Monday, April 15, 2024

EDITORIAL: Ekiti Assembly and history of leadership crises

Seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria have condemned the impeachment of Gboyega Aribisogan as the Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly.

In a statement on Wednesday, the senior lawyers said the former speaker’s impeachment was unconstitutional and described it as unfair and insensitive.

The signatories to the statement were Afe Babalola, Wole Olanipekun, Dele Adesina, Olu Daramola, Femi Falana, Dayo Akinlaja, and Gboyega Oyewole.

“The situation in the Ekiti State House of Assembly should be of extremely grave concern to every decent and discerning mind.

“Under and by virtue of section 92 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), once elected by the members of the house, as done in the case of Aribisogan, the Speaker shall continue to be in office during the lifespan of the particular House except, inter alia, removed from office by a resolution of the House of assembly by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the House.

“It is plain as day that the elected speaker was not allowed to function in office for the spate of one day before the sealing off of the complex. Pray, therefore, at what point in time could he have committed any infraction of the constitution, any other law or the rules of the House to warrant his supposed removal?” the legal luminaries queried.

The SANs warned that Aribisogan’s ‘illegal’ removal has laid the foundation for the possible removal of the governor if the matter is left unaddressed.
“By their actions, they have demonstrated a penchant for political rascality, impunity, brazenness and recklessness of no mean measure,” the statement added.

The Ekiti State House of Assembly has a history of leadership crises.

Crises have been a recurring theme in the legislative chamber with one leadership issue or another to contend with.

The beginning of the crisis that has now become endemic in the assembly could be traced back to 2006 under the administration of former Governor Ayodele Fayose.

At that time, the then Speaker, Friday Aderemi led a team of 24 People’s Democratic Party legislators that spearheaded Fayose’s removal over an alleged N1.2 billion corruption relating to poultry projects he executed for the state.

The then assembly was so polarized that it was permanently under lock and key. The lawmakers were whisked away from Ekiti to Lagos for safety. They were brought from Lagos for an emergency plenary that led to Fayose’s ill-fated removal on August 14, 2006.

Also in 2007 under the administration of Segun Oni, the assembly was riddled with crisis because the ruling PDP and the opposition Action Congress had 13 members each.

There was a deep-seated controversy over how the principal officers would be shared. This created a crisis that did incalculable damage to Ekiti’s corporate integrity.

The AC caucus of the assembly had to abandon plenary for more than three months before peace was brokered by stakeholders through the equal power-sharing formula with Femi Bamisile emerging as the Speaker and Abayomi Adeoti, an AC lawmaker unanimously elected as the Deputy Speaker.

“By their actions, they have demonstrated a penchant for political rascality, impunity, brazenness and recklessness of no mean measure”

Also in 2014, during Adewale Omirin’s tenure as Speaker, the Assembly was embroiled in a crisis when he claimed that former Governor Fayose used seven members of a 26-member Assembly to impeach him.

Again in 2016, there was uproar in the Assembly, which led to the suspension of the then-Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Gboyega Aribisogan, due to a disagreement with the then Governor Ayo Fayose.

However, between June 2019 and October 19, 2022, during the time of the late Funminiyi Afuye as Speaker, there was a period of peace and stability in the complex.

But the peace suddenly developed wings and disappeared no sooner than Afuye died, even at a time when his body was still lying cold in the morgue.

Then, there were allegations that the lawmakers had begun serious jostling to be Afuye’s successor before he was buried.

It was said then that the two strongest contenders for the position were the then Leader of Government Business, Aribisogan, and the Chief Whip, Mrs Olubunmi Adelugba.

The Assembly dismissed it as a rumour, saying the lawmakers should be allowed to mourn their speaker.

But penultimate Tuesday, only four days after Afuye’s burial, the lawmakers sat in the plenary to elect a new speaker, with Aribisogan securing 15 votes to defeat Adelugba, who garnered 10 votes.

The election, however, turned out to be the precursor of a major crisis in the Assembly as the police rolled in their trucks on Wednesday, the following day to seal off the Assembly complex, directing the staff who had come to resume their work to vacate the premises.

We condemn the ugly development in the Ekiti State House of Assembly and warn against denigrating the honour of the state.

It is injurious to democracy and good governance in a situation, where external factors now breathe down on the assembly who their leaders should be.

We join well-meaning Ekiti people in maintaining that the lawmakers should be allowed to choose their leaders without any undue influence by godfathers.

The lawmakers should be wary of their actions and refrain from allowing leadership tussles that could desecrate Ekiti’s honour.

The crisis in the assembly shouldn’t be allowed to fester.

We call on the assembly members, the ruling party and the party leaders to close ranks and allow peace to reign in the hallowed chamber and the state at large.

It is expedient for the House to elect a new headship but not in a manner that denigrates the Ekiti core values of straight-forwardness, selflessness, dedication, dignity and with decorum.

At this critical period, when the citizens are groaning under high inflation on goods and services, unemployment, insecurity and neat collapse of our med networks, the lawmakers ought to be focused on constructive engagements with the new Oyebanji administration in addressing these frightening challenges.

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