As the 9th Ondo State House of Assembly is set for inauguration on Monday, the race for the speaker of the house has become keener with high-powered lobbying at the government and party levels.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) won overwhelming majority of seats in the bloody May 9 elections and will be producing the leadership of the house for the first time through a rancour-free process.
The party has 23 of the 26 members of the house. The PDP parades two members, while the Zenith Labour Party has one.
Since the PDP lost the governorship election in 2016, the APC had swelled its number in the house and leadership changes had been rancorous. The last effort to change the leadership through an impeachment met with stiff opposition and was violently quelled with the instrument of state.
However, the battle for the speakership is a straight fight between the incumbent, Bamidele Oleyelogun, representing Ifedore constituency, and Sunday Olajide, who represents Akure South constituency-2. Both are returning and ranking members of the house from the central senatorial district to which the seat has been zoned by the ruling party.
The state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, is from the Northern Zone and the deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, hails from the southern senatorial district. The consensus that the speaker should emerge from the central zone has made it easier for the management of any possible crisis.
Although officials of the state government denied that Mr Akeredolu had any interest in who becomes the speaker, PREMIUM TIMES can report that the state government prefers Mr Oleyelogun to continue in the role due to his “loyalty” since he became speaker.
In spite of that posture, pressures from Akure community are mounting for Mr Olajide to take the seat.
The argument in favour of Mr Olajide is that the capital, which is the largest voting bloc in the state, should be honoured with the speakership slot.
Indigenes of Akure under the aegis of Akure Rebirth Group (ARG), have argued that the state capital has not had its fair share in the political configuration of the state despite its ever-increasing population and voting strength at every election.
The group’s coordinator, Fanibuyan Olamide, while stating the position of the group, said since the return to democracy in 1999, Akure had been clamouring for fair treatment in the sharing of major political positions both at the federal and state levels.
“There is no need to play an ethnic card but to come to terms with realities and qualities of what it deserves,” he said.
“It is expedient to state that the entire Akure community is resolute in her bid to support Hon. Sunday Olajide to clinch the position of the speaker which is zoned to the central senatorial district
“The Akure community recognises the selection of a speaker as an exclusive business of the Honourable members which should be devoid of any external interference.”
Despite the arguments in his favour, Mr Olajide’s bid may suffer a setback because the Secretary to the State Government, Ifedayo Abegunde, is an indigene of Akure, weakening the argument that Akure had not been fairly treated in the share of political power in the state.
Mr Olamide has argued that the SSG was an appointee of the governor and not an elected officeholder, which would not affect the balance of power among the three senatorial zones.
“It is however imperative for the community to call the attention of the Honourable members to what is just, equitable, fair and of good quality, which will further enhance and prompt good representation and a purpose-driven Assembly,” he said.
On the other hand, a group known as Ondo Central Youth Vanguard from the six local government areas in the central senatorial district, is backing Mr Oleyelogun to continue as Speaker.
The group’s coordinator, Biodun Adejuwon, had noted that examining the performance of Mr Oloyelogun in the last two years as speaker, he had surpassed his predecessors and deserved to be the speaker for another term,
“Oleyelogun is a servant leader, humble, loyal and a patriot to the core. Oleyelogun leadership is selfless service to the people and Ondo state people need to appreciate a life of service,” said Mr Adejuwon.
“Oleyelogun should continue to support Arakurin Akeredolu in his mission to turn Ondo state into a business hub.”
Mr Oloyelogun is also receiving backing from another group, The Ondo Concerned Citizens, which passed a vote of confidence in him and endorsed him to continue as speaker of the house.
“He (Oleyelogun) deserves the endorsement of all APC leadership in Ondo state in order to move the state forward geometrically,” said Clement Akeroro, President of the group.
“Since Oleyelogun assumed the mantle of the assembly leadership, he subscribes to the principle of separation of powers as it was advocated by John Locke and propagated by Montesquieu in 17th century.”
Besides these contenders, Samuel Aderoboye, from Odigbo constituency-2 and the incumbent Deputy Speaker, Iroju Ogundeji, have both shown interest in the race.
Although their candidatures have not been well promoted, it is the fears of keen watchers that since the governor, who singlehandedly ensured their election, would be interested in who will work for his second term bid, it would be too early to underrate anyone.
It was gathered that the governor’s second term bid and the factor of loyalty would be strong determining factors in who becomes the next speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly.
Speaking on the contest for the coveted office, the state chapter of the APC says it is only interested in ensuring that the speakership is retained in the Central Senatorial District.
Alex Kalejaye, the Publicity Secretary of the party, told PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday, that with the party’s comfortable majority in the house, there would not be any problem getting the needed leadership at the house.
“The APC is not interested in any particular candidate, but it is interested in ensuring that the Central Senatorial Zone produces the speaker, while the deputy will come from the southern zone,” he said.
“We are still discussing and we are sure that before the inauguration tomorrow, we will come up with something.”
Commissioner for Information, Yemi Olowolabi, also denied that Mr Akeredolu was interested in any particular candidate.
“The governor is a lawyer and he believes in the separation of powers,” Mr Olowolabi said,
“He will not interfere in who becomes the speaker. He will tomorrow(Monday) inaugurate the assembly and that is all he would do and nothing more.”