A major crisis is brewing in the Lagos State House of Assembly as leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state are said to have resolved to stop the current Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, from coming back for a third term.
Obasa has been in the House since 2003 and has been Speaker since June, 2015. He was re-elected in the last general election and had again indicated his interest to contest for the plum job. His ambition, Thepledge has gathered, is however being met with strong opposition by leaders of the APC in the state, some of who are of the opinion that a thorough bred Lagosian should hold the top position this time around.
The leaders, including the head of the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), Chief Tajudeen Olusi were said to have held a meeting after the elections where they concluded that the next Speaker must be an indigene of the state, adding that it has become unacceptable for the top three positions to be held by people who are not ‘indigenes’ of the state.
“Don’t forget that even though Governor Sanwo-Olu is claiming to come from Isale Eko, he’s actually from Ogun State, while it’s a known fact that the deputy, Dr. Hamzat is from the same Ogun State, where his father even became a king”, said a source at the party’s secretariat, who craved anonymity.
It was further gathered that due to the mood within the party and governor’s implicit disapproval of the attitude of Speaker Obasa and hence, his indisposition to his third term bid, this prompted the emergence of Hon. Abiodun Tobun, a state lawmaker who represents Epe Constituency 1 to throw his hat into the ring to challenge Obasa. Tobun, knowing the tough task ahead and the difficulty it would take to defeat the incumbent holder of the position, has started to consult the power blocs within the party and the state.
Thepledge reliably learnt that some of the lawmakers, specifically Gbolahan Yushau, representing Eti-Osa 1 initially showed interest in the race to be the Speaker after the election, but chickened out due to lack of support from his colleagues. Besides, a source in the House told our reporter that the main reason why he could not come out in the open with his ambition was lack of courage to face Obasa. “It was not only because there was no support by lawmakers, it was mainly because Yushau had no balls to challenge the current Speaker. But Tobun is bold and he’s been supported by some senior members of the party in the state and even the governor is said to be supporting his move to challenge Obasa”, the source said.
Even so, the Speaker is said to have many enemies among the members, some of whom have vowed to prevent him from getting a third term. “The man is high handed and he treats the members as his boys. There is no accountability since he took over eight years ago. Even the elevators used by the lawmakers have not been working for more than a year now, it does not bother him. These are some of the reasons why the members are not too disposed to his return”, the source said.
Another hurdle that Obasa will likely face is the governor, who was said to have sponsored some lawmakers during the primaries with a bid to checkmate the return of the speaker for third term. 20 of the lawmakers were said to owe their emergence to the support of the governor and are therefore ready to do the bidding of Sanwo-Olu. The overall leader of the party in the state and the nation’s president, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is said to be neutral in all this, because according to findings, the GAC has been mounting pressure on him to remain neutral on the matter.
Yet another source at the Assembly told Thepledge that: “The Speaker has been sighted in Abuja many times in the past few days to get the support of the President. It’s not clear if he has it for now, but he has the GAC leaders to contend with, some of whom have told him point blank that the game is up.” The source further disclosed that “he even went to the inauguration ceremony of the governor in order to ensure he supports him to become the Speaker. He was supposed to attend the inauguration of President Tinubu in Abuja before but when it’s obvious that the atmosphere is not favourable to him and sensing governor’s opposition to his reelection as Speaker, he stayed behind in Lagos to romance the governor and the GAC members. In a desperate move, Obasa was said to have cajoled the old members, including his challenger, Tobun, to endorse him for another term, but it’s not a done deal because the man is feeling the heat from all quarters.
“When some emissaries of the Speaker went to the GAC members brandishing the signed letter of endorsement, the leader, Baba Olusi was said to have told the lawmakers that they do not have such powers, that the party is the body responsible for such endorsement in the state. Olusi told them that they have decided to look for an indigene of the state to take over from him”.
From all indications, this is a tough time for the speaker and the only thing that can help him to keep his job is the intervention of President Tinubu. Both the staff and lawmakers are looking for a fresh hand to preside over the affairs of the House because of the way and manner Obasa has been treating them. “For instance, the valedictory session was supposed to have taken place last Thursday but could not hold because the lawmakers were not interested. The atmosphere generally is not looking good for the Speaker”, another source said.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker, Ebhomele Eromosele was evasive when we called him to react to the story. He was silent and later dropped the call when he was asked to confirm the crisis.
For now, the die is cast. Tobun appears to be going ahead in his bid to challenge the Speaker and he has the backing of the governor, GAC leaders and some members of the lawmakers. Would President Tinubu intervene to again save Obasa and help him to keep his plum position? Keen observers are watching!