With the recent swearing in of the only Peoples Democratic Party member in the Kwara State House of Assembly, Hammed Shittu writes that the party may be rejuvenated to reclaim its pride of place in the state
The race to the 2023 general may have commenced in Kwara state with the recent swearing-in of the only lawmaker of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Hon. Raheem Jimoh Agboola by the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Yakubu Danladi-Salihu.
The lawmaker who has been in legal battle with the state house of assembly for over 14 months now over who will represent Ilorin south state constituency of the state in the house following the Court of Appeal that nullified the election of All Progressives Congress (APC) member in the assembly, Hon.Azeez Elewu got reprieve recently with his being sworn-in as a member of the 9th assembly in the state by the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon.Yakubu Danladi-Salihu
Hon. Agboola’s rejection from being sworn-in despite the appellate court that has affirmed his election according to THISDAY checks might not be unconnected with the power that be in the state to ensure the house was in full control by the members of the APC.
It was learnt that, this move would also prevent the opposition, PDP from knowing the state of affairs of the state which hitherto may likely hinder the political calculations of the next general elections in the state.
Prior to the nullification of Hon. Elewu by the appellate court, the election tribunal in the state had declared that Hon. Agboola was the PDP candidate in the March 9, 2019 elections with a view to representing his Ilorin South Constituency in the State House of Assembly.
When the results were later announced during the period by the Independemt National Electoral Commission, Hon. Agboola’s opponent, Abdulazeez Elewu, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was declared winner and sworn- in as the duly elected representative of Ilorin South Constituency.
Dissatisfied with the INEC result, Agboola and his party, PDP, filed a petition against the election of Hon.Elewu at the State Election Petition Tribunal to challenge INEC’s verdict .
Agboola challenged the election that produced Abdulazeez Elewu of the APC at the tribunal based on the grounds that the APC candidate returned by INEC as the winner of the election was not qualified to contest the said election.
He also faulted the primary election that produced Hon .Elewu as the APC candidate for that poll in the state.
In the judgment delivered by the tribunal and read by Justice Mariya M. Ismaila, the tribunal nullified the election that produced APC candidate, Hon. Elewu.
The tribunal however ordered for fresh election to be conducted by INEC within three months of the judgment.
It also ordered INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return already issued in respect of the said election.
But Hon. Elewu, not satisfied with the tribunal ruling, he approached the Court of Appeal sitting in Ilorin, seeking to upturn the lower court’s ruling.
However, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the PDP candidate, Hon. Agboola and ordered that the PDP candidate should be issued the Certificate of Return.
The appellate court in its ruling then based its ruling on the controversial primary election that produced the APC candidate, Hon. Elewu .
Justice Hamman Barkar Hkawu, of the appellate court in his ruling, said the court’s decision was based on the disputed APC primary which produced one Suleiman Abdulsalam, but was later replaced with Hon. Elewu.
He said: “The court held that the APC had no valid candidate for the election in the area and thereby declared the PDP candidate with the second highest votes as the winner of the poll.”
The appellate court fined Hon. Elewu the sum of N200,000 and was also directed to return all the salaries and allowances he has collected so far.
The court also ordered that Hon. Agboola of the PDP should be admitted and sworn in as the duly elected member of the House, representing the people of Ilorin South.
The state PDP in its reaction then through a statement by its Chairman, Hon. Kola Shittu, hailed the judgment which it described as a timely ruling against legislative impunity in the state house of assembly.
He said that, “It is a huge lesson to politicians, political parties and government agencies to eschew impunity and always conduct themselves in a manner that is in tandem with provisions of the law.”
Despite the appellate court ruling on the issue, the state house of Assembly leadership refused to comply with the ruling and decided not to swear -in PDP candidate, Hon. Agboola.
Even, the PDP lawmaker also filed a contempt of court ruling at the Court of Appeal again so as to make the state house of assemby leadership to obey the ruling of first Courr of Appeal ruling but this also yielded no result. This was filed
since July 2020.
The Court of Appeal ruled that, the house must swear-in the PDP lawmaker.
Inseatd of the ladership of the house to fulfill all righteousness and obey the appellate court ruling, the house again decided to file another suit at the Apex court in Abuja so as to over rule the two rulings of the Courr of Appeal sitting in Ilorin but the Apex court in the country struck out the case for lack of jurisdiction on the issue.
Following this Apex court ruling that affirmed PDP candidate, Hon. Agboola as the duly elected lawmaker for Ilorin south constituency, the supporters and well.wishers of the PDP lawmaker thronged into the state house of Assembly to stage a peaceful protest in May last year but the security agencies at the state house of Assembly prevented the PDP lawmaker and its teeming supporters from getting inside the assembly complex.
Prior to that, Hon. Agboola was issued a Certificate of Return by the INEC in Abuja and asked him to present it to the speaker of the house for his prompt swearing- in but the assembly also failed to recognise this from the PDP lawmaker.
Agboola who spoke with journalists and his teeming supporters called for calm.adding that, the house would do justice to his case.
He said, ” I am appealing to all Kwarans and people of Ilorin South Constituency is for them to exercise patience as we can always use dialogue to resolve things amicably.
Agboola was later invited from the main entrance of the assembly for a meeting with the speaker of the house, said that, “I have presented my certificate of return from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to the Speaker and Clerk of the House during the meeting and promised to look into it in due course.”
Sensing inherent danger ahead of the issue, the former lawmakers in the state house of assembly decided to come into the matter so as to ensure the PDP lawmaker was sworn-in as ruled by the two Court of Appeal and Apex court in the country but this intervention too could not yield positive result.
The forum of former state lawmakers from 1979 to 2019 in a statement issued in Ilorin and made available to journalists said that, the leadership of the house should respect the rule of law and comply with the Apex court ruling on the matter.
The statement added: “The Forum noted that Kwara State House of Assembly is one of few states that enjoy financial autonomy backed by relevant laws and therefore frowned at the flagrant disrespect of the Speaker of KWHA, Rt. Hon. Yakub Danladi to the unanimous judgement of the Court of Appeal delivered by Hon. Justice Uchechukwu Onyemenam (JCA) that Hon. Jimoh Raheem Agboola should be recognised, accepted and inaugurated as the representative of Ilorin South Constituency at the KWHA from November 2019 when INEC issued the Certificate of Return to him.
“The ruling was further upheld by the Supreme Court in a unanimous judgement delivered by Hon. Justice Mary Ukaego Odili (JSC) in November 2020”.
Also, as part of move to ensure its swearing-in as the lawmaker for Ilorin south state constituency, the legal team of the PDP lawmaker decided to place an advertisement on the Appealate court ruling on one of the national newspapers so as to imtimate the members of the public particularly, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and National Judicial Council over the flagrant disobey of the court ruling by the state house of assembly .
The advertisement which was placed on Thursday February 4, 2021 put the state house of assembly, the APC candidate and other stakeholders in a serious tight corner and therefore set a serious danger ahead.
On Monday February 8, 2012, a press statement emanated from the office of the clerk of the Assembly saying that, the house of Assembly has fixed Feb.9 2021 for the swearing-in of the PDP lawmaker .
The statement which was signed by the Clerk of the House, Hajia H.J. Kperogi entitled “Swearing -in for Member-Elect and made available to journalists read, “This is to inform the general public that the Swearing-in for the Member-Elect (Ilorin South) Constituency, Hon. Jimoh Raheem Agboola has been scheduled for Tuesday, 9th February, 2021 in the Kwara State House of Assembly Hallowed Chamber at 10. O’clock in the morning.
“The member-elect and general public are to therefore take note of the date.
“The member-elect is further urged to ensure full compliance with Covid-19 protocol while in attendance”.
However, the 14 months legal battle of the PDP lawmaker, Hon. Agboola was sworn-in on Tuesday Feb. 8, 2021 by the Speaker of the House ,Rt. Hon.Danladi- Salihu at the floor of the house.
Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Danladi -Salihu administered the oath of office and oath of allegiance on the new member.
Danladi, in his remark congratulated the new member and expressed optimism that he would adjust to the legislative business of the House in view of his experience.
“You are already familiar with the task ahead, we say congratulations and welcome on board,” he said.
He described the inauguration of PDP lawmaker, Hon. Agboola as one of the beauties of democracy and described legislative arm as the strongest arm of government in a democracy.
The new lawmaker, while speaking with newsmen after his inauguration, described his triumph as a product of judiciary.
He promised that he will not disappoint the electorate in llorin South constituency for the confidence depose in him.
He was a member of the 4th Assembly from 1999 to 2003, and he replaced Mr AbdulAzeez Elewu who contested the 2019 election under the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The new member was accompanied to his inauguration by some PDP stalwarts led by the state Chairman, Hon. Kola Shittu, relations, friends and well-wishers.
Meanwhile, the PDP in the state has joined other well meaning Nigerians to congratulate Hon. Agboola on his swearing- in as lawmaker representing Ilorin south constituency of the state house of assembly .
Speaking with journalists at the house of Aassembly complex after the Swearing-in of Hon.Agboola, the state PDP chairman, Hon. Kola Shittu who said that,” the action was belated and a slap on democracy. “I have a mixed reaction to the swearing in of our member, Honourable Jimoh Agboola as honourable member of the Kwara State House of Assembly on Tuesday February 9, 2021.
“On the one hand, I feel very happy he was sworn in to take his rightful place in the Assembly. On the other, hand it is saddening that his swearing in was delayed for 14 months after the courts have certified him the winner of that election.
“Failure to swear him in at the right time intentionally by the Speaker is an assault on and indeed an insult to the Nigerian judiciary by him and by extension the APC government in Kwara State.
“This attitude of flagrant disobedience to the various court orders, up to the Supreme Court, is an outright rejection of Rule of Law which is the fundamental of democracy anywhere in the world.”.
By and large, with the swearing-in of the only PDP lawmaker, Hon.Agboola as a member of the state house of assembly in the state, a stage is now set for the political game ahead of 2023 general elections. The PDP is now seeing the new position as a new platform for a w political changer for the immediate past senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki. The development would assist the party to know what is going on in the state and thereby using it to plan ahead of the 2023 elections in the state.
Despite the appellate court ruling on the issue, the state house of Assembly leadership refused to comply with the ruling and decided not to swear -in PDP candidate, Hon. Agboola. Even, the PDP lawmaker also filed a contempt of court ruling at the Court of Appeal again so as to make the state house of assemby leadership to obey the ruling of first Courr of Appeal ruling but this also yielded no result. This was filed since July 2020. The Court of Appeal ruled that, the house must swear-in the PDP lawmaker. Inseatd of the ladership of the house to fulfill all righteousness and obey the appellate court ruling, the house again decided to file another suit at the Apex court in Abuja so as to over rule the two rulings of the Courr of Appeal sitting in Ilorin but the Apex court in the country struck out the case for lack of jurisdiction on the issue