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- Category: Politics
- Published on Tuesday, 07 September 2010 08:18
- Written by The Nation
- Hits: 1775
Yesterday’s legislative coup d’etat in which a faction of nine members of the Ogun State House of Assembly purportedly suspended 14 of their colleagues, and sacked Speaker Tunji Egbetokun, is not unprecedented. It is the latest in a long line of kangaroo impeachments that have played out in Plateau, Oyo and Anambra in the last four years.
Aside ousting the incumbent leadership of the Assembly, the legislators, who are loyal to Governor Gbenga Daniel, swiftly authorised the government to proceed with the controversial N100 billion bond which the Assembly had stoutly resisted.
But if the legislative putschists thought they were giving their ally a political victory, they may just have contrived a massive PR disaster, delivered a fatal blow to the bond bid, as well as transformed what was a crisis within the state Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) into a civil war.
In the court of public opinion it is virtually impossible to defend a situation where a minority of nine can overthrow a majority of 14 members in a supposedly democratic setting – using motor park tactics.
But it is in the court of law that the lawmakers face their stiffest challenge given the string of illegalities trailing the process of ousting the erstwhile speaker. With the executive likely to back the pretenders, litigation is clearly the only route open for the Egbetokun faction to restore the status quo.
According to reports, the minority faction smashed its way into the Assembly chambers, and sat at 6.00a.m. with a mace said to belong to Abeokuta South Local Government Council. None of the incumbent officers presided over the session. So, who did?
Judging by precedence established by the ruling of the Court of Appeal in the case of former Plateau State Governor Joshua Dariye in March 2007, the action of the legislators is unlikely to stand up to legal challenge. The governor had earlier been impeached by a six-man faction of the 24-member Assembly.
In the ruling that reinstated Dariye, Justice Zainab Adamu, declared the processes leading to the impeachment null and void, and said they had fallen short of constitutional requirements that two-thirds of the 24 members must sanction such an action.
Aside not forming the required quorum to push through an impeachment, the court was of the opinion that in order to carry out such a weighty constitutional act as impeachment, the assembly should have waited for a bye-election to be conducted to fill the seats that had been declared vacant, following the defection of members of the majority faction to another party.
Judging by the speed with which approval for Daniel to proceed with his cherished N100 billion bond was issued; it does not require a genius to see that this was the primary motive for yesterday’s unorthodox legislative manouvres in Abeokuta.
Unfortunately for the state government, what it has been handed by the pretender-Speaker, Soyemi Coker and his confederates is not so much a blank cheque as a dud. Will a capital market battling to repair its credibility damaged by scandals rush to sign off on the troubled bond, given the dubious legal basis of the legislative approval?
Skullduggery may be acceptable in the violent world of Ogun politics, but in an age where the market is trying to emphasise transparency and best practices, the actions of the lawmakers reek of desperation and have made the jinxed Ogun bond virtually dead in the water.
Questions will, no doubt, also be asked about the role of the police in the farcical events of yesterday. Inspector-General of Police Ogbonna Onovo would need to investigate the actions of Daniel’s Aide-de-Camp (ADC). It is alleged that security men attached to the Assembly looked the other way while a team of policemen said to have been brought by the ADC provided cover for the faction of nine.
If it is established that he was involved in any illegalities, he must be made to face the stiffest of sanctions. It is vital that as the nation builds towards the 2011 election year, the police begin to understand that there is a dividing line between performing their official guard duties and becoming partisan political actors.
Ultimately, what is happening in Ogun is a major test of the ruling PDP’s commitment to the rule of law and good governance. Already, the Director of Organisation, Mobilisation and Publicity of the state branch of the party, Deji Kalejaiye, has hailed the takeover by the nine, declaring that "change is inevitable and even permanent". Such sentiments may well turn out to be premature.
There is no question that the long-running political crisis in Ogun has paralysed governance. With the factions unbending in their positions, the stalemate can only be resolved through compromise or litigation. Interestingly, a public debate on the desirability of the bond issue was set for tomorrow.
The events of Monday would be interpreted as aimed at frustrating that discussion. The actions of the nine are a signal that the Daniel faction has finally lost patience and settled for the nuclear option to resolve the conflict. With the other side no less obdurate, only one outcome is possible: mutually assured destruction.