A crisis of confidence has hit the Ekiti State House of Assembly, following the suspension of the member representing Ikole Constituency 1, Gboyega Aribisogan, for 180 days for alleged disloyalty and anti-party activities. ODUNAYO OGUNMOLA examines the crisis and what it portends for the Ayo Fayose administration.
WHEN the fifth Ekiti State House of Assembly was inaugurated on June 5, 2015, Governor Ayo Fayose envisaged a cordial working relationship with the House, owing to the role he played in the emergence of virtually all the lawmakers.
Shortly after assuming office on October 16, 2014, Fayose had a running battle with the Fourth Assembly, which was dominated by the All Progressives Congress (APC) members. The feud began with the non-appearance of the former Speaker, Dr. Adewale Omirin, at his swearing-in.
At the time, Fayose accused the APC-dominated House of plotting outside the state to impeach him and the sour relationship led to Omirin’s “impeachment” and the “election” of Dele Olugbemi as “Speaker.”
The legislative coup was carried out by seven PDP members, with Fayose’s backing on November 2014 and the seven PDP lawmakers dominated legislative business till the end of their tenure in June 2015, leaving the 19 APC members in the lurch.
As last year’s general elections drew nearer, Fayose, who was in control of the PDP machinery, took over the nomination process that produced the party’s House of Assembly candidates.
Many PDP members who had nursed the ambition of running for legislative seats, but did not belong to the camp of Fayose, were thrown out of the race in favour of the governor’s anointed candidates. The primary was skewed in favour of aspirants who followed Fayose to the Labour Party (LP) when he contested for the Ekiti Central senatorial seat and lost to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) flag bearer, Babafemi Ojudu.
The governor’s action generated a bad blood and resentment within the PDP, as aspirants who lost out in the primary and their supporters accused Fayose of imposition, intolerance and dictatorial tendencies.
At the April 11, 2015 House of Assembly election, Fayose deployed his power, influence and resources to ensure victory for all the 26 PDP candidates.
The House has 24 male and two female legislators and they see Fayose as their benefactor and godfather. There were rumours that the lawmakers-elect entered into a covenant with Fayose not to betray him, if eventually sworn-in.
The Fifth Assembly began its legislative expedition on a comical note when it was inaugurated on June 5, last year. Reports said some of the lawmakers prostrated before the governor on their inauguration day, to display their loyalty and show appreciation to their benefactor for singlehandedly making them members of the hallowed chamber.
The lawmakers in one of the sittings conferred the title of “Opposition Leader in Nigeria” on Fayose for his relentless tirades against President Muhammadu Buhari.
Earlier this year, the Ekiti legislators held a plenary sitting on the highway in the heart of Ado Ekiti, in Okesa area, where they drew public attention to an alleged plan by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to coerce them into an impeachment plot against Fayose.
At the sitting, which caused quite a stir in the town, because it denied the public the use of the highway for about three hours, the lawmakers carried travelling bags, which they claimed contained personal effects like toothpaste, toothbrush, sponge and few clothes, saying they were ready for arrest and ready to swim and sink with the governor.
They followed it up with protests at foreign missions and agencies in Lagos and Abuja, carrying placards denouncing the alleged plot to use them to oust Fayose from power.
Another comedy involving the lawmakers was during the presentation of the Appropriation Bill by Fayose in December last week, when the governor held a gavel, which he brought to the House and used in a symbolic manner to pass the budget into law. The legislators reeled in laughter, as the gavel-wielding governor performed the act, an action which drew criticisms from the opposition and some interest groups, who viewed the action as indecent and against parliamentary norms.
But, later, the lawmakers became disillusioned and discontented, because, according to an insider, the governor refused to “empower” them, despite doing his bidding. The source said: “Many of them believed that their election into the House would give them access to fat salaries, emoluments, contracts, constituency allowances and other perks of office, but their hopes were dashed because the governor failed to give them what they desired.
“They have been complaining that people in their constituencies are overwhelming them with demands and never believed that they don’t have the resources to meet those needs and this has made many of them to be held with scorn by their constituents.”
The legislators’ and complaints soon filtered into the ears of the governor who was said to have been disappointed by their “ingratitude,” despite the criticisms that trailed his insistence on their candidacies before and during the 2015 polls.
A Government House source alleged that the governor employed divide-and-rule tactics to unmask the “traitors” among the legislators by empowering some of their colleagues to report anyone found complaining. This, the source added, was the genesis of the crisis currently rocking the House.
The 2019 general elections is also believed to be another source of crisis among Ekiti House of Assembly members as some of them have been harbouring ambition to go to the House of Representatives and they needed to curry the favour of Fayose by exposing “betrayers” among them.
Two weeks ago, the spotlight had been on the Deputy Speaker, Olusegun Adewumi, who represents Ekiti West Constituency 1 and Gboyega Aribisogan, who represents Ikole Constituency 1. It was gathered that their colleagues had reported them to the governor for travelling to Lagos to hold clandestine meetings with personalities perceived to be enemies of Fayose. Both Adewumi and Aribisogan vehemently denied the allegation.
The duo were accused of holding meetings with the senator representing Ogun East, Buruji Kashamu; Ojudu, who is now Special Adviser to the Vice President; renowned lawyer and human rights activist Femi Falana; former Secretary of Ekiti PDP, Dr. Temitope Aluko and former governorship candidate Yinka Akerele.
Aribisogan blew the lid off the crisis, when he addressed a press conference and unfolded a plot to blackmail him with the allegation of holding meetings with Fayose’s enemies. He said the only time he met with Kashamu was when he accompanied Fayose to meet him (Kashamu) in 2014, alongside two individuals who are now lawmakers.
He also denied meeting with Falana and Ojudu as being alleged. He said: “I have been a major critic of their roles in the Ekiti project and they can never in their wildest imagination invite me to any clandestine meeting and they are all alive to corroborate or deny the claims.”
Aribisogan accused the legislator representing Oye Constituency 1, Dr. Samuel Omotoso, as the brain behind the plot, saying the medical doctor-turned politician is consumed by an ambition to go to House of Representatives in 2019 and wanted to destroy him (Aribisogan) to realise the ambition.
The seat in view is that of Ekiti North Federal Constituency 1, which covers Oye and Ikole Local Government Areas. The present occupier of the seat is Kehinde Agboola from Ikole, while some PDP henchmen believe that 2019 is the turn of a candidate from Oye council area to occupy the seat.
Last week, Aribisogan appeared before an panel set up by the House to investigate his alleged roles in the meetings allegedly held outside the state, to bring down Fayose’s government.
At the sitting of the panel, chaired by the member representing Ido/Osi Constituency 2, Samuel Jeje, a purported audio file capturing his (Aribisogan’s) voice was played. Aribisogan refuted the charge, saying: “The so-called audio was a superimposed voiceover to tarnish my reputation. “
But, the hammer fell on Aribisogan the following day, when his colleagues gave him an “Abdulmumin Jibrin treatment” by suspending him for 180 legislative days. The lawmakers said Aribisogan’s action will determine further actions to be taken against him.
The legislators adopted a report by the Jeje-led panel at a plenary presided over by Speaker Kola Oluwawole, which indicted Aribisogan.
Throughout the period of the suspension, Aribisogan has been barred from holding any position and “must not be seen in and around the premises within one kilometre radius of the assembly complex.” He is not also entitled to all privileges and benefits attached to his office throughout the time the suspension will last. He was also ordered to submit government property in his custody to the Assembly Clerk, Tola Esan.
The panel had investigated Aribisogan on allegations of “gross misconduct and acts capable of destabilizing the House. Other members of the panel are Sina Animasaun (Ekiti West 2), Samuel Omotoso (Oye 1), Sunday Akinniyi (Ikere 2), Dele Fajemilehin (Gbonyin) Mrs. Cecilia Dada (Ilejemeje) and Fasanmi Temitope (Ado 2).
But, Aribisogan described his trial before the panel and the “verdict” of the Assembly as a “scam and travesty of justice.” He described the audio tape used to nail him as “fake and obscene.” The embattled lawmaker wondered why the Deputy Speaker, with whom he was accused of holding secret meetings with Kashamu, Ojudu and Falana was left out of the probe and punishment.
He alleged that the panel compromised its position by using his co-accused person, the Deputy Speaker, as a prosecution witness against him in a bid to nail him at all cost to arrive at a predetermined conclusion. Presenting the panel report to the House, The Chairman of the Ethics Committee, Ojo Fajana (Ekiti East 1), claimed that the evidence submitted found Aribisogan guilty of the offence.
The new Information Committee chairman, Omotoso, said Adewumi confirmed both in writing and orally that Aribisogan confessed to him at a popular hotel in Ado Ekiti on the evening of Friday, September 30, that he (Aribisogan) did meet with some elements that are against the state government in Lagos on Saturday, September 24, “in a manner that has rubbished the integrity and confidence that the Ekiti people have in the State House of Assembly.”
Explaining the rationale behind the House’s decision to punish Aribisogan, Omotoso said that it was to serve as deterrent to anyone who might be nursing same act to desist from it.
Addressing a news conference at another location in Ado Ekiti, few minutes after the hammer fell on him, Aribisogan said he was not surprised by the outcome of the panel and his suspension by his colleagues, which he traced to “an unseen hand from outside.”
Aribisogan said: “I saw the entire process as a scam and travesty of justice; they didn’t have enough evidence to nail me but an unseen hand was behind all these shenanigans to arrive at a predetermined conclusion.
“The committee has compromised its position because what transpired at the panel was not what was in their report. Everything was originated by one person and executed by one person.
“I have enough reason to believe that it is a plot to pull me down and I am not surprised by the outcome because I know the judgment had been written well ahead of time. You claim that I went to Buruji with two other colleagues why was I the only person singled out?”
Source : ThenationonlineThenationonline