Politicians, technocrats bicker over Sanwo-Olu’s cabinet

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BY ROTIMI DUROJAIYE

Uba Group

Leaders of the All Progressives Congress in Lagos State have waded into the row between Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the House of Assembly over the delayed confirmation of 19 of 39 commissioner-nominees.

The leaders have urged calm, saying that the situation is under control.

The decision of the Lagos lawmakers not to clear 17 of the 39 commissioner nominees whose names were sent for confirmation on Wednesday naturally sent the tongues of many observers wagging; not only because the development was largely unexpected but also because of the high number of nominees affected.

As it would be expected, the development provoked speculations from the observing public, with many saying that the nominees were denied confirmation because there were complaints from their constituents that they did not know them and so could not relate with them.

However, it was gathered that beneath the decision to leave out the 17 names was a quiet but bruising war occasioned by rivalry between the politicians and the technocrats within the ruling party.

The politicians in the party are said to be angered by the holier than thou attitude of the technocrats who tend to carry themselves as if they are too refined to act like the average politician or involve themselves in certain activities.

Among the nominees whose confirmations were put on hold are Prof. Akin Abayomj, former Commissioner for Health and Deputy Incident Commander, and his Information and Strategy counterpart, Gbenga Omotoso, an eminent journalist.

Others are Mrs Folashade Adefisayo, Mr Yomi Oluyomi, Mrs Folashade Ambrose, Ms Barakat Bakare, Olalere Odusote, Dr Rotimi Fashola, Mrs Bolaji Dada, Mr Sam Egube, Mr Olalekan Fatodu, Mrs Solape Hammond, Mr Mosopefolu George, Engr. Aramide Adeyoye, Mr Seun Osiyemi, Mr Rotimi Ogunwuyi, and Dr Olumide Oluyinka.

The politicians in the party are said to be angered by the holier than thou attitude of the technocrats who tend to carry themselves as if they are too refined to act like the average politician or involve themselves in certain activities

However, 22 were cleared, according to Speaker Mudashiru Obasa, who reeled out the names of confirmed nominees at plenary on Wednesday.

Lagos State APC-Governance Advisory Council leader Prince Tajudeen Olusi described the scenario as “the side effects of the operation of democracy.”

The Second Republic House of Representatives member said party leaders have been meeting on the issue to prevent any escalation of the crisis.

He made references to the practice of the presidential system and the demarcation of the constitutional roles of the Executive and the Legislature.

However, in apparent allusion to the doctrine of party supremacy and discipline, the elder statesman stressed that “the party is the father of the two.”

Olusi said the casual and normal disagreement is a family affair, insisting that it will be resolved amicably.

He said: “We have been contacting and consulting with the leaders of the party. It is part of the side effects of the operation of democracy.

“The House of Assembly has its responsibilities. The Executive also has its responsibilities assigned to it by the constitution. The party is the father of the two.”

Olusi added: “So, the matter is under control. It is a family issue. Very soon, we shall lay everything to rest.”

“CBN"

The assembly is expected to reconvene today.

Why nominees ran into troubled water

Matters were said to have got to a head during the last presidential and governorship elections when many of the technocrats did not show the required interest in the party’s activities whether in terms of material contribution or canvassing for votes despite being mobilised for the elections.

An angry chieftain of the party said: “Many of them were at home on election day. They completely alienated themselves, saying that they were not politicians. If they would not help the party, why should they be the first partakers ahead of those who worked for it?

“What are technocrats? Does that mean the rest of us did not go to school? Of course, we did, and to that extent, we are also technocrats in addition to being politicians.

“Even our leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was a technocrat before he became a politician.

Why are they now making it look as if it is a sin to be a politician?”
Also, the delay may not be unconnected with two key factors, according to observers.

Two week ago, Muslims, under the umbrella of the Lagos Muslim Community, protested against what they described as alleged marginalisation in the list of commissioner-designates.

President, Muslim Community of Lagos State, Tajudeen Gbadamosi, the Convener, Joint Muslim Forum Sheikh AbdurRahman and MURIC Director, Ishaq Akintola rejected the list of nominees.

Also, some Lagos lawmakers expressed their dissatisfaction over the list, saying that it did not reflect the expectations of their constituencies.

Raising a ‘Matter of Urgent Public Importance’, the lawmaker representing Ikorodu II Constituency, Aro Abiodun, said despite contributing to the success of the APC in the last election, Ikorodu Division got only one slot.

In an advertorial by leaders of Ikorodu, led by a former Deputy Governor, Abiodun Ogunleye, politicians and monarchs from the division decried the list, saying that they were sidelined.

The Deputy Majority Leader, Adedamola Kasunmu, lamented the absence of any nominee from Ikeja.

Another lawmaker, Nureni Akinsanya from Mushin, complained that the list did not come with the local government areas of the nominees. He also pointed out that the party had technocrats who were not considered in the nomination.

A lawmaker, Kehinde Joseph (Alimosho II) noted that loyalists and party members deserved to be nominated like the technocrats.

Deputy Chief Whip David Setonji lamented that Badagry was not represented in the nomination, while Ladi Ajomale (Oshodi-Isolo) observed that the list was heavily one-sided in terms of religious consideration.

The Chief Whip, who chaired the Screening Committee, Mojeed Adebola clarified that the rejection was unanimously done by the House, and not his committee.

He said: “As I said at our inaugural sitting, our mandate was just to screen, not to confirm nor disqualify any nominee.

“The reason for rejection is best known to the house (40 members), not as an individual. We did our job in checking the nominees’ track records.”

Also, insiders in the Lagos Chapter of the APC who preferred to remain anonymous also said that the rejected Commissioner and Special Adviser nominees “are those who don’t know how to play politics. Even if they have a relationship with Mr. Governor, they have refused to do the needful by relating well with their constituents and the legislator from their constituency.”

“They didn’t do their homework well. Some of them carried on as if they didn’t need anybody.

They now know that there are party leaders and elders that they must consult. Are these not the same lawmakers who approved their names the first time? So, why were they rejected this time? They failed to keep in touch with their constituency,” he said.

Another party chieftain queried why the governor had 12 nominees from Eti Osa Local Government “where the APC failed woefully at both elections.”

He said the positions were not evenly distributed.

Another contributory factor was said to be that almost all those rejected have no political base and grassroots affiliation.

“Most of them are friends of the governor. For instance, former Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, who was rejected, has no political base, he is not a politician. The Assembly swept them aside because of this. If you look at the list of the 22 others confirmed by the Assembly, they have political affiliations. It is either they are sons and daughters of big politicians in Lagos or they are close to the big guns in Lagos.

“For instance, Tubosun Alake is the son of Dele Alake; Ms. Abisola Ruth Olusanya, is the son of a big politician, Kaoli Olusanya; Hon. Bola Olumegbon is the daughter of the Olumegbons; Dr. Dolapo Fasawe, daughter of a former deputy governor of Ekiti State, among others.

“If performance is the yardstick, there is no way Prof. Akin Abayomi will be disqualified, there is no way Gbenga Omotoso will be rejected, there is no way Folasade Adefisayo will be rejected, there is no way Sam Egube will be turned down, among others,” an APC stalwart said.

Another factor that was said to have worked against those disqualified is that some of them travelled out of the state during the presidential and governorship elections and did not participate.

They said the Assembly saw this as cheating on behalf of those who were around and took part in the election.

They also claimed that some of them did not perform well during the screening at the House of Assembly.

“For instance, the former Special Adviser on Works and Infrastructure, Engr. Aramide Adeyoye was said to have performed poorly during the screening. The House embarrassed her during that screening.

“Aside from this, Adeyoye is said to be the architect of her misfortune. As the Special Adviser on Works and Infrastructure during the first term of Sanwo-Olu, she was supposed to report to the Deputy Governor, Dr. Kadri Hamzat. She was said to have by-passed him and reported directly to the governor. She only reported to the Deputy Governor after certain decisions had been taken. This did not go down well with Hamzat, who is not happy about the development. This made her case special and there was no way she could have scaled the screening as many forces were against her.

“The religion factor is another reason many nominees were dropped. About 15 of those dropped by the Assembly are Christians. Some Muslim groups had raised dusts that of the 39 Sanwo-Olu nominees, only nine of them were Muslims. This might not be unconnected to why about 15 Christians were rejected by the Assembly,” it was gathered.

However, Christian Rights of Nigeria has accused the Lagos State House of Assembly of rejecting commissioner nominees on religious grounds.

In a statement issued on Thursday by Eliashib James, CRN national lead, the group said the rejection of the nominees was a move to “stoke religious tensions” in the state.

The group claimed that the decision of the Lagos assembly was motivated by the comment of the Muslim Rights Concern on the nomination of commissioner nominees.

The group said the leadership positions in the state are dominated by Muslims, adding that “Christians never raised eyebrow”.

“We have watched in utter amazement the unfolding drama at the Lagos state house of assembly where surreptitious moves are being made by the House leadership to stoke religious tension in Lagos state,” the statement reads.

The group accused MURIC of instigating the pushback, adding that the assembly is “stoking religious tension”.

Relationship between Sanwo-Olu, Obasa

APC chieftains also added that the genesis of the crisis was traceable to the sour relationship between Obasa and Sanwo-Olu.

During the race for the speakership position, Sanwo-Olu was said to have supported Abiodun Tobun against Obasa. After much intervention, Obasa was re-elected speaker.

“That may be one of the reasons leading to the ‘revenge’ by the Assembly,” a party source said.

For Obasa, becoming the Speaker of the prestigious Lagos State House of Assembly for a third term is not the only record he currently holds as a legislator.

He is also the longest serving state legislator in Nigeria, having won election into the state legislative house first in 2003 and has remained in the House ever since then.

In June, Obasa was reelected as the Speaker of the Assembly for a third term.

His reelection followed weeks of uncertainty as another APC member of the assembly, Abiodun Tobun, who represents Epe Constituency1, had declared his intention to contest for the speakership of the 10th Assembly. The Epe-born politician had been selling his candidature to members.

There were insinuations that the new assembly was divided by Tobun’s ambition.

Sources close to the fourth term lawmaker had insisted that Tobun would not step down for anybody as he was convinced that he was the man to provide leadership for the assembly at this crucial time.

“Tobun is determined and he enjoys the support of many of us,” a lawmaker from Lagos East had said.

Tobun, the first lawmaker from Epe to be elected for four consecutive terms, is also a history maker in his own right.

After weeks of speculations, Tobun finally informed his colleagues including Obasa, of his intention to run for the speakership, during the induction ceremony for new members which took place at Marriott Hotel, GRA, Ikeja.

According to promoters of Tobun’s ambition, he is a well-respected lawmaker who is also one of the most active members of the House.

“Tobun is a mentor to many of his colleagues, especially the younger ones. He is a versatile legislator who contributed extensively to debates on the floor of the House. He is known to be active during committee and oversight assignments,” a source had claimed.

Thus, expectations that Obasa will have a smooth unopposed ride to his third stint as speaker, became dimmed.

But Obasa, being the political gladiator that he is, did not betray any fear.

According to his close aides, he was unmoved by the challenge posed by Tobun. Rather, he concentrated on his ambition to lead the Lagos Assembly again.

“He merely saw it as another political contest,” a source recalled.

With the above scenario in place till the day of inauguration, many looked forward to a fierce struggle for the Speaker’s seat.

The address of Governor Sanwo-Olu on the day he pronounced the 10th Assembly further gave an indication that Obasa would be challenged for the job of the Speaker. Many eyes were on Tobun and his supporters as the proceedings progressed.

If performance is the yardstick, there is no way Prof. Akin Abayomi will be disqualified, there is no way Gbenga Omotoso will be rejected, there is no way Folasade Adefisayo will be rejected, there is no way Sam Egube will be turned down, among others

“I want to assure you all that as your governor, I stand neutral in the selection process. My interest lies in how we can work together, irrespective of who assumes what role, to fulfill our shared responsibilities to the people of Lagos State. Each one of you, regardless of position, brings unique value and perspective to this Assembly, and it is through our collective efforts that we will achieve the extraordinary.

“The emergence of the speaker and other principal officers is a decision entrusted to you by the constitution. I trust that you will carry out this duty with the highest level of integrity and respect for democratic principles,” the governor said as he insisted that he had no preferred candidate for the seat of the Speaker of the legislative arm of government.

But on June 6, Obasa was unanimously re-elected as speaker after a proclamation of the 10th Assembly by Governor Sanwo-Olu.

He was nominated by Temitope Adewale, and his nomination was seconded by Sylvester Ogunkelu who represents Epe Constituency 2. There were no further nominations for the speakership as Obasa surprisingly coasted home unopposed.

The lawmakers also elected Mojisola Lasbat Meranda, representing Apapa Constituency 1 as the deputy Speaker.

She served as the Chief Whip of the 9th Assembly under the Speakership of Hon. Obasa. Meranda is a third term lawmaker having been in the House of Assembly since 2015 when she was elected for the first term.

Noheem Adams, the Deputy Majority Leader in the ninth Assembly, was elected as the new Majority Leader while Adedamola Kasunmu was elected the Deputy Majority Leader.

Mojeed Fatai who represents Ibeju Lekki Constituency 1 was elected as the Chief Whip while David Setonji was elected the Deputy Chief Whip.

In spite of the challenge posed by Tobun, by the time the ninth session of the Lagos State House of Assembly officially ended indications that Obasa may return as speaker were rife and obvious. Political observers claim the Speaker must have pulled all the necessary strings and pressed the needed buttons to ensure that he retained the love and support of the majority of his old and new colleagues.

Before the day of inauguration, returning lawmakers and lawmakers-elect on more than one occasion, declared support for Obasa to retain his seat as Speaker in the 10th Assembly.

And as the day drew nearer, less was being heard from Tobun’s camp amidst insinuations that he may have been prevailed upon to forget his speakership ambition and back Obasa’s return.