Ondo: Speaker’s Election Settles Row over Mimiko’s Deputy

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The election of Jumoke Akindele as the first female Speaker of Ondo State House of Assembly has ended rumours about an impeachment plot against Deputy Governor Ali Olanusi. James Sowole, in Akure, reports
Last Tuesday’s election of Hon. Jumoke Akindele of Okitipupa State Constituency II, Ondo South Senatorial District, as Speaker of the state House of Assembly doused the rumour making rounds in the state that the administration of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko had decided to use the position to negotiate a planned resignation of the deputy governor, Alhaji Ali Olanusi.
Prior to Akindele’s election, the rumour was rife that Olanusi, who is from Akoko South West Local Government Area in Ondo North, had been advised to resign so that the deputy speaker, Hon. Dare Emiola, who is from the same local government as the deputy governor, could be selected as the substantive speaker.
Emiola had been acting as the speaker since the late speaker, Hon. Samuel Adesina, who hailed from Odigbo Local Government Area, in Ondo South Senatorial District, took ill and died.
Adesina died in February after a protracted battle with cancer of the urinary bladder. Following his death, there had been a battle among members of the Assembly and other stakeholders on how to choose the next speaker.
To balance the offices among the three senatorial districts, stakeholders from Ondo South felt that the position should automatically be left for the area, and this had kicked off a season of scheming and politicking for the position among lawmakers from the area.
However, there was insinuation that the deputy governor was under pressure to resign his position so that the lawmaker from Akoko South West Constituency I, Emiola, could become substantive speaker.
Ill Health
The main reason for the rumoured suggestion was the health condition of the deputy governor, who many people believed had not been functioning as expected. Due to his health situation, the governor had often appointed either a commissioner or his Chief of Staff, Dr. Kola Ademujimi, to represent him at functions where the deputy governor should ordinarily stand in.
The deputy governor was said to have bluntly rejected the suggestion that he should resign, which created another round of rumour that the governor was about to use the House of Assembly to impeach him on health grounds.
The concern about the health of the deputy governor and his ability to cope with the demands of the office started immediately after Mimiko was approved by Labour Party as its candidate for the last governorship election in the state.
There was even a time when a it was rumoured that when the suggestion came that the deputy governor should be given a chance to nominate his replacement, he suggested that his son should be chosen.
The matter was laid to rest when Mimiko at a campaign rally clarified that there was no plan to change his running mate and this was so, as the two of them were sworn in for a second term of four years on February 25 last year.
However, it is an open secret that the deputy governor does not have the kind of agility that many would have expected.
When the position of speaker of the Assembly became vacant, there were insinuations that there would be swap of positions between the Ondo North and Ondo South, and it was this that gave rise to rumours about an impeachment move.
However, the rumoured impeachment move was said to have been frustrated by some lawmakers from Ondo South, who felt they should be favoured for the position of speaker due to certain considerations, particularly the fact that they can never be appointed deputy governor.
Though, there are nine lawmakers from the Ondo South Senatorial District, the real struggle was among those from Ilaje, Okitipupa and Odigbo, which have two constituencies each.
Of the two lawmakers from Ilaje Local Government Area, Hon. Oyebo Aladetan of Ilaje 1, who is Deputy Majority Leader and Chairman of the House of Assembly Committee on Information, was a major contender. He is a second timer in the house and one of the influential legislators of the Assembly.
The New Speaker
Though, the two lawmakers from Okitipupa Local Government Area, Hon. Jumoke Akindele and Hon. Soji Akinkurolere, contested for the position of the speaker, it was obvious that Akindele, who eventually emerged, was the preferred candidate because of certain considerations.
The woman, who was the chairman of the House Committee on Education, is very eloquent, articulate and brilliant. She is very loyal to the party and, in fact, a founding member of LP. She contested for the position at the 2007 general elections but lost to the PDP candidate.
At the time when Mimiko was struggling to recover his mandate, Akindele, too, tried to do the same but all to no avail, as the tribunal could not pronounce her as the winner of the poll. Since then, she remained in the party despite various offers for her to move from the LP.
The commitment of the woman paid off when she was elected in 2011 to represent her constituency in the Assembly.
For the  Odigbo local government, where the late speaker hailed from, it was equally their desire that the speakership should remain there, more so when the remaining lawmaker from the area, Hon. Victor Akinwe, is a two-timer.  Akinwe was in the Assembly between 1999 and 2003, when he was elected on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD).
However, it was the belief of many people that the lawmaker lacked the charisma required of a speaker of the Assembly.
Coming of the New Speaker
As expected, the Assembly gallery was filled to the brim on the day of election, as people mainly from the two local governments of Ilaje and Okitipupa stormed the Assembly to witness the election of the new speaker.
The deputy speaker, who presided over the session, read the rules for the election and how the voting would be done.
Three lawmakers, Hon. Oyebo Aladetan of Ilaje 1 Constituency, Hon. Soji Akinkurolere of Okitipupa 1 Constituency, and Hon. Jumoke Akindele of Okitipupa II Constituency, were subsequently nominated for the vacant position and they all equally accepted to vie for the post.
At the end of the election, which was done by open ballot, Akindele scored 13 votes, Aladetan scored nine votes, while the third contestant, Akinkurolere, did not score any vote.
The inability of Akinkurolere to score any vote stunned those at the gallery because it meant neither the contestant nor the person that nominated him and the one that seconded his nomination voted in his favour.
With the election, the lawmaker has set a record of being the first female speaker in the state.
In her acceptance speech, Akindele appreciated her colleagues for electing her, saying she is delighted to be the first female speaker in the state. She promised to be transparent, accountable and fair to all.
While pledging her loyalty to LP, the lawmaker promised to continue with the legacy of unity, which has created room for a robust relationship between the executive and legislature in the state.
The speaker announced the dissolution of all standing committees of the Assembly and directed the Clerk of the house to retrieve all property of the house in the unlawfully possession of any member within 24 hours.
The first major assignment of the Assembly after the election of the new speaker was the approval of the governor’s request for an extension of tenure for the interim caretaker chairmen of all the 18 local governments in the state.
Jime: Provide Ranches for Fulani Herdsmen to Stop Incessant Attacks
Hon. David Jime is a lawmaker from Benue State. The lawyer-turned politician gave his recipe for ending the ongoing in-fighting between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in parts of the North. He spoke with  Emmanuel Bello on this and other issues. Excerpt:
As a legislator, would you say you are fulfilled as a representative of your people for the past seven years?
The amount of time that one has been in an institution quite frankly can never be enough. The reason being that the challenges of our time, require hands-on approach, which shows that you are dealing with the situation as they come on a daily basis. To that extent, one would say there is always going to be time to do the much that you would have love to do in time. Whenever I have been asked to rate myself, I always say that I prefer the jury to be the electorate who sent us here in the first place. Not being one who likes to blow his trumpet, I have always been careful in doing this analysis and I am more comfortable with the judgment of the electorate.
When I came in here in 2007, I had a few things in mind that were clear. One, my ability to influence lawmaking in the country. In seven years I have to my credit over 20 members’ bill that I have sponsored; not to mention quite a number of motions responding to the situation of our time. I think from the point of view of a legislature, we have achieved some of the objectives I set out in that regard, and when in doing this, I also want to put it in context. I am not the first representative of my people in this constituency, though, this is my second term. But they told me, none of my predecessors sponsored a single bill in their time and I believe them. So, if we have done 20 bills within a space of seven years, it may not be a fantastic return on our investment but in comparison to what has been there before we came in, we can say there is a difference in the quality of representation.
Perhaps, the areas I like discussing is what I have been able to attract to my constituency. Whether in the area of schools- education being for me the key area of focus; health delivery, water, electricity. Quite frankly in all the 21 local council areas and the over 500 plus wards I represent, there is now a presence that indicate a form of representation. So far, in attraction of government presence I can look back and with satisfaction say that we were able to give the quality representation that we promised.  I also initiated a scholarship scheme in 2007. We started the scheme with about 105 students covering the wards in my federal constituency. I’m happy to announce that in 2014, we were able to expand the scholarship to cover the whole of Benue State and such that we have 920 students from all over the 23 local government areas. Also to mention that every year, we take responsibility of paying school fees of all students at Law School in our constituency. I’m proud to announce that one of them is working under me as one of my legislative aide.
You nominated Hon. Tambuwal as speaker in 2011 against the directive of your party (then PDP) in the presence of the party’s leadership. What informed that decision? And looking back at events, do you regret making that decision?
Before I came to the House, I had some amount of tutelage as a member of the State House of Assembly way back in 1992 when I was elected to represent Makurdi North in the Benue State House of Assembly and I became speaker. By the time I got to the House of Representatives, I was no longer a novice as far as business of lawmaking was concerned. By the way, for me, this whole leadership recruitment processes, we need to take account of certain factors. Part of the problem we have in the legislature today is election of people without a clear knowledge of what the duty of a legislator is. When I came in 2011, I had a lot of experience and I understood very clear that consistent with the doctrine of separation of powers, that the legislative arm has sufficient independence to perform its duties without interference from any other arm of government, particularly the executive. Any student of government would tell you that the greatest challenge of the legislature is the overbearing influence of the executive on the political space.
It is also clear to me that unless we have a legislature that is independent we may dismiss the entire notion of democracy and what we will have will be dictatorship. How can you guarantee the independence of the legislature? It is by guiding that process that leads to the emergence of the leadership. Once you do this, whoever becomes the presiding officer knows that his duty is to his colleagues and you are better to guarantee stability. For example, when I first came to the House in 2007, because of executive interference, we elected a speaker, Hon. Patricia Etteh, who a few months along the road ran into problems with members leading to an unstable manner that led to her removal from office. But Tambuwal as you know holds the House with dignity in a manner that no speaker has been able to hold. Do I have regrets nominating him? No, I think what we did was consistent with the demands of our office and also in keeping with the true tradition of how the three arms of government are expected to function.
The ruling of an Abuja Federal High Court last week barred the defecting members of the House from effecting a change in leadership and also opinionated that you lack the moral right to keep your seats. As one of the defectors do you think remaining in the House is morally right?
I am a lawyer and my training taught me there is a different between what is moral and what is legal. I believe the judge is well entitled to making his opinion about morality. In my view, it is not in the authority of the judge to make pronouncements about morality, let’s leave that to the bishops and Imams. The duty of the judge is to pronounce the law. I believe that the first question that a legal mind has to ask is when someone brings a matter to court, that matter has to be constituted the course of action and then the prayers that the litigant may be seeking. But what I understand about the particular action that was brought before Justice Ademola was as to whether defecting members from the PDP could effect a change in the leadership of the House. Indeed the prayer also was related to that matter. The order of court from what I have seen clearly made the point is that you cannot effect change of leadership. I think that the matter would have ended as far as the matter before Ademola was concerned. As I speak, there is a matter before another judge on the issue of defection. So, we are awaiting another pronouncement from Adamu whether the defection is legal or not.
What informed your decision to aspire to lead Benue state as governor come 2015? Why the transition from legislature to the executive? Is this ideological too?
Transition from the legislative arm of government to the executive: One, it is gaining currency worldwide. President Obama transited from the legislature to the executive. So, it is not without foundation. There has to be something about the legislature that prepares him for the executive. The legislature make laws and oversight too and then representation. The last but not least is the one that brings you in contact with the needs of the people. Then, who better than a legislature understands what the needs of the people? In that capacity therefore I am better prepared, but being a legislature has its impediments; you pass a budget but the implementation lies with the executive. So, I think what we are transiting for is conceptualising to implementation of issues that have direct bearing on our people. We surely can do better in Benue than where we are. It is fair to say that we are one of the most impoverished people in this country. We have only one single resource and added to it is human capital: education. I believe that all administration there hasn’t been sufficient focus on a direction that can enhance quality of life of our people.
I believe our people deserve more by focusing more clearly. There are certain deficits in office that I hope that if I have the privilege of office I would correct. Have we imbued the populace with the necessary confidence and trust? If what people see of you is in direct contradiction to what you say there is a problem. Leadership by example is key to getting the trust. When Gen. Buhari brought WAI, Nigerians willingly queued to get whatever they wanted ditto Gen. Murtala of blessed memory. Therefore, we are ready to walk the walk and talk the talk. When the president in his wisdom pardoned Chief Alamieseigha and others, I took the gauntlet of proposing an amendment to the constitution to constrain the president from pardoning people who committed financial crimes. I also sponsored another bill that has to do with public servants declaration of assets and I do these things just to make specific points. Because if we see corruption as the bane of development today, we have to tackle it head on. So, I have to be an agent of change and that is what the APC is preaching. The APC is a change platform and I am a change agent. I think this is what we need.
What is your take on zoning? Are you favoured about the zoning arrangement in Benue to run for governor?
I am favoured by the zoning to the extent that the Tiv nation, which I belong, is making the conversation with the Benue people right now that it’s the turn of the people of MINDA, comprising of the four local government areas of Gwer, Gwer West, Guma and Makurdi. I am from Makurdi that’s means I fit the bill as afar as the argument is concerned. Our brothers in Zone C, the Idoma’s also have a good case because no Idoma man has been governor before so there are two contentions. But I hope that the political class would find a way of resolving this one way or the other. I have made my point repeatedly on the issue of zoning and I believe zoning circumscribe to the extent that it makes impossible for credible candidates to bring to the table what they have to offer because of the restrictions it adopts. I think what we need is to have a contest of ideas; let’s have everybody with idea to come with it and lets have a contest and then let the people based on the quality of the conversation make a judgement call on who is best prepared to offer the services that is required.
Now, when I do this, I am very careful too. Zoning does have its own merits. Where people may feel that there is degree of injustice and zoning is then made to assure all components of people that everybody will be given justice. In that case, there can’t be any argument against zoning. In particular, I use to remind people that if we had a leadership that was just and fair, these other variables would not have arisen at all. We need to focus on the issues of delivering equity and justice regardless of where an individual may come from. If we can get to point quickly, some of the skirmishes that we been having, the divisiveness that appears to be growing in our politics would have been reduced to certain minimum. What I tried to do is to let people know that I am running for the governor of Benue state as a Benue indigene of MINDA extraction. This is purely an accident of my birth so I don’t regard it as a badge and I don’t wear it on my sleeve. I will prefer to be seeing hopefully if we have the privilege of office to be seen as a Benue governor who has been able to bring justice and equity to the people of Benue.
How do you intend to resolve the security problem in Benue as governor of the state?
The major responsibility of any government is the security and welfare of the citizenry. I think it is fair to say there is failure of governance where insecurity has assumed a worrying dimension as we have presently, both national and with particular reference to Benue State. In Benue State, the lack of power that state governors have to deploy certain security apparatus defines how this particular situation is handled.  For example, to deploy the army the governor of state have to apply to Mr. President and some cases require the approval of National Assembly. And you know that the commissioners of police are also not answerable to the governors but the IGP. This to me is the biggest challenge in the country the first thing we have to do is to look again at our law to ensure that chief security officers of the state are really in charge as the constitution appear to stipulate. Every time you hear the budget of a state, huge sums of money are devoted to security both in peace times and in times of crisis. But what is that money used for in crisis periods? It seems to me that when there is crisis, that money is not properly deployed. I am not saying it with degree of authority but I think it is fair to say that given the sophistication of the attacks that are visited on our people by mercenaries and some of these marauders, it means there are inadequacies within our security agencies. 
And regardless of what the spokespersons for these security agencies may want us to believe, the morale of these men and officers is low. There are clear instances where these insurgents struck and the police took to their heels. In the past, the identifiable group that are involved in this crisis are the Tiv farmers and Fulani herdsmen and I have argued that the vocations they engage in is inclined to towards conflict. Cattles have to eat grass and planted yam looks attractive. When you have cattle moving around in 21st century Nigeria, we have to think outside the box. Don’t forget that there are other variables playing out too.  There are communities on border lines fighting over land. Borderlines are clearly in need of demarcation. I think the time has come for us to adopt the example of US and Kenya where there are ranches.
You travel there and you don’t see cattle yet some of the beef we eat in this country come from there. The time has come to restrict the movement of cattle through the creation of cattle ranches. If you do this, you begin to develop road infrastructure etc. This is my own way of how to resolve to this recurring problem.
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