The crisis rocking the Ondo State House of Assembly has escalated, with two Speakers laying claim to its leadership. Efforts to resolve the logjam by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which controls the majority in the House, have hit the rocks. Correspondent DAMISI OJO examines the implications of the crisis for parliamentary unity and decorum as the state eagerly awaits the inauguration of a new government.
There is no end in sight to the crisis rocking the Ondo State House of Assembly. The two legislators parading themselves as speakers are flexing muscles. Efforts by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to halt the strife and rancor has failed.
In the past, particularly during the era of former Olusegun Agagu, the House of Assembly along Igbatoro road, Akure, the state capital, was a beehive of activities.
The legislators from the respective constituencies were pragmatic and vibrant. Chairmen and members of various House Committees took their oversight functions seriously. The former Parliamentary Liaison Officer (PLO), Hon Ola Oguntimehin, was up to the task.
Lawmakers engaged in robust debates and arguments on the floor of the House, leading to the passage of useful bills and motions that had positive effects on the lives of the people. Everything was in order. The welfare of the lawmakers was paramount to the executive arm. Unfortunately, the reverse is the case now because of the dormant situation at the Assembly.
The ruling People Democratic Party (PDP) has 21 members while the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) has five members. However, unlike in the past, the Eighth House is in deep slumber. Its leadership has been accused of loyalty to Governor Olusegun Mimiko, which observers said was not good for the House.
The house is not at peace with itself. Majority of the legislators, even in the ruling PDP, are not happy with way things are going. They have complained that their welfare was not well attended to by the executive; no funds, no official cars, no comfortable offices to enhance better performance of the members.
The five opposition members are powerless. They could not resist the House’s leadership style. They only grumble in silence. Their aides complain that their principals are suffering. Observers are of the view that the executive arm had successfully weakened the House and put it in a tight corner.
Lawmakers could not invoke impeachment against the governor. When it was attempted in the past, the plot collapsed like a park of cards. They were stopped by Mimiko, who deployed his arsenal.
However, less than a month to the inauguration of the administration of Mr Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), 26 lawmakers met and removed the Speaker, Princess Jumoke Akindele.
Akindele, a PDP member, is from Okitipupa Constituency, South District. Also, the House impeached the Deputy Speaker, Fatai Olotu from Akoko Division, North District and the Majority leader, Dayo Akinsoyinu, who is the most senior legislator in the House.
The action was reportedly carried out in the evening of that day. It was learnt that after the swearing in of a new Speaker, Malachi Coker, by the Clerk, Bode Adeyelu, the lawmakers quickly adjourned sitting. They had the mace with them. Twenty of the 26 members allegedly signed the impeachment paper and 14 were present during the impeachment.
The Assembly had been embroiled in crisis since March, last year when Akindele and Olotu were first impeached over alleged gross misconduct and financial impropriety.
Some lawmakers alleged that the Speaker withdrew N15m from the House of Assembly’s coffers without the approval of the paymaster, Makanjuola Adesina.
The aggrieved faction elected Coker from Ilaje Constituency One as Speaker. Ayo Arowele from Owo Constituency One was elected as the Deputy Speaker.
Now, two factions are laying claim to the leadership of the House.
The spokesman of the House, Siji Akindiose, dismissed the impeachment, describing it as an exercise in futility. According to him, the faction, led by Coker, needed no fewer than 18 to effect any lawful removal of the Speaker and other principal officers.
He added: “To orchestrate such illegality, they blatantly took recourse to the travesty to the known rules and convention of the House.
“Expecting it to stand shows clearly that some people are either power drunk or they are incapable of understanding or appreciating the fine ethos of the rules of the House and the rule of law. To even attempt to enforce their ill-advised will on the majority of the House in such a callous manner is a pointer to the kind of leadership style they plan to provide”.
Akindiose said the fund being paraded by the aggrieved lawmakers as fraud was meant for the project execution, adding that they were properly appropriated for and approved by the leadership of the house.
The spokesman for Coker faction, Ogundeji Iroju, said the impeachment was legitimate because of the gross misconduct of Princess Akindele. He alleged that N15m was found with the paymaster of the House, Makanju Adesina.
He said an emergency plenary session was convened after the paymaster was arrested with the money, leading to the impeachment of Akindele and the swearing in of Coker by the Clerk.
Iroju said there was no going back on the impeachment of Akindele and other principal officers.
The impeachment was reminiscent of last year’s plot against the principal officers, an action that was reversed 24 hours after the intervention of Mimiko and other PDP leaders.
The paymaster, Adesina, said he was issued a cheque of N15m by his boss, the Director of Accounts (DA), to cash the money at Stanbic Bank. He said after collecting the money from the bank, the DA instructed him to move the cash to the Assembly’s Complex as usual for further directive on how to disburse it through his office as slated in his official schedule of duty.
However, Adesina said the moment he left the bank, he noticed a car trailing him while he made a frantic effort to get the House of Assembly to avoid being robbed. But, he said he later discovered that they were lawmakers.
He said before I could move the cash into his office, about 13 members of the House bombarded his car and ordered him to carry the bag containing the cash from his car.
Adesina said they took his pictures and treated him like a common criminal for doing his lawful duties.
The paymaster urged the police, rights activists and other relevant bodies to rise up to condemn the act and assist in bringing restoring his dignity.
Sources said the governor had intervened into the crisis, but no without success.
The APC, which was accused of being the brain behind the crisis, debunked the claim through its spokesman, Abayomi Adesanya, saying the development was an attestation of the looting spree by the state government and its agencies.