By Shuaib Abdulkadir
When Kwara State House of Assembly resumed plenary on Tuesday 4th September, 2018, it was expected to be like any other day’s plenary. All but one member of the 24 lawmakers were present for the plenary. The member representing Oke-Ogun Constituency in Oyun Local Government Area of the State, Hon. Sikirat Anako had taken excuse for her inability to join her colleagues for the business of the day.
From all indications, however, it was clear that the members were not happy as this was clearly demonstrated in their mood. Ordinarily, since they are just resuming from about a month Sallah break and sparkling with life, the usual thing is to throw banters, gist and laugh about many things that occurred during the break while getting prepared for the day’s job awaiting the Speaker’s arrival into the Hallowed Chambers, the opposite took place as they sat glued to their seats with lots of concentration.
It should be noted that Kwara State House of Assembly is one of the very few Houses of Assembly that is always very active, very lively while doing the business of lawmaking, but the lawmakers’ body languages freely expressed their sad mood while both Journalists and members of the public that were at the gallery to watch the proceeding were thrown into confusion as to what could be the cause for the “unusual” behaviours. It was not known that the event of Tuesday would go down memory lane for successive legislatures to learn from.
The die was cast. As the Sergeant-at-Arms announced the Speaker’s arrival, not many knew what was to play out. After the adoption of the last sittings Votes and Proceedings by members and three members moved Motions of urgent Public Importance which addressed need for government’s appropriate actions, there came the fourth member, Hon. Ahmed Ibn Mohammed moving a Motion of urgent Public Importance on the need to clear the air about an allegation levelled against the House and members that 23 members who recently defected to the Peoples Democratic Party collected the sum of N15 million each for their action. The allegation as being spread in the social media was said to have emanated from the only All Progressives Congress member in the House, Hon. Saheed Popoola, representing Ojomu/Balogun Constituency in Offa Local Government.
The N15million bribe, was said to have been reported by some media organisations during the break while it continue to generate and caused ripples among the Honourable Members and their Constituents, challenging them to part away from the ”largesse”. The Speaker, Rt. Hon. Ali Ahmad who expressed his displeasure at the allegation hinged on the needs to set the record straight and lay the matter to rest once and for all.
Every member who spoke on the issue expressed their frustrations on what they described as unfounded and baseless allegation. While narrating their different experiences from their Constituents, they also challenged members of the public to come up with any evidence that could proof to Kwarans that they collected the bribe. It was gathered that a member out of frustration dragged some stakeholders from his Constituency to Governor Abdulfatah Ahmad not only to exonerate him but to be clear to them that the allegation was false and deliberately spread by the opposition to pitch the lawmakers against the public.
The usual saying that politics is a bad game tend to play out but for the Speaker’s maturity as well as other members alleged to have taken bribe from the Executive. Otherwise, the allegation as grave as it was could have engender tempers fraying, particularly as it was rumoured to have emanated from their colleague, Hon. Popoola and who was visibly present at the plenary.
The Speaker thereafter called on the affected member, Hon. Popoola to react to the development and set the record straight. This, he did to the admiration of his colleagues and normalcy returned to the whole House. While addressing the allegation alleged to have emanated from him, he called for any evidence that could lay credence to that allegation either from his colleagues or any media organisation which reported the untrue story.
He said that being an opposition member does not give him an opportunity to talk carelessly about his colleagues, noting that as the only member who didn’t defect to the Peoples Democratic Party, some people would be desirous of using his name to tarnish the House reputation.
The legislator who commended the Speaker and his colleagues for their display of maturity, particularly lauded Dr. Ahmad high intelligence and leadership qualities on how the issue was handled.
He said, the Speaker had demonstrated high degree of patriotism by placing public interest above other considerations, saying that he would have been suspended, if it were in other State Houses of Assembly.
Hon. Popoola is the only member who refused to defect alongside other 23 members who recently pronounced their defection from the All Progressives Congress to the Peoples Democratic Party at the floor of the House. It could have been very easy for him to be treated as an outcast by his colleagues, but the opposite is the case as they continued to fraternise.
Reacting to the development, the Speaker, Dr. Ali Ahmad who described the allegation as baseless and unwarranted maintained that those that defected did so out of their own volition.
Dr. Ahmad explained that members defected to the PDP, in view of the glaring evidence that the APC led government in Nigeria was incapable of addressing the numerous problems afflicting the nation.
The Speaker said that he would never suspend any member or declare his seat vacant, in view of the fact that the member failed to defect to the PDP, as it was the case in some APC dominated State Houses of Assembly.
“If I am sitting here as the Speaker, I will not suspend anybody because he defected, I will not because it is his constitutional right. You cannot force somebody to be with you, so if anybody believes the Speaker will suspend Hon. Popoola, it will not be me.
…”To do that, you would have to first remove me as Speaker and then you can now suspend that person that defected. It doesn’t happen in Kwara State. So, we will be imploring our people in APC controlled states, to desist from declaring the defectors’ seats vacant. That is not best way to show fidelity to the constitution”, he advised.
Meanwhile, with recent events playing out in political arena, especially with politicians moving from one party to another to actualise their aspirations, it is noted that some politicians exercise absolute power to frustrate defectors in their various areas, and in some cases prevent it taking place rather than allowing them to freely defect. Cases were reported in different Houses of Assembly as some Speakers even go against court orders to declare the affected members’ seats vacant.
Conclusively, it behoves on other Houses of Assembly in the federation, to always demonstrate high sense of patriotism in handling affairs in their respective Hallowed Chambers, regardless of their different political parties. It is also very important to commend the Speaker, Kwara State House of Assembly and members for the maturity displayed on the N15 million allegation levelled against the Honourable House which was handled without resorting to unnecessary chaos.
Shuaib Abdulkadir is the Special Assistant on Media to the Speaker, Kwara State House of Assembly. Twitter: @shuaibbawa2