Stability, Peace Required for Democracy to Thrive in Ekiti State

Stability, Peace Required for Democracy to Thrive in Ekiti State

The parliament is the best symbol of democracy. It is made up of the representatives of the people acting together, to control and guide the government. Under the parliamentary system of government, the leader of the government and the Ministers are all members of the parliament. There has been an argument for Nigeria to return

The parliament is the best symbol of democracy. It is made up of the representatives of the people acting together, to control and guide the government. Under the parliamentary system of government, the leader of the government and the Ministers are all members of the parliament. There has been an argument for Nigeria to return to parliamentary governance as it is less costly and brings government closer to the people.

Ekiti State House of Assembly Complex

The primary function of the parliament is to make laws for the governance of the country or a state. Described as the bastion of democracy, it is, therefore, worrisome that since November 15, 2022, the Ekiti House of Assembly has been in turmoil because of leadership change which has brought about the emergence of two Speakers within short span of time, a development that has drawn national attention to Ekiti State and has pitched different groups against one another for the soul of the parliament.

The remote cause of the brouhaha was the unfortunate demise of the former Speaker, Rt. Hon Funmi Afuye on October 19, 2022, which occurred shortly after the swearing-in of the new Governor of the State, Mr Abiodun Oyebanji on October 16, 2022. His death created a vacuum that had to be filled for the parliament to function at its full capacity. The tenure of the House of Assembly was not due to lapse until after May 29, 2023. As soon as the House of Assembly reconvened after its official mourning period, Hon Gboyega Aribisogan a two-term member of the parliament was elected Speaker, precisely on Tuesday November 15, 2022, he represents Ikole 1 Constituency. But his election appeared shortlived; the Police took over the premises of the Assembly on the guise of security threat. But words emerged that his election may have angered the powers that be in the State, because he was not the preferred candidate. But the preferred candidate was not the popular choice of the parliamentarians.

Former Governor Kayode Fayemi

The defacto leader of the APC in Ekiti State is the immediate past Governor of the State Dr. Kayode Fayemi. He was responsible for the emergence of Governor Abiodun Oyebanji. It is believed that he still controls the levers of power in the State. He was said not to be favourably disposed to Aribisogan as Speaker, for some local politics considerations. Without pretensions, the new Speaker’s joy was cut short, he was impeached pronto, one week after his jubilation. Analysts described his removal gathering, a “phantom meeting” of members loyal to the former governor of the state. They posited that the Assembly men and women sat under the protective watch of the Nigeria Police Force. In a counter offensive, Aribisogan and his supporters announced the suspension of legislators loyal to Dr.Fayemi including Hon Jamiu Akeem, Hon Aribasoye Adeoye, Hon Bode Adeoye, Hon Lateef Kongo, Hon Lucas Toyin, Hon Deji Ajayi, and Hon Ademola Ojo, ostensibly to deny them the required constitutional numbers to remove the Speaker.

But that move was late in coming. They had quickly perfected their plot and Hon Olubunmi Adelugba who contested against Hon Aribisogan in the first ballot and was unsuccessful having scored only 10 votes to Aribisogan’s 15 votes suddenly re-emerged victorious as Speaker though details of how her election came to be remained scanty. She represents Emure Constituency. Consequently, the Ekiti House of Assembly became divided, and the centre could not hold anymore. The parliament was ramped into turmoil due to what analysts call external interference into what was an ordinary parliamentary procedure. For their game of musical chairs, Ekiti State attracted front page treatment in the newspapers, albeit for a wrong reason. The Ekiti House of Assembly that was hitherto united and peaceful became factionalised and stability took a flight.

Worried by the negative narratives, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN warned politicians not to set Ekiti on fire. In a statement titled: ‘Let Peace and Harmony Reign in Ekiti State’, Chief Olanipekun, warned of dire consequences if the problem was not resolved as quickly as possible. He went down memory lane and recalled how a similar incident in the old Western Region snowballed into a national calamity which eventually accelerated the truncation of democratic governance in Nigeria and brought the jackboots to power. Hear his narrative:

Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN

“For those who feign ignorance of history, let them be reminded of a similar inter- change of premiership chair between Chief SL Akintola and S. D. Adegbenro in the old Western Region, and that the fracas that broke out subsequent thereto was the beginning of the demise of the first republic. Although the politicians behind the ongoing parliamentary fiasco in Ekiti may see it as business as usual, they should be told in no unmistakable language that it is a veritable threat to the peace, order, and good government of the State, and unless nipped in the bud now or immediately, the consequences may be far reaching.

“As an elder and stakeholder in the State, I plead to all the feuding parties and their sponsors qua backers to sheath their swords. They should be reminded that the State does not belong to them alone, but to all of us; in fact, the politicians are in the minority, hence they should stop seeing, taking, and treating the State as their fiefdom, property, or estate”. He warned.

His statement was a mere prelude to a more daring advice from seven leading legal professionnals of Ekiti origin led by Aare Afe Babalola SAN, founder Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD) who lent their voices to the crisis in the Ekiti House of Assembly’s towards resolving the imbroglio. In their legal opinion Mrs Olubunmi Adelugba, cannot function as Speaker of Ekiti State House of Assembly because of the mode of her emergence. They explained themselves in statement so as not to be misunderstood. Excerpts:

Chief Afe Babalola SAN
Ekiti State House of Assembly Impeachment Saga: This Constitutional and Democratic Rascality Must Stop Henceforth

“Against the backdrop of the salutary status of Ekiti people and State as people and land of honour and dignity respectively, it easily becomes a tragic irony and downright sacrilege whenever the State is in the news for less than honourable and dignifying reason(s). This has disturbingly and disquietingly been the situation in the past few days on the standpoint of the socio-political debacle and shenanigans going on in the State House of Assembly.
“The election to produce a new speaker, incontrovertibly, took place on Tuesday, the 15th day of November 2002. As widely reported in the media, two members of the House contested for the Speakership and at the end of the election, one of the duo, Hon. Gboyega Aribisogan, was declared the winner of the election, having polled 15 votes as against the 10 votes garnered by the other contestant, Hon. Olubunmi Adelugba.

“The winner of that electoral contest, Hon. Gboyega Aribisogan was promptly and duly sworn in as the new Speaker by the Clerk of the State House of Assembly. Thereafter, it was brought to the notice of the public that a new Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly had emerged. In a strange twist to the tale, however, news filtered out in the morning of the very next day, 16th November 2022, that the Ekiti State House of Assembly Complex had been sealed off by the Police. By the evening of that day, the new Speaker, Gboyega Aribisogan was heard on Channels Television saying that he was not privy to the decision to seal off the Complex by the Police and that when he reached out to the Commissioner of Police, Ekiti State Command, he was informed that the step was taken to avert an intended attack by hoodlums on the State House of Assembly. According to the Speaker, the Police Commissioner had assured him that the situation would be speedily brought under control and normalcy would be restored to enable the House to resume its constitutional and legislative functions.

“One may ask a few stunning questions, that is, who supervised the ‘election’ of Hon. Olubunmi Adelugba as the Speaker? Was it the same Clerk of the House who presided over the election of Hon. Gboyega Aribisogan a few days earlier, publicly announced the results and declared him as the winner? Be it noted that under the Constitution and any parliamentary practice, the Clerk is the Chief Executive of any Parliament and presides over the conduct of election for the presiding officers. If it was the same Clerk, who mandated him to conduct another election that foisted Hon. Olubunmi Adelugba on the House, in a spectacularly unconstitutional and ridiculous manner? Who are the actual masquerades that prompted the Clerk to act in such an absurd manner? Are they from within or without the House? Was the Clerk aware of the agelong principle of separation of powers, as between the Executive, Legislature, and the Judiciary, as now enshrined in the Constitution? Or, were/are the sponsors of this debacle aware of or have scant respect for this sacred principle which sustains democratic governance and governments in the free world? To say the very least, 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-third majority of the House. From the short background above, 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? Assuming without conceding that the Speaker had committed any infraction, was he not entitled to be confronted with the allegation in that respect and given a reasonable opportunity to defend himself? If so, when was he accorded that?”

Tons of questions which may never be answered. They went on to forecast future likely consequences: “The alleged suspension and stoppage of the salaries of the Speaker and six other members of the House are no less misplaced, illegal, illegitimate, null and void. If care is not taken, and if all of us seal our lips, fold our arms, and get relaxed on our seats and allow this rascality and impunity to go unchecked, in no distant future, the Governor of the State would be impeached and forced out of office in like manner”.

They gave their verdict: “all said, we unreservedly, unambiguously, and unequivocally condemn what is presently at play in the Ekiti State House of Assembly. It is legally and morally unjustified and must be deprecated by anyone with a sense of fairness and decency. In light of this position, we hereby call on all members of the Ekiti State House of Assembly to return to the path of peace, honour and dignity by allowing the elected Speaker, Hon. Gboyega Aribisogan, to continue in office without let or hindrance. Anything short of this would amount to persevering in constitutional error and political rascality. May it be emphasized that the Assembly cannot transact any legitimate or legal business under the contrived speakership of Hon. Olubunmi Adelugba.

“Pointedly and succinctly asserted, Hon. Olubunmi Adelugba cannot continue in office as Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, and we plead with her to honourably stop parading, presenting or holding herself out as the Speaker of the State, as her so doing constitutes not just an illegality and unconstitutionality, but also a perseverance in such an unlawful enterprise. In like manner, we plead with the members of the House of Assembly to allow all Principal Officers of the House, including the Deputy Speaker, the Chief Whip, the Majority Leader etc., continue in office, without making any attempt to impeach or replace any of them.

The statement dated 23rd November Y2022 was signed by Aare Afe Babalola, CON, OFR, SAN, Chief Wole Olanipekun, CFR, OFR, SAN, Dele Adesina, SAN, Olu Daramola, SAN, Femi Falana, SAN, Dayo Akinlaja, SAN, Gboyega Oyewole, SAN.

APC Rejects Counsel, Says It’s at Variance with Party’s Constitution

“The attention of our party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Ekiti State has been brought to the statement credited to Aare Afe Babalola, Chief Wole Olanipekun and 5 others in respect of the recent developments in the Ekiti State House of Assembly, EKHA, where our party holds sway, and we respond thus:

“That since the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, which is the grundnorm upheld by all, supports party supremacy and does not recognise independent candidacy, those elected on the platform of party at any level must have sworn to, submit to, and align with all its policies and decisions, with the party constitution, manifesto and programme.

“That while they conveniently referred to the Constitution of the country and the Rules of the House, the seven legends deliberately ignored the Constitution of APC as a party as though it does not count. That we are not ignorant of what the Constitution also says regarding the supremacy in day-to-day activities of our members in the parliament and we dare not meddle in them.

“That history does not favour the 7 wise men as having interfered in similar matters in the past and we wonder why now. That we specifically cannot remember what action was taken by any or all the seven legal legends when in November 2014, seven assembly members removed the then Speaker of the house, Rt. Hon. Adewale Omirin and his deputy, Rt. Hon. Adetunji Orisalade from office. None of those crying foul called the perpetrators to order then.

“That by and large, the neutrality of these wisemen is questionable, and we are questioning it. Having relied majorly on the version of just a party in a matter is described as the proverbial wicked act by elder(s) who judged based on one-sided narration. That these elders have deliberately omitted reaching out to all other parties involved, which in this regard include the new Speaker, the parent political party, APC, and the notable party leaders they have alleged.

“That it offends the rule of natural justice, equity, and good conscience for them to have come to judgement on the statement of one party in what they referred to as a serious conflict capable of affecting the peace of the state they claimed to have loved so much.

“That our party, APC, takes responsibility for the actions of our members in the House, just as we protect the interest of the executives. We therefore will not pretend that the conduct of any of our partymen and women does not matter to us or won’t affect us as a ruling party. That like every, organisation, our party has its own set of rules and corresponding obligation of members to the organisation. Every of our member holding an elected position in whatever capacity is first a Nigerian, then a member of a political party before laying claim to the position.

“That a major obligation of all members of our party, APC, is obedience to decisions of the party validly made by the organ of the party vested with such powers. That since our party, APC is not a court of law, but only a political party, we can only subject our actions to the law of the land and not the decision of any individual.

“That having acted in accordance with the law, we know the circumstances that can compel us to reverse our decision, and none has arisen yet”. The APC statement was signed by Segun Dipe, Publicity Secretary, All Progressives Congress, APC, Ekiti State.

Governor Biodun Oyebanji of Ekiti State

With the repudiation of the elders’ advice and a lawsuit already filed in Court, it is predictable that the peaceful political atmosphere in Ekiti may have been ruffled. The APC should move quickly to calm all nerves and act in the overall interest of itself. A lot of persons are worried for Governor Oyebanji who seems helpless in the situation he has found himself. He cannot be seen to disagree with his former boss lest his loyalty be tested. At the same time, he needs peace both within his party, in the parliament and in the State to govern successfully.

Ayo Aluko-Olokun

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