Fresh crisis in Ondo assembly over alleged refusal by acting speaker to step down

Ondo House of Assembly
Ondo House of Assembly

The two factions of the Ondo State House of Assembly are gearing up for another round of conflict following the alleged refusal of the Acting Speaker, Malachi Coker, to step down to allow the house elect new officers.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that an agreement was reached at a peace meeting with the governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, that erstwhile speaker, Jumoke Akindele, would resign her speakership, following which Mr. Coker would vacate office for a new leadership to be emplaced.

Ms. Akindele, following the agreement, withdrew her suit challenging her impeachment and also resigned her position.

In her letter of resignation, she cited the need for a balance of political power, given that she is from the same southern senatorial district as the deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi.

She also cited the need for peace to return to the house as her reason for resigning.

Issues are, however, degenerating in the peace process as Mr. Coker, also from the southern senatorial district, has allegedly refused to step down from the seat nearly two weeks after the resignation of Ms. Akindele.

PREMIUM TIMES gathered that some members of his group are also disenchanted with the posture of the acting speaker, as concerns abound that he was trying to jeopardise their interest for the top seat.

While the official vehicles and other paraphernalia of office had been taken away from Ms. Akindele immediately after her resignation, they have been taken over by Mr. Coker who is now freely using them.

It was learnt that the Akindele group is feeling betrayed by the governor, on whose advice the speaker resigned based on the understanding that Coker would resign.

Siji Akindiose, a member of the Akindele faction, told PREMIUM TIMES that there was something sinister about the manner Mr. Coker was carrying on the affairs of the house.

“It was the agreement that the speaker should resign, and following that, Coker would step down to allow for a new leadership,” Mr. Akindiose explained.

“But you can see that they are not respecting the governor in this matter, Coker is busy gallivanting around as the speaker, he has even moved from acting speaker to speaker.

“So you can see that the issue is not about N15million fraud, it is about somebody trying to become speaker by all means.”

Mr. Akindiose also noted that there were powers within the Akeredolu government working to destroy the state legislature by undermining its sanctity.

According to him, the development has emboldened Mr. Coker and his supporters in holding on to the office instead of stepping down.

He said although there were rumours that some of the members were planning to defect to the All progressives Congress, APC, he and the other 12 members in the Akindele group were determined to stick with the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, to ensure a virile democratic practice in the state.

The Coker group has, however, formally dismissed the allegations, saying that Mr. Coker had not refused to sept down.

“He will step down very soon,” Iroju Ogundeji, who speaks for the group, declared to PREMIUM TIMES.

“Such a rumour does not exist. It only exists in the imagination of some people. When it is time, Malachi will step down.”

The house has not been able to sit since the crisis began in January, and the government has not been able to present the 2017 budget due to the crisis.

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