Lawmakers in the Lagos State House of Assembly were recently engulfed in intrigues that led to the suspension of some of their colleagues, in which news reports claimed that it was a battle for the control of the House between the Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa and a former member of the House, who is now a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The event was like a movie series that never seemed to end, but it ended on a note that produced a result that could, arguably, be the best decision to be taken. As opined by some of the lawmakers, the institution needs to be strengthened, and whatever strategy it takes, as long as it is within the legal framework, should be adopted.
The eighth session of the state assembly headed by Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, an experienced lawmaker, started on a good note, a common goal and unity of purpose. This is in spite of the fact that some of the senior legislators had their eyes on the speakership seat before the session was inaugurated. The session produced some of the best results ever recorded in the long existence of the state. It was the very first to bring prominent Yoruba monarchs together for a public hearing on a mandatory teaching of the language in schools in the state. It yielded result. A bill was passed and this has been adopted by the other states in the South-West zone. The Neighbourhood Watch bill, which soon became very attractive to many states of the nation, became a law. There was strength in whatever came out from the House in terms of legislation. But the sour journey to the recent crisis in the House commenced as the lawmakers approached the 2019 election. Watchful eyes knew there were grand moves to unseat the Speaker. Some of the lawmakers were approached; they confirmed this, they alleged that money changed hands from some senior legislators to the new members for the purpose of electing a new speaker. It was learnt how one of the ranking members, a principal officer and supposed ally of Obasa, went as far as digging into the Speakers family life and exposing same to his colleagues in a manner that could besmirch the latters office.
In the words of a Lagos-based political, social and rights analyst, Jimoh Olusola, he opined that the recent intrigue in the Lagos State House of Assembly might not have gone down well with some people. He said: “A sincere look at what could have ended up a tragedy for the House would show that the institution was crumbling and examples needed to be laid and sustained…That is my view, my very personal one at that. This is my thinking, having watched the states legislative arm for years”
But the drama that would make stakeholders in our Nollywood industry green with envy soon reared its head. The innate desires of a man would sometimes make him fly overboard, in most cases, subconsciously. Like Olusola asked, “Was the Speaker overstepping his bound with the number of private member bills he churned out? Was there a fear that his continued stay on the seat could dent whatever ambitions some may have? Was the leadership of the Assembly carrying out any nocturnal activity that could wound the continuity of the legislative arm? Were there some deeper reasons why there was a sudden tension recently?”
The recent test on the House capacity to purge itself of negativity was the climax and anti-climax of a long hidden squabble which started towards the end of Eighth Assembly. Like some news reports have claimed, it seemed to be a battle between Obasa and a former member of the House who is now a Senator. What many, and maybe those who were engaged in the fight, if truly they fought, did not understand, was that Obasa has always called the Senator a brother at every opportunity he has to speak about his former colleague. Again, if truly they took the fight for that reason, a major political lesson had been learnt.
In the heat of the suspension of two of the lawmakers, Moshood Oshun and Raheem Adewale, the Speaker alleged one of them of releasing vouchers for the purchase of cars to the public. The Speakers argument is that the lawmaker was the one that constantly pestered him about the documents of the official cars they got as members. Suffice to state that Oshun and Olumuyiwa Jimoh were part of the Speakers kitchen cabinet. Just like Olusola said: “There is time for everything, says a verse in the Bible. I personally heard this from one of the lawmakers who was at the meeting where such was discussed far away outside Nigeria. But as it is known, personal ambition can be a source of blindness. That is part of what the compass points at.”
First, in pooh-poohing the narrative that 80 cars were bought for a particular amount, Olusola argued that what the accusers did not make known was that in Lagos, the practice had been that a lawmaker gets an official car and a backup car, which is usually smaller. When asked about the documents, Olusola said it is common sense that since the cars still belong to the government at that particular time, the documents would be officially kept till when the government deems it fit to sell off the cars to the beneficiaries. What, again, some did not understand is that there was a bidding process after the lawmakers all agreed to the particular type of cars they wanted. This was evident in their confirmation, he said. On the claim of the Speaker buying a bulletproof car and inflating the price, some human rights groups, including Human Rights Monitoring Agenda (HURMA), led by the Executive Director, Comrade Buna Olaitan Isiak, decided to latch on this but the Speakers defenders argued that a little investigation would have shown that the money was actually approved by the right channel, not even Obasa or the House. The Speaker even called out an online medium to come up with its facts concerning the story it published.
This was my own finding and it is awful to know that a group would not seek to understand a fight they got themselves engaged in. The medium failed in this regard. Maybe it could not see anything indicting. I understand that because it is the nature of news hunters to stay with their ears wide open, there emerged many speculative reports even in the face of a special parliamentary session that was held, where all members spoke with one voice that there was no tension as claimed. However, discretion, discernment may just be the watchword if I am to advise. This is so as to sieve fake stories from the real, Olusola said.
What was not known, perhaps subconsciously, was the degradation of an institution that had stood its time and become a yardstick for the measurement of legislative practice in Nigeria and beyond. Also, there should have been consideration for the political party that controls the Assembly, the All Progressives Congress (APC) on one hand, and the Governors Advisory Council (GAC), which has internal mechanisms through which issues are resolved.
During the suspension and demotion of the affected lawmakers, the Speaker had said that the parliament is a heartbeat of every democratic system, and that its sanctity, integrity and positive reputation should be guided and protected. Two principal officers; the Chief Whip, Rotimi Abiru and the Deputy Majority Leader, Olumuyiwa Jimoh, were removed by the House. Also, two members of the House, Moshood Oshun and Kazeem Raheem Adewale were suspended indefinitely during plenary. Speaker of the House, Mudashiru Obasa said the principal officers were removed over insubordination and gross misconduct. Obasa said: “Discipline is a key and where its lacking, the hope of the people fizzle. The legislature must remain strong at all times, especially in relation to Nigerias democracy because it is often the hardest hit when issues in the democratic journey pop up.”
“I hereby invoke Section 68 and Section 70 (4) (a, b) 2 and 3 of the House rules in respect of gross misconduct, insubordination and action that can destablise this House. I hereby move that Hon. Moshood Oshun and Hon. Raheem Adewale be placed on suspension indefinitely”, the Speaker said.
The removal and suspension were made by the House through a voice vote. In a letter read on the floor of the House by the Clerk, Azeez Sanni, 26 members of the House who signed the letter wished to notify the House to change the leadership of the House, including, Hon. Rotimi Abiru as the Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip, Hon. Olumuyiwa Jimoh. On his part, Olusola concluded thus: “…that is why Lagos has remained strong and an envy to the country. It was not Obasa that would have been degraded. It is the institution. Lessons must have been learnt.”
Obasa, like every single politician, is not a saint. But being a Speaker, one should expect that he understands his duties and roles in keeping the legislature strong and shielded against disrepute, he noted. However, the GAC, which is the APCs highest decision-making body in Lagos State, comprising prominent leaders of the party, met with Obasa and the four aggrieved lawmakers to resolve the crisis. The meeting, which was presided over by the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, intervened in the assembly crisis and immediately resolved it. The leadership of the Assembly later met and lifted the suspension of the four members, in compliance with the directive of the GAC.
Obasa, who announced the lifting of the suspension, during a plenary session, Obasa confirmed that Tinubu and the GAC directed that the House should reinstate the suspended lawmakers.