Ahead of the October governorship poll in Ondo state, a myriad of issues are playing out with various interests striving to outdo themselves to get the plum seat.
Most importantly, the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC) appears to be in the eye of the storm, as some 10 aspirants seeking to contest with the incumbent governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, are challenging the indirect mode of the primary adopted by the party.
Amidst all this, indication emerged Thursday that the state’s Chief Judge, Justice Oluwatoyin Akeredolu, may have rejected a letter written by the House of Assembly for the constitution of a seven-man panel to probe the state Deputy Governor, Hon Agboola Ajayi
The CJ, Blueprint gathered, may have hinged her position on the provision of the 1999 Constitution which requires two-thirds majority of lawmakers to get the impeachment process kicked off.
In this regard, the 26-member legislature would require about 17 or 18 votes to get an impeachment process against the deputy governor started.
However, only 14 members signed the impeachment notice with nine others dissociating themselves.
The lawmakers are Rt. Hon. Iroju Ogundeji (Deputy Speaker), Hon. Jamiu Sulaiman Maito, Hon. Rasheed Olalekan Elegbeleye, Hon. Tomide Leonard Akinribido and Hon. Samuel Edamisan Ademola.
Others are Hon. Favour Semilore Tomomewo, Hon. Festus Akingbaso, Hon. Adewale Williams Adewinle and Hon (Barr.) Torhukerhijo Success.
A member was absent while two others in attendance also abstained.
In their letter, the nine lawmakers notified the CJ on plans by the leadership of the House to suspend some of them in order to carry out the ‘illegal’ act.
The letter read: “Kindly be informed that nine under-listed elected Honourable members of Ondo state House of Assembly have duly dissociated ourselves from the ongoing impeachment process of the Deputy Governor of Ondo state, H.E. (Hon.) Agboola Alfred Ajayi in a letter dated 7th July, 2020 to the Clerk and the Rt. Hon. Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly, here with attached.
“We want to state and confirm to your good office that we maintain our stand by dissociating ourselves from the impeachment process. We are not in support of the impeachment based on our individual personal conviction.
“We are rest assured that your Lordship will uphold Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) particularly Section 188 (3) (4) (5) – (11).
“It is equally worthy of note that the total membership of Ondo state House of Assembly is 26 in which 2/3 is 18 and this remains the constitutionally required number irrespective of any arbitrary suspension.
“We are writing to call your attention to the fact that all or some of us who are signatories to this letter may be suspended in order to circumvent the provision of the constitution of Nigeria, which we all swore to uphold and protect, including your honourable Lordship, as this will be contrary to the laws of the land.”
A source at the assembly said the pro-impeachment lawmakers have returned to the House to use the attendance register used during the plenary sitting of the lawmakers to convince the Chief Judge that they had met the constitutional requirement.
But the anti-impeachment lawmakers vowed to resist the plan to impeach the deputy governor without following due process of the law.
House serves notice
Amidst the confusion, Clerk of the state assembly, Mr. Adeyelu Bode, said the deputy governor had been served notice of his impeachment as signed by 14 lawmakers.
He said the notice was served July 7, the same day the lawmakers issued the impeachment notice and was received at the office of Ajayi.
Among others, Ajayi was accused of gross misconduct, abuse of office with actions likely to bring down the state government, financial recklessness, abandonment of office, official duty and other assignments and maligning credibility of the Legislative arm with false allegations of cash inducement
Others were petitioned from the APC on his alleged movement to the PDP having been sworn-in as the deputy governor of the state on the APC platform and actions of Sunday, June 21st likely to cause breach of peace in reference to 1983 political crisis with the intent to incite the citizens against the Government of Ondo State.
“Pursuant to the provisions of Sections 188(2b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) the Honorable House resolved that your Excellency should be availed with a copy of the notice for you to respond to the allegations contained therein.
“By this resolution, a copy of the notice of the allegations with supporting documents are hereby forwarded to your Excellency for your response,” the notice read.
But an aide to Ajayi, who pleaded anonymity, insisted his boss had not been served, even as the deputy governor himself assured he would respond to the allegations as soon as he was served.
He insisted the impeachment plot would fail.
APC aspirants slams Fayemi, others
Meanwhile, as preparation for the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primary election in Ondo state reaches top gear, the leadership of a faction within the party has threatened that 10 out 12 aspirants seeking the ticket may boycott the process if the party settles for indirect primary mode.
The Ondo APC faction also called on the party to warn Governors Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state, Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state and Minister of Transport Rotimi Amaechi for allegedly influencing the division in the state chapter.
Addressing a press conference Thursday at the APC national secretariat in Abuja, the factional Chairman, Hon Henry Olu Olatuja, accompanied by the factional state secretary, Barrister Akin Ogunsakin, said his faction had earlier intimated the current leadership of the party of petitions before the recently dissolved National Working Committee (NWC) and the pending suits No. FHC/AK/CS/10/2019 challenging the process and the outcome of congresses held by the faction of the State Executive Committee of APC, led by another factional chairman, Mr. Ade Adetimehin from Ward level to the state, for non-compliance substantially with the congress guidelines as laid down by the party.
“In addition, we also pointed out our observation in the letter written by the current leadership of the party dated 25th June, 2020 with ref. No. APC/NHDO/19/013 to the INEC notifying them of the forthcoming Governorship primary election of our party fixed for the 20th, July 2020, in Ondo State. It is, however, our observation that the mode of the primary election to be adopted was not stated / communicated to assist their preparation for the monitoring of the exercise as required by the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
“We are however, despite the above observation aware of the speculation published in the newspaper of 4th of July 2020 and various posting in social media insinuating an indirect mode of primary for Ondo state although it was not contained in their official letter dated 25th of June to the INEC.
“We find it compelling to assist the decision of current leaders at the national level by furnishing them with the details of events as it affects the Ward, Local and state executives and delegate lists of APC in Ondo State.
“That considering the pending suit before the Federal High Court Akure Division and our letter dated 26th June, 2020 which was served on Chairman and other members of the caretaker committees on 30th June, 2020 drawing the attention of the caretaker committee to this suit and its implications on the need to conduct a valid and successful Governorship Party Primary and the desire to avert the Zamfara and River State episode / bitter pills.”
The factional chairman revealed that 10 out of the entire 12 governorship aspirants were loyal to his leadership, adding that majority of them might be forced to boycott the primary exercise if the party insisted on indirect primary
“We urge that premised on the situation at hand in Ondo State as highlighted above, that the option of Direct Primary be considered and must adopted in the interest of equity, fairness and justice. So that the outcome of the pending suit No. FHC/AK/CS/10/2019 would not affect the validity of the Governorship Primary to be conducted on the 20th July, 2020. The adjournment date for the above mentioned suit is 22nd July, 2020 at the Federal High Court, Akure, Ondo State.
“We are not unmindful of the present pandemic, however a successfully Governorship primary was held in Edo State in recent time with strict adherence to laid down procedures by NCDC and INEC, flowing from the above a hitch free direct primary can be held in Ondo State without regard to any numerical misrepresentation from any quarters. Our leaders need to be reminded that direct primary election were held to determine the party flag bearer at Lagos, Osun and Edo States where crisis within the party were considered limited.
“That the above suggestion if considered would create a level playing ground for all aspirants that have paid the official nomination fees of twenty two million and five hundred thousand ( #22,500,000 ) to the account of the party , make the process credible, give sense of belonging to all members and foster unity within the party.”
On the reasons to call some party leaders to order, Olatuja said: “we need to call the attention of National Leaders of our party to call the Governor of Ekiti State Dr. John Kayode Fayemi to order to avoid disgrace and embarrassment that may arise from abuse of his office as Chairman Nigeria Governors Forum.”