Hon Agboola’s Suspension: An act of legislative rascality – Atunwa

The arbitrary suspension of Honourable Agboola, the PDP Member for Ilorin South Constituency, by the Kwara State House of Assembly is nothing short of lawlessness and legislative rascality.

I make these comments in two capacities. Firstly, as an experienced legislator, having been Speaker of the 7th Assembly of the Kwara State House of Assembly and a Member of the House of Representatives. Secondly, as a seasoned legal practitioner.

The purported suspension is repugnant to all known democratic, legislative and legal norms. It is alleged that Hon. Agboola incited the public against the Governor in a radio interview. I have listened to recording of the radio interview and I find that no reasonable person of sound mind will come to the patently absurd conclusion reached by the Speaker and his members. Nothing said by Hon. Agboola was in violation of any code of conduct, libellous or criminal.

In a democratic setting such as ours, freedom of speech is sacrosanct. It is only limited at the point where the speech amounts to an offence or infringes the rights of another. An opposition member has a right, and indeed a duty, to criticise the ruling government where he believes they are wrong. Criticising a governor is part and parcel of the terrain of political opposition.

In legislative practice and procedure, the action woefully fails to meet the procedural standards. In what appears to be a unilateral decision, the Speaker announced the suspension of Hon. Agboola without following the rules of the House. If a member of the House is accused of infringing the law or breaching standards or code of conduct, the matter must first be referred to the House Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Judiciary.

The Rules of the House are quite clear. The Speaker has no power to suspend any member. That decision can only be taken by a majority of the members of the House in plenary after due process.

The action is also odious to legal precepts. Anyone accused of any such violation must first be afforded a fair hearing before any punishment is meted out. It is the principle of natural justice to hear the other party. In this case, the House has put the cart before the horse: punishment before hearing.

It is well known that during the 7th Assembly, a member was suspended for violation of House rules and parliamentary standard in that he made false allegations against me in print. I immediately referred his allegations to the Ethics committee. It was thoroughly investigated and found to be completely false. Indeed, I appeared before the committee in their committee room.

I recused myself and did not preside over the report or be part of its consideration. After that, I made a complaint of my own against that member to the Ethics Committee for making the false accusations. Whilst my complaint was being investigated, the member enjoyed all the full rights and privileges of a member. It was only after their investigation and report that the House unanimously voted in plenary for his suspension. That is the proper procedure.

Sadly, the Speaker has allowed his Governor to subjugate the legislature to become a lawless instrument of oppression.

In the 7th Assembly of KWHA, I had two opposition members. Hon. Oyeleke and Hon. Olayonu. Contrary to what they anticipated, I allowed them to be very vibrant and vocal members both in plenary and in committees. They voiced their criticisms freely to their hearts’ content. When they realised that their contributions were making the resolutions and legislation of the House much better, they tactically reduced their criticisms. Subsequently, they took the political decision to join our party and they remain staunch members till today.

It is manifestly clear that this rash and underhanded action by the Speaker must have hidden motives. Perhaps, in their usual characteristic manner, they wish to get rid of Hon. Agboola in order to pave way for introducing and passing all sorts of noxious and repulsive motions and Bills.

It is most unfortunate that the Speaker and his members are dancing to the whims and caprices of a Governor who is himself a novice in the art of governance and unable to withstand constructive criticism. No wonder he is described by his fellow party members as a “one-chance” governor. As the saying goes, if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.

Rt. Hon. Razak Atunwa
Kwara PDP Gubernatorial Candidate (2019) 14 July 2021

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