In another two weeks, it will be two months since the Inspector General of Police ordered the closure of the chambers of the Ondo state House of Assembly complex in Akure. The crisis, despite many interventions, is still far from being resolved.
The imbroglio started on January 28 when the speaker of the assembly, Ms Akindele as well as the deputy speaker Mr Fatai Olotu and Majority Leader, Mr Ifedayo Akinsoyinu were impeached for allegedly withdrawing a sum of 15 million naira without the consent of the house.
Earlier in the day, the paymaster reportedly loyal to Ms Akindele was caught conveying a sum of 15 million naira to her residence. The paymaster said he withdrew the money on the speaker’s authority. Upon this revelation, an emergency sitting was conveyed around 5pm on Friday 28th January 2017, by some 20 members of the 26-member legislature where the speaker was impeached and a new acting-speaker appointed.
The clerk of the house was reportedly dragged into the chambers to commission the appointments of Mr Malachi Coker as Acting Speaker, Mr Ayodeji Arowele (Owo Constituency) as Deputy Speaker, and Mr Olamide George (Akure North Constituency) as Majority Leader. In the events that followed, the governor of the state was asked to recognise the new leadership, while the impeached speaker was placed on suspension.
The usurpation was, however, halted when the then-governor of the state, Olusegun Mimiko, who reportedly was on Akindele’s side, refused to recognise the new leadership. The governor insisted on a reconciliatory meeting and a political solution with Ms Akindele. The position of the governor made some PDP lawmakers, who had earlier assented to the impeachment motion, withdraw their support for the new leadership, thus creating two factions with two leaders in the house, each trying to convene sitting within the same complex. A sense of impending violence prevailed upon the Inspector General of Police to seal off the national assembly on February 6, 2017.
The then-governor Mimiko backed Ms Akindele’s faction, then declared that the speaker cannot be impeached under such abnormal circumstances while calling for a proper session where the issue would be tabled and necessary action taken. The Malachi Coker-led faction has until now refused to assent to a session to be presided over by the indicted speaker, maintaining that she remains impeached and suspended.
The ongoing imbroglio made the past administration shelve a planned budget presentation, which to a large extent might stall a smooth running of the new administration.
In a bid to resolve the crisis at the assembly, the Governor of Ondo state, Rotimi Akeredolu, failing to recognise any of the factions, has instructed both to seek a political solution to the crisis in the interest of the state. Reports have it that the governor has since met with the factions separately in a bid to schedule a meeting which will see the two factions iron out a peaceful pact in the presence of the governor.
Having said all these, the actions of the lawmakers in tearing the legislature into shreds and holding the progress of the state to ransom is not only selfish but undemocratic.
If the allegations against the impeached speaker are true, there should be nothing stopping them from convening a proper session where the matter would be tabled and a motion for the impeachment be moved. Their convening of an emergency sitting where the rash decisions were made throws the foundation of their allegations into doubt, regardless of the truthfulness of their claims. The fact that they might have feared that they would lose numbers of supporters if they tarried till the next meeting, though understandable given that politics is a game of numbers and especially in Nigeria where 16 can be greater than 19, cannot be validated. The fact that this would not be the first time that Ms Akindele would be enmeshed in corruption after she was served an impeachment notice in February 2016 could have been a reasonable basis for a claim –that would be awaiting validation of course – that Ms Akindele is an unrepentant corrupt legislator. Hence, the need for her impeachment.
To this end, however, despite the several interventions from the governors, the end of the crisis appears not to be in sight. The Malachi faction has maintained that Ms Akindele remains suspended from the house that is now equally divided into two. A leading member of the Coker team, who spoke with Premium Times, stated that the meetings with the governor will have no bearing on the decision and position already taken by the faction, while a member of the Akindele faction expressed progress in the deliberation that has ensued since the governor intervened. It is also reported that Ms Akindele has now withdrawn a court case challenging her impeachment in favour of a political solution.
Even though political solutions by their very nature have not been beneficial to the masses as they often bury chances to tackle cankerworms responsible for the kind of democracy practiced in Nigeria, if they will be the ultimate solutions to the problem at hand, they are more than welcome. It is high time the lawmakers got their acts together and worked for the progress of the state.