as they were part of the decision to impeach the leadership of the Assembly. He revealed that the meeting where the decision to impeach the leadership of the Assembly was held in Olajide’s house.
He further said that the two lawmakers confided in them to protect them as the APC has threatened to withdraw their tickets or frustrate their reelection if they did not rescind their decision and gave them 24 hours ultimatum to withdraw the allegation of forgery against them. Although the leadership of the Assembly was accused of financial impropriety, New Telegraph noted the major crux of the disagreement was the betrayal by the APC leadership in the state as most of the lawmakers, who were lured into the party with automatic tickets, were denied the opportunity to return to the Assembly. Many of them have less than seven months in the office. New Telegraph also noted that the defection that occurred in the Assembly shortly after Akeredolu assumed office as governor made the APC that started with clear minority in 2015 now the majority. The APC which started with five members out of the 26 members of the House of Assembly now has 19 members leaving the PDP which had 21members initially with seven.
Those who defected from PDP to APC with the promise of a return ticket or House of Representatives’ ticket include Oleyelogun, Iroju Ogundeji, Fatai Olotu, Akinyele Fasogbon, Kuti Towase, Bimbo Fajolu, Tuyi Akintimehin, Olumide Araoyinbo, Abayomi Akinruntan, Malachi Coker, Olamide George, Ayodeji Arowele and Segun Ajimotokin. Of these defectors, Oleyelogun; Ogundeji and Akinruntan were the only ones who got return tickets. Others, including Araoyinbo, who wanted to vie for House of Representatives tickets were left in the political cold. In fact, the likes of Mukaila, who was elected under the APC platform and remained loyal to the party, joined the rebellion because he was not given a return ticket.
Mukaila and Coker were part of those challenging the outcome of the party’s primaries in court. Apart from denying them tickets, sources said all the promises made to the lawmakers including the purchase of new vehicles have not been fulfilled. Many of them still use their personal cars for official functions. Similarly, it was learned that the perquisites of office enjoyed by lawmakers were denied because of the “weak leadership” foisted on them.
They belief is that the removal of the Oleyelogun leadership will enable them to fight for their rights from the executive. For now, the Assembly is in a chaos as Oleyelogun and George are laying claim to its leadership. While Oleyelogun enjoys the support of the leadership of the APC in the state and Governor Akeredolu, George has the support of a majority of his colleagues. But, who emerges as the eventual winner of the imbroglio would be determined in due course.
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