The Speaker knew something was wrong immediately he entered the chambers of the parliament. For a moment he wondered if he had stepped into a wrong building. But the inscription on the building was bold and clear: Oyo State House of Assembly. It was not a wrong building. But something was still amiss. On the seat reserved for him as the Speaker, an apparent stranger was already seated holding the gavel.
Well, not really an apparent stranger. The seat was occupied by a fellow lawmaker who was also the Deputy Speaker. “What insolence!” Abraham Adeleke, the Speaker, thought as he marched briskly towards the usurper. Laiku ekìri, ta lo le fi awo ra da gbedu [Who could use the skin of a live animal to make a drum?]
With all the dignity he could muster under the circumstance, he ordered his Deputy, Taiwo Oluyemi, to vacate his seat. Oluyemi did not even acknowledge his presence. He continued flipping through the documents on the table as though he was not the person being addressed. Adeleke, now towering over the seated figure, repeated his order in a very loud voice. Oluyemi refused to budge. By this time, other parliamentarians had started assembling behind either the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker, urging their respective choice not to yield.
Oluyemi raised his head a little to make a mental count of his supporters. They were 17. He smiled for the first time. He was emboldened by the number. The speaker’s crowd was smaller, they were 12 in number. There was a lone lawmaker who appeared undecided whether to go with Oluyemi or Adeleke. He continued to look from one to the other. Finally he moved toward the smaller camp, the speaker’s camp. It was now 18 to 14.
The historic Parliament Building which foundation was laid in 1955 by Sir John Rankine and which was opened in February 1956 by Her Majesty the Queen erupted! Adeleke was being urged to push the imposter from the seat. “I am the Speaker” He bellowed. Oluyemi, who was holding tightly to both the chair and the table, responded: “I am in the majority”. Parliamentary decorum was thrown to the winds. The hallowed chambers became a circus. Chairs were being used freely as weapons of mass destruction. Traders in Dugbe market would have been proud of the bedlam.
Oluyemi realized that Adeleke and his group, though smaller in number, were not ready to concede either the seat or the title of the speaker to him. He made a sign to his supporters. They all made their way out of the chambers. Cars and buses appeared as if on cue. They trooped in and the convoy moved off at speed.
Civil servants heard the commotion going on in the House. They all abandoned their offices and came out to witness the drama. They scampered out of the way as the vehicles carrying the legislators sped out of the State Secretariat. “Where are they going?” A young man asked the elderly man beside him. The old man, who appeared to be a visitor to the seat of power, shook his head. “I don’t know. That was the same question I asked when I was your age when I witnessed a similar incident in 1962!”
If the young man had asked Onigegewura, I would have told him that I knew where the 18 parliamentarians were going.
They moved to Ozemire Hall in the popular D’Rovans Hotel along Ring Road. They quickly arranged themselves. At exactly 12.30pm, Hon. Taiwo Oluyemi from Ibarapa Constituency was led into the hall by the sergeant at arms. The first thing they did was to appoint the former Deputy Speaker as the Acting Speaker. That done, the newly inaugurated speaker proclaimed the Hotel hall as the new Chambers of Oyo State Legislature.
Oluyemi, the acting Speaker, informed his colleagues that as lawmakers, things must be done according to the law. He told them that a parliament must have a clerk to record proceedings. He therefore appointed Babatunde Eesuola from Atiba Constituency as the new Clerk of the House.
By now, popular politicians in the State had begun to arrive at the makeshift chambers. They were duly recognized by the new speaker. It was apparent that something was going to happen. And it soon happened. A motion was moved to serve a notice of impeachment on the Governor, Alhaji Rashidi Ladoja, for alleged gross misconduct. The motion was not opposed.
Back at the Parliament Building, the 14 lawmakers were also not idle. At 2.30pm, the assistant sergeant at arms (I hope you remember that the substantive sergeant at arms had followed Oluyemi’s group) led in the Speaker. Following the parliamentary ‘coup’ staged by Oluyemi, the House declared his position vacant. Hon. Titilola Ademola Dauda was elected as the new Deputy Speaker.
Like in 1962, when Ibadan (and the Western Region) had two Premiers, Ibadan (and Oyo State) in 2005 had two Houses of Assembly; one in the Parliament Building in the Secretariat, the other in the Ozemire Hall in D’Rovans Hotel. And like in 1962, that singular act would set in motion a chain of events that even the principal actors could not have foreseen.
|Alhaji Lamidi Ariyibi Adedibu|
Alhaji Lamidi Ariyibi Adedibu, the [then] Ekarun Olubadan of Ibadanland was the undisputed king as well as the kingmaker of Oyo State politics. His word was the law. Many years earlier, Yusuf Olatunji, the legendary doyen of sakara music had recognized the immense influence of Alaafin Molete when he described him as idameji Ibadan ti won n pe ni enikan [one man that was half of Ibadan]. In effect, Baba L’Egba meant that if you divided Ibadan into two halves, everybody and institution in Ibadan would form one half, the generalissimo of politics would constitute the other half! That was Lamidi Adedibu! The Lion of Ibadan! The Emperor of Molete.
Anyone supported by Lamidi Adedibu was certain of becoming the eventual winner. It was therefore not a surprise when Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja, the [then] Bada Olubadan emerged as the 15th Governor of Oyo State in 2003. He was nominated and anointed for the position by the strongman himself. He was not the only one nominated. Alaafin Molete also nominated the Deputy Governor. That was not all. Two of his nominees won as the Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He single handedly nominated most of the 32 members of the House of Assembly and all of the 351 councilors in the State. They all won.
However things soon fell apart when it was apparent that Ladoja was not ready to run a puppet government.
The first crack appeared when it was time to appoint cabinet members and members of boards of governing councils of government corporations. Adedibu had expected Ladoja to ask him for nominees. The governor however had a different idea.
Oyo State was a member of Oodua Group of Companies, owned by the governments of Oyo, Ondo, Osun, Ekiti and Ogun States. The practice was to rotate the chairmanship of the conglomerate among member states. It was the turn of Oyo State to nominate the chairman at the material time. Loyal party members angling for the plum position had submitted their CVs to the Ekaarun Olubadan. It was over the radio that Adedibu heard that Ladoja had appointed Karimu Latunji as the Chairman! Adedibu knew it must be a mistake. He summoned the governor. Ladoja confirmed that his nominee was very competent for the job.
The next position was the Chairman of the Governing Council of Ladoke Akintola University. Adedibu did not wait this time around for the Governor to make any announcement. Ina esisi kii jooni lemeji. [A clever person does not make the same mistake twice] He went with his nominee to Agodi to meet with the Governor. “Your Excellency, this is the Chairman of LAUTECH!” He was shocked when His Excellency informed him that one Adegbite had been appointed. Adegbite from where? From Agbeni or Oke Ado?
It was becoming clear that Ladoja was getting too big for his shoes. Bi o ti le wu ki alagbaro ga to, eni ti o gbe oko fun loga e [No matter how tall the labourer is, the owner of the farm who employs him is his boss]. Ladoja was the labourer. Adedibu was the owner of the farm. Loyal party members who had expected to recoup their political investment from the governor also began to grumble. Nothing was forthcoming from the state treasury.
If the issue had been limited to political appointments, perhaps it could have been tolerable. However, the Governor was also not making financial returns to his chief investor and promoter. According to Adedibu: “Ladoja was too greedy. He was collecting N65 million as security vote every month. You know that governors don’t account for security votes. He was to give me N15 million of that every month. He reneged. Later, it was reduced to N10 million, yet he did not give me. That was why I disowned him…”
It was decided that Ladoja must go. The legislators were all summoned to Molete. The meeting had only one agenda. Rashidi Ladoja must be impeached. There was only one small challenge. Not all the parliamentarians were convinced that the governor should be removed. A parliamentarian informed Baba Adedibu that under the Constitution, two-third majority was required. Baba retorted sharply: “Majority is majority. Go and do your job!”
Let us follow Onigegewura back to D’Rovans Hotel. The chieftains present congratulated Oluyemi, the ‘acting speaker’, for the successful motion of the notice to impeach the governor. The next question was how to serve the governor with the notice of alleged gross misconduct. Someone suggested that service could be effected through newspaper publication. It was a brilliant idea that everyone accepted.
The people of Oyo State woke up on December 14 to see the advertorial in The Tribune. The paper became the hottest commodity in the city of Ibadan. Vendors began to use the paper to sell other newspapers. For you to buy Tribune, you must buy two other newspapers. By 10am, no single copy of The Tribune could be found anywhere.
The notice itself was a two-paragraph letter addressed to the Governor. It reads:
“I hereby write to convey to you the receipt of enclosed Notice of Impeachment from the Majority Members of the House of Assembly.
The said Notice is hereby forwarded to you for your reaction in compliance with section 188(2)(a) and (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.”
It was signed “Taiwo Oluyemi Adewale, Deputy Speaker Oyo State House of Assembly”.
Abraham Adeleke was one of the first sets of people in Ibadan to read The Tribune on December 14. He saw the notice published at the instance of Oyo State Legislature and signed by his Deputy who had been removed. He immediately got across to his colleagues [the Ladoja Parliamentarians]. It was decided that a counter notice be issued. The Disclaimer was published the following day. The notice urged the governor “to ignore and discountenance the said Notice and publication” on the ground that Adeleke as the authentic Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly had “not given or consented to the issuance of any Notice…”
Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja knew that he had called so-n-so, and he must see so-n-so. He had dared the godfather and he must be prepared to pay the price. He called his lawyer to find out whether he could be removed as the governor of the state. His counsel was Yusuf Olaolu Alli, a brilliant Senior Advocate who was popularly called Mallam. Alli was called to the Bar in 1983 and became a Senior Advocate fourteen years later in 1997. Alli read the provisions of section 188 of the Constitution carefully. It was a very long provision containing 584 words. Alli read every word.
|Yusuf Alli SAN|
Mallam Alli found out that whilst one-third of the members was required to sign notice of allegation against the governor, two-third of the members was required to support the motion for removal. There were 32 members in the House. 18 members were in support of removing the governor, 14 members were against. Alli found that pro-Adedibu 18 was not up to the required 2/3. The governor did his arithmetic. He agreed with his lawyer. He was happy.
It was as if the pro-Adedibu lawmakers were privy to the legal advice issued by the governor’s counsel. They came out with a public notice where they informed the members of the public that the membership of the House was no longer 32 but 25! According to the publication, 7 pro-Ladoja members had been suspended. I know you are already working out what two-third of 25 is!
The Ladoja Parliamentarians were shocked by this publication which they knew was done to circumvent the provision of section 188. They came out with their own publication where they informed the good people of Oyo State that five pro-Adedibu lawmakers, including their acting speaker, Hon. Oluyemi Taiwo Adewale, had been suspended from further parliamentary activities. With the publication, Team Adedibu had technically been reduced to 13!
On Thursday, December 22, the two factions converged at the Parliament Building [not the one at D’Rovans Hotel]. In a twinkle of an eye, the State Secretariat had become a theatre of war. Fierce fighting erupted between supporters of the two factions. In the battle, gunshots could be heard all over the secretariat. The seat of government was enveloped with smoke of tear gas. Civil servants fled in all directions. No one waited ‘to be directed by a superior officer’ as was the norm in public service before fleeing. Eni ori yo, o di ile!
|Oyo State Secretariat|
The younger ones did not hesitate before scaling the fence surrounding the secretariat. The elderly and the women ran in the direction of the swamp behind the Revenue House. Shouts of “I will not die in the name of Jesus! I will survive this in sha Allah” could be heard as the public servants ducked from the flying bullets.
At the end of the day, charms, expended gun bullets, and vandalized furniture littered the entire compound. When it was all over, government put the value of properties destroyed at N450 million.
It was after the fracas which had lasted for more than five hours died down that Team Adedibu managed to gain control of the House of Assembly. Ijafara l’ewu [Delay is dangerous]. A motion was quickly moved to call on the acting Chief Judge to set up a panel to investigate the allegations against the governor. The motion was not opposed. The proceeding lasted less than 45 minutes.
Hon. Adeleke and his colleagues in Ladoja Team were alarmed at this turn of events. They did two things simultaneously. They wrote the Chief Judge of Oyo State informing His Lordship that there was no sitting of the House on December 22 and that the House did not move any motion to request His Lordship to set up any panel.
They also briefed Chief Adeniyi Akintola, a Senior Advocate who was worth his weight in pure gold. Since his call to Bar in 1986 Akintola had left no one in doubt that he was destined for the top of the legal profession. He was brilliant and dedicated. He reviewed the facts of the case and like Mallam Alli, he also came to the conclusion that Adedibu Legislators as constituted could not validly remove the governor. His clients were happy. They asked him to proceed to court.
|Niyi Akintola SAN|
Akintola was in court very early the following morning. The case was assigned to my Lord, Hon. Justice John Olagoke Ige. Akintola made powerful submissions before His Lordship. At the end of the day, he succeeded in moving the court to grant an order that status quo be maintained by all the parties. The substantive matter was adjourned to December 28. Ladoja Legislators had gained a reprieve, even if temporary.
In the papers he filed in court, Akintola challenged the actions of Adedibu Legislators as being unconstitutional, null and void. The actions being challenged include: the purported sitting at D’Rovans Hotel, Ring Road Ibadan; the service of notice of allegation of gross misconducts on Ladoja through a newspaper; and the purported motion passed by the lawmakers calling for the investigation of allegation of misconduct, amongst others.
The Adedibu parliamentarians were promptly served with the court processes. Upon being served [and this is very important, please pay attention], they did not file a memorandum of appearance. They also did not file a counter-affidavit to the affidavit in support of originating summons. [An affidavit is a statement of fact. To oppose the facts, you must file a counter-affidavit.]. Rather, they reacted by filing a notice of preliminary objection. The effect of this was to challenge the jurisdiction of the court. In a layman’s language, they argued that the court had no jurisdiction to hear the case. [Please note that this case was between Adedibu Legislators and Ladoja Parliamentarians. Ladoja was not a party to this case, at this stage.]
Adewolu Ladoja, the man at the centre of the crisis, was not sitting down comfortably in the Government House. He directed his counsel, Mallam Alli, to proceed to the court to challenge his impending impeachment. Alli, in his characteristic diligent manner, did not stop there. He also filed a motion for injunction to restrain the 18-member faction from proceeding with the impeachment plan. The case was adjourned to January 13 for hearing.
On December 28, Chief Akintola, Senior Advocate led the legal team that appeared for Hon. Adeleke and Co. Messrs. Lekan Latinwo and Michael Lana led the team that appeared for Hon. Taiwo Oluyemi and his group in the Pro-Adedibu camp. Akintola put up spirited argument on why the court ought to hear the case. Messrs Latinwo and Lana maintained their position that the court had no jurisdiction to even consider the case.
The city of Ibadan waited with bated breath for the decision of the court. From Molete to Moniya, from Agodi to Apata Ganga, from Egbeda to Elekuro, there was no other matter being discussed. In all buses and offices, it was the case of the century that was being discussed.
His Lordship knew that time was of the essence, Hon. Justice Ige was therefore determined to hear and determine the case that day. No adjournment would be granted. After copious submissions by counsel, the ruling was finally ready by 5pm.
There was tight security around the court as His Lordship began to deliver the ruling of the court.. Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu was waiting in his Molete Palace. Governor Ladoja was close to his phones in the Governor’s Lodge. Everyone waited tensely to hear what the court was going to decide.
In a considered judgment, His Lordship held that the court was inclined to agree with the position canvassed on behalf of Adedibu Legislators. According to the court: “When the House of Assembly is exercising its constitutional powers in relation to impeachment proceedings or any matter relating thereto, it is performing a quasi judicial function….It is clear beyond argument that the jurisdiction of this court is clearly ousted. Impeachment and related proceedings are purely political matters over which this court cannot intervene.” Case dismissed!
In other words, the court had no jurisdiction. Ladoja should accept his fate!
That was the end of Round One. Adedibu Parliamentarians 1: Ladoja Legislators 0!
Another case was quickly filed by Team Ladoja. They were represented again by Chief Akintola. This time around, the acting Chief Judge was made a party to the suit. They sought an order to restrain the Chief Judge from constituting an investigative panel. The case was adjourned to January 20. In order words, the two cases [Ladoja’s case filed by Yusuf Alli, SAN and the Pro Ladoja Legislators’ case filed by Niyi Akintola, SAN] were adjourned to January 13 and 20 respectively. If only the experienced advocates knew what was about to happen…
On January 4, 2006, His Lordship, the acting Chief Judge, went ahead and inaugurated the panel to investigate the alleged acts of gross misconducts against Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja, the governor of Oyo State.
The panel sat for two days. The panel did not take oral evidence from the governor or from anybody for that matter. On January 12, 2006 - a day before Ladoja’s case was scheduled to come up for hearing - the panel submitted its report to the Adedibu Parliamentarians. The report was quickly considered and in a proceeding which lasted less than 30 minutes, the 18 members summarily passed a resolution impeaching the High Chief of Ibadan, Alhaji Senator Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja as the governor of the State.
“E kare, eyin omo Akin! Oke Ibadan yoo gbeyin! Be e lomokunrin n se!” Lamidi Adedibu was reported to have congratulated Hon. Taiwo Oluyemi and his 17 colleagues for the successful operation conducted with military alacrity and political precision.
That was the end of Round Two: Adedibu Legislators 2: Ladoja Parliamentarians 0!
Ladoja knew that he was up against a formidable opponent. Okuta meji ni baba ekuro [Two stones are the bane of palm kernel]. Lamidi Adedibu was the kingmaker and the king remover. He had installed and removed Ladoja as the Governor. But Ladoja was not about to go down without a fight.
I hope you recall that the case just decided was between the two factions of the parliament of Oyo State. Ladoja was not a party to this case before Hon. Justice Ige as Onigegewura told you earlier.
Naturally, Honourable Abraham Adeleke and his team were not happy with the decision of the court. Ladoja was also not pleased either. Adeleke and his deputy, Titilayo Ademola Dauda, who were the plaintiffs before Justice Ige decided to appeal the decision. It was at the Court of Appeal that Ladoja was joined as ‘party interested’.
At the Court of Appeal, a glittering galaxy of brilliant advocates represented the parties. The Ladoja Parliamentarians were represented by a formidable team led by 5 Senior Advocates. Chief Wole Olanipekun who had become a legal institution led the team. He was assisted by an erudite Professor of Law, Taiwo Osipitan; the senior Advocate who would later become a Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu was also in the team; Kola Awodein, a counsel noted for his forensic skill as a litigator and the cerebral Adeniyi Akintola were amongst the other Senior lawyers in the team.
|Wole Olanipekun SAN|
Mallam Yusuf Alli led another crop of seasoned courtroom war veterans which include F. Fashanu, a Senior Advocate, T. Okusokan and K. K. Eleja. They appeared for the impeached Governor Ladoja who had been joined as the party interested. After all, a kii fari lehin olori [You don’t shave someone’s hairs in his absence].
The victorious party at the trial court, the Adedibu Legislators, were represented by the Oyo State Leader of the Bar, Michael Lana, who was the Attorney General. He was ably assisted by two Senior Advocates whose mastery of advocacy was never in doubt, Messrs Ayanlaja and Lateef Fagbemi.
The counsel for the parties demonstrated why they were all conferred with the prestigious title of Senior Advocate. Each team represented its client to the best of its ability. Wole Olanipekun was reeling out legal authorities with the ease of a professional magician. Yusuf Alli was mentioning one case after another as if he was reciting from the Quran. Mr. Ayanlaja matched his silk brothers authority for authority.
The Court of Appeal listened carefully to the submissions of all the counsel. In its judgment, the Court of Appeal disagreed with the High Court of Oyo State that it had no jurisdiction. The Court held that the High Court indeed had jurisdiction and that the trial court should have gone ahead to hear the case of the pro-Ladoja Parliamentarians.
Now, the Court of Appeal did something. What? Wait for it. I hope you remember that Onigegewura had told you that pro-Adedibu legislators filed only a notice of preliminary objection without filing a counter-affidavit [statement of facts to oppose what is contained in an affidavit].
So what did the Court of Appeal do? Instead of returning the case to the High Court to be retried, the appellate court decided to try the case in order to save time. Yes, the Court of Appeal has this power. Every lawyer knows about section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act. Since the Adedibu Legislators had no counter-affidavit, the Court held that the facts filed by Ladoja Parliamentarians were uncontested and were therefore admitted by the Adedibu Legislators.
According to the Court: “No factional meeting of any members of a State House of Assembly can amount to a constitutional meeting of the whole House of Assembly as envisaged and provided for by the Constitution. There was no counter affidavit before the lower Court to prove that any member of the House of Assembly of Oyo State was suspended or that the plaintiffs/appellants were removed as Speaker and Deputy Speaker…It follows therefore that all the steps taken by the faction of the defendants/respondents purporting to initiate impeachment of Senator Ladoja as the Governor of Oyo State were not actions of the Oyo State House of Assembly.”
In a nutshell, the Court held that Ladoja was never removed as the Governor!
That was the end of Round 3! Ladoja had won!
The decision of the Court of Appeal on November 1, 2006 – 9 months after Ladoja was impeached – threw the palace and the camp of Alaafin Molete into turmoil. I hope you know that Ladoja’s erstwhile Deputy, Christopher Alao-Akala, had been sworn in as the Governor of Oyo State. Baba Adedibu’s Personal Assistant, Hazeem Gbolarumi, had been appointed as the new Deputy Governor.
With the new development, Alao-Akala became one of the few people in the world who would hold office as a substantive Deputy Governor, Governor, and back to Deputy Governor, all in the course of a single year!
Afowo fonna kii duro ro ejó [someone holding burning ember doesn’t wait to chat]. Adedibu Legislators didn’t have the luxury of time. The game had changed, courtesy of the Judiciary. They flew to Abuja to file an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division.
At the apex court, a total of 22 counsel, inclusive of 1 Attorney General, 4 Senior Advocates, 1 Professor of Law, appeared for Adedibu Legislators. 20 counsel, including 5 senior Advocates, 1 professor of Law, two gentlemen who soon became senior advocates, and a gentleman who is a serving Minister in the Buhari Administration, represented Ladoja Parliamentarians. For the Governor himself, His Excellency was led by 16 senior counsel of whom 3 were Senior Advocates [one of them became Attorney General of the Federation later]. The Oyo State House of Assembly was also represented. Four counsel appeared for the parliament. It was indeed a landmark case!
The first thing the Supreme Court discovered was as shocking as it was elementary. If I ask you what took the parties to the court, what would your answer be? Impeachment of Ladoja? Yes, I knew that’s what you were going to say. The final Court in Nigeria read through section 188 of the Constitution and discovered that there was no mention of the word ‘impeachment’ in the section! You have learnt something new, abi?
Let’s move on [Don’t worry, I am getting to the end of the story]…
Justice Niki Tobi read the judgment of the Court. His Lordship found that the pro-Adedibu lawmakers, in their haste to remove Ladoja from office, contravened the provisions of section 188 on at least six different occasions. These include: holding of the meeting of parliament in D’Rovans Hotel; absence and non-service of constitutional notice of allegation against the governor; failure to obtain two-thirds majority; and non-involvement of the Speaker.
The Court held that a House of Assembly must be a physical building provided for that purpose. I hope you remember the case of Akintola v. Adegbenro as narrated by Onigegewura in the story of Two Premiers and a Governor. The Supreme Court cited the case on this point.
The Court agreed with the Court of Appeal that to return the case to the High Court to enable Adedibu Group to file their counter-affidavit would amount to a waste of time. The Court found that the group was so “miserly in the way they approached the court in this matter… All their strategy was to delay the proceedings till May 29, 2007 to make the judgment of this court barren or useless… what type of cleverness is that? What type of smartness is that? What type of trick is that?”
The Supreme Court therefore held that Senator Rashidi Ladoja was illegally removed by the Adedibu Legislators. According to the apex court: “Senator Ladoja remains the legally, constitutionally and democratically elected Governor of Oyo State.”
For the second and final time, Ladoja had won! It was a decisive victory! It was a victory for democracy and rule of law.
What happened when Ladoja got back to the Government House in Ibadan? What was Baba Adedibu’s reaction to the Supreme Court judgment? What happened to the State Attorney General who argued against Ladoja? What happened to Ladoja’s Deputy who became the Governor?
Ha! That’s another story….
I thank you very warmly for reading the story to the end.
History Does Not Forget
The right of Olanrewaju Onigegewura© to be identified as the author of stories published on this blog has been asserted by him in accordance with the copyright laws.