Oyo Speaker in the eye of the storm

WALE AKINSELURE, in this report, looks at the issues around the purported plan to impeach the Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Honourable Adebo Ogundoyin.

 

IN recent weeks, the Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Honourable Adebo Ogundoyin, has been in the eye of the storm. Just as the nation began battling COVID-19, so did some caucuses in the Assembly began to scheme against the leadership of the state legislative for alleged lack of transparency in running affairs of the Assembly and indecisiveness in canvassing for the general desires of lawmakers from the state governor, Seyi Makinde. Indeed, the brewing storm was not only targeted at sweeping Ogundoyin off his seat, but also most of the principal officers.

The plot against the Speaker was reportedly hatched by members of his initial inner caucus, who felt they were beginning to be sidelined in the running of the Assembly. At the emergence of the Speaker, on June 9, 2019, members like Chairman, Parliamentary, Honourable Ayo Fatokun; Chief Whip, Honourable Hakeem Adedibu and former Chairman, House Committee on Works and Transport, Honourable Olamide Akinajo, were said to have struck an atonal chord to be members of his kitchen cabinet. However, as Ogundoyin began to see the responsibilities on his shoulders, he decided to bring in more cooks into the kitchen. The move did not go down well with the initial members of the kitchen. They reportedly feared that, with the accommodation of more people, their influence on the Speaker’s decision may begin to wane. Consequently, they were said to have begun to lobby more lawmakers into an alleged impeachment agenda.

At the mention of possible impeachment of the Speaker, leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, including Governor Seyi Makinde; Chairman, Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), Hosea Agboola and the Commissioner for Special Duties, Chief Bayo Lawal, convened meetings with the lawmakers to calm frayed nerves and have members express their grievances. Pointed questions were asked those alleged to be behind the brewing crisis, including Honourable Akinajo, Honourable Ayo Fatokun and Honourable Hakeem Adedibu, all of who denied the plot.

The lid over the seemingly calmed crisis appeared reopened when Ogundoyin, at last Tuesday’s sitting, announced the removal of Honourable Akinajo as the chairman of the House Committee on Works and Transport, with Honourable Kehinde Olatunde named as his replacement. As the head of the Committee on Works and Transport, Akinajo had asked to know how much was spent on the recent renovation of the lodge of the Speaker and deputy speaker. With Akinajo recently becoming a mogaji, there also grew fears that he may be backed by some forces from the outside to destabilise the Assembly and get at the governor. The decision to remove Akinajo as the chairman of the committee was therefore perceived to be targeted at curtailing his growing influence.

It was however gathered that at the parliamentary caucus held the day before the sitting when the removal was announced, members had been made to understand that there would be reshuffling of House committees. While a part of the principal officers said they were consulted before the speaker made the Akinajo announcement, some other principal officers alleged that they were not carried along in the decision.

However, Akinajo described as blackmail and politics those touting his name as being behind any plan to impeach the Speaker. He held that the members had been notified of a reshuffling of committees and that he never considered anything ulterior behind the decision of the Speaker to begin the reshuffling from his committee. “There is nothing big in being removed as the chairman of the Works Committee. We discussed on Monday, that is, the day before the announcement, that there will be a shake up in all committees but they were contemplating on where to start from. I was consulted that it will start from my committee and I said no problem. I have no contrary opinion. I was not shocked that the reshuffling started from my committee,” Akinajo said.

He also rubbished notions of being interested in the speakership post, adding that the political calculation did not favour such emergence. Akinajo, who represents Ibadan North East 1, argued that it was impossible for both the speaker and the governor to emerge from the same zone. “Can the Speaker and the governor come from the same local government? That is not possible. I am not interested in such. There is no rancour in the Assembly. We are all on the same page. Mr Speaker is my friend and all other members. There is nothing like eyeing post. It has never been on my mind and it will never be on my mind. This is politics and there is blackmail here and there. Mr Speaker is my friend and I will always work towards his success, not his downfall,” Akinajo said.

Another lawmaker alleged to be behind the crisis, Honourable Fatokun, said consultations were ongoing among members to resolve brewing issues in the Assembly. He stated that there was nothing spectacular in Akinajo being removed as the chairman of the works and transport committee since there was a planned reshuffling of all committees. “We are doing our own consultation with members within the House. Our consultation is in good faith and all is well,” Fatokun said.

Interestingly, the crisis has had little to do with the opposition parties in the Assembly but more with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers. Meanwhile, there are those who want to take advantage of the crisis in the Assembly to promote their own agenda. Questions have been raised about the disposition and assertiveness of the Speaker to handling issues. They alleged that he has not been assertive enough to get the governor to yield to their demands for better welfare of the members, like payment of constituency allowance.

Lobbyists for a change in the House leadership argue that they want a leadership that has negotiating power; that has its destiny in its own hands and in the hands of the governor and that can push hard on issues bedeviling the running of the state down to the local government system. As part of their grouse with the Speaker, the lawmakers had weeks ago, frowned against the usual afternoon/evening commencement of plenary, usually called “European time,” warning that they will return home once plenary does not commence before 11am. Perceiving that there was fire on the mountain, the Speaker and, indeed, the House leadership adjusted on time with the last two sittings commencing before 11am, as agreed.

Meanwhile, the purported plan to impeach the state governor and his deputy by the Assembly has only been described as a ruse. Amid the crisis, the Speaker has continued to hold various meetings in a bid to reach out to aggrieved parties. Section 92 (2c) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) stipulates that the Speaker shall vacate his office by a resolution of House of Assembly by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of the House. This is in addition to the fact that the Speaker must have been deemed to have committed impeachable crime(s) as stipulated in the constitution and House Rule. For the Speaker to be impeached, 22 out of 32 members are constitutionally expected to vote in favour of such removal. Simply put, the ruling PDP with 26 seats in the Assembly has the fate of the current House leadership in its hands as the opposition only has six seats.

Indeed, threats of impeachment or actual impeachment are not new in the history of the state House of Assembly. Chairman of the PDP caucus in the House, Honourable Akintunde Olajide, described impeachment as a recurring issue in the lifespan of any Assembly but noted that the Assembly believed in the capability of the speaker to galvanise it aright. Noting that the current impeachment threat would fizzle out, Olajide avowed that the Speaker continued to command the support of majority in the Assembly and was in firm control.

Meanwhile, the disposition of the leadership of the ruling party, led by Governor Makinde, towards the current House leadership will be crucial. The coming days will tell whether the Speaker will effectively settle various interests and efficiently calm those frayed nerves in the Assembly or he will be at the receiving end of the House politicking.

 

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