Tension mounts as Akeredolu, deputy’s feud gets messier

There in palpable tension as the Ondo State House of Assembly defies directives of the All Progressives Congress (APC) national leadership to halt impeachment proceedings against the state’s Deputy Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, and slams a 14-count allegation against him, KEHINDE OSASONA writes.

The Deputy Governor of Ondo state, Mr Lucky Aiyedatiwa, would have been impeached by now but for intervention the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, which restrained the Ondo State House of Assembly from impeaching the embattled deputy governor over allegations bordering on gross misconduct.

Aiyedatiwa’s crime

Blueprint Weekend reports that some of the allegations against the deputy governor include speaking negatively about the governor’s health, misappropriation of funds, causing division among the state executive members, among others.

He was also leveled with allegations bordering on severe misbehaviour and abuse of position.

Similarly, the deputy governor has been accused of authorising the acquisition of a bullet-proof Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) for his personal use at the whooping cost of N300 million.

Things fall apart

The fracas between the ailing state Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, and his deputy is coming at a time their counterpart in Edo state, Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Hon. Phillip Shaibu, are equally engaged in a supremacy fight.

Since the re­turn of democracy in 1999, not a few governors have had disagree­ments with their deputies leading to number two citizens in the states being to impeached over unresolved differences, while some others survived the turbulence.

One of such incidents was the drama between President Bola Tinubu as the governors of Lagos state, his deputies, Mrs. Kofoworola Bucknor and Femi Pedro, which was feasted on by the media while it lasted.

Other cases include the Governor of Abia Orji Uzor-Kalu and his deputy, Enyinnaya Abaribe; Governor Yahaya Bello and Simon Achuba; among others.

In the case of Akeredolu and his deputy, speculations are rife as to what caused the rift, media reports have it that it all started shortly before Akeredolu travelled to Germany to seek medical treatment.

Blueprint Weekend learnt that owing to post-election rancour some members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) refused to sympathise with the governor over his health challenge.

According to reports, rather than show empathy over the governor’s plight, some actors within the ruling APC in the state celebrated Akeredolu incapacitation even before he travelled out of the country for medical treatment.

His absence afterwards reportedly created even more rift within the APC as some party members loyal to the governor, his associates and political aides, were not happy with the deputy governor and others who said to have been eyeing the governorship position.

They were said to have been making moves towards taking over the seat in preparation for the 2024 governorship election in the state.

Impeachment wheel rolls

Although Aiyedatiwa has since denied all the allegations of gross misconduct peddled against him, describing them as lies the plot to kick him out of the administration appears to have been set in motion and running its full course.

Remarkably, Aiyedatiwa, who is also faced with an option of voluntarily resigning from office, this medium gathered was not considering that option.

According to the embattled deputy governor, he had no intention of resigning from his position, even as he insisted that he did not sign or author any letter purporting him to do so.

He stated that the governor and himself took an oath on February 24, 2021, the day they were both sworn in, promising to “protect the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s constitution on a four-year mandate that terminates on February 23, 2025.

“I remain loyal to my principal and stand by the oath taken with the Bible to run the full cycle of the four-year tenure with Mr. Governor,” Aiyedatiwa said.

He pleaded with the people of Ondo state, the House of Assembly, and the public to disregard any such messages going forward.

It is worth noting that preparatory to the impeachment process, some lawmakers had signed the petition before the House of Assembly to continue with the deputy governor’s impeachment.

Section 193 (1) of the Nigerian Con­stitution, for instance, states that “The governor of a state may, in his discretion, assign to the Deputy Governor or any Commissioner of the Government of the State responsibility for any business of the Government of that State, including the administration of any department of Government.”

Section 191 (1) also states that: “The Deputy Governor of a State shall hold the office of Governor of the State if the office of Governor becomes vacant by reason of death, resignation, impeach­ment, permanent incapacity or removal of the governor from office for any other reason in accordance with Section 188 or 189 of this constitution.”

Signing the letter of notice of allegation against the deputy governor dated Wednesday, September 20, 2023, the Speaker of the Assembly, Rt Hon Olamide Oladiji, in a letter titled: “Notice Of Allegation Of Gross Misconduct Against Honourable Lucky Orimisan Aiyedatiwa, Deputy Governor, Ondo state,” listed the 14 allegations to include: “That Hon. Lucky Orimisan Aiyedatiwa, being the holder of the office of Deputy Governor of Ondo state, engaged in press releases and interviews with some media outlets wherein false allegations were levied against the governor about his health which amounts to an act of gross misconduct under the provision of the constitution among others.

Court to the rescue

However, as that was still brewing, a Federal High Court in Abuja stopped the process by restraining the Ondo State Assembly from impeaching Aiyedatiwa.

The embattled deputy governor had, in a motion on notice marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1294/2023, sued the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and the Department of State Services (GSS).

Others are Akeredolu, Speaker of the House of Assembly, Chief Judge of Ondo State, and the House of Assembly as 1st to 6th respondents respectively.

In a related development, an Ondo State High Court, few days ago, declined jurisdiction in another suit filed in respect of the impeachment saga to avoid conflicting verdict between Ondo High Court and Abuja Federal High Court.

In his verdict, Justice O. Akintan-Osadebay, in his ruling ruled that it was a gross abuse of court process to engage in “forum shopping”, by instituting the same case in Akure and Abuja High court.

APC intervenes

Worried by the unhealthy developments, the national leadership of the APC, recently, set up a 9-man committee to resolve the imbroglio.

Former governor of Katsina State, Hon. Aminu Bello Masari, who is the committee chairman, has written to all stakeholders in a bid to reconcile all parties involved.

The Committee is mandated to not only intervene, but also see to the peaceful reconciliation of all parties involved.

Although it was reported by a section of the media that Akeredolu snubbed the Masari-led committee, the relative peace and move towards amicable resolution between the two prominent politicians in the state may have punctured the report that the Ondo state house of assembly might continue with the impeachment process despite the court order restraining the house.

CSO warns against impeachment

A group has also cautioned the Ondo State House of Assembly against impeaching Aiyedatiwa.

The group, Ondo Redemption Front, also urged President Bola Tinubu and the APC to protect the democratic institutions in the state against abuse and manipulation.

In a statement, the group said: “The recent announcement of impeachment proceedings by the state House of Assembly was not only alarming but raising serious concerns about the stability and integrity of democracy in Ondo State.

The statement signed by Co-chair of the group, and its General Secretary, Olufemi Lawson, called for an end to the “relentless attacks on the deputy governor by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s aides, especially since his return from medical leave overseas.”

The group noted that Aiyedatiwa has endured a series of unwarranted attacks, both in the media and the political arena.