By Chibuike Nwabuko
Abuja (Sundiata Post) – Elder statesman, Edwin Clark has written an open letter to President Bola Tinubu, urging him to invoke the “Doctrine of Necessity” to resolve the Ondo State impasse as has been done before.
Sundiata Post recalls that the South-West statet has been battling a political crisis for months after Governor Rotimi Akeredolu returned from his medical trip. Since he arrived in Nigeria, the governor has been in Ibadan, Oyo State from where he carries out his duty.
His absence has thrown the state into a political quagmire as many question his state of health. But to resolve the impasse, Clark asked Tinubu to follow the same solution used at the national level when ex-President Musa Yar’Adua was away for treatment.
“The ongoing impasse in Ondo State can be likened to what happened when our dear late President, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, was very ill and did not transmit a letter to the National Assembly in accordance with Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution, to enable the then Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to act as president,” he said in a Sunday letter to the Nigerian leader.
According to him, when the crisis deepened, some eminent Nigerians led by a former Head of State General Yakubu Gowon suggested the “Doctrine of Necessity in order to solve the constitutional logjam the nation was facing”.
While the Senate acted on it, Clark is asking Tinubu to follow a similar line, work with all parties to ensure that “the ailing Governor of the State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu should remain in office, while the Deputy Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, retaining his position, should preside over the executive”.
The letter reads in full:
OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT BOLA AHMED TINUBU, GCFR, TO ADOPT THE GEN. YAKUBU GOWON’S EMINENT PERSONS COMMITTEE’S SUGGESTION ON THE DOCTRINE OF NECESSITY TO RESOLVE THE UNFORTUNATE CRISIS IN ONDO STATE AS PRESIDENT OF THE COUNTRY AND AS LEADER OF THE RULING PARTY, THE ALL-PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (APC).
BY CHIEF (DR.) EDWIN KIAGBODO CLARK, OFR, CON
Dear Mr. President,
URGENT NEED TO RESOLVE THE ONDO STATE IMPASSE
“I wish to recall that during the time, the nation was almost grinding to a halt because there was no one administratively in charge of the affairs of the country. Various groups such as the Save Nigeria Group, led by Pastor Tunde Bakare and Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka, socio-cultural organisations, ethnic organisations including some northern groups, the South-Western group led by Bishop Emmanuel Gbonigi, the Ohaneze Ndi-Igbo, etc, rose up to protest in Lagos and Abuja. It was as though the nation was rudderless.
It was at this stage that former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, rose up to the occasion when he summoned a meeting of some persons comprising late President Shehu Shagari, late Interim Head of State, Ernest Shonekan, late Dr. Alex Ekwueme, one time Vice President of the country, three former Chief Justices of Nigeria namely Alfa Belgore, Mohammed Uwais and Idris Legbo Kutigi. Others included Lt. Gen. T. Y. Danjuma, rtd, late Mallam Adamu Ciroma, late Alhaji Ahmed Joda, late Chief Solomon Lar and myself. Prof. Jerry Gana and Senator Jonathan Zwingina served as Secretaries The meeting was held at the ECOWAS Secretariat in Abuja. This group became known as the Eminent persons Group.
At the meeting, Justice Alfa Belgore came up with the idea of Doctrine of Necessity in order to solve the constitutional logjam the nation was facing. He explained to the group what the doctrine means, and we whole heartedly accepted it as the only panacea to the problem. General Yakubu Gowon then delegated a committee of 5 persons led by late President Shehu Shagari because he had an international assignment to attend to outside the country. The delegation submitted the letter containing the suggestion to the NASS and the then Vice President.
The Senate under the leadership of David Mark, as Senate President acted on the suggestion of the eminent persons group and declared Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Acting President under the Doctrine of Necessity on 9th February, 2010. The House of Representatives followed suit by also adopting the Doctrine of Necessity. On 10th February, 2010, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was declared Acting President.
At this time, our dear President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was still at Saudi Arabia receiving medical treatment. On 24th February, 2010, President Yar’Adua was brought back to the country under the cover of darkness, still very ill, and taken to the Villa, unknown to the Acting President. However, while President Yar’Adua was at the Villa “recuperating”, Dr. Jonathan continued to act as the President of the country. Unfortunately, President Yar’Adua could not make it. He died on 5th May, 2010. On 6th May, 2010, Dr. Jonathan was sworn in as President and Commander- In-Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria, in accordance with constitutional provisions.
Today, we are again faced with a Constitutional debacle. First of all, I wish to thank Mr. President for your intervention into the Ondo State crisis, both as President of the country and as leader of your political party, the APC, in the manner you handled the matter. Your Excellency attempted to be fair and just to all parties concerned, viz, the Legislature, the executive, and the entire Ondo people, when at the end of the marathon meeting you held with them, and where everybody bared their mind, you directed that:
All parties should work together;
That the ailing Governor of the State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu should remain in office, while the Deputy Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, retaining his position, should preside over the executive;
That status quo should remain and no member of the Executive should be sacked
That the Deputy Governor should withdraw his case against the Speaker and the members of the State House of Assembly;
That the Legislative arm should also abandon their decision to impeach the Deputy Governor, and should also withdraw all actions they previously took to counter the Deputy Governor’s action in the State capital Akure.
However, what is confusing to some of us, is how the Speaker of the House of Assembly told his members that the Deputy Governor is to sign an unwritten resignation letter, without stating what should give rise or what gave rise to that action. And whether the Speaker has the powers to direct such resignation.
Mr. President I think there is need to act fast because we have seen that despite your good intentions, the crisis is brewing much tension rather than abating. There is a growing agitation for and against each of the parties. I listened to the argument of Barrister Kayode Ajulo, SAN, saying that whatever action that took place at the Villa, was unconstitutional and that there was enough provision in the Constitution to resolve the crisis.
He went further to talk about the inability of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, whom he described as his friend, to perform his duties as Governor of the State whilst recuperating in his personal house in Ibadan, Oyo State. He went further to state that the signature on the memo allegedly sent to Governor Akeredolu was forged, as he said he is very conversant with the Governor’s signature. He in fact suggested that the signature should be subjected to a forensic examination.
I also read on page 6 of Saturday 6th December 2023, Vanguard Newspaper, a report written by the Ondo State Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources to the Deputy Governor of the State titled “Forgery of Mr. Governor’s Signature on official document”, to the Deputy Governor, stating that the Governor Akeredolu’s signature on the document is forged.
He said “I write to bring to your attention a critical matter that requires immediate action. It has been confirmed that the signature of Mr. Governor on a certain document has been forged.
“The irregularities in the signature were first observed when a file from my ministry was returned through the office of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG). This is the only file that has been returned so far out of the five files that were sent for Mr. Governor’s approval about two months ago.”
But the Ondo state Commissioner of Information and Orientation, Mrs. Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, featuring on the Arise television, debunked Barr. Kayode Ajulo, SAN’s claims. She said the Governor’s signature was not forged. She said “Nobody forges the signature of Mr. Governor. As of today, we have to work for the progress of the state. Those mischief makers should desist from doing so”.
The State Attorney General, Mr. Charles Titiloye, speaking in the Punch Newspaper of 5th December, 2023, also stated that the Governor’s signature was not forged, describing the “claims as baseless”.
Like I stated earlier, this matter is building up tension. It is, therefore, my opinion that Mr. President as leader of his ruling APC political party, may want to amend his earlier terms of settlement. And since there is no constitutional provision for such quagmire, because under Section 5 (2) of the Constitution, the State Governments are autonomous and are not subsidiaries of the central government. They are fully in-charge of their State. It is only National Assembly that is empowered to do so under Chapter 1, Part 2, Section 4 Legislative Power which states that:
- The National Assembly shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation or any part thereof with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part 1 of the Second Schedule to this Constitution.
- The power of the National Assembly to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive List shall, save as otherwise provided in this Constitution, be to the exclusion of the Houses of Assembly.
Let me add that beyond any constitutional provision and your leadership of your political party, the APC, it is Your Excellency’s moral obligation as father of the country to use your good office to intervene and resolve all manners of political crisis around the country.
The action of the Ondo State House of Assembly by going to court to prevent the National Assembly from interfering in the matters of the State House of Assembly is also escalating the issues.
Every facet of Ondo State is currently sharply divided; the executive and legislative arms all have people either supporting the Governor or the Deputy Governor.
Finally, Mr. President, I wish to state that we have enough insecurity in the country which has largely stretched our security forces. This is why you must urgently and firmly act in the current situation in Ondo State, under a doctrine of necessity. And if I may add, also in Rivers State, for which I will be addressing a separate letter to you in the next few days.
I will continue to pray for your well being and success.