Impeachment: Aiyedatiwa’s race for survival in Ondo

In this report, Vanguard’s Law Human Rights explores the background facts surrounding the on-going plot by Ondo State House of Assembly to impeach the state Deputy Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa; examines the steps taken so far by the embattled deputy governor to save his head vis-à-vis judicial precedent and constitutional provisions on impeachment of executive governors and their deputies.

Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, at the moment, appears seated between the devil and the deep blue sea. The deputy governor ran into trouble following his alleged involvement in gross misconduct while his principal, Governor Akeredolu was away in Germany to seek medical attention.

Although he has vehemently and continually denied all the allegations of abuse of office made against him, the toes he possibly stepped on while acting as governor appear bent on sending him away from the Government House to prison.

Genesis of crisis

In 2019, the health status of Governor Akeredolu became a public issue for the first time after he was outside the state for about five weeks over ill health. With uncertainties about where he was receiving treatment then, opposition parties in the state said Akeredolu had been incapacitated due to ill health.

But when he came back to the state on November 6, 2019, he confirmed that he actually travelled to seek medical attention even as he added that contrary to the information in the public space, his case was not as critical as people made it look.

The ill health of the governor, again, came to the fore in January 2023 when his wife, Betty Akeredolu, revealed that her husband was suffering from an undisclosed ailment.

Following the state of the health of the governor, opposition parties alleged that the wife of the governor and his son, Babajide, who is the Director-General of Ondo State Performance and Project Implementation Monitoring Unit (PPIMU), were the ones running the affairs of the state and were scheming to ensure that the Deputy Governor,  Aiyedatiwa did not have a grip on the state in the absence of the governor.

Ailing Akeredolu stops public appearances.

Between May and September this year, hell was, again, let loose in the state when Akeredolu stopped making public appearances.

The governor was last seen in public on May 17, 2023, when he played host to the Ondo State Cocoa Council delegation led by its Chairman, Dr. Olusegun Awolumate, at the Governor’s Office, Alagbaka, Akure, the state capital.

For instance, as the chairman of South-West Governors’ Forum, Akeredolu was expected to be physically present at the commissioning of Dangote Refinery on May 22 where governors from the region were fully represented but he could not make it.

He was also absent at the inauguration of President Bola Tinubu in Abuja on May 29 despite the fact that he was on the frontline of governors who insisted that power must return to the South.

He eventually embarked on three weeks leave and travelled to Germany on June 7, 2023. But when he could not resume in his office after the expiration of the three-week leave, the governor on July 15, 2023, requested through a letter to the state’s lawmakers that Aiyedatiwa should take over in an “acting capacity.”

Akeredolu, Aiyedatiwa beefs

The relationship between the governor and his deputy was cordial before the governor’s trip to Germany for medical treatment.  But those angling to succeed Akeredolu purportedly created a wedge between them using his absence from the state and health challenge to play “dirty” politics.

For instance, some loyalists of the deputy governor, were alleged to have deliberately spread the rumour that the governor was incapacitated to pave the way for his deputy to take overpower from him.

The rumour of the health condition of the governor also polarised the state executive council with some still supporting the ailing governor while others were behind the deputy following purported assurances that they would be adequately compensated when he eventually assumed office as the governor because of the health condition of the governor.

But Aiyedatiwa said there was no truth in the rumour making the rounds, accusing some cabals in government of trying to put a wedge between him and his principal, thereby straining their relationship.

Akeredolu’s surgical operation

That was the situation when the governor returned from Germany. Akeredolu, on arrival, headed straight to his private residence in Ibadan and summoned his cabinet members to brief him on the activities of government during his absence. Days after his return, Akeredolu fired all the media aides of his deputy, accusing them of insubordination.

Pro-Akeredolu lawmakers move against Aiyedatiwa

It was not surprising that at the plenary, the state House of Assembly peopled by majority of pro-Akeredolu lawmakers commenced impeachment proceedings against Aiyedatiwa on September 25, 2023, by drafting a notice of 14-point allegation signed by 11 out of the 26 members of the state assembly.

Aiyedatiwa runs to court.

But instead of responding to the allegations, the deputy governor had through his lawyer, dragged the Assembly before a Federal High Court in Abuja and a state High Court in Akure, for an order to stop the assembly from impeaching him, a request that was granted.

The judge also restrained Governor Akeredolu from nominating a new deputy governor and forwarding the same to lawmakers for approval pending the hearing and determination of the substantive matter.

Aiyedatiwa had also in another suit marked AK/348/2023 filed before an Ondo State High Court sitting in Akure requested for an order stopping the state lawmakers from continuing with his impeachment proceedings pending the hearing of the substantive suit.

Court can’t stop us —Ondo Assembly

In a statement by the Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly, Olamidei Oladiji, he said the notice of allegation of gross misconduct against the deputy governor within seven days was presented to him and was signed by 11 out of the 26 members of the House, more than one-third of the members of the House required to sign the impeachment notice under Section 188(2) of the Constitution.

Citing the case of Abaribe V. Abia State House of Assembly (2022) 14 NWLR (Pt. 788) 466, the Speaker said the Court of Appeal emphatically stated that it was wrong for the appellant to jump the gun by rushing to the court to stop his impeachment process on the ground of alleged breach of fair hearing, when the panel to investigate and hear him had not even been constituted.

He said the Court of Appeal restated that by the provision of Section 188 (10) of the Constitution, no court has the jurisdiction at that stage to interfere in the legislative proceedings for impeachment.

The House also wrote to the NJC urging it to investigate the circumstances surrounding the granting of the injunction and sanction Justice Nwite if found wanting.

Aiyedatiwa writes Ondo CJ for intervention.

Ignoring the court order issued by Justice Nwite, the assembly went ahead with the impeachment proceedings against the deputy governor.

After the effluxion of time given to the deputy governor to respond to the allegation, the House directed the state Chief Judge to set up the panel in line with the provisions of the Constitution.

The development compelled the deputy governor to approach the state Chief Judge with a request not to proceed with the impeachment process on the account that two cases over the matter were pending before the Federal High Court in Abuja and the State High Court in Akure.

In a letter written by his lawyer, Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, SAN, to communicate his position, the deputy governor argued that it would amount to contempt of court to proceed with the impeachment proceedings under the circumstance.

The letter said Aiyedatiwa did not respond to the notice from the House of Assembly because of the restraining order issued by the Federal High Court.

Reprieve as APC steps in

When the matter came up at the Federal High Court, Adegboruwa, instead brought an application to withdraw the entire suit before the Federal High Court on the account that the National Chairman of the APC, Abdullahi Ganduje, had set up a Reconciliation Committee on October 6, 2023, to mediate the dispute between some of the parties to the suit.

Adegboruwa also told the court that it would not be proper for the court to continue with the case since the Ondo Assembly itself had written a petition to the National Judicial Council on October 3, 2023, against the presiding judge.

But counsel for the Ondo State governor, Kazeem Gbadamosi, and the Chief Judge, Mutalib Ojo, respectively, urged the court to go ahead with the case, adding that the issue of jurisdiction must first be determined by the court.

In his submission, the counsel for the Assembly, Femi Emodamori, said the Ondo assembly had on October 6 written a letter and affidavit to the NJC, withdrawing the petition.

The Presiding judge, Justice Emeka Nwite, adjourned the case to October 16 for ruling on the submissions.

While the entire world is anxiously waiting for the ruling of the court on October 16, 2023, it does appear that except the APC broker peace between the two feuding parties, the courts, the judicial precedent and relevant constitutional provisions on impeachment may not be able to remove the visible sword of Damocles hanging on the deputy governor’s head.


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