• Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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Between Abiodun’s legacy and Oluomo’s fall

Between Abiodun’s legacy and Oluomo’s fall

The impeachment of Olakunle Oluomo as Speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly came at an unexpected time. After escaping the banana peels many times, he was ousted cheaply at an unprecedented time in the state’s history. The development was coming just around when the Supreme Court put a rest to post-election litigation concerning the governorship election in the state.

Delivering the judgement, the five-member jury, led by Justice John Okoro, declared a watershed judgement upholding the election of Prince Dapo Abiodun as the duly elected Governor of Ogun State in the March 18, 2023 governorship election. Prince Abiodun’s challenger and the PDP governorship candidate, Hon. Ladi Adebutu, failed to prove allegations of non-compliance with the Electoral Act during the conduct of the governorship election. “This appeal is unmeritorious and ought to be dismissed and it is hereby dismissed. The judgement of the court is hereby affirmed,” Tijjani Abubakar, who read the lead judgement, said.

Governor Abiodun, who was seeking reelection, flew the flag of the APC during the March 18 governorship and was declared the winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) having polled 276,298 votes to defeat Adebutu, who scored 262,383 votes.

As is his right, Adebutu approached the Ogun State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abeokuta to contest the results of the election. In a unanimous ruling on Saturday, September 30, 2023, the three-member tribunal led by Justice Hamidu Kunaza struck out the petition because it was “incompetent, defective, disjunctive and lack merits”.

Not satisfied with the judgement of the tribunal, and despite other opposition parties under the aegis of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) in the state saying the case was dead on arrival at the higher courts, Adebutu proceeded to the Court of Appeal to challenge the decision.

Addressing a press conference in Abeokuta after the tribunal judgement, IPAC’s state chairman, Engr. Samson Okusanya described the statement credited to PDP after the judgement, which discredited the verdict, as docile and out of crass ignorance from political merchants.

“Ladi Adebutu and his team of lawyers ought to have known that law and facts are not based on technicalities but rather on fairness and objectivity of the legal process which stipulates that the petitioner ought to have frontloaded certain information in the petition. We salute the judiciary and most importantly members of the Tribunal led by Justice Hamidu Kunaza for a job well done. The PDP and her candidate should as a matter of importance, discontinue his planned wild goose chase at the appellate Court and accept the will of God,” he said.

As predicted, Prince Abiodun’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), prayed the appellate court to dismiss the appeal. He urged the court to uphold Governor Abiodun’s victory as the validly elected governor of Ogun State. The court upheld the prayer. Delivering judgement on the appeal, in its majority judgement of the three-member panel that was delivered by Justice Joseph Ikyegh, said there was no reason to overturn the judgement of the tribunal.

With post-election litigations over and the governor’s re-election duly affirmed by the Supreme Court on January 19, the high expectations of the people of the state, majorly because of the standard set by Governor Abiodun in his first term, demand that all involved come together in reconciliation to move the state forward.

Read also: Why we removed Oluomo as speaker, Ogun lawmaker reveals

Already leading that reconciliation tone is no other person than Sir Kessington Adebutu, an industrialist and father of Hon. Adebutu. He congratulated Governor Abiodun on the revalidation of his re-election by the Supreme Court and urged his son to join hands with the governor in the interest of the state after the apex court’s verdict. In a letter addressed to Prince Abiodun, dated January 22, the senior Adebutu said he had counselled his son to sheathe the sword and join Abiodun in moving the state forward. He also called for a peaceful meeting between Hon. Adebutu and the governor. Most importantly, he noted that the apex court’s judgement had put an end to all matters of litigation surrounding the 2023 governorship election.

After his victory at the polls, Prince Abiodun promised that “We will continue with the same vision of providing focused and purposeful governance. We will push our frontiers as the industrial, educational and religious capital of Nigeria. We are fast becoming the food basket in the southwest, so we have a lot to be thankful for. Please let us keep our eyes on the ball.”

Embarking on the delivery of these promises and the completion of major projects in the state not only require strategic partnerships and collaboration. Ogun needs an enabling environment for industrial growth, manpower development, and creativity to thrive. Part of that enabling environment is for stakeholders, no matter their creed and political alignment, to close ranks and for the good of the state.

From that point, every political pundit thought the APC was on a roller coaster. It has successfully quelled internal opposition, winning all elements loyal to former Governor Ibikunle Amosun over. Weeks before, another APC lawmaker, Kunle Sobukunola, snatched victory from his PDP counterpart, Babajide Owodunni from the governor’s constituency at the Appeal Court and the euphoria became more undiluted with more converts into the APC. That was when the lucre of leadership snapped for Oluomo, the governor’s protege and the state’s number 3 citizen.

Perhaps conscious that this is his second and final term, Abiodun understands that this is his “legacy term”. He buckled under his place in history at the moment when not only governance but crisis, whether internal or external, would be a reflection of his stake in statesmanship. More than his first term, it is during this second term that history will record his administration’s scorecard in terms of performance and his political dealings with friends and foes alike.

The crisis of confidence in the Ogun State House of Assembly did send a wrong signal about the willingness of the governor to foster reconciliation within his party as a benchmark for his ability to close ranks with other stakeholders outside his party. Despite describing Governor Abiodun as his benefactor and expressing gratitude for endorsing his candidacy for the speakership twice, embattled Speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly, Hon. Olakunle Oluomo, expressed disappointment in the lack of intervention from the governor and the leadership of the APC, which he had expected. He said the disappointment meant that he would have to seek justice elsewhere.

What a pity from someone who admitted there has been no love-lost relationship with his colleagues in the House. The governor’s love and protection notwithstanding, it appears he left many things to chance. An ordinarily sagacious four-term lawmaker would have not been left in the lurch as it happened to him. Some loyal forces would have squealed to him on the impending sack, probe and formal impeachment and helped him strategise.

But it seemed all his network of friends, colleagues, party chieftains and even career officers could not muster support when it mattered most. Something must be wrong for no one to have given him any inkling of the putsch. These only advertise dissidence, unpopularity and political quicksand which must be monitored in the State. Going to court and appearing before the Musefiu Lamidi panel without getting a damage control system in place is equally antithetical to common sense. Worse still, the executive arm, the civil apparatchiks and party stalwarts were quick to seal the fate of the embattled Speaker, swore in and embraced Oludaisi Elemide as his replacement.

Prince Abiodun was unequivocal on the fall of Oluomo. He agreed with the decision of the assembly members to impeach him, insisting that the lawmakers have the right to choose their leader. In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Kayode Akinmade in Abeokuta, the governor said that the lawmakers have the prerogative to elect their leaders in line with the stipulated law. Oluomo was impeached over alleged gross misconduct, high handedness, lack of focus and transparency, arrogance, poor leadership style, financial misappropriation and inciting members against one another – allegations which his erstwhile deputy Dare Kadiri spewed two years ago.

Read also: Supreme Court upholds Dapo Abiodun as Ogun, dismisses PDP’s appeal

These events are a real challenge for governance in the State. Many believe that there are political undercurrents and that Governor Abiodun should be careful with the politics of succession and post-governorship politicking. Thankfully, the governor erred on the side of all democratic norms and Baron de Montesquieu would have turned in his grave for him putting his gubernatorial seal on the triumph of the ineluctable theory of separation of power.

That move further gives a fillip to Prince Abiodun’s much-mouthed template and deliberate action plans to transform the state by implementing the “Building Our Future Together” agenda, hinged on the five developmental columns of I-S-E-Y-A: Infrastructure; Social Development and Wellbeing; Education; Youth Development, and; Agriculture and Food Security. Now that he has a renewed mandate, he should not let political expediency, primordial sentiments, or party loyalty sway him. More collaboration, reconciliation and collective interest should drive his clear agenda on how to consolidate the gains of the past four years while embarking on fresh developmental programmes and projects.

Going forward, governance, justice, fairness, the rule of law and the people’s welfare should continue to be his priorities because those are the benchmarks by which his legacy lies post-2027.

Somorin, former Chief Press Secretary to Gov. Dapo Abiodun, is a doctoral candidate at Crescent University, Abeokuta