Chairman of the Oyo State chapter of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria, ALGON, Prince Abass Alesinloye, has revealed how he and his colleagues had sent emissaries to book an appointment with Governor Seyi Makinde hours before they were sacked.
Makinde, OYO INSIGHT recalls, had sacked the council chairmen, few hours after he was inaugurated.
Alesinloye, who spoke in a recent interview with The Nation over the crisis, explained that it was unfortunate that the situation arose.
According to him, “ALGON Oyo State, of course, should be in good working relationship with the governor of the state, Engineer Seyi Makinde. And that is the hand of fellowship that we extended to him. That is what we did immediately he came in. As chairmen, first and foremost, to welcome him and congratulate him, placing a newspaper advert to welcome him. We went even as far as sending emissaries to book an appointment with him for an official congratulatory visit. Unfortunately and sadly on that day, and very uncommon, the governor in less than two hours that he was sworn-in, just came out through his Chief of Staff to pronounce democratically elected institutions, local government councils, dissolved.”
Asked if there was any attempt to visit him before May 29, he said that “No, we did not, we only sent a message. Like I told you, it’s in two folds – one is to congratulate him in the newspapers, the other is to pay him a courtesy visit to congratulate him.
“But that could be interpreted to mean in a way that you were trying to curry his favour to retain you in office or try to make sure he works with you.
“Which one would you have preferred? If we did not go, people will wonder why local government chairmen chose not to congratulate a new governor or pay him courtesy visit or official visit. Now we went, you’re saying it’s probably that we wanted to curry his favour. Whichever way you look at it, we believed it was important and civil for us to welcome him.
“There’s no way a governor will come without you recognising him. Whether you want to work together or not, he is your boss and you must give him that recognition and that is what we were doing. It’s not for us, for anybody. Of course, if we had been on the caretaker platform, he has every right to say I am not working with you but even that caretaker platform during the time of Senator Abiola Ajimobi, he met some people who had three months tenure or so, and he came when their tenure remained about one month to end. He didn’t do anything until when they finished that one month. Those were caretaker chairmen. Even as a caretaker, it is the House of Assembly that will give them that tenure of three months and wait till when it’s three months. But in this arrangement, we were democratically elected.”
He also spoke on claims by the government that the election that produced the sacked chairmen was illegal.
“Yes, that was their episode one of the whole drama because we are at about the fifth episode now. That was the first reason they gave. And thank God that we have been following events; we keep documents, things are being documented not even in this age of digital technology where people even if you press your phone, you google it, you will be able to see. You will be able to get that judgment. The judgement he is talking about, that particular judgement was vacated. That injunction that they were talking about… We had election on May 12 and the judgment was vacated on May 10. So they saw that judgement, this is the thing they’ve been hammering upon; it’s illegal, it’s this, it’s that. Even so, we have three tiers of government. We have the executive, legislature and judiciary. It is not for the executive to interpret what the law says. The court has said no executive, whether his agent, House of Assembly, or any executive arm has any right to dissolve, remove or do anything to democratically elected chairmen of local governments and their councilors. So even if they believe so, this is a civil society and a democracy. The normal thing is to approach the court based on the fact they have and give all their reasons and allow the judiciary do the needful. They did not do that. There’s a subsisting judgment, they did not obey that.
“Even in war period, there’s always a roundtable to jaw-jaw. It’s not impossible to put all these to an end. It’s not impossible at all.”
He said that the proposal to appoint caretaker chairmen approved by the House of Assembly is illegal.
“Noooo! That is illegality upon illegality. Go and read that judgement. The House of Assembly, the executive – all of them were restrained in the judgment. You see, we will always come back to square one. This is what he has wanted to do from the very first day he got to office. See where we are today. Until you go back to the basics, you can’t just do illegality and think you can go scot-free. If it had been in the past, one could do that. You remember how Obasanjo as the Head of State or President of Nigeria removed Alemeighseia against court judgement; how he removed Dariye against court injunction; how he helped in removing Senator Ladoja; how Fayose escaped from Ekiti? But that is the kind of government that we were running then. Things have changed. Don’t forget, this is the time of Buhari. See how the poor man, the President of Nigeria’s governing party, won all the elections in Zamfara and the elections were canceled and all the posts given to PDP that never even won the election by court judgement? The man never interfered in that judgement. You can’t even do half of that with Obasanjo. We know what we are talking about. So, if things are changing for better, if we’re having this in Nigerian democracy, we can’t have this kind of situation. Come on, why will you now come back to a state like Oyo for that matter like a military man and say all the local governments are dissolved? There’s need to do a kind of reflection on how these people got to their position. How did they even get there? Whether you say Kangaroo judgment, Kangaroo election, arrangee… Whatever form you think, the appellation they bear is executive chairmen, they are not caretaker chairmen. So, thinking of that alone, whatever reason you have, you cannot be a judge in your own case. You cannot just say because of my position, I can do and undo.”
Alesinloye said that he and his colleagues are ready to continue to continue the court case.
“Oh, as long as the legal actions can take us. We are on with it; we are doing all the needful and we will continue to respect the court judgment. And I’m telling you this; nobody is interested in being in office by force. If today, we have a judgment that says you were not democratically elected or the election was faulty, or you can’t be there, or vacate that office… Oh my God, I’m assuring you, I will lead by example, and I’m assuring you that no chairman will stay any longer. But this is a court that has given judgment that you are not respecting. Now you are going back to that court. You said you will not go back to appeal; now they have gone to appeal and we are waiting for them there. So for us, we will always abide by the rule of law, whatever comes out of court, that’s where we stay. If they have lawyers, they need to interpret to them what that judgment says. And again this has brought me to so many other things that happened afterwards.”