Why my illegal impeachment as Ekiti Speaker won’t stand – Hon Aribisogan
Rt. Hon. Olugboyega Aribisogan, was Speaker of Ekiti State House of Assembly. He was impeached and suspended indefinitely by his colleagues in the House and was replaced by a female lawmaker, Hon Olubunmi Adelugba.
In this interview with PRISCILLA EDIARE, the embattled speaker spoke on the crisis that recently rocked the All Progressives Congress-dominated Assembly in the state, the legal step he has taken and other issues.
You emerged the Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly and after six days you were purportedly impeached and suspended indefinitely. What really happened?
Well, like I had earlier said on national television I was elected the Speaker on the 15th of November, 2022 in the open glare of the Assembly where 25 members were present and I was nominated by Hon Tajudeen Akingbolu to be the speaker of the State House of Assembly and someone else, Hon Olubunmi Adelugba, was nominated by Hon Bode Adeoye. And because there were two nominations ordinarily, there will be an election. And the Clerk f the House, who by law is recognised to conduct an election, went ahead to conduct the election as stipulated by the standing order of the House of Assembly and in accordance and pursuant to section 92(C) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the election went free, fair and peaceful. At the end of the election, I scored 15 votes while Hon Olubunmi Adelugba scored 10 votes. I was declared the winner in the open glare of everybody present. I was sworn-in, I took the oath of allegiance and I began the work of the State Assembly. After the election and after I had assumed position as speaker, we went for our parliamentary meeting where we all agreed that the next day will be a day for another legislative business. In the course of that, we ended the day’s legislative business and we all departed to our various homes. On Wednesday, November 16, around 8:30 in the morning, I was about getting into the House of Assembly when I saw a detachment of policemen that had laid siege at the Assembly complex. Upon inquiry they told me that they heard information that some people were coming to attack the place. Because I was not informed I had to put a call through to the Commissioner of Police who didn’t pick my call. That very morning he withdrew the police officers from the place and members of staff and honourable members went back to the House of Assembly. Around 10:00am the same Commissioner of Police called and said that he wanted to see me and the clerk of the house. On getting there, because I went with the principal officers of the house, he said he had credible evidence that some people were coming to attack the place. In fact, they were coming to burn down the place and that he had even sent the anti-bomb experts to go and comb everywhere to see whether bombs had been planted. He said in the next four hours he would be through with the whole thing and he would get back to me later in the day. That was the beginning of the whole show.
The first day, the second day, when it was obvious that we were not getting any response from the police, we decided to be calling on the stakeholders in the state and we began to let everybody know there was crisis at hand. But on Friday, I travelled to Abuja to attend the conference of speakers and I was there when on Sunday evening a call came to me that some people were gathering at a location in Ado-Ekiti, on Adebayo Road. That they were meeting there to perpetrate an illegal impeachment the next day. I alerted the whole world that the police have sealed up the place for the last four to five days and that some people are now saying that they want to come to the state House of Assembly to impeach the validly elected speaker. And true to the information, by 5:30am, a call also came from the Sergeant-at-Arms that some policemen had come to carry him at home and they said they were going to the police station only for them to divert the journey towards the House of Assembly Complex. They allegedly forced him to carry the Maze, adding that he met the Clerk, Mr Tola Esan and some members of the House led by the police in the Chambers. He further said that some other people who are not members and staff of the Assembly were in the Chambers during the wee hours of 6:00am to do the impeachment and inauguration.
So, they did everything at the chamber and they went ahead to open the office of the speaker. By the time members were coming in they were searching them, if you are a member come in, if you are a staff don’t come in and people that were called by the former governor moved to the House of Assembly and they went to the office of the speaker to take photographs, claiming that they were 14 members who sat. Few hours later, they said they were 17. And how 17 members came into that place with the connivance of the police has become a mystery up till now. But nevertheless they went ahead to perpetrate an illegal impeachment and that was how the crisis broke and up till now we are still on it. I insisted that the procedure that normally should have allowed for an impeachment was not followed and that the due process was not followed, that if you are to impeach a speaker there are procedures even in the constitution and the standing rules of the house that allegations must be levelled and formally delivered to the speaker for him to respond within 72 hours. That is the principle of fair hearing.
In this case, I was away in Abuja, on Monday, early in the morning, there was no service, there was no allegation, they only broke into the place. We all still believed that police were still there protecting the place not knowing that the same police had opened the place for some members to go in and perpetrate this heinous crime. So, I am saying that the plenary of that day can never be called a plenary and can never be said to be a plenary that will impeach a validly elected speaker. One, it was unconstitutional, two, it didn’t follow the rules and standing rules of the state house of assembly and that we don’t sit 5:30am or 6:30am, we sit at 10:00am and in the open glare of all staff of the Assembly, not that a group of people will enter the place by 6:00am without the staffers of the assembly and they will conduct an impeachment without service to a validly elected speaker and people are still saying they have done well. That is the bone of contention.
After the election and your emergence, did you envisage any crisis?
I didn’t envisage any crisis. I didn’t see anything coming because I believe that I was constitutionally elected, so I wasn’t thinking of all this. If 15 members out of 25 have voted and they have declared me the winner without any rancour, without any complaint during and after the election, I couldn’t have fathomed any untoward happening.
I want to say emphatically that going by section 92(C) of the constitution there was no impeachment. Whatever that has happened on November 21st, 2022 was a clear case of unparliamentary behaviour, a coup d’ etat against a validly elected speaker so it cannot stand and that is why I said both the impeachment and suspension are illegal. They are all illegal activities by a group of members which should be considered as a heinous crime against the state, against Ekiti people. If they were not afraid of their shadows, if they know and are sure that they can impeach through the normal process why didn’t they wait? Why did they come at the wee hours of the day? Why did they have to rent the police to escort them to the chamber at odd hours to perform the illegal and illicit action? It is because they are afraid of their own shadows. It cannot stand.
Reports had it that you were impeached because you allegedly sabotaged the passage of the 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Bill. How true is this?
How could I have sabotaged when I was elected on Tuesday and on Wednesday there were police actions in the Assembly that prevented even the staff from entering and all Honourable members. There was no sitting, there was no opportunity to even sit in the office to the extent that the place was locked for six days before they eventually carried out that purported impeachment. So, ask them where were those allegations? When were they levelled? Where are the copies of their allegations? If they can produce it, let them come out. It was only after two days the purported impeachment took place that they were now circulating a letter that we should come and apologise so that we could be reabsorbed into the system. I don’t see why an illegal occupant will be saying that the legal or validly elected speaker should come and apologise for an offence he never committed. That is why I said it is anti-democratic, it is unconstitutional and it is something that has to be condemned by lovers of democracy.
You were suspended alongside six other lawmakers, but four of the lawmakers have been readmitted to the house after they tendered their letters of apology.
Well, some out of their own volition have decided to go and apologise, They have decided to do that regardless of whether they were guilty or not. That has nothing to do with my own position because they were suspended and if they feel they have offended the law, those who said they have apologised let them do so on their own volition. But in my own case, even if the 24 of them are in the House of Assembly and it remains only me, I will go ahead and fight the unconstitutional behaviour of our members. It has nothing to do with my purported impeachment. My suspension is illegal ab initio and I cannot apologise for an offence I never committed. If some people felt they have offended the gods, let them go and apologise but I, Rt. Hon. Olugboyega Aribisogan, have said it clearly that I did no wrong and cannot apologise for an offence I never committed.
Again, reports had it that it was the decision of your party (APC) that Hon Olubunmi Adelugba should become the speaker but that you acted otherwise.
The question is this, if truly Hon Olubunmi Adelugba was the party’s candidate, you should have asked the party why did 15 members who are of the same political party decided to vote for me and not Adelugba.? There was an election, a lawmaker who is also a member of the same party defeated Adelugba in a clear contest. Is that a crime that a candidate lost an election and a candidate won an election? Where is the crime? There was a time in this country that the party said Mulikat Adeola should be voted as the speaker of the House of Representatives, the members of the House of Representatives voted for Aminu Tambuwal and Tambuwal became the Speaker. There was a time the party decided on Ahmad Lawan to become the Senate President but the members of the Senate decided to vote for Bukola Saraki, heavens didn’t fall. Party may have their preferred candidate, there is no crime in that but in the case of election, if the candidate of the party loses, the most honourable thing to do is to embrace the winner who is also a member of their party. Why should they resort to illegality? Is it not safe to say that the party having gone ahead on this unconstitutional journey has violated the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by not following the due process of law to impeach a validly elected speaker. Will anybody who is a member of the party be happy that his own political party is violating the constitution just because their preferred candidate has lost? On what moral ground will the party come out to say that the action of November 21st 2022 was justified under the law? If truly the party wanted to allow peace to reign in the Assembly, why didn’t they call both the winner and the loser immediately the election was held? Why did they have to resort to this brigandage, soiling the names of Ekiti people, destroying the ethos and values of our people by going into this voyage of unconstitutionality? So why are they doing that? There is no reason for anybody in this country who prides himself to be a democrat will come out and say that what happened in Ekiti on 21st of November is something that can be sustained in law or under any legal scrutiny except that they want to tell us that we are in the era of gestapo or military invasion. So, all these things are things that people should reflect on before taking their judgement. It is not a political party primary where the party has every power to say this is our candidate. Yes, it is true that APC members are in the state House of Assembly but that does not mean we have to flout the constitution just because our party is in power that is the area of my disagreement with them.
The speakership of Ekiti State is not the same thing as the chairman of a party. The speakership belongs to Ekiti people and not APC alone. If they had done their home work very well the party should have won the election in the first instance but because they feel that every other person will dogmatically follow whatever directive they give that is why all these crises are happening. So I don’t want to believe that they are on the right side of the decision.
Do you see any positive outcome in the legal action you have taken?
Well, the case is in court. We are waiting for justice in the court. Whatever the court decides we will all live to see it.