When Ondo Assembly spoke from two sides of The Mace
• Impeachment That Never Was
Everything happened so fast. And they seemed to be targeted at two major political events coming up in the state. Ondo State made history as one of the states where the legislature elected a female member as speaker. But last Tuesday the Assembly tried to put its legs in the mouth.
Tension has already started building in readiness for the April 23 local government and November 26 gubernatorial polls in the state. So when it was announced Tuesday that the first female Speaker, Rt. Hon. Jumoke Akindele and other principal officers had been impeached, residents became apprehensive.
From shock and bewilderment to those who kept late night, the news gradually diffused to the 18 councils of the state and other parts of the country. Surprisingly the unexpected happened on the unusually long night of the International Women’s Day celebration. Hon Akindele never bargained for that turn of events.
The development was reminiscent of that fateful morning on May 27, 2014, when she polled 13 against nine votes to beat her closest rival, Aladetan Oyebo, from Ilaje Constituency 1, in an open contest in the Assembly. She was to replace her predecessor, Samuel Adeshina, who died two months before. The whole state was on edge with mixed feelings.
Akindele, alongside the deputy speaker, Hon. Fatai Olotu and the Majority Leader, Hon. Ifedayo Akinsoyinu from Okitipupa 2, Akoko North East and Ondo West 2 respectively, were said to have been impeached around 10:30 pm at the private residence of a lawmaker by 18 out of the 26-member Assembly.
The Guardian gathered that the action of the 18 lawmakers was a mere notice of impeachment, which indicted the principal officers. They were accused of “incompetence, highhandedness, drunkenness, easy virtues, lack of focus, and lack of transparency, arrogance and poor leadership.”
The impeachment notice read: “We the undersigned elected honourable members move for the impeachment of Mr. Speaker and all the principal officers in Ondo State House of Assembly with immediate effect.”
When The Guardian visited the Assembly complex along Igbatoro Road in Akure, Wednesday morning, the complex was under key and lock, but there was visible presence of security personnel. The Akure Area Commander of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Edward Ajogun, commandeered a dispatch of officers that beefed up security at the premises with police patrol vans and armoured personnel carriers.
Ajogun told journalists that the police was on top of the situation across the 18 local government areas of the state and assured the people that there was no need for panic.
However, most of the offices, especially the lawmakers’ offices, were closed, save a few that were anxiously waiting for the outcome of the lawmakers’ closed-door meeting with Governor Olusegun Mimiko at the Government House, Alagbaka, Akure.
Aside the offences listed out against the principal officers of the Assembly, it was gathered from sources that the aggrieved lawmakers were trying to make out some cases in the 2016 budget, which was yet to be ratified by the House after the defence by all the ministries had been concluded over two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, plenary could not hold as usual on Tuesday by 10am, even as the postponement was not explained. However, a staff of the Assembly revealed that the motion for impeachment would have been moved at the floor of the House, saying that the postponement was to pre-empt it.
What appears to be a common cause has united 18 PDP lawmakers with four APC legislators, including Arowele Ayodeji PDP) Owo 1, Ogundeji Iroju (PDP) Odigbo 1, Oloyede Olushola (PDP) Ose, Akindiose Olusiji (PDP) Ondo East, Akintimehin Tunji (PDP) Idanre, Akinruntan Abayomi (PDP) Ilaje 1, Fajolu Abimbola (PDP) Ileoluji/Okeigbo.
Others were: Araoyinbo Olugbenga (PDP) Akoko North West 2, Olusegun Ajimatokin (PDP) Irele, Coker Adeniyi (PDP) Ilaje 2, Towase Kuti (PDP) Akoko South East, Obadiah Vincent (PDP) Ese-Odo, Olamide George (PDP) Akure North.
Mukaila Musa Owo 2, Kazeem M.S Akoko South West, Falemu Olusegun Akoko South West 2 and Jamiu Sulaimon Akoko North West 1 are the APC members that joined in the conspiracy against Akindele.
Attempts to reach out to top government functionaries and the Assembly members proved abortive. But the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the governor, Eni Akinsola, declared the action a nullity. He explained that the impeachment process was not properly executed, stressing that it cannot stand in the face of the law, especially when the Mace and insignia of authority were not present at the venue. It was, he said, a kangaroo meeting that would not hold water, legislatively.
Faulting the impeachment documents, the CPS noted that though signed by the 18 lawmakers, the document failed every formal consideration not having a date and reference number.
Meanwhile, a pressure group in Ondo State, Ondo State Women must Count (OSWC), mobilised to the governor’s office with placards and chanting solidarity songs to protest the impeachment, which they described as a wholesome rape on democracy and the womenfolk.
Coordinator of the group, Mrs. Olamide Falana, lamented what she described as the high-handedness of lawmakers at a period when the state is struggling to meet up with the 35 percent affirmative action campaign nationwide.
Falana said “It is a shame to even commit such crime on the International Women Day’s celebration, a time when the whole world was celebrating Governor Mimiko for allowing people like Rt. Hon. Jumoke Akindele to show forth her charisma and worth for the development of the state.”
It would be recalled that Akindele was elected the first female speaker in her first term but was re-elected in June 2015, while Olotu emerged the Deputy Speaker and Hon. Ifedayo Akinsoyinu, a three-time member, became Majority Leader.
In the recent attempt to unscramble the leadership structure in Ondo House of Assembly, analysts claim Governor Mimiko may be behind the schemes. They noted that the speaker must have slipped into the black book of the governor following her elder sister, Oladunni Odu’s defection last year to the All Progressives Congress (APC), where she is being positioned as a potential governorship running mate to one of the governorship aspirants from the northern district of the state.
But others who saw the development as a possible trick by the opposition to oust Mimiko before February 24, 2017, were confused by the nature of replacement announced to succeed Akindele, Iroju Ogundeji from Odigbo 1 and Arowele Ayodeji from Owo 1, as the new speaker and deputy in the palace coup.
“How come; this is the hand of Mimiko in the impeachment saga. Iroko has come again with his political jokers and game. Iroju is the right-hand man of Mimiko,” Yusuf Ayeye, from Okitipupa Local Government Area snapped in reaction to the development.
Ayeye, who said he is a relative of Iroju from the maternal side in Igodan-Lisa, revealed the intimacy between the stillborn speaker, (Iroju) and Mimiko; saying he was a commissioner in Mimiko’s first tenure and was also favoured by him to represent Odigbo 1, though he was from a different local government.
Despite insinuations, the long hour meetings, the stalemate in the night of the impeachment with the governor at the Government House, as well as the indoor meeting on Wednesday, it was clear that the governor was oblivious of the impeachment plot.
A chieftain of the PDP from the southern district, who gave his name simply as Solomon, distanced Akindele from the squabble, likening her to the “grass that suffers when two elephants fight,” because of her cordial relationship with the governor. Even at that, another source pointed at the female speaker’s relationship with the governor was what provoked the aggrieved lawmakers to sacrifice her as a victim of circumstance. They accused the principal officers of hobnobbing with the executive to their selfish satisfaction, while they wallow in total neglect.
A member of the Assembly, who spoke in confidence with The Guardian, decried the highhandedness and levity meted on them. He complained that many of them have no official car or apartment.
One of the PDP aspirants in the 2012 governorship election, Moyosola Niran-Oladunni, expressed pity for the indecent treatment meted out to the lawmakers, saying they were served right by the governor of the state. “They must not cry foul against their political godfather, Mimiko. Everything in life comes with a price, and they must pay the whole gamut of the price tag. You can’t have your cake and eat it back; impossible,” he said.
Niran-Oladunni, who ditched the PDP for the major opposition party in the state ahead of the November poll, recalled that all the PDP lawmakers were rigged into office by the incumbent governor.
But Chief Odidiomo Taiwo in Akure, saw the whole differently. He said the lawmakers never meant the impeachment but purposed to prove a point to Governor Mimiko that the eighth Assembly is not a House of stooges and puppets. “It is a red-alert signal, called ‘Aroko’ in Yoruba. The lawmakers have only succeeded in proving to Iroko that they are politically able and strong enough to spring up surprises against him, if he continues to take them for granted before the expiration of his tenure in eleven months’ time.”
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