THERE is a cold war going on in the Lagos House of Assembly over who succeeds Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji as the next Speaker of the assembly.
The cold war is between 24 members of the Assembly who have won their tickets to contest for their seats and party leaders who they suspected are trying to impose a particular candidate on them as the next Speaker.
The rumour in political circle for sometime now is that the next Speaker of the Assembly is coming from Lagos Central Senatorial district since the governor and the deputy governor are from Lagos East Senatorial district and Lagos West Senatorial district respectively.
The rumour went further to say that Hon. Wasiu Eshinlokun Sanni, the immediate past Chairman of Lagos Island Local Government Council and the equally immediate past General Secretary of the party (APC) in Lagos State, who won the Lagos Island Constituency 01 seat in the primary election is most likely to be the next Speaker of the Assembly.
Not a few took the rumour lightly. The high ranking members of the Assembly did not hide their feelings on the rumour of Hon. Wasiu Eshinlokun Sanni, a one-term member of the 4th session of the assembly between 1999 and 2003 coming back in 2015 to become the next Speaker. The vocal ones among them voiced their opposition openly to such a move.
To them, it is unfair, against natural justice and tradition of the Assembly for a ‘stranger’ to become their speaker. They argued such a move will not augur well for the peaceful cohesion that the legislative arm of the government has enjoyed for more than a decade now.
They also argued that it is also unfair for the leadership of the party not to allow Hon. Hakeem Agboola Masha, who presently occupies the Lagos Island Constituency 01, that Hon. Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni is about to take over, to return for second term.
While the argument was going forth and back on the propriety of Hon. Eshinlokun-Sanni taking over from Hon. Agboola Masha, another issue cropped up.
Hon. Eshinlokun-Sanni’s name got missing from the INEC list of candidates that will be contesting for Lagos House of Assembly on the platform of APC. His name was submitted by the Lagos chapter of the APC, because he emerged winner at the primary election by 186 votes to that of Masha who polled 91 votes. To the chagrin of Hon. Eshinlokun-Sanni and his supporters, it was his first runner-up’s name in the primary election Hon. Hakeem Agboola Masha that was displayed by INEC at their Yaba, Lagos office, as the APC candidate for Lagos Island Constituency 01.
How did it happen? ENCOMIUM Weekly gathered that, Hon. Hakeem Agboola Masha, wrote a petition to the party both at the state and national level to the effect that Hon. Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni, was one of the party leaders that signed his nomination form and as such he was not qualified to contest the same seat with him. He was also said to have raised it in his petition that the party’s law stipulates that any party official who wants to contest any political office must resign his appointment 30 days before the primary election.
He pointed out that Hon. Eshinlokun-Sanni only resigned his appointment 17 days before the primary election. Based on this petition, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party was alleged to have disqualified Hon. Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni and replaced him with Hon. Hakeem Agboola Masha.
But Hon. Eshinlokun-Sanni and his supporters would not believe this. They believed a powerful person within the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party in Abuja, who has interest in one of the members gunning for the speakership of the Lagos House of Assembly, was responsible for the removal of his name from the INEC list and replaced it with that of Hon. Hakeem Agboola Masha.
This was why he decided to take the party and INEC to court.
In the suit filed by Sanni’s lawyer, Wahab Shittu, he wants the court to determine whether upon a proper construction and interpretation of Sections 33, 34, 35, 36 and 37 of the Electoral Act 2010, the respondents (APC and INEC) were lawfully entitled to substitute his name with the name of Masha, having won the majority lawful votes in the primary conducted by the party.
The suit which was filed at the Federal High Court, Lagos is also asking the court to declare that INEC and APC are not lawfully entitled to substitute his name, having been declared the winner of the election organized by the party and also having satisfied all statutory requirements culminating in the submission of his name to INEC.
Femi Falana (SAN), who represented one of the respondents, APC, asked the court to dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction and that the action is frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of court process.
When we called Hon. Eshinlokun-Sanni, he said he was not going to say anything for now because the case is in court. He said we should wait till Thursday, February 26, 2015, when the court will give the case substantive hearing.
Hon. Hakeem Agboola Masha did not respond to our call or did he respond to our text message.
But APC, Lagos Assistant Publicity Secretary, Mr. Abiodun Salami said the issue was an error and it would be corrected.
“It was an error. It was not a deliberate thing. It was addressed at the stakeholders meeting yesterday (Wednesday, February 18, 2015). The issue was one of the principal things that was addressed at the stakeholder meeting.
“It is a family thing we will resolve it. It was an error. It was an error either on the side of the party or INEC. Somebody has taken responsibility. It will be corrected.”
It is ironical that even when the elections has not been conducted people are already struggling for positions. Among those interested in the Speakership of the Lagos House of Assembly are, Hon. Kolawole Taiwo, the deputy speaker and the longest serving member of the Assembly; Hon. Funmi Tejuosho, the former deputy speaker and the highest ranking female member of the Assembly; Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, another high ranking member; Hon. Moshood Oshun, Hon. Rotimi Abiru and Hon. Gbolahan O. Yishawu are other members of the Assembly that are also said to be eyeing the speaker seat.
– TOLANI ABATTI