Next Ondo Speaker: Will Competence, Loyalty, Experience be sacrificed for Zoning?

By: Olasiji Okunleye

If there is any perfect example in recent times that demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that Nigeria is a nation reputed for doing one thing repeatedly and expecting a different result, it is the intriguing tales already going back and forth on how the principal officers for the  10th National Assembly and those for the 10th Ondo State House of Assembly will emerge.

National Assembly or State House of Assembly is one of the three arms that constitutes Nigeria’s presidential system of government. Statutorily headed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives as well as various state houses of assembly headed by “Speaker”. They work hand in glove with other principal officers in the house including: the majority leader, deputy majority leader, minority leader, deputy minority leader, chief whip, deputy chief whip, minority whip and deputy minority whip.

Zoning of these aforementioned positions has been a regular political practice since 1999, this is even as the idea has successfully worked out in some state houses of assembly and at the National level. This is one of the reasons our legislative arm of government has been perceived not to be doing enough and at various time failed the people.

It is overly imperative to take a cursory look at the election of presiding officers for the 10th Ondo State House of Assembly.

Analysing profiles of lawmakers-elect, the new set of legislators, undoubtedly have the requisite skills. They comprises of vibrant youths and experienced elders.

Nevertheless, the qualities would amount to nothing if among themselves they elect a Speaker and Deputy Speaker who can’t defend the assembly’s interest and that of the expectant constituents.  

Obviously, there are many distinguished professionals among the members currently serving in the state 9th House of Assembly, but arguably, the present legislative arm would wish to have done more for its members and the people but some factors might have hindered it.

In electing the presiding officers, many political analysts and stakeholders especially in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are of the opinion that competence, experience, loyalty and vibrance should be considered over zoning. They also opined that good qualities of parliament leaders should not be sacrificed on the altar of zoning.

There are four returning/ranking members among the 26 lawmakers-elect in Ondo State namely —Hon Oluwole Ogunmolasuyi (Owo 1, the current Majority Leader); Hon Oladiji Olamide (Ondo East, current Deputy Majority Leader); Hon Ololade Gbegudu (Okitipupa 11) and Hon Abayomi Akinruntan (Ilaje 1).

Among them, three are jostling to be the next Speaker, except Hon Gbegudu who is eyeing the Deputy Speakership seat in the next 10th Assembly. The three of them are well-competent and qualified to be Speaker considering the position of the nation’s constitution, which allows all lawmakers to aspire or lead the parliament.

Hon Oluwole Ogunmolasuyi (popularly known as “WEST”)as the current Majority Leader is not only coordinating daily parliamentary activities in the state House in the 9th Assembly, he is known to be very loyal lawmaker to the APC and Governor Akeredolu’s administration. If political power sharing must be prepared for the next political dispensation in the state, Ogunmolasuyi as a young lawmaker, fits enough to lead the state 10th Assembly as the Speaker.

The Owo lawmaker is chairing some sensitive House Committees such as:  House committees on Procurement Committee (formerly Tender); Environment and Petroleum; House Business and Rules; Parliamentary meetings; Special Duties as well as Government House & Protocol. This clearly shows how vibrant and versatile the Majority Leader has been in the discharged of his oversight function since 2019.

Since the current Speaker, Oleyelogun and the Deputy Speaker, Rt Hon Samuel Aderoboye are not returning for the 10th Assembly, in hierarchy, Ogunmolasuyi is the most ranking principal officer.

As the Majority Leader, he is the custodian of the Votes and Proceedings, Bills, Reports of House Committee and other documents laid before the House. He presides over all parliamentary meetings and moves all the motions at the plenary sittings and also leads debates.

Ogunmolasuyi who is responsible for examining bills, conducting inquiries, and ensuring proper governance and accountability, also schedules the daily calendar and directs members in the House. He maintains order on the instruction of the Speaker of during sittings. Welfare and well-being of all members are also part of his responsibilities.

Oladiji popularly known as Landmark is the Chairman, House Committee on Works and Infrastructure, and also the Vice Chairman of the State House of Aseembly Committee on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. He is a member of several House Committees, including Finance and Appropriations, Public Accounts, OSOPADEC, Natural Resources among others. Oladiji is said to be active in the the outgoing 9th Assembly.

Akinruntan is a young lawmaker who is also experienced enough to lead the Parliament considering the fact that he is coming for the third term and he is also sharing some house committees such as the OSOPADEC committee.

He is also known for defending his oil-rich area people particularly the recent ocean surge at Aiyetoro and its environs. He spoke effectively to defend the interest of his Ilaje constituents. 

Reacting to the recent election petition tribunal’s judgment that upheld his reelection, Hon Abayomi Akinruntan who expressed delight over the development, said “we will appreciate the candidate for the spirit of sportsmanship in the interest of Ilaje development and unity.

“I am the chairman house committee on OSOPADEC & also serve as member of various committees in the house in the last 8 years ending my 2nd tenure in the house.

“Also the judgement will further pave way for my aspiration to lead the 10th assembly as the speaker of the house considering the fact that I’m the most Senior and experienced lawmaker returning as a 3rd timer in the 10th Assembly,” Akinruntan said.

Obviously, Akinruntan’s experience as the most ranking member will be an asset to the 10th Assembly if given a chance also.

Ogunmolasuyi, Oladiji & Akinruntan

Since Stakeholders are now fixing themselves up in preparation for this zoning arrangements, there is a need to prepare the political power sharing holistically before of next year’s governorship election.

Zoning of the positions in the National Assembly or Ondo State Parliament is not a constitutional matter, even if it is in the standing order of the most Houses of Assembly, everybody knows that the 1999 Constitution is superior to any other law in the land and the organic law never provides for “zoning”. Zoning is a mere political arrangement by the political class sometimes to protect their interest. Hence it is well within the right of all the ranking members to aspire to lead.

When one considers the fact that the governorship election will soon hold in the state, it will not be out of place if ranking member(s) from Ondo North senatorial district to join the race for the 10th Assembly’s speakership race, afterall Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is expected to complete his second term in office and this will allow for fresh political arrangements or power sharing in the state.

Currently, Akeredolu is from Ondo North, His Deputy Hon Lucky Aiyedatiwa is from Ondo South and the outgoing Speaker, Rt Hon Bamidele Oleyelogun is from Ondo Central senatorial district. A political school thought indicates that the next Speaker should come from Ondo North since the next Governor is expected to come from Ondo South and the next Deputy Governor should emerge from Ondo Central to prevent political instability in the state after Akeredolu and Aiyedatiwa complete their tenure.

It will be difficult to remove any elected Speaker from Ondo South or Ondo Central or ask him to resign later because of political arrangements after new Governor emerges from Ondo South. It will only be smart for Mr Governor and the state APC stakeholders to allow the best and popular choice of the majority among the ranking members to be elected the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker for the 10th Assembly. If zoning is to be considered in Ondo state, it should be after every general election like now.

Imposition of a greenhorn/new lawmaker as the Speaker will lead to unnecessary instability among the parliamentarians. The new members should not be too overambitious to be presiding officers, instead they should support two of the ranking members to be Speaker and Deputy speaker while they learn parliamentary proceedings.

Already there are reports of alleged in-fighting among the lawmakers-elect as about five of the new members are battling and lobbying some powerful personalities around Governor Akeredolu to support them to lead the 10th assembly. Those pushing the new lawmakers should desist and not give the government of Government Akeredolu unnecessary political crisis to battle with.

It is high time for Governor Akeredolu and leadership of the governing APC to meet and give directions on the need to support Ogunmolasuyi, Akinruntan, Gbegudu, or Oladiji as presiding officers so as to maintain peaceful executive-legislative relationship in the sunshine state.

The Opinion is Written by:
Dr Olasiji Okunleye (A Political Affairs Analysis from Okitipupa).

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