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Mimiko And State House of Assembly Face-off Threatens Ondo Labour Party Unity

Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State
Governor Olusegun Mimiko

Oluwole Josiah of The Punch writes that the conflict of political interests is beginning to take its toll on the once robust working relationship between the executive and the legislature in Ondo State

It is a known fact that the ultimate goal of political parties is to attain power for service delivery. However, when such interests run in opposite directions, crisis is the end result. The Peoples Democratic Party, which is arguably Nigeria’s largest political party, is a clear example of how vested and opposing interests within a party, could lead to its ultimate destruction if not properly managed.

It is no longer news that several influential members of the PDP, who felt that the umbrella can longer contain their interests as well as those of their supporters, have defected to the opposition All Progressives Congress.

Initially, the party felt invincible. But the defection of five of its serving governors, which was closely followed by 37 members of the House of Representatives, has greatly unsettled the party, forcing it to begin deft moves to stem further breach of its dominance in the polity.

Without a doubt, conflict of interests is an inherent part of the evolution of political associations, especially political parties, but the management of these interests defines the extent to which they can succeed or fail. It is in this light that some have predicted that the going vessel of the newly formed APC will soon hit an iceberg; this is given the fact that the party is a union of politicians with huge as well as strange diversities.

Recent developments have proven that the conflict of interest is not restricted to the PDP and the APC.

The Labour Party is beginning to experience its share of crisis. However, unlike the big political parties, the crisis threatening the LP is beginning to manifest in Ondo State, which is the party’s national stronghold.

A flash of skirmish between members of the House of Assembly and Governor Olusegun Mimiko, precisely on December 31, 2013, just before he presented his administration’s N162bn 2014 budget, gave voice to a hitherto subdued crisis within the party which was once considered impregnable.

The Ondo State House of Assembly has been described by the opposition as a rubber stamp. Some even argued that it was famous for praise singing the Mimiko-led administration and acceding to any request the governor forwarded to it.

The LP controls not only the executive branch; it also enjoys a comfortable majority in the legislature with about 98 per cent of its members. This has, over the years, guaranteed a smooth sail for Mimiko. This is even more so when he was sworn in for his second tenure last year. The Labour Party, with an overwhelming majority in the House, certainly has no choice but to give its unflinching support to the ruling party.

Recent developments suggest that the honeymoon appears to be over. The governor made public his intention to make the budget presentation in line with the provisions of the constitution, just before the close of the 2013 fiscal year. Surprisingly, a majority of members of the Assembly failed to make themselves available for the governor to make his presentation. The event was held up for several hours in the guise that efforts were being made to reach the members to report to chambers from wherever they were.

By the time the business eventually commenced, only nine of the 31 members of the House were seated, with the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Dare Emiola, presiding.

Just before the House received the details of the budget, Majority Leader of the House, Akinsoyinu Ifedapo, explained that majority of the members were away on holiday within and outside the country.

This, he added, was responsible for the failure of the House to give the governor the rousing welcome he was accustomed to, for the event. This notwithstanding, Mimiko, went ahead to make his budget presentation.

Events, which followed, have since revealed that there was much to the budget presentation session than meet the eyes. It was gathered that most of the lawmakers did not attend the session on purpose. It was learnt that their absence was their own way of registering their displeasure with the manner the governor was running the affairs of the state.

It is noteworthy that of the 31-member Assembly, only one is not a member of the Labour Party. Akpoebi Lubi, of the PDP, is the only member of the opposition as well as the Minority Leader. Therefore, developments within the House can safely be said to represent the state of the party in Ondo State.

A source close to the State Executive Council told our correspondent that the governor and his government worked hard for the election of all the members of the party in the House. “The governor supported all of them and worked hard for them to be elected. They virtually rode on the platform of the governor financially and politically on their way to the House,” he said.

Unconfirmed reports have it that the quarrel between the lawmakers and the governor stemmed from the failure of the latter to meet the financial demands of the lawmakers. The lawmakers have since rejected this claim, noting that their grouse with Mimiko bordered on his failure to effectively implement the 2013 budget.

The theory of the demand for money gained some credence given the fact that none of the committees of the House raised the alarm over the alleged poor implementation of the budget during several oversight visits. The boycott of the budget presentation was interpreted in government circles, as an attempt to blackmail the executive into acceding to the financial demands of the legislators.

The government was also concerned that the lawmakers did not consider the fact that it was the very last working day of the year, which made in imperative for the document to be submitted that day.

Although, some of the lawmakers have yet to openly confront the governor after the standoff, they have tried to unofficially vent their spleen by speaking to reporters. One of the legislators, who pleaded anonymity, said, “We are not happy with the level of development in Ondo State. Projects have been moving at a snail speed and the governor has failed this year.”

But the Minority Leader, Lubi, who obviously has nothing to fear, did not hide his feelings over the crisis. He rated the 2013 budget implementation in the state as 30 per cent. He added that the House rejected the governor’s request for a review of the 2013 budget in December.

Lubi said, “The budget presentation ceremony was illegal,” submitting that the governor needed a two-third majority of the members of the House to present the budget.

The state Commissioner for Information, Kayode Akinmade, while reacting to the charge, said the budget represented the hope for the development of Ondo State and its people. He argued that the people could not be kept waiting and their yearnings threatened by any form of politics. He argued that there was no need to overheat the polity, because the governor was in a hurry to deliver projects that would transform the lives of the people.

Akinmade explained that the seeming conflict would certainly be resolved, but the state would need stability for robust politics.

But the crack has expectedly created a feast for the APC. It has been waiting for an opportunity to lash out at the ruling Labour Party.

One of the party’s leaders, Ade Adetimehin, was full of commendations for the lawmakers for daring Mimiko. He accused the governor of mismanaging state funds and urged the lawmakers to immediately commence an impeachment process against him.

He said, “Ondo State people are regretting that the governor still found his way to the Government House. We are not happy and our people are suffering. I will like to commend the lawmakers for standing against continuous illegality, which this present administration led by Mimiko built its foundation upon.”

Whereas the standoff could be described as unprecedented in the Labour Party-dominated state, some observers have called it a flash in the pan effrontery. Those in this school of thought, argued that it would soon fizzle out in the face of the prevailing incumbency powers of Mr. Governor. This they predicate on the inability of the lawmakers to go to town with their allegations rather than speaking in hushed tones.

In spite of the feebleness of the reaction of the lawmakers, the record of perfect harmony of the ruling party had been dented. The fear that things may begin to fall apart in larger pieces is endemic. The burden has, however, been transferred to the leadership of the party and the governor himself to ensure that suitable balm is promptly applied to the ailing parts of the Labour Party in the state.

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