BY ROTIMI DUROJAIYE
The ninth session of the Lagos State House of Assembly officially ended on Friday with the lawmakers-elect declaring support for Mudashiru Obasa as Speaker of the 10th Assembly expected to be composed on Wednesday.
Obasa has been in the House since 2003 and has been Speaker since June, 2015.
He was re-elected in the last general election and had again indicated his interest to contest for the plum job.
The lawmakers-elect, who were physically present at the sitting, spoke with newsmen immediately after the valedictory session of the House presided over by Obasa.
Speaking on behalf of the returning lawmakers, the immediate past Chief Whip of the House, Mojisola Meranda, said Speaker Obasa had no rival.
Meranda said, “I give it to the Rt. Hon. Speaker Obasa for being able to coordinate 40 members of different backgrounds, different thinking and religions and even different tribes because we had Hon. Jude Idimogu.”
On what qualifies the Speaker for a return, she said: “Obasa is the best man for the job. The experience, capacity and leadership skills are there and I don’t see anybody matching up to him.
“He will be returning as a sixth timer and I don’t think any of us is on the same pedestal with him. I wish him all the best in the 10th Assembly because he is going to lead us again. He is a fantastic man.”
Also addressing newsmen, Mojeed Fatai, immediate past chairman of the Committee on Public Accounts (local), said the leadership of the ninth Assembly ensured a cordial relationship among members.
“Mudashiru Obasa is going to speak again in the 10th Assembly. He is a man we have all resolved to lead us. When we started four years ago, all of us were elected from the APC and it was because of his effort and the way he handled the House.
“Today, we have 38 members from the APC coming to the 10th Assembly. The success is because of Obasa’s leadership capability. He is the best for the House and we want him to continue.”
Also, Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Transportation, Temitope Adewale, said that 39 of the 40 lawmakers-elect are solidly behind Obasa to be elected as the 10th Assembly Speaker.
Adewale said the collective endorsement of Obasa followed a resolution reached by lawmakers-elect to have the Speaker continue with “the good works he started in 2015 and sustained in the 9th Assembly.”
Disquiet as Tobun enters the race
However, a major crisis is reportedly brewing in the Assembly as leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress in the state were said to have resolved to stop Obasa from coming back for a third term as the speaker.
“Another hurdle that Obasa would likely face is Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was said to have sponsored some lawmakers during the primaries with a bid to checkmate the return of the speaker for third term”
His ambition, it was gathered, is being met with strong opposition by leaders of the APC in the state, some of who are of the opinion that a pure Lagosian should hold the top position, this time around.
The leaders, including the head of the Governor’s Advisory Council, Tajudeen Olusi, were said to have held a meeting after the elections where they concluded that the next Speaker must be an indigene of the state, adding that it has become unacceptable for the top three positions to be held by people who are not ‘indigenes’ of the state.
“Don’t forget that even though Governor Sanwo-Olu is claiming to come from Isale Eko, he’s actually from Ogun State, while it’s a known fact that the deputy, Dr. Hamzat is from the same Ogun State, where his father even became a king,” said a source at the party’s secretariat, who craved privacy.
It was further reported that due to the mood within the party and governor’s implicit disapproval of the attitude of Obasa and hence, his indisposition to his third term bid, this prompted the emergence of Abiodun Tobun, a state lawmaker who represents Epe Constituency 1 to throw his hat into the ring to challenge Obasa.
Tobun, knowing the tough task ahead and the difficulty it would take to defeat Obasa, has started to consult the power blocs within the party and the state.
It was reported that some of the lawmakers, specifically Gbolahan Yushau, representing Eti-Osa 1 initially showed interest in the race to be the Speaker after the election, but chickened out due to lack of support from his colleagues.
Besides, a source in the house claimed that the main reason why he could not come out in the open with his ambition was lack of courage to face Obasa.
“It was not only because there was no support by lawmakers, it was mainly because Yushau had no ‘balls’ to challenge the current Speaker. But Tobun is bold and he’s been supported by some senior members of the party in the state and even the governor is said to be supporting his move to challenge Obasa,” the source said.
It was reported that Obasa has many enemies among the members, some of whom have vowed to prevent him from getting a third term.
“The man is high handed and he treats the members as his boys. There is no accountability since he took over eight years ago. Even the elevators used by the lawmakers have not been working for more than a year now, it does not bother him. These are some of the reasons why the members are not too disposed to his return”, the source said.
Another hurdle that Obasa would likely face is Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was said to have sponsored some lawmakers during the primaries with a bid to checkmate the return of the speaker for third term.
About 20 of the lawmakers were said to owe their emergence to the support of the governor and are therefore ready to do the bidding of Sanwo-Olu.
The overall leader of the party in the state and the nation’s president, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is said to be neutral in all this, because according to findings, the GAC has been mounting pressure on him to remain neutral on the matter.
“The Speaker has been sighted in Abuja many times in the past few days to get the support of the President. It’s not clear if he has it for now, but he has the GAC leaders to contend with, some of whom have told him point blank that the game is up,” a source reportedly said.
The source further claimed that “he even went to the inauguration ceremony of the governor in order to ensure he supports him to become the Speaker. He was supposed to attend the inauguration of President Tinubu in Abuja before but when it’s obvious that the atmosphere was not favourable to him and sensing the governor’s opposition to his reelection as Speaker, he stayed behind in Lagos to romance the governor and the GAC members.”
In a desperate move, Obasa was said to have cajoled the old members, including his challenger, Tobun, to endorse him for another term, “but it was not a done deal because the man is feeling the heat from all quarters.
“When some emissaries of the Speaker went to the GAC members brandishing the signed letter of endorsement, the leader, Baba Olusi was said to have told the lawmakers that they do not have such powers, that the party is the body responsible for such endorsement in the state. Olusi told them that they have decided to look for an indigene of the state to take over from him.”
“From all indications, this is a tough time for the Speaker and the only thing that can help him to keep his job is the intervention of President Tinubu. Both the staff and lawmakers are looking for a fresh hand to preside over the affairs of the House because of the way and manner Obasa has been treating them.
“For instance, the valedictory session was supposed to have taken place last Thursday but could not hold because the lawmakers were not interested. The atmosphere generally is not looking good for the Speaker,” another source said.
However, it was gathered at the weekend that the GAC may have settled for Obasa to continue in office.
The Point gathered that the GAC met on Saturday and decided that Obasa should continue in office for stability and continuity.
It was learnt that the meeting decided that Obasa’s main rival, Mustain Abiodun Tobun, who represents Epe State Constituency I, should be the new Deputy Speaker of the House to replace Wasiu Eshilokun-Sanni who has been elected to represent Lagos Central Senatorial District in the Upper Legislative Chamber.
Sources claimed that President Tinubu gave the GAC members the mandate to meet, deliberate and take final decision on the lingering speakership crisis in the state House of Assembly.
“When the GAC members met on Saturday, June 3, 2023, many factors were considered, mainly on the stability in the House, the principle of checks and balances as well as the issue of zoning.
“It was decided that the evolution of power in the state has naturally settled the zoning balance, Governor from Lagos Central, Deputy from Lagos East and Speaker from Lagos West,” a source at the meeting said.
The meeting also agreed that Tobun should be the new Deputy Speaker of the House while the members were given the prerogative to choose the other principal officers.
Intrigues in Ondo Assembly
In Ondo State, armed police officers cordoned off the Ondo State House of Assembly complex on Friday following reports of an alleged plot to impeach the Speaker, Bamidele Oloyeloogun.
This development occurred shortly after a letter purportedly written by the Speaker, announcing his resignation, surfaced.
It was rumoured that the Speaker, in a desperate attempt to avoid impending impeachment, hastily wrote the letter just a few days to the end of the 9th Assembly, which he leads.
However, the Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Gbenga Omole, confirmed the presence of armed security personnel at the Assembly complex.
Omole further revealed that the security personnel prevented the final plenary sitting scheduled to take place on Friday.
However, he debunked reports of the Speaker’s resignation, alleging that his signature was forged on the purported resignation letter.
Omole in the same vein condemned attempts to disrupt the last session of the Assembly.
The State Police Commissioner, Taiwo Jesubiyi visited the assembly and held a meeting with the Speaker on Friday.
Jesubiyi pledged to serve the people of the state and urged the lawmakers to promptly report any deficiencies they observe among the operatives deployed to the complex.
Dismissing the resignation letter, Oloyeloogun said in a personally signed statement that he remains the Speaker of the House.
Oloyeloogun further stressed that he had not discussed or contemplated resignation with any member of the Assembly or his family.
He urged the public to disregard the resignation letter and urged security agencies to investigate the “false and malicious document” that threatens the peace in the state.
“The purported letter of resignation, which is circulating, is the handiwork of fifth columnists that are intent on plunging Ondo State into anarchy, particularly within the House of Assembly,” he said.
“The purported resignation is no doubt the figment of the imagination of the peddlers of such heinous acts as l did not contemplate or discuss such a move with any member of the Assembly or family members.
“Let me tell members of the public that the purported letter of resignation did not emanate from me as it was forged by purveyors of such a letter.
“The Clerk of the House, Mr. Benjamin Jaiyeola has informed me that he did not receive any letter of resignation which has given credence to the fact that the faceless writer is not informed of the process through which such a weighty exercise can take place.”
He also affirmed the State House of Assembly’s commitment to supporting the police force.
Competent sources in Akure, the state capital, confirmed that the race for the Speakership of the Ondo State House of Assembly has begun in earnest, with different lawmakers scheming and lobbying to take the mantle of leadership of the 10th Assembly in the state.
They said the race is particularly interesting as Oleyeloogun is not returning to the House. Oloyeloogun had contested for the House of Representatives ticket but lost the shadow election to the incumbent lawmaker representing the Federal Constituency, Tajudeen Adefisoye.
The non-return of Oloyeloogun to the hallowed chamber has reportedly given room to intensive lobbying by both returning lawmakers and the newly elected lawmakers, especially those of the ruling APC in the state.
Ahead of the inauguration of the new Assembly this week, the scheming points to four lawmakers as frontrunners in the Speakership race.
According to a source, going by the conventional power sharing formula among the three senatorial districts in the state, the new Speaker of the Ondo House of Assembly is likely to emerge from the Central senatorial district of the state.
The source said this calculation is based on the fact that the state governor hails from the North Senatorial District while his Deputy comes from the Southern Senatorial District.
One other factor to be considered in the emergence of a new Speaker is the ranking status of the lawmakers.
Though, only one lawmaker will be returning as a ranking lawmaker from the Central senatorial district, returning lawmakers from other zones are also eyeing the seat, while some newly elected lawmakers are also positioning themselves.
The four lawmakers returning to the House are Oluwole Emmanuel Ogunmolasuyi (Owo 1), who is the Majority Leader; Oladiji Olamide (Ondo East); Ololade Gbegudu (Okitipupa 11) and Abayomi Akinruntan (Ilaje).
Out of the returning lawmakers, only Olamide Oladiji is favoured going by the zonal arrangements.
He was re-elected in the March 2023 elections for a second term. Oladiji, popularly known as Landmark, once served as the Majority Leader of the current Assembly before he was made the Deputy Majority Leader for political exigencies.
He was the Chairman, House Committee on Works and Infrastructure, and Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. He was also a member of the House Committees on Finance and Appropriations, Public Accounting, OSOPADEC and Natural Resources.
He was also said to have served as the Chairman of the House Committee on Government House Protocols, and was a member of the House Committee on Finance and Appropriations. This responsibility was said to have further strengthened his relationship with the state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu.
It was argued in the state political circles that Oladiji leads the pack as a party man that cannot be matched by any other member of the Assembly. Oladiji is seen as having the edge in terms of his experience, being a ranking lawmaker, favoured in terms of zoning and meritorious service.
“Oloyeloogun had contested for the House of Representatives ticket but lost the shadow election to the incumbent lawmaker representing the Federal Constituency, Tajudeen Adefisoye”
His chances are also boasted by the fact that he enjoys the respect and confidence of his colleagues who are rooting for him. Oladiji is seen as cool headed and with the necessary leadership quality to galvanise members of the Assembly.
The race would have been between Oladiji and Toluwanimi Borokini who represented the Akure South constituency 1 but Borokini failed to secure a return to the House of Assembly, losing to a PDP candidate.
All other lawmakers elected within the Central Senatorial district where the Speakership is expected to be zoned, are newly elected lawmakers.
“Notwithstanding the zonal arrangements, the race for the top seat has been intense going by ongoing lobbying by several returning and new lawmakers in the coveted seat. Oladiji may not have a smooth ride to power as Abayomi Akinruntan (Ilaje), Ololade Gbegudu (Okitipupa 11 and a new lawmaker, Princess Tosin Ogunlowo-Ajirotutu from Idanre state constituency are said to be lobbying and consulting for the speakership seat. Abayomi Akinruntan is the scion of the Olugbo of Ugbo kingdom, Oba Fredrick Akinruntan.
Akinruntan has been a member of the state Assembly since 2015. He is currently the most ranked lawmaker in the Assembly, having represented his constituency for three times,” a source explained.
Being a third term lawmaker, Akinruntan boasts of a rich legislative background. Since 2015, Akinruntan has been an active member and is seen, in some quarters, as a good manager of human and material resources. While he may have the necessary qualities for Speakership, one major factor which is the zoning arrangements in the state is not in his favour.
Little is known of Princess Tosin Ogunlowo-Ajirotutu from Idanre state constituency, but she has since commenced serious lobbying and political maneuvering to ensure she emerges the first female first timer to take charge of the state Assembly.
She is said to be backed by some strong politicians within the APC in the state and promoters of gender equality. Her candidacy is said to be promoted despite her not meeting the standing order and rules of leadership of the House of Assembly.
Meanwhile, Gbegudu is said to stand a better chance of becoming Deputy Speaker because Akinruntan is from the same constituency with the state deputy governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa.
Factors that usually determine who emerges as Speaker of the State Assembly are ranking status, zoning, hierarchy, competence, integrity, leadership qualities and ability to seamlessly command respect amongst members of the House.
Some political analysts, however, believe that zoning should be a major consideration in determining the next speaker.
They say this is for the sake of equity, justice and fairness.
According to sections 3, 4, 5 of the Ondo State House of Assembly Rules and Standing Orders (2019), as harmonised by State Houses of Assembly in South West, “Prospective Speaker shall not come from the Senatorial District of Mr. Governor and Deputy Governor.”
In his views, a political analyst in the state, Taiwo Ibrahim said: “Out of all the returning lawmakers, only Oladiji is from Ondo Central senatorial district and favoured for the top job considering the zoning arrangements, while only Gbegudu and Akinruntan can contest the position of the Deputy Speaker, considering the fact that the position of the Deputy Speaker can be zoned to Ondo South senatorial district.”
The Ondo State House of Assembly is not new to crises, controversies, political manoeuvring and power struggle.
In 2016, the Speaker of the House, Jumoke Akindele, was impeached by 18 of the 26 members of the Assembly. The impeachment was reportedly motivated by a power struggle between Akindele and Governor Akeredolu.
In 2020, nine members of the assembly were suspended after they refused to participate in the impeachment of the state’s former deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, after he defected to the opposition People’s Democratic Party in the state. Ajayi was Akeredolu’s deputy.