FEATURE ARTICLE

Bankole Okuwa Ph. DTuesday, September 16, 2008
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Arkansas, USA

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POLITICAL UNREST IN OGUN STATE

his piece is urgent because of its relevance to our lives and those of our children and the coming generations. Keen observers of Ogun state politics since the termination of ex-president Obasanjo's two-term presidency in May 2007 would see a seemingly clear political problem rearing its ugly head and posture within the ruling party, the PDP, and consequently in the government of the state. I am concerned as a citizen of Ogun state, living abroad, and more so as a former legislator who represented Ijebu Central in the first legislative assembly of Ogun state between 1979 and 1983.


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One major fault with political leadership in Africa at large and in Nigeria in particular is the colossal failure of the political elite to committing themselves to serve their people, as the first principle for seeking public office. Because our so-called political leaders put personal interest before State and National interests, there is an endless and bitter struggle for political power among the opportunists who pretend to serve us, but serve their private pockets and their immediate families.

In Ogun state today, unnecessary political crisis, encouraged by share opportunism bereft of adequate knowledge about public service, massive unemployment, greed, and lack of respect for the people of the state, has escalated to engaging nocturnal designs to illegitimately seek a sudden end to the legitimate term of office of the present governor Otunba Gbenga Daniel. Our state legislature, whose primary duty is to work in harmony with the Executive arm in order to produce the best possible public service to the people of Ogun State, at this stage of our socio-political and economic development, is more concerned with generating crisis after crisis and playing the role of a conduit pipe to subvert the state government which it is part of. There is an impression that the current state legislature of Ogun is attracted by the unholy political events of confusion, unrest, and crisis driven situations which occurred in Oyo, Plateau and Ekiti states before the last general election of 2007. Ogun state people are two enlightened, too civilized, too educated and too progressive to allow its people and its entire political community to be bogged down by fair weather and selfish politicians who want to feed fat at the expense of the innocent people of their state. The legislators of the current assembly were elected, as usual, on constituency basis. The governor was elected by the entire electorate of the state (state electorate) which serially elected all the twenty-six members, who now threaten, as rumoured or as published, to subvert a legitimate government of Gbenga Daniel by deliberately causing crisis upon crisis.

This write-up calls on all people of good-will of Ogun state, within and without, including all our respectable natural but paramount rulers to find a way to stop this carefully orchestrated political mud slinging, naked bitterness and hatred for our state governor. The governor may possibly have offended some important people. He is human like anyone but personal disagreement, political or not, should not lead to an endless surreptitious plan and design to destabilize a peaceful state since its inception. As it is being rumoured and published in the dallies that the relationship between the governor and the ex-president is no longer cordial, the consequence of such a disagreement cannot and should not result in a concerted plan to get the governor removed or impeached without committing any constitutional violation. Their differences can be resolved by elders of the state which include our respectable leaders of thought such as retired Justice Bola Ajibola, Chief Lateef Adegbite and several others who have featured prominently in resolving similar differences between people of elite class in our state. I hope they won't relent at this important period when there is an imminent threat to order and political stability in Ogun state. We, as a people, possess some cultural features which can aid and promote peace in our communities, for democracy to grow. The National Constitutional Review Committee should specify the kinds of constitutional violations which could call for the impeachment of a governor or a president when it starts its work. Section 188 of the 1999 constitution in relation to the trial and impeachment of a governor is too simplistic, open ended and too weak without any definitive specifications or reasonable rationale. It has served to encourage abuse of legislative process and responsibility and has made nonsense of legal justice in the hands of unscrupulous politicians who have engaged in clandestine activities to settle personal political differences. What a system of government to sustain?

That was why a good number of Oyo state legislators, who are ignorant and redundant in their legislative obligation to the state would prefer taking the low road, devoid of honour and integrity, to meet at late Chief Adedibu's home at Molete, Ibadan in their desperation to remove Governor Ladoja in Oyo state in 2005. President Obasanjo was rumoured to be the brain behind such a dastardly behaviour and he never denied it publicly. Political thugs and even the state police including the some unprincipled High court judges were used to play some ignoble roles in the entire messy scheme. This kind of behaviour from the top, undermines the development of political institutions created for justice and socio-political progress to which our so-called leaders swore on oath to protect when taking office. The celebrated swearing ceremonies and constitutional oath taking boil down to nothing in the minds of those who parade themselves as nation builders. Ogun state people cannot afford this kind of political mischief and conspiracy to remove a governor who has done so much within his promised agenda since 2003, to promote the welfare of his people. The fact that he won a popular second term, notwithstanding the support of those who believe that they appointed him into office, is a testimony to his effectiveness and efficiency as a progressive governor of our state.. The seemingly endless but cantankerous practice of in-fighting that pervades the upper echelon of the PDP as a political party should not be extended to the peace loving people of Ogun state. Ever since Ogun state was created in February 1976, the Egba people, the Ijebus and the Egbado have not engaged in any major disagreement which could tear them apart politically. Such a situation should not be created or selfishly imposed on the innocent people of Ogun. Rather, Governor Daniel has retained and sustained the political peace which was left behind by Governor Segun Osoba who held the sub-ethnic divisions together as did late Governor Bisi Onabanjo. The removal of a Speaker or the State governor was never a priority of political adventurism in our state and country before now. The high level of indiscipline coupled with greed that beset the selfish legislators of our state presently is a travesty which is regrettable. Today, we have naira legislators all over the country, Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala; a hapless and agreeable politician unfortunately became the hostage of Oyo state legislators and each illegitimately collected an amount of twenty million naira from Oyo state treasury as constituency allowance in a state where crime is largely a product of massive unemployment. Have these legislators complied with the constitutional requirement to declare their assets before they assumed their roles as state legislators or are they not aware of the constitutional demand?

In Ogun, why are commissioners Chief Kola Sorinola and Chief Kola Onadipe being summoned to the House of Assembly? What are the major problems with their ministries that require invitations of these gentlemen at this time? Is the legislature trying to rake up or trying to create some issues that would amount to building mountains out of mole hills, because there is an evil plan to falsely accuse the governor of some imaginary offences? What is the serious problem with a commissioner for Special Duties? The legislators should tell the world what they are looking for and I advise that they tread with utmost caution and care. Are the invitations routine or designed to make or create mischief? With Chief Kola Onadipe; the Commissioner for Water Resources, he has been working round the clock, trying to make sure that Ogun state people have pipe born water which has not been available in Ogun and in all other states of Nigeria since 1999. I met him in Nigeria last July and I asked him about water supply in Ogun state. His response was prompt and encouraging because I could read his anxiety about his assignment as a state commissioner of an important ministry. He is definitely up to the task and he is working assiduously to meet the challenges of his political calling in Ogun state. The State House of Assembly is not a criminal court of law or an institution of inquisition for the persecution or prosecution of commissioners who work to execute the policies of the state governor. It is even within the purview and obligation of state legislators to make suggestions and inquire if their ideas and suggestions could be useful in a common search for solutions to the urgent needs of the state. Such ideas can be put before the House in form of motions which could be passed on to the commissioner concerned for 'information, consideration and adoption'. There is no air of superiority or boss-attendant relationship between members of the House and members of the governor's cabinet or the Executive. The relationship should be mutual respect for each other (legislature and the Executive) which is supposed to promote cordiality in the execution of public policy and its advancement. Ogun State House of Assembly is not a police institution in its relationship with members of the Executive arm, even though it could flex its oversight obligation, but not with massive prejudice. The welfare of the people of Ogun state comes first and it can only be achieved through collaboration, understanding and decorum, especially between the Executive and Legislative arms of government. Why should the legislature of Ogun state portray itself with an image of an attack dog with sharpened canine waiting to feed on its prey? That is not the spirit to run any democratic institution or government. We can all agree to disagree but decorum and maturity to resolve complex issues of government for the aggregate interest and ultimate progress of the entire society remains a constant feature of day to day relationship among democratic institutions. It is not a personal phenomenon of activity which is detrimental to progress and all other expected public socio-political advancement.

For examples, the idea of establishing a state university in Ogun in 1982/83 academic year and the consequent adoption of same by all UPN states between 1979 and 1983 originated from Ogun State House of Assembly in form of a motion presented by a member in response to the first mini-budget considered for September/December 1979. The Road Safety Operational Unit started from Ogun State House of Assembly also in form of a motion by another member. The compulsory application or use of the Caution sign to safeguard motorists on highways, at least, in Ogun state originated from Ogun State House of Assembly. The idea that the state Ministry of Works under the able Commissioner Dr. Femi Okurounmu, ( later Senator) who is still much alive today and well, to create a special unit in his ministry for constant road repairs throughout the state originated from the State Legislature to which I belonged. We did so much and we, more than often, had our differences with the governor; late Chief Bisi Onabanjo. Impeachment or any kind of censorship of the governor were out of question because it would create a crisis, the consequence of which no one could imagine. We tried to remain level headed because our constituents did not expect anything less. I should like to advise the present crop of honourable members of Ogun State House of Assembly to realize that their constituents will hold them accountable and responsible for their behaviour in terms of their obligations and achievements in Ogun state legislature. Or are you there to create crisis after crisis, engage in endless conspiracies to destabilize the state government and wallow in non-performance to build a do nothing legislature? As our law makers, kindly refrain from waking up a sleeping dog when it is most unnecessary to do so. Or are you determined to create a crisis in a state which has been crisis free since its creation. Working with dedication for the people who elected you and establishing a political legacy of progressive achievement in a spirit of team work with your visionary Executive branch will make you worthy as honourable members of our legislature than non-performing trouble makers who are only interested in the accumulation of material gains they can lay their hands on. The whole impeachment idea is an abuse of legislative privilege especially now because Governor Gbenga Daniel has distinguished himself as a progressive among Nigeria's governors since he took office in 2003 and he is loved by the people of Ogun state.

Bankole Okuwa is a Professor of Political Science

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