The death of the Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly, Right Honourable Samuel Adesina, has led to another round of politicking in the Assembly. YINKA OLADOYINBO looks at the intrigues and the moves characterising the filling of the vacant seat.
THE Ondo State House of Assembly is currently enmeshed in hire-wired politicking and maneuvering over who is going to succeed the immediate past speaker of the House, Right Honourable Samuel Adesina, who died last month. The death of the politician born in Odigbo Local Government Area of the state, shocking as it was, has led to a series of conjectures as to who will lead the 26-member Assembly.
Adesina died after battling with an ailment said to be cancer for over six months, therefore making the leadership of the House to continue to rest on the Deputy Speaker, Honourable Dare Emiola, who has been holding forth since the sickness of the former speaker became obvious and kept him away from his duty last September.
Before Adesina finally succumbed to the cold hands of death, his demise had been rumoured on two occasions, necessitating the House to publicly debunk that the number three man in the state was not dead. On the day the 2014 Appropriation Bill was presented to the House by the state governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, the Deputy Speaker had to publicly put a call to the former speaker to clear the air on his state of health.
However, a few weeks after that episode, Adesina bowed to death. While officially announcing the death of Adesina, the state government described the passage of the former speaker as a great loss to the state. Government, in a statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr Aderotimi Adelola, said “the late speaker, during his life time, was a bridge builder, a man of integrity and a reliable team player, who placed the interest of the state above personal consideration. The untimely death of the speaker occurred during a protracted battle with the cancer of the urinary bladder. The state government later declared a seven-day mourning period for the deceased, after which activities again picked up at the Assembly.
Politicians, particularly from the camp of the ruling Labour Party (LP), have, however, intensified efforts and lobbying to ensure that the post vacated by Adesina is filled by somebody loyal to them. To this end, camps and cliques have been formed among the members with a view to strategising on how to emerge victorious in the ongoing scheming.
The post of the Speaker of the state has been zoned to the southern senatorial district of the state since the first coming of the governor in 2009 and this led to the removal of the then sitting speaker, Taofeek Abdusalam, who was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from Ikare-Akoko in the northern senatorial district of the state.
After the removal of Abdusalam and with the Labour Party having the majority in the House, Adesina, who was also a defector from the PDP was made the speaker of the House to ensure a balance in the allocation of the first three political posts in the state.
Mimiko is from Ondo town in the central senatorial district; his deputy, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, is from Supare-Akoko in the north, while Adesina was from Oniparaga in the southern senatorial district.
However, with the death of the Speaker and in line with the zoning arrangement in the state, the people of the south believed that the post should still remain with them and therefore should be filled by somebody from the area. In line with this argument, some lawmakers from the southern senatorial district were said to have expressed the desire to become the next Speaker of the House.
The lawmakers in the south include Afolabi Iwalewa from Irele state constituency; Gbenga Edema, Ilaje constituency II; Oyebo Aladetan, Ilaje constituency I; Victor Akinwe, Odigbo constituency II; Akpoebi Lubi, Ese-Odo state constituency; Jumoke Akindele Okitipupa II; Soji Akinkuolire Okitipupa I; and Folagbade Gbemibade Ile-Oluji/Okeigbo.
But out of the nine members of the House from the district, only two of them are second term lawmakers and they are Akinwe and Aladetan.
Therefore, if the doctrine of appointing a ranking lawmaker as a Speaker is considered, only the two of them are qualified and the search may be narrowed down to them.
But in the event that the party and the government decide to throw the contest open then, all of them, except Lubi who is a member of the PDP, are qualified to vie for the post.
The choice of the next Speaker will, however, be determined by many factors and issues which will make some of the lawmakers more qualified than the other. First among the issues is that of being a ranking legislator. Akinwe, who is from the other half of Odigbo, where the late Speaker hailed from, is a second term lawmaker. He was in the Assembly between 1999 and 2003 and later came back in 2011. Upon the completion of the 2011 general election, many people had thought that the LP might change the Speaker and appoint another person. At that level, majority of the analysts believed that the lot would fall on Akinwe to be appointed Speaker. But that was not to be. He is considered to be a loyal party man that can occupy the seat left by Adesina.
Apart from this, many argue that since the deceased was from Odigbo, it will be logical to retain the seat in the local government and if that is followed, Akinwe may be the beneficiary. It was, however, gathered that he is not interested in becoming the number three man in the state, as he is said to be backing one of the front liners in the contest.
Also, Aladetan, who represents Ilaje Constituency I in the Assembly is a ranking lawmaker in the state. Aladetan, a prince of Ugbo Kingdom was first elected into the House in 2007 on the platform of the PDP. He later left the PDP and joined the LP in 2010 and was later given the ticket of the party to again run as its candidate during the 2011 general election, an electoral contest he won. Many also see Aladetan as a good choice for the job, having been in the chamber for about seven years.
One other factor or issue that may be considered that could give the lawmaker an edge is that of the by-election into the Ilaje/Ese-Odo Federal Constituency of Ondo. The former occupier of the seat, Raphael Nomiye, a member of the LP was from Ugbo in Ilaje before his death, last November. But when the party wanted to pick its candidate for the election, it picked somebody from Constituency II of the area, which comprises Mahin, Aheri and Etikan. So, with the seat already taken away from the people of Ugbo, the argument is that the party should placate them with the speakership of the House, since both seats would be filled almost at the same time. Also, Aladetan, who is the Chairman of the House Committee on Information is equally a principal officer of the House and deputy majority leader.
As the battle for the number three seat hots up in the Sunshine State, another school of thought in the Assembly believes that it is possible for the zoning arrangement to change and therefore give room for people from other senatorial districts, apart from the south, to contest the seat.
The argument of the people is that there has been a precedent in the House when a speaker was removed and another zone produced the replacement. When Abdusalam, who was from the north lost the seat, Adesina from the south replaced him. This was said to be responsible for the scheming by lawmakers outside the southern zone where the deceased came from.
But the development in 2010 was meant to correct the imbalance in the polity then, as the Speaker and the Deputy Governor were from the same senatorial district. So, the impeachment of Abdusalam was meant to correct the lopsidedness. This is the counter argument from the opposing camp.
As the horse trading intensifies, none of the members of the House interested in the seat is yet to formally declare his ambition. This, analysts say, is not unconnected with the fact that the late speaker has not been buried and so overt politicking has to be pushed to the backburner in honour of the departed speaker. Many of the lawmakers are, however, said to have organised themselves into caucus meetings which are held day and night. Strategists of the camps are putting their political savvy to work in coming up with a formula that will make the arrow head of their camp emerge the new Speaker.
A member from Ilaje, Gbenga Edema, however, said it was not yet time to be talking about who succeeds Adesina, since his remains were yet to be buried. According to him, it is a kind of an unwritten law that nobody should discuss the issue until after the burial of the former Speaker. He, however, said it was possible for members to be aspiring to occupy the seat but that they would have to be doing that underground.
He said, “Nobody has ever come out to say he or she wants to be speaker; this cannot be done until the late Speaker is buried. It is possible for people to have constituted themselves into caucuses but everything being done is in secrecy. But I am sure immediately the man is buried members will come to the public with their intention.”
The choice of the Speaker may again cause friction between the members of the house on one hand and the state governor on the other hand. A group of the legislators loyal to one of the front runners for the seat in the southern senatorial zone was said to be poised for a showdown with the governor, on account of the governor is not in support of their man. The thinking in government is that the said lawmaker, if allowed to lead the
House, may be difficult to control.
Apart from this, the lawmaker in question was one of the outspoken members during the boycott of the budget presentation by the governor last December. So, they feel the executive may consider this as payback time and frustrate any move to make the legislator get the position of the Speaker.
However, a top member of the executive, who spoke on the matter on condition of anonymity, said the governor was not involved in any tussle over the issue. According to him, the House is an independent arm of government that will determine its leadership at the appropriate time.
He said, “The issue of who becomes the Speaker has not been discussed and the House is an independent arm of government that can decide on its own. But when it comes to who leads the House, anybody can be Speaker. When Pius Ayim was elected Senate President, he was a first time Senator and he led the Senate well. What matters most is the administrative ability of the person. Anybody that will lead the Assembly must be somebody with good administrative ability and must also command the respect of the members. The person should be able to gauge the mood of the members at every point in time before issues are raised or decision is taken.”
In the midst of this politicking, one thing that appears certain is that the choice of a new Speaker for the Assembly will take the centre stage immediately the remains of Adesina are buried. The people of the state are anxiously looking forward to the development that will again make history to repeat itself in the state, since its creation in 1979. No Speaker of the House has completed a four year term in office.