The Ogun State House of Assembly grabbed nationwide media attention last Tuesday after a female lawmaker broke the mace during a riot in the chamber. Within hours, Governor Ibikunle Amosun stepped in and everyone is now happy. So, what happened?
The present members of the Ogun State House of Assembly are obviously not macho enough. A physical combat between two factions of the House which led to the breakup of the mace on Tuesday, was resolved within just 24 hours.
Members of the immediate past House of Assembly were rather much stronger. Their own battles lasted for years.
The immediate past governor of the state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel when he did not ignore them, locked up the doors into the legislative complex whenever he was irritated by the disturbance of their riots.
However, for Governor Ibikunle Amosun, an accountant with an eye towards the financial implications of a crisis on his hands, perpetual crisis it seemed, was not an attraction, and hence his quick intervention into the crisis.
A day after the fight which drew national attention and opprobrium, Governor Amosun met with all 26 members of the House. After a tête-à-tête, the members, who had earlier vowed to physically vanquish one another, came out smiling!
Senator Amosun’s magic wand was still a matter of debate, even though there were speculations in Abeokuta, the state capital, that the peace shooting efforts by the governor may have cost the administration as much as seven figures per legislator.
The Ogun State House of Assembly had been divided for sometime along two lines known as G14 and G12.
The G12 comprised of 12 of the 19 members of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in the house and are led by the speaker, Suraji Adekanbi, who is a loyalist of the governor.
The G14 led by Remmy Hassan include all six members elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, all three elected on the ticket of the Peoples Party of Nigeria, PPN and five Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN members who broke ranks to join the opposition members into forming a majority.
The decision of the five ACN members to break ranks was allegedly inspired by a determination to show the Amosun administration that they could not be ignored in the affairs of the legislature nor that of the state.
Remarkably, among those who broke ranks are loyalists of the ACN party leader, Aremo Segun Osoba, though that is an issue almost everyone in the Ogun ACN continue to play down.
The decision of the five ACN members to club with the PDP and PPN initially caused concern among loyalists of the administration, which was understood to have then consolidated its network with the G12. So even though the G14 could together outvote the ACN G12 which was now turned into a sleeping majority, they nevertheless, lacked the numbers to remove the speaker.
So, it was a stalemate of sorts until last week when the speaker of the House, decided to constitute a 12 member tenders committee for the House. Where members had agreed on a deadlock on political issues, they however, revolted when it came to money when one side perceived the other trying to cheat.
Speaker Adekanbi’s circular constituting the tenders board raised strong objections from the G14 members on the fact that the deputy speaker, Tola Banjo was appointed as chairman.
Though the G14 had no issues with the membership of the committee, they were, however, strongly against the appointment of the deputy speaker, saying that his presence would vitiate the committee’s role in checking the financial activities of the house leadership.
Four of the G14 members present that penultimate Tuesday were at the forefront of the agitation. They were Job Olufemi Akintan of Egbado North II State constituency, Remmy Hassan from Odogbolu State constituency, Adijat Adeleye-Oladapo representing Ifo II State constituency and John Obafemi of Remo North State Constituency.
Following their failure to get the speaker to change his mind on the issue, they eventually stormed out of the House session that penultimate Tuesday.
It was an action that stirred the anger of the speaker and some of his associates who initiated disciplinary actions against the quartet. The speaker and his loyalists as such last Tuesday decided to wield the big stick by suspending the quartet from the house, a decision that led to the mayhem on the floor.
Disclosing the disciplinary action against the quartet last Tuesday, the speaker said the four members were being suspended for “various acts bordering on unparliamentarily behaviour and gross disrespect to the legislative institution.”
As soon as the speaker made the announcement, a female member in the G14 immediately rushed to the mace, grabbed it and broke it. That was the official sign for commotion as the chamber was turned into a riotous environment.
Attempts by the speaker to reconvene the House later that Tuesday afternoon were frustrated by the G14 group who now sat to remove the speaker and the deputy speaker from office.
Announcing their coup after the riot that Tuesday afternoon, a visibly agitated Hassan said:“Suraju (speaker) has been suspended, he is no more our Speaker, I am the Speaker pro tem.”
After the bedlam some members of the House, especially those belonging to the G14 alleged that their suspension was to reduce the group to a minority for the purpose of easing the administration’s legislative proposals. Some even alleged that the suspension was specifically designed to allow quick approval for a N150 billion bond requested by the administration.
Following the embarrassing commotion which grabbed nationwide attention, Governor Amosun the following morning, summoned a meeting of all the lawmakers which took place at the Government House, Abeokuta.
At the end of the closed door meeting, the governor announced that peace had been returned fully to the House.
He attributed the restoration of peace to the spirit of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo whose posthumous birthday was that Wednesday.
“I want to apologise on behalf of the House of Assembly, the good people of Ogun and to all lovers of democracy.
“This is Ogun State, the home of Awolowo,Obasanjo, Soyinka and other giants who have labored selflessly to make us what we are. So, we cannot afford to let them down, we are sorry. There can be no befitting birthday gift than this to the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.”
Confirming the peace while he asked for forgiveness from the citizens, Hassan said:“We offended the entire citizenry of Ogun State, but, sometimes you cannot completely rule out such when there are issues.”
Accepting the authority of Speaker Adekunbi, he said:“Everything that transpired before now we are rising above it, the house is one , I will give the microphone to the Rt. Hon. Speaker to also say one or two things.”
Adekunbi on his part said “we have met , we are one big happy family, it was quite unfortunate just as he has rightly said, we have actually risen above that and by the special grace of God you will be seeing us doing our legislative responsibility in accordance with the extant law.”
The decision of the legislators to reconcile was, however, lost on some, particularly officials of the PPN, the party founded by the former governor of the State, Daniel.