Funmi Olaitan, Ibadan
Members of Oyo State House of Assembly on Tuesday, amidst intrigue and high-level political power play, elected Mr. Joshua Olagunju Ojo, representing Orire State Constituency, as new Speaker of the house.
Ojo who, until his new position was Minority Leader of the House, had also served as Deputy Speaker of the Fourth Assembly (1999-2003) on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD).
His election became imperative following the demise of the former Speaker, Mr. Michael Adeyemo, who died on April 27, 2018.
The sudden vacuum created tension in the house as three groups emerged and the situation got heightened with a factional group emerging from ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and also backing one of the candidates.
Ojo, 67, emerged unopposed after he was nominated by Joshua Oyebamiji (APC/Akinyele 1) and seconded by Gbenga Oyekola (LP/Atiba).
Also, Ademola Ige (Accord Party/Ibadan South East II) emerged Minority Leader after the seat was declared vacant as a result of the election of Ojo as the new Speaker.
Ige was nominated by Kayode Akande (Ogbomosho South) and seconded by Oyatokun Oyeleke.
After his election as the new Speaker, Ojo said his immediate task is to unite members of the House and sustain the leadership legacies of peace and harmony which the deceased Speaker worked hard to achieve up until his death.
He also called on Governor Abiola Ajimobi, to as a matter of priority and urgency, consider naming any monument, institution or infrastructure after the late Speaker as well as complete the road to Lanlate from Ibadan, stating that such will gladden the hearts of the lawmakers and the people of the region.
As early as 8am, heavy security presence was mobilized to the Assembly complex which many had thought would end up in crisis with every entry and exit into the complex manned by armed security personnel including the police and Directorate of State Service.
Only accredited officials of the Assembly and media were allowed into the chamber to monitor plenary while all visitors and personal aides of the lawmakers were denied entry into the Assembly complex while the sitting lasted.
Following the call of the Majority Leader for election into the office of the speaker during plenary, Mr Muideen Olagunju (Accord-Oyo East/Oyo West), who opposed the call for the election of a new speaker argued that Nigerian constitution superceded the order of the house.
Olagunju citing Sections 90, 92, 94 and 95 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, said in the absence of the speaker, the Deputy Speaker shall automatically take over the office of the speaker.
He said, “The section of the constitution makes it clear that an election is unnecessary and it is also clear about the transition to the speakership in case of any absence or vacancy. The constitution clearly states the deputy speaker shall vacate his office and preside over the house."
Mr. Olusegun Olaleye, who supported his argument, said a clear interpretation of the constitution showed that absence of a speaker could also mean the death of a speaker.
However, Mr Solomon Akande, member representing Ogbomoso-South, said the argument of Olagunju was irrelevant and was not applicable to the legislative arm.
According to him, that section of the constitution was applicable only to the executive because the executive governor and his deputy enjoyed joint ticket and same cannot be said for the legislature.
Mr Fatai Adeshina (Ibadan South East 1), in his own submission, noted that the day called for sober reflection and remember that the House until the death of the Speaker Adeyemo, was known for its unity and must not be broken if the memory of Adeyemo must remain alive. He appealed to members to bury the hatchet and situate the issue surrounding how a new speaker is to emerge.
He later moved a motion that the House should move to executive session to iron out all the discrepancies on the speakership choice in the interest of peace and harmony of the House.
The motion was seconded by Oyebamiji and Acting Speaker, Mr Musa Abdulwasil called on members not to allow any external force to use the House against itself. He also expressed his unwillingness to allow for election in the choice of the speaker, noting that election would only polarize the House.
He subsequently constituted a nine-member committee including the two contestants, Ojo and Abdulwasi and later suspended plenary for 20 minutes to allow the committee reach a decision.
After emerging from an executive session attended by select leaders and elders of the house, Abdulwasil told the House that a resolution was reached that no sacrifice was too much in memory of the late speaker and that election would polarize the House in favour of the winner and loser.
However, he said it was agreed that election should be conducted and subsequently called on the clerk of the House, Mr Paul Bankole to begin the process of electing a new speaker.
But when the call for a nomination was made, Ojo was the only candidate nominated and seconded and thereafter declared the new speaker after a voice vote was requested.
The new Speaker won the election to the present Eighth Assembly on the platform of Labour party and was also among party leaders and members who decamped to APC at an elaborate event which held at Mapo Hall, Ibadan last year.
Ex-Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala led the group of defectors but the new speaker was yet to formally make the same declaration known on the floor of the House of Assembly, which accounted for the reason he still retained his position as a principal officer of the House.
Chairman, House Committee on Information, Joshua Oyebamiji, while speaking with journalists, said four main things were considered by the House before agreeing on Ojo as the new Speaker.
He said aside from political zoning which was to consider Ogbomosho zone as the third largest region in the state, the issue of political experience, age and religious balance all worked in the choice of Ojo, to emerge the new Speaker.
Meanwhile, Governor Abiola Ajimobi, has congratulated members of the State House of Assembly on the rancor-free election of the new Speaker.
He also felicitated with the new speaker for being found worthy by his colleagues to occupy the exalted position.
A statement by Special Adviser to the governor on Communication and Strategy, Mr. Bolaji Tunji, said the governor pledged the full support of the executive arm of government to the new speaker.
He said the peaceful emergence of Ojo had further consolidated the leadership of the governor as an apostle of geo-political balancing in the political configuration of the state.
The statement read in part, “The peaceful and successful emergence of the speaker has demonstrated the unity of APC in the state.
“The rancor-free exercise has further consolidated the leadership of Mr Ajimobi, who is an apostle of geo-political balancing in the political configuration of the state.”
Ajimobi also charged the speaker to sustain the legacy of peace, cooperation and bridge-building existing between the executive and the legislature, stressing that the support of the legislature is critical to the consolidation of the unprecedented achievements of his administration in the last seven years.