The rumbles in Ondo State House of Assembly last weekend consumed its Speaker and Deputy Speaker. TOPE FAYEHUN in this report x-rays the politics behind the impeachment
As preparations for the 2019 general elections gather steam, there is palpable tension in Ondo State as the leadership tussle rocking the state Assembly took a new dimension last week with the impeachment of its speaker, Rt. Hon. David Oloyelogun and his deputy, Rt. Hon. Ogundeji Iroju.
Shortly after the impeachment, hoodlums stormed the assembly, beating up some lawmakers.
Pundits believed that the attack by the hoodlums must have been masterminded in favour of the impeached leadership of the house.
They were said to have been sponsored by the chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Ade Adetimehin, with an alleged support of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu.
Although this is not the first time that such scenario would play out in the House, with this recent development, the question being asked in political circles across the state and beyond is on the nature of interest the governor may have in the speakership tussle that has beleaguered the state assembly.
A few months ago, the same impeachment kite was thrown into the air by members of the Assembly, targeting Iroju, but the Akeredolu and the state chairman of the APC, came to his rescue by begging the lawmakers to reinstate him.
Prior to the latest development, both the embattled speaker and his deputy spearheaded the onslaught against the former leadership of the assembly and the romance between his colleagues who eventually decamped from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC.
Although the decision of the leadership of the party and that of the governor which compelled them to return Iroju back to his position was a bitter pill for some of the lawmakers to swallow, they had no choice other than to obey the governor because of their return tickets.
However, the last week impeachment was carried out at the hollow chamber as a payback time since most of them that were cajoled by the Oloyelogun and Iroju to join APC because of their return tickets had lost to another person believed to have loyal to the governor than them.
The new development, no doubt , left no fewer than seven of the 18 members of the House of Assembly who impeached the Speaker and his Deputy injured as thugs invaded the assembly complex just immediately after the exercise was carried out.
It was believed in some quarters that, once they successfully impeached the current occupants, which they know to be loyal to the government of Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, there will not be many headaches in getting to the governor, who some of them said he had been denied them of their benefits.
Lawmakers injured include the new speaker and his deputy, Olamide George and Bimbo Fajolu, Gbenga Araoyinbo, Malachi Coker, lfedayo Akinsoyinu, Vincent Obadiah and Siji Akindiose. Others who escaped by the whiskers as the thugs stormed the assembly complex with guns and broken bottles and other cudgels include the former speaker Jumoke Akindele .
Also injured were journalists, cameramen with private television stations, officials of the Department of the State Services DSS and the staff of the assembly.
As at the last count, about five vehicles were damaged by the rampaging thugs led by the state chairman of the NURTW, Jacob Adebo. LEADERSHIP learned that Adebo led other members of the union to the assembly after the impeachment of the Speaker and his Deputy by 18 of the 26 members of the assembly.
The attack was done in the presence of the State Police commissioner Gbenga Adeyanju, the Chief Security Officer to the state governor, Alhaji Jimoh Dojumo and some leaders of the APC in the state. They all watched helplessly.
Trouble started around 10 am when the lawmakers voted that a problem should preside over the sitting where both the speaker and his deputy was impeached. Like a scene from Nollywood, the lawmakers freely exchange fisticuffs during the impeachment process, which was preceded by a rowdy session on the floor of the House.
The Speaker was later replaced with Hon. Olamide George, who represents Akure North constituency, while Hon. Abimbola Fajolu, who represents Ile Oluji/Oke Igbo constituency in the assembly, emerged as the deputy speaker.
Both the former speaker and the problem speaker during the session engaged in a free-for-all with the impeached speaker, Oloyeloogun rushed towards her and dragged her out of the Speaker’s chair. Both lawmakers tore each other’s clothes to shreds during the fight.
LEADERSHIP learned that an aide to the embattled speaker was beaten black and blue by the lawmakers as he was allegedly caught trying to carry the mace away from the Assembly.
Just immediately after the drama, the new speaker and some lawmakers were said to be holding a meeting inside the speaker’s office when scores of members of the state chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, led by the Chairman, Mr. Jacob Adebo, stormed the meeting and evicted them from the office.
It was gathered that the lawmakers were still querying the intruders when they were attacked and beaten to a pulp before evicting by force out of the office. It was gathered that the invasion, which lasted about one hour, happened in the presence of security operatives.
An eyewitness said,
“For almost an hour, the suspected thugs beat members and lawmakers out of their offices.”
The eyewitness added that one of the vehicles belonging to the DSS was badly damaged.
Addressing journalists after the fracas, George, who is the new speaker, alleged that Oloyeloogun and his deputy were impeached over gross misconduct and abuse of office, adding that 18 members of the assembly signed the impeachment.
He urged the state governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, to steer clear of the affairs of the Assembly, saying there would not be a reversal of the status quo.
He said, “They are incompetent to lead the Assembly, that is why the members came together to change the leadership. In line with the constitution of the House, the election was conducted and I won as the speaker while Abimbola Fajolu emerged as the deputy speaker. We assure you that there won’t be a crisis in the Assembly.”
The new leadership of the Assembly also announced the suspension of the impeached speaker and his deputy alongside two other members, Hon. Abayomi Akinruntan and Hon. Jamiu Maito representing Ilaje Constituency II and Akoko North-West Constituency I respectively.
In the same vein, the chairman House Committee on Information, Fatai Olotu, said the removal of the speaker was done in good faith and in the interest of the state.
Olotu said the two- thirds of the members of the House removed the speaker and his deputy over their incompetence to run the affairs of the house.
He said, “I want you to know that changing leadership is an inherent right of members of the house. The two officials have shown great incompetence in running the affairs of the house. They ran the house aground financially and committed a lot of financial impropriety that members can no longer condone.
“As at June this year, they have exhausted all the budgetary allocation for the house which runs to the tune of N1.5 billion without the knowledge of the House of Assembly.”
Olotu said the removal of the two principal officers would not affect the relationship between lawmakers and the executives and equally denied plans to impeach the state governor, Akeredolu.
He said, “the governor has not committed any impeachable offense and there was no justification for us to impeach the governor.”
But in a swift reaction, the embattled speaker, Bamidele Oloyeloogun, said he was not impeached and that he remained the speaker of the Assembly.
Oloyeloogun, who represents Ifedore constituency, told journalists at his official residence that there was no plenary session in the Assembly to impeach him. He said, “By the grace of God, I am still the speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly; nobody impeached me.”
He later mobilized his loyal members of the house and announced the suspension of the new speaker and 14 other lawmakers who participated in the impeachment process. He said he remained the authentic speaker of the house as his traducers failed to muster the required two-thirds majority required by law.
Meanwhile, members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers ( NURTW), who did not deny the attack said, they only invaded the state House of Assembly to prevent alleged planned by the lawmaker from impeaching the state governor.According to one of them, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk for the union, the chairman of the union ordered some of the members to carry out the operation, after he got a call from a lawmaker that the House wanted to impeach the governor.
He said, “We didn’t know what was going on in the House initially until when the chairman called us that he got a call that some lawmakers were sitting to impeach Governor Akeredolu. He said he was asked to send ‘his boys’ to chase out the lawmakers.
“So, the chairman ordered us to send everybody out of the House. He (chairman) said we should not allow the lawmakers to sit so that Akeredolu would not be impeached. But it was later that we discovered it was the speaker they impeached.”
However, state Police Command denied allegations levied against it by the lawmakers. While giving insight into its role in the fracas, the spokesman of the command, Femi Joseph, said the allegation was not true.
Joseph said, instead, the police commissioner, Gbenga Adeyanju met the fracas already on when he arrived at the complex with his men, and he actually brought the situation under control.
Joseph said, “You know when politicians begin their game, and when they can no longer handle their situation, they take police as the scapegoat.”
“Our reaction to the incident that day was spontaneous. The Commissioner of Police was in his office when information reached him that the House of Assembly was literally on fire because the members were fighting one another, exchanging fisticuff and destroying everything in sight, so much so that the tension was a threat to peace.
“The commissioner of police rushed down there with some of his men and there was already a fracas ongoing, it was immediately we got there that the commissioner and his men were able to douse the tension.
“If not for the intervention of the commissioner and his men, it is not what we are saying now, we will be saying. Because I am shocked at the way people will come and instead of appreciating the commissioner of police and his men, they will come round and put all the blame on us.
“It is very unfortunate, I am disappointed and I want to tell you that nothing of such happened. The fracas was already on and immediately moved in with his men, we saw the thugs scampering for safety.
“How can the police commissioner see thugs or people fighting and he would look away? It is unthinkable. I want to tell you that that allegation is a lie from the pit of hell, ” the PPRO stated.
Joseph who said the thugs ran away as soon as they sighted the police and that no one was arrested, noted that “As soon as we arrived we saw people scampering for safety, the only people we met there were the lawmakers who were still quarreling and we had to calm them down.”
“We managed to pacify them and left. Nobody has come to say that he was assaulted or beaten up.”
When asked why none of the thugs were arrested, the police spokesperson said, there was no complaint from any one of the members that they were being attacked by anyone.
He, however, challenged the lawmakers to file a report or a petition of an attack and see if the police would not take proper action.
However, the newly elected speaker who had fled the state to Ibadan, the Oyo state capital, appealed to the President Muhammadu Buhari to rescue him and his colleagues from the alleged reign of terror in the state.
George said his life and that of his deputy, as well as members of their family, were being threatened since last week Friday over the impeachment, calling on the president to save democracy from collapse.
“We are duly elected members of the state assembly, acting within the confines of the constitutional duties at plenary. Surprisingly, the impeached speaker led to the assembly, Gbenga Adeyanju, the State Commissioner of Police, Hon. Ade Adetimehin, State APC Chairman, Mr Jacob Adebo, State Chairman, NURTW, about 50 heavily armed officers and thugs.
“They invaded the assembly and assaulted honorable members, assembly staff, journalists and visitors to the assembly complex.”
George said that there were video and pictorial documentation of the alleged vandalisation of cars and properties worth several millions of naira by thugs under the supervision of the commissioner of police.
“It is an open secret that N1.3bn was approved and released for the 2018 budget of the assembly. The former speaker and deputy speaker jointly expended over a billion in the first quarter of 2018 without approval,” he alleged.
“This is the height of corruption. We cannot condone it. It is unacceptable to the people of Ondo whom we are representing and that’s why we chose the path of honour to partner with Buhari to flush corruption out of Ondo.”
Also speaking, the new deputy Speaker, Fadoju, called on Inspector General of Police to immediately redeploy the Commissioner of Police, Adeyanju, from the state, accusing him of bias.
But the state governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has denied having hands in the fracas that occurred in the Sunshine Assembly of HOPE.
Speaking on behalf of the governor, the Commissioner for Information, Yemi Olowolabi said, impeachment squabbles were not new at the house, adding that it was the business of the house to determine the tenure of its leaders.
According to him, “What the governor does is to invite the warring parties and try to find amicable solutions to the crisis,” he said. “And that is what the governor has been doing and will do.”
He further stated that the executive arm of government was not and would not be involved in the politics of impeachment of a speaker, adding that the allegations that it was involved were untrue.
Also, the APC Publicity Secretary, Alex Kalejaye, said the Chairman of the APC, Engr. Adetimehin, was only at the Assembly to pacify the lawmakers, but he was assaulted and told that it was not a party affair.
“The chairman got the information that the lawmakers were conducting an impeachment, and being that majority of the lawmakers are APC members, he went there to try to stop the process, but they attacked him and told him that it was not a party affair,” he said
Kalejaye said the chairman returned to his office and was not in any way part of those who masterminded thugs to attack the assembly.
He added that “It is not something we are happy about that hoodlums would invade the state House of Assembly, the chairman cannot be involved in such a thing.”
Meanwhile, pundits expressed concern over the role played by the security agencies in the state. Some of them who witnessed the whole scene said, the few security men on the ground looked away while the reinforced thugs unleashed mayhem on the entire house and the people present.
Political observers said, “In the presence of our security men, thugs sauntered into the floor of the Senate, made away with the Senate Maze. In Edo, armed thugs were freely used to unleash siege on the State House of Assembly in 2014, we have seen it happened in Benue recently. In Rivers, guns were freely used. The maze, an instrument of authority became a baton with which Chidi Loyd was beaten to a pulp.
“Now in Ondo Assembly, thugs again. In a matter that is supposed to be between 26 members, the entire House of Assembly was ransacked, elected members and journalist were beaten up by reinforced thugs purposely drafted and backed by a higher authority. This is indecent and must be discouraged.
“Leaders must learn to respect rules and orders. They must desist from drafting thugs to rape democratic institutions with the reckless order.”
However, another question on the lips of many is whether impeached Speaker, Rt. Hon. David Oloyelogun and his deputy, Hon. Ogundeji Iroju will ultimately bounce back to their former positions.
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