Putting Ogun speaker’s impeachment in context

What purports as an incisive analysis of political developments surrounding the impeachment of Hon. Olakunle Oluomo, the immediate past speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly in the February 4, 2024, edition of The Guardian was marred by the most essential ingredient: facts.

Purportedly relying on certain nebulous sources, the writer accuses Governor Dapo Abiodun of engineering the said impeachment and opposing the 2027 governorship ambition of the senator representing Ogun West in the National Assembly, Solomon Adeola (Yayi), to whom he boldly ascribes Governor Abiodun’s re-election during the March 18, 2023, governorship election in the state.

The promotion of innuendo and outright fabrications makes “Ogun speaker’s impeachment: A cursor to 2027 governorship race” such a laborious reading.

There is something decidedly sinister in the writer’s lamentation that the ex-speaker “could be removed in such a manner without the intervention of the governor.” This is the same writer who avers that “contrary to media reports that his impeachment did not follow due process, Oluomo had been presented with the already signed notice of impeachment three times by a simple majority of the lawmakers.” So, did he expect the governor to quarter the lawmakers? Following the purely legislative matter around which the writer vaingloriously and desperately weaves webs of intrigue, Governor Abiodun had given ample indication of his attitude to the issue.

As he revealed, there had been a series of disagreements between the lawmakers and the leadership in which he had, both as governor and a party man, made interventions and urged them to resolve the conflicts amicably. Now, having learnt of the latest episode after the act had already been done, he had no option but to abide by the decision. Being a democrat, he recognises the limitations imposed on him by law, ethics and democratic tenets. He could not have invaded the Assembly and forced Oluomo’s leadership down the throats of the dissenting Assembly members. Doing so would not only have plunged the state into crisis, it would have eroded his credentials as a law-abiding state executive.

In the piece, the writer could not hide his obsession with Senator Yayi’s alleged 2027 ambition, about which he levies war against every imaginary obstacle. Leaving the Ogun electorate entirely out of the equation, he declares that it was Senator Yayi who guaranteed the governor’s re-election and that he (the governor) should have kept Oluomo on his seat, perhaps through the instrumentality of violence like some of his predecessors did.

He does not credit the lawmakers with the ability to take a decision without the governor’s interference: he claims absurdly that the governor “consulted widely” before allegedly engineering the impeachment of the ex-speaker. He did not attempt to provide logical or empirical validation for this wild claim. But the truth is that the governor, beyond being abreast of the crisis in the Assembly, neither engineered nor was made aware of the impeachment until the newspapers carried reports about it. Just how could a governor who has just got through a legal challenge to his mandate at the courts have made it his duty to police the state House of Assembly? Is that what the Ogun people elected him to do?

It is still the case in 2024 that in a democracy, government is run on three planks; that the legislature/executive is elected for a fixed term of four years, and that there is separation of powers. As the governor has said, it is the prerogative of the lawmakers to elect their leadership. The fact that some governors deliberately go out of their way to impose a leadership on the legislature does not mean that Governor Abiodun is cast in the same mould.

Sadly, the writer elected to ignore the statements uttered by the dissenters in the Ogun State Assembly, accusing the governor of having imposed the Oluomo leadership on the assembly. Sad! How logical is it to claim that the legislature cannot do anything on its own except with the imprimatur of the executive? Pray, is that the kind of democracy we want in this country?


Ogun State governor Dapo Abiodun

The speaker is just first among equals; all of the lawmakers were elected through the same process. Besides, while 2027 is the last thing on Governor Abiodun’s mind at the moment, it is certainly not undemocratic for any governor to have a preferred candidate, so the writer is either misinformed or speaking for certain elements intent on fanning the embers of discord in the state.

Out of the 26 lawmakers in the House, 21 are APC members. What that means is that head or tail, it is an APC member that will emerge speaker in the assembly. All the APC members are on the side of the governor. Twenty-five members out of 26 supported the impeachment, which the governor learnt about just like everyone else. As they say, you can only force a horse to the stream; you cannot force it to drink water. If the lawmakers had lost confidence in the leadership of the former speaker, why should that be an issue between the governor and a gubernatorial aspirant?

If the House decides to change its leader, should Governor Abiodun force a leadership down its throat? Should he resort to a previous administration’s jackboot approach in which the House of Assembly was locked for several months and members could not perform their constitutional duties? Why is the writer criminalising the governor’s decision to uphold the rule of law by ensuring that members who were elected by the people have the latitude to select/elect leaders of their choice? If the governor accepted the previous leadership and worked with it for the benefit of the state, on what basis was he to reject the new leadership? By the way, is the writer seriously saying that the present leadership of the assembly is anti-Yayi? Indeed, what is the relevance of Yayi in this purely legislative matter?

A staggering 25 members out of 26 signed for the impeachment of the former speaker, while 22 members who were physically present at the plenary during the deliberation supported his removal from office! That makes the writer’s arguments asking for the governor’s authoritarian overthrow of this freely expressed will illogical, irresponsible, dark and sinister.

Reacting to the development at the House of Assembly, Governor Abiodun said: “Given that the Ogun electorate gave us a mandate to represent their best interests and deliver democratic dividends that will significantly improve their well-being, the Ogun State government, along with the party leadership, have intervened to ensure that whatever disagreement members have is resolved peacefully and amicably, so that the delivery of democratic dividends to our people will not be hampered in any way.” That is what responsible leadership does. The governor cannot allow the crisis in the House to distract him. And, by the way, he is no emperor.

The governor is focused on delivering the democratic dividends to the people of Ogun State. He is building infrastructure that will take Ogun State to the next level. In the last four and a half years, the Gateway State has witnessed growth in leaps and bounds. It is arguably the capital of industrialisation in Nigeria. It is one of the best in terms of the ease of doing business metrics; it has the highest increase in the percentage of internally generated revenue. In terms of overall revenue, it is one of the first three. It is Nigeria’s industrial hub and education capital.

The governor is building airports, sea ports and dry ports to guarantee the Ogun people a better future. So, presently, he is not concerned about 2027; his concern is to deliver on his mandate. And just like a senior reverend advised during the thanksgiving ceremony organised to mark his Supreme Court victory, only God determines successors. The governor is not bothering himself about a successor; he is concerned with finishing well and finishing strong. So, the agents of instability should press the pause button. They should leave the governor alone and allow him to focus on the mandate given to him by the people.
*Akinmade is Special Adviser on Media and Communications to Governor Abiodun.

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