Ahead of the inauguration of the 8th House of Assembly in Osun State next month, intense politicking has continued to take centre stage in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) controlled state.
There is a scramble within the party for the office of the Speaker of the Osun State House of Assembly. While some are routing for newly elected members of the House to bid for the office, other chieftains of the party are insisting on ranking legislators in the House to be the next Speaker.
Those backing the latter contend that leadership of a state House of Assembly demands experience and understanding of the rules and practices of the House which will only be taught to new members at inauguration. Hence, ranking members who have the required experience should be considered for the position.
There are only four ranking members in the about-to-be-inaugurated Assembly. At the moment, sources say the battle for the Speakership in the state is locked between Prince Tajudeen Adeyemi, a lawyer, and Wale Egbedun. The duo are the front runners for the plum job in the 26-member assembly. While the latter is said to be a first-timer, with no experience, the former is a ranking member in the state’s House of Assembly.
Though the Standing Order of the House of Assembly allows only ranking members to lead the parliament, Section 92(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) says: ” There shall be a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker of a House of Assembly who shall be elected by the members of the House from among themselves.” This means either a first-timer or a ranking member can be Speaker.
Recently, some lawmakers-elect in the Osun State House of Assembly, challenged the rule of the Assembly allowing only ranking members to vie for the speakership of the House.
The lawmakers-elect, including Lawal Rasheed, representing Osogbo Constituency, and Oyewusi Akinyode of Ife-North Constituency, have dragged the House of Assembly, the Speaker, Timothy Owoeye, and the Clerk of the House before a State High Court.
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The two lawmakers, in an originating summon want the court to declare Rule 4(a) of the Osun State House of Assembly Legislative Standing Rule null and void for being contrary to the provision of section 92(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
It reads: “Whether the provision of Rule 4 (a) of the Osun State House of Assembly Legislative Standing Rule to the effect that the Speaker of the House Assembly shall be from among the ranking members-elect of the House of Assembly is not contrary to the provision of section 92(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), therefore unconstitutional, null and void. And upon the determination of the question, the plaintiffs shall be seeking the following reliefs at the hearing:
“A declaration that the provision of Rule 4(a) of the Osun State House of Assembly Legislative Standing Rules is inconsistent with the provision of section 92(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), thereby unconstitutional null and void.
“An order of injunction restraining the defendants from enforcing or applying the provision of Rule 4(a) of the Osun State House of Assembly Legislative Standing Rules same being inconsistent with the provision of 92(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).”
The bone of contention is that a first-timer cannot lead the 8th Assembly based on the Standing Order of the House. But the provisions of the 1999 Constitution suggest otherwise. There are speculations that one of the candidates, Egbedun has the backing of Governor Ademola Adeleke despite being a first-timer and allegedly without the requisite experience. It is also believed that the state wants to set a precedence by having the youngest Assembly speaker in the country.
In an interview, Special Assistant to Osun Governor on Media and Monitoring, Akintunde Bello Sheriff, maintained that regardless of ranking, all elected House members are qualified to vie for the seat of the Speaker. According to him, being a first-timer doesn’t affect the capacity to lead the House.
He said the governor has no favourite, adding that he met the 25 PDP members-elect and is ready to work with anyone who becomes the Speaker.
“I believe the issue of ranking is to suit a parochial narrative. The best experience is when you go through the rigour of primary contests and general elections. In 1999, when democracy returned, how did leadership emerge in the House? Were there ranking members then? When you are elected and returned by INEC, you are qualified. Since the matter is in court, let’s wait for the outcome. All the PDP 25 members are eligible if they desire,” he said.
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Nevertheless, a Civil Rights Activist and Political analyst, Oluwole Oladapo, believes a premium should be placed on competence irrespective of ranking or being a first-timer.
“Most important is getting the job done. Being a Speaker is about being primus inter pares. We must start thinking of competence. The best men should be allowed to do the job. Experience cannot be thrown away, though. The legislature should be a check on the government,” he said.
Meanwhile, stakeholders believe Egbedun does not have a known record as an administrator or public office holder and is not popular among the people. Therefore, he should be allowed to learn the ropes and understand the business of the legislature.
A stakeholder who craved anonymity said: “Osun State at this time deserves a Speaker that can actually speak and administer legislative duties competently. We cannot at this time because of some parochial interest or undefined loyalty install someone without a verifiable past or means of survival. In the coming days, opinion moulders would come to the fore to x-ray the antecedent of whoever wishes to rule the state and ensure such person is of clean and verifiable records.”
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