Rumble in Lagos Assembly over removal, suspension of members
• Speaker denies rift among lawmakers
The crisis brewing in the Lagos State House Assembly, with the controversial removal of two of its principal officers and members does not bode well for the Assembly and APC Lagos State. This is more so at a time when the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is enmeshed in various crises both at the national and state levels. At the Lagos Assembly, the Chief Whip, Mr. Rotimi Abiru, who represents Shomolu II and Deputy Majority Leader, Mr. Olumuyiwa Jimoh, representing Apapa II were removed during Plenary on Monday 9, 2020.
Although the leadership of the Assembly claimed that 27 members unanimously supported the removal of Abiru and Jimoh according to the provisions of the Rules and Standing Orders of the House, with the approval granted by the Speaker, Mr. Mudashiru Obasa, subsequent events did not support such position as several insinuations were later ascribed for the development.
Obasa, while defending the issue, noted that the parliament serves as the heartbeat of every democracy and its sanctity and positive response is key, and therefore the need for discipline.
According to him, “It is obvious that the hope of the people is missing and it is on this notes that I invoked Orders 68, 71, (4)(a)(b)(11) and (111) of the Rules and Standing Order of the House in respect of gross misconduct and insubordination and actions that can destabilise the House. I thereby vote and move that Hon. Moshood Oshun representing Lagos Mainland II and Hon. Adewale Raheem representing Ibeju/Lekki Constituency II be on suspension indefinitely.”
In what looked like a premeditated agenda, the Assembly quickly went ahead to name two lawmakers as replacement for the affected officers that were impeached in the persons of Noheem Adams from Eti-Osa Constituency 1 (as Deputy Majority Leader) while Mojisola Miranda, representing Apapa Constituency 1 was elected as the new Chief Whip.
But many questions are begging for answers, since this is not the first time the Assembly would wield the big stick on erring members. What is, however, curious in the recent development is the ‘military and desperado’ manner in which the Speaker and his allies in the House moved against Jimoh and Abiru. This was after a story entitled: ‘Lagos Assembly spends N2.4b on 80 cars in 11 Months’ published in The Guardian newspapers on March 1 2020.
The report allegedly indicted the leadership of the House and some principal officers of reckless spending, saying, “About N2.4b has been spent within 11 months to procure 80 cars for the 40 members of the Lagos State House of Assembly. Information available to The Guardian revealed that sometimes last year, a contract was awarded for 40 cars to be purchased for the lawmakers. And less than a year after, another contract was awarded for the purchase of cars for the Assembly members in December and January.”
The report also said that the vehicles for the six principal officers cost N51.8m each, while those for the 36 members cost N36.5m each. The Guardian also gathered that the new set of cars for the lawmakers was coming less than a year after a contract was awarded for the supply of 40 vehicles for official duties that cost N18.8m each.
Although the House Committee Chairman on Information, Mr. Tunde Braimoh, claimed he was not aware any car was bought last year, he has, however, been accused of being economical with the truth, as it was widely publcised that lawmakers were given cars early last year.
Since the news came to the public domain, the leadership of the House has stopped at nothing to get to the root of the matter and to find out which of its officers might have divulged such ‘reckless’ information, not just to the public but the executive arm of government.
It was learnt that several invitations were sent to the author of the story by the House with a view to explaining his source while emissaries were also dispatched to his (author) close colleagues at the behest of Obasa and Braimoh but to no avail. It was insinuated that Jimoh and Abiru might have been behind the release of the information to the media because one of them allegedly opposed the move to purchase those exotic cars when it was initially discussed at the Plenary sometimes last year. A source in the House claimed that based on this, Obasa and his loyalists might have forced other lawmakers, especially the new entrants, to move against the affected officers and members.
It was also gathered that some members of the House had been uncomfortable with the lavish manner in which Obasa has been mismanaging funds in the House and also his highhandedness in handling issues.
The list of 26 members that signed the removal of the two leaders are Victor Akande, Sentoji David, Nureni Akinsanya, Noheem Adams, Saka Solaja, Lanre Afinni, Fatai Mojeed, Rotimi Olowo, Makinde Rasheed, Adedamola Kasunmu, Temitope Adewale, Desmond Elliot, and Jude Idimogu.
Others are Olawale Olayiwola Abdul Sobur, Ajayi Owolabi, Hon Lukmon Olumoh, Kehinde Joseph, Tijani Suraju, Mojisola Alli-Macaulay, Mosunmola Sangodara, Hakeem Sokunle, Gbolahan Yishawu, Fatai Oluwa, Abiodun Tobun, Folajimi Mohammed, and Rauf Olawale.
The listed members were accused of having earlier been approached by Jimoh and Abiru to move for the impeachment of Obasa. But beyond the issue of extravagant spending on cars alleged against the Speaker, there are also some external factors complicating the issue as disclosed by another source.
There is the widespread belief that Obasa was not the original choice of the lawmakers for Speaker, but that he was foisted on them by forces loyal to the national leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu following the role he (Obasa) played in the scenario that brought down the government of the immediate past governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode. But as soon as Obasa got the nod as Speaker, he is said to behave like the Lord of the Manor in the House. This must have placed him against the likes of Senator Bayo Osinowo, who is influential in the House. Source reliably hint that there were moves by some powerful forces within the party to remove Obasa and replace him with a more pliable lawmaker at the instance of Osinowo and former governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.
As a matter of fact, Abiru and Jimoh are said to be loyalists of both Oshinowo and Aregbesola. But since Tinubu is currently busy with APC’s national political intrigues, the senator representing Lagos East has been in charge of the Lagos House. Those involved in the mutiny against Obasa include forces loyal to Oshinowo: “the best form of fight is attack. Obasa and his cohorts might have taken the initiative to checkmate Abiru and Jimoh before they did the damage.”
Another reason counted against Obasa is his clandestine ambition to run for senate through Lagos West in 2023, hence his various empowerment programmes across the senatorial district in the last couple of months. But it was gathered that the Aregbesola factor, which is entrenched in Lagos West, might stand as a stumbling block to Obasa’s ambition.
The crisis in the House is also linked to the ongoing subtle war between Tinubu and Aregbesola over the policies of Governor Gbeoyega Oyetola in Osun State that seem to be unfavorable to the Minister of Internal Affairs and erstwhile governor of Osun. Oyetola is a blood brother of Tinubu, who was actually not Aregbesola’s choice as predecessor. Taking into consideration what is going on in Osun where Oyetola is reversing some policies of his former boss, there is no love lost in Lagos Assembly, where Obasa is fiercely loyal to Tinubu, who is bent on checkmating Aregbesola’s loyalists in the Assembly.
But curiously, the source noted that Oshinowo backed Obasa to become the Speaker in 2015 and was also instrumental in 2019 when Obasa retained his position as Speaker of the House in spite of stiff competition from the sacked Chief Whip, Abiru and the current Deputy Speaker, Eshinlokun Sanni. Both lawmakers had their eyes on the seat and enjoyed the backing of the former Speaker, Adeyemi Ikuforiji and Senator Oluremi Tinubu respectively.
Meanwhile, Obasa has insisted there was nothing like division in the Assembly, saying “The Kingdom of Tinubu in Lagos remains intact and strong.”
In a statement yesterday the Speaker denied having any rift with Oshinowo just as he said instilling discipline among members of the state House of Assembly should not be equated with friction in any form between him and member of the party. He stressed that Tinubu had gone through a lot to build APC in Lagos and Nigeria, adding that nobody in his right senses would do anything to be a clog in the wheel of the party’s progress.
According to him, “Tinubu remains everything to the continued success of the party he built from scratch and nurtured up to this moment. It is unarguable that his resilience, love for democracy, passion to see his foot-soldiers grow and belief in discipline cannot be measured.”
Obasa maintained that the party in Lagos remains united and that what happened recently at the House of Assembly involving the removal of two principal officers and the suspension of two others was a measure to ensure that the legislature remains strengthened and its sanctity maintained.
Meanwhile, sources close to Tinubu could not make any comment when contacted. But revelations show that the chances of Obasa surviving till 2023 is remote as the forces against his leadership are amassing even within the executive. He stands the chance of going the way of erstwhile Speaker, Jokotola Pelumi, who was impeached.