Impeachment echoes Ondo guber primary fallout
The recent impeachment in Ondo State House of Assembly in which the Speaker, Bamidele Oloyelogun, and his deputy, Ogundeji Iroju, share some similarities to the political discord in Ogun State.
However, what happened in Ondo appeared to be more about the unfinished political battle of interests during the 2016 governorship primary of All Progressives Congress (APC), when the anointed of former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Segun Abraham, was sidelined by the powers that be.
With political power changing hands at 40 Blantyre Street, Wuse II, Abuja, losers at Ondo governorship face-off saw the present circumstances in the party as opportune moment to return the fight to their enemies’ camp.
In the impeachment that happened, 18 out of the 26-member state legislature decided to send a warning signal to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, whose triumph at the governorship primary unsettled the man at Bourdilon Street.
The flipside of the impeachment of Oloyegun and Iroju is that unless Aketi does the needful politically, similar fate could befall him because as things stand at the legislature only about seven lawmakers are on the governor’s side.
In what appears an afterthought, two out of the 18 lawmakers that removed the speaker and deputy on Friday November 9, 2018, Sunday Olajide and Olusola Oluyede, have come out with a disclaimer, saying that their signatures were forged to execute the impeachment.
Making their claim during a plenary session attended by nine out of 26 lawmakers and presided over by the embattled Speaker, Oloyelogun and his Deputy, Iroju, the two lawmakers said they were outside the country when the impeachment took place, stressing that their signatures were lifted from a previous exercise.
At the session, which was closely guarded by security operatives, the governor had brought the 2018 Appropriation Bill for amendment.
However, the 18 lawmakers that signed the impeachment as well as the speaker and deputy they enthroned, Olamide George from Akure North and Abimbola Fojolu from Okeigbo/Ileoluji constituency were conspicuously absent.
Olajide, representing Akure South Constituency II and his counterpart, Oluyede from Ose Constituency, maintained that they were not part of the rebellion.
Olajide, who is also Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, said he was neither informed nor briefed on the move to impeach the speaker, explaining that a friend informed him on phone.
Similarly, Oluyede claimed he was not part of the attempted impeachment, adding that he was shocked to find his name and signature on the notice, stressing: “I am here to deny the rumour of the purported impeachment. I am not part of it and cannot be part of it.”
Expatiating further, Oluyede explained that his name and signature, which were on the notice list, were the old ones used to impeach the Deputy Speaker a few months ago, pointing out that they were “doctored” to suit the purpose.
On his part, the purportedly impeached Deputy Speaker, Iroju, faulted the impeachment process, arguing that it flouted the rules laid down in the constitution for the removal of principal officers.
He said: “We are 26 honourable members and for any principal of the House of Assembly to be impeached, the two-third must be complete and sign the impeachment paper before such impeachment would be carried out. So out of that 18 members that signed the impeachment paper two of them have said now that their signatures were forged. That means, the two-third have not been fulfilled in that regards.”
Other five members at the session were: Bankole Felemu, Abayomi Akinrunruntan, Jamiu Sulaimon Maito, Kuti Towase and Kazeem Sulaiman.
In near unanimity, the members stressed that the purported impeachment did not satisfy the constitutional requirement, as signatures collated were not up to 18, which represents the two-third of the members needed to remove the functionaries.
The lawmakers added that the essential authorities of the House such as the “Original mace or gavel, standing order, book of oath and proceedings were not honoured and followed in the purported impeachment.”
Oloyelogun, who suspended the 15 lawmakers, dispelled the impeachment as null and void, urging the DSS and other security agencies to arrest them and charge them for forgery and perjury.
Those suspended include Fajolu, George, Malachi Coker, Araoyinbo Olugbenga, Ade Adeniyi, Sola Ebiwonjumi, Olusegun Ajimotokin, Tuyi Akintimehin and Jumoke Akindele, the first female Speaker.
Others are Fasogbon Akinyele, Olugbenga Akinsoyinu, Samuel Arowele, Vincent Obadiah, Fatai Olotu and Mukaila Musa.
According to Oloyelogun: “They claimed to have formed two-third as a condition to impeach the speaker and the deputy, whereas they were less in number as Hon. Sunday Olajide and Hon. Olusola Oluyede were not part of the attempted impeachment.
“In view of this the House has taken the decision on it to call on the security agents to probe the purported signatures and names so that those involved in that forgery will quickly be brought to book.”
Mutineers remain adamant
Meanwhile, the lawmakers who impeached Oloyelogun and Iroju shunned all efforts by the governor and party leaders in the state to resolve the crisis, insisting that the principal officers remain impeached.
The Guardian gathered that Akeredolu and APC leadership, led by the state chairman, Mr. Ade Adetimehin, called several meetings that were rebuffed by the lawmakers.
18 out of the 26 lawmakers sacked the two principal officers for gross abuse of office, mismanagement of funds, and high-handedness among other offences.
But a source in Government House disclosed that the peace meetings were summoned by Governor Akeredolu in a bid to reverse the impeachment of the principal officers, but was shunned by the members, who said they were not ready to negotiate with him.
The source disclosed that only seven lawmakers attended one of the meetings last Sunday, while some of the 18 lawmakers had since fled the state mainly to Ibadan, Oyo State just as others reportedly travelled overseas.
He added that the lawmakers deliberately refused to honour the invitations due to the violent attacks visited on them by members of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), who disrupted the plenary session on Friday and attacked them with dangerous weapons.
Giving a low down on what transpired at Government House, the source said: “The picture taken after the failed peace meeting showed that only seven lawmakers are on the side of Oloyelogun; you can see that seven of them were with Aketi in the picture.
“We also have two former Speakers of the House, who are now appointees of Akeredolu, that is, Taofeeq Abdulsalam and Oluwasegunota Bolarinwa. The governor has lost control of the Assembly.
“The former Speaker (Oloyelogun) was not in-charge; if not for APC and Aketi, he would have been removed since. I don’t think the impeachment would be reversed because some of the lawmakers are not returning to the Assembly in 2019; they have nothing to lose.”
The source further revealed that the governor was discomforted with the development, as the new leadership is now the absolute majority with two-third constitutional requirement to take decisions in the legsilature.
The newly elected Speaker, George, at a press conference in Ibadan, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to rescue him and his colleagues from attempts on their lives, stressing, “We are duly elected members of the state Assembly, acting within the confines of the constitutional duties at plenary.”
Speaking on behalf of 17 other lawmakers, he declared that Oloyelogun and Iroju were impeached over established evidences of gross misconduct, financial recklessness, abuse of power and incompetence leveled against them.
George, who lamented that their family members were being threatened over the impeachment, accused the state APC chairman and police of conspiring with thugs to attack them.
While appealing to Buhari to save democracy from imminent collapse in Ondo, he stated: “Surprisingly, the impeached Speaker led to the Assembly Mr. Gbenga Adeyanju, the State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ade Adetimehin, state APC chairman, the state NURTW Chairman, Mr. Jacob Adebo, about 50 heavily armed officers and thugs.
“They invaded the Assembly and assaulted honourable members, Assembly staff, journalists and visitors to the Assembly Complex.”
He then appealed to the president to save democracy from collapse in the state.
Willing to prove his claims, George said that there were video and pictorial documentations of the alleged vandalisation of cars and properties worth several millions of naira by thugs under the supervision of Adeyanju.
“It is an open secret that N1.3bn was approved and released for the 2018 budget of the Assembly. The former speaker and deputy speaker jointly expended over N1billion in the first quarter of 2018 without approval.
“This is the height of corruption. We cannot condone it. It is unacceptable to the people of Ondo whom we are representing and that’s why we chose the path of honour to partner with Buhari to flush corruption out of Ondo.”
The new Deputy Speaker, Fajolu, representing Okeigbo/Ileoluji Constituency, implored the Inspector General of Police to immediately redeploy the Commissioner for Police from the state, accusing him of conspiracy.
He decried the attitude of the police commissioner who led the security operatives to the Assembly on Friday during the impeachment process, affirming that they were not safe as long as he still remains the police boss in the state.
Asserting that the impeachment process was constitutional, Faloju affirmed that 18 out of the 26 lawmakers, which represent two-third, carried out the impeachment, saying he has the 18 names and signatures of members who impeached them.
“The impeachment was in order. We have removed the inefficient speaker and deputy speaker from office and this act is completely irreversible,” he said.
The first female Speaker, Jumoke Akindele, who was assaulted by the thugs and Oloyelogun, implored Buhari and his wife, Hajia Aisha Buhari to protect women in politics from molestation, intimidation and harassment.
It would be recalled that only five APC lawmakers were voted to the Assembly in the 2015 elections, while the other 21 were PDP legislators. But 13 PDP members, including Oloyelogun and Iroju deflected to APC after Akeredolu was sworn in on February 2016.
After the impeachment of the principal officers, Akindele was appointed to preside over the House in acting capacity, which elected George and Fajolu, which made her the target of attack by the impeached Speaker.
Akindele, who decried her maltreatment, raised that alarm that “my family members, my colleagues and my dear life are no longer safe. I have been marked for assassination for standing against corruption.”
Aligning herself with the new principal officers in ‘exile’, she appealed to Akeredolu and the ruling party to allow the legislative arm of government to function independently without interference.