In the last three months, the House of Representatives has been battling with the 2012 budget implementation and 2013 budget proposals. Its engagement with the executive almost took the shape of a war but Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Justice Hon Chukwuemeke Nwogbo tells Onwuka Nzeshi that the House was not fighting but guiding Jonathan to write his name in gold
The House has passed the 2013 budget but there have been speculations that most of the battles the lawmakers fought over the budget bordered on some selfish interests and the desire to settle scores with the Presidency. What is your view on this speculation?
It is unfortunate when people think like this about the legislature. You know, the legislature because you have been here for some time now, but some hold negative views about us they have little knowledge about the real functions of the legislature. The legislature is made up of eminent and accomplished individual in their own rights and these people were elected by the people at the grassroots.
It is easy to elect the President, a man who you don’t really know, but you hear about, but it is more difficult to elect a man that you see everyday. As a legislator, a lot of thing come to bear. The people have to assess you and even determine whether you are accessible or not before you get their votes.
So usually, these are men of integrity who have their loyalty fixed on the communities and constituencies. In other words, when you write them off with a wave of the hand like that, it is unfortunate and spells doom for the polity. When you dismiss your lawmakers that way,
It means that there are no men of integrity in the National Assembly,but I beg to differ.
There is this perception that the 7th House of Representatives is always standing like an opposition to the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. Is this the true position?
You see, that is the problem with perceptions; they do not always convey the truth. We are trying to make the President see, smell the coffee and wake up to his responsibilities.
We are not fighting him, we can not even fight him because we are a government. There are three arms of the same government and it would be wrong to say we are fighting the President. We do not want history to judge this government as corrupt. We do not want posterity to regard this government as one bereft of ideas; we do not want posterity to judge this government as not been responsible and responsive to the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians.
What we are doing is trying to ensure that we work towards the emancipation of our people and our country so that together we can put down our names in history as a parliament that tried and succeeded in making our society a better place.
Some say the real reason why you are always at loggerheads with the executive is that you are angry at the executive over non-implementation of the outcome of your numerous probes and the scandals some of your men ran into in the process. Is that the true picture?
It is only an a irresponsible country that leaves the main thieves and goes for the man who was called a thief by a thief. It is wrong for a country to lose sight of the ball. We must always have our eyes on the ball and stop chasing shadows. I know people are always referring to the travails of Hon. Farouk Lawan and Hon. Herman Hembe both of whom conducted investigations on behalf of the House and later ran into some troubles.
I think we must be careful not to draw hasty conclusions, because sometimes these things do not happen the way people think. What we must be sure of is that there are people who have devoted their time to making this country better and living indelible foot print on the sands of time.
What is your assessment of the Standing Committees of the 7th House of Representatives? Don’t you think there is need to reshuffle these committees given the lapses in some of them?
Well, you see, all things are evolving and the process of selecting committees is not what you can sit at home and make all the right decisions.
The truth is that you may pick people and some of them could disappoint you and you will also have people who will also live up to expectations. However, the dynamism in all of this is that we have a process; anyone that is found wanting the leadership of the House can step him down. The process of serving in the committees is also a process of learning. You should also understand that Some of the people you think might not be doing well may not actually have held such position of trust before.
In any case, we expect the leadership to make all the right decisions in the terms of committee leadership. I must tell you that most of the committees have actually done well.
A few may have been found wanting but I am sure that on the overall the judgment is that the House has done well.
You are from the South-east and that is a region that has suffered in terms of development. Do you think that your presence here has made a difference to the perceived marginalisation of the region?
I think that the South-east has suffered a lot of persecution in Nigeria. We are still suffering persecution and whoever says that the war is over is lying, because when you go to our roads, you will see the horror that we call roads.
I think that as Nigerians we should be telling ourselves the truth.
There is nothing that destroys a country like injustice. The South-east is made up of very peculiar set of human beings given to surviving in spite of all odds.
I think the Nigerian nation is not structured for the service of its people and it appears that there is a structure on ground to make sure that some people don’t rise beyond a certain level. I think the nation needs to actually address certain issues especially that of fairness and balance.
How do you think we can address this imbalance?
First of all, we need to crave for that which is truthful and that will reflect the true nature of our democracy.
Secondly, when it comes to sharing the national cake, we must begin to place merit ahead of sentiment. This is the only way we can harness the best of our best as a people.
Some political analysts say that the South-east has not done itself any good going by the way the political elite have played their politics since the rebirth of democracy in 1999?
Well, we have entered into a lot of alliances that did not work for us. But I tell you, we are a republican people and that probably explains some of the things you see in our politics. If you look at our history, you will understand why we can not be doing the same thing every time and expect to get different results. Honestly speaking, I do not want to blame our leaders for anything but I will rather advocate that we need to work hard as a people to reshape our politics.