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‘Why Gbajabiamila should be Speaker’

Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, member-elect for Akoko North-East/Akoko North-West Federal Constituency of Ondo State, under the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), is the Chairman, Forum…

Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, member-elect for Akoko North-East/Akoko North-West Federal Constituency of Ondo State, under the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), is the Chairman, Forum of First Time Members of the House of Representatives. In this interview, he speaks on why Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos) should be elected Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives.

 

Currently, about seven members are jostling for the speakership of the House of Representatives. As chairman of the Forum of First Time Members, what is the position of your organization?

Our position as a forum is not different from the position of our party, the APC. I am a party man, and I have the blood of the party running through my veins. The leader of our party, President Muhammadu Buhari, has spoken; the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, has spoken; and the National Working Committee (NWC) has spoken. The entire organs of our party are aligned to the party’s choice, which is Femi Gbajabiamila, as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives. So, we stand on the position of the party.

But some members of your party are ignoring the party’s decision on the anointed candidate. What is your view?

I don’t think their agitations are tenable, and I will tell you why. One, the party had to zone the position based on fairness and equity. It is hypocrisy for one to say the party must zone the position again to the North. That’s the peak of hypocrisy. Having said that, we all know that Nigeria is divided into northern and southern regions. Already, the North has the senate presidency, so it will be fair if the speaker of the House of Representatives goes to the South. If you look at it critically, Mr. President is from the North, while the Vice President is from the South. Likewise, the Chairman of the National Assembly, which is the senate president, has been zoned to the North. The Deputy Chairman of the National Assembly, which is the speaker of the House of Representatives, that has to go to the South for the sake of balance. There should be no marginalization; and I don’t see any contention over the issue.

Part of their disagreement with the party’s arrangement is that ordinarily, the position of the speaker should have been given to the North Central or any other zone apart from the South West that has already produced the vice president. How true is that?

Whenever politics is on ground, we politicians play with figures and statistics too much. The APC has only four members in the entire South East. In the South South, it has just seven members. I think we have about 39 or 49 from the South West.

No doubt that all the contenders for the speakership position are qualified, but even in the animal kingdom where all animals are equal, some are more equal than others. Gbajabiamila is much more qualified by virtue of his leadership experience in the House: the bills, motions and interpersonal relationship with his colleagues.

As a forum, we are happy that the party took the right decision with regard to Gbajabiamila. We are also happy that the party gave us somebody that can be a bridge between the executive and the legislature; not a wall.

Don’t you think that a repeat of the 2015 scenario is imminent, given the way some APC lawmakers in the House are kicking against the party’s decision?

Anybody that thinks that will happen must be dreaming. The indices are not the same. Yes, the two scenarios might be similar, but they are not the same. Now, APC has about 225 members in the House of Representatives while PDP has about 119 members. With the calibre of lawmakers on the platform of APC, I can bet that we don’t have legislators that will rock the boat. We are united in our quest to position the party effectively.

Again, in our forum of first timers, APC has 165, who are united in ensuring that the party’s position prevails. In any developed democracy, the party is always stronger than the government because the party has the manifesto. Government is meant to implement the manifesto of the party. So, the party is in a position to know, from among its members, the best person to implement the manifesto of the party, and thus reposition the country.

So, it’s normal that the party takes centre stage, and in charge of a situation like this, because the party is going to be affected either positively or negatively. For us, I can assure you that we are all loyal party members and even our PDP members will join us, because a lot of them want this government to go to the next level. Many do not want frequent confrontation between the executive and legislature. Many are not happy with delaying budget passage for seven out of 12 months.

As such, I believe that many of our PDP brothers are not aligned with that style. Most of them who genuinely love this country, perhaps more than us, will join us in making sure that Gbajabiamila’s leadership is enthroned for the interests of Nigerians, and above all, for the sake of posterity.

What are you doing to pacify those that are not in line with the party on the choice of Gbajabiamila?

I am not speaking for the party, but I know that we have a very responsive leadership led by our National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. We have confidence in his ability to trouble-shoot. Don’t forget that he is a former labour leader and that crisis management is one of his core areas of competence. I assure you that a lot is ongoing behind the scene. At the end, you will be shocked that we will go into the elections as a united family.

What kind of House are we looking forward to in the 9th Assembly?

An interesting House that will do the right things for the interests of Nigerians, and at the same time, loyal to the people. Above all, we are looking forward to a harmonious relationship with the executive arm of government. To me, you don’t need to be rubber stamped to have a harmonious relationship. The executive should be able to complement the legislative arm, and vice versa. We are talking about separation of powers. But we focus much attention on separation of powers, and then forget the inter-dependency of government. What makes government work is the inter-dependence of the executive, legislature and judiciary. Essentially, this entails the ability to work together. Actually, putting the interest of Nigerians first is what can move Nigeria to the next level.

Furthermore, I am looking at a House that, after four years, would be able to come up with bills, motions and resolutions that will take Nigeria to the next level. We can’t continue to crawl as a country. If we can fly now, at least we should be able to run. Yes, criticism is allowed. The executive can criticize us, we can criticize them, but it has to be constructive criticism. Nigerians are not interested in this petty fighting; they are rather interested in improved standard of living, better economy, jobs, security, among others. That is what the National Assembly should focus on.

Currently, the country is facing serious security challenges. Some people are of the opinion that the Federal Government is not doing enough on this. Do you have any plan to bring this to the House when you are inaugurated?

The Federal Government is trying to address some of the security challenges. But we have to understand that Nigeria is big and diverse. Again, before this government came on board, the security situation had deteriorated so much that we lost some territories to insurgents. The level of crime was at an alarming stage. But now, we have no territory under the control of terrorists, and that is a big plus for this government. Moreover, security is a continuum. We have to keep improving on security everyday because the insurgents are also improving on their methods.

I think our armed forces are doing very well in adapting to the new security challenges. Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement .We can’t say we are there, but as a government, I think we are doing well, and the 9th Assembly will be able to collaborate with the executive to bring innovations, which will give us better security. We can do better, but we are not doing badly at the moment.

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