Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Doyin Okupe, Monday said he has tremendous respect for the National Assembly and would not in any way look down on the institution.
Okupe made the clarification to correct the misconception in some quarters that he had engaged the leadership of the National Assembly in a war of words over some comments directed at the Presidency.
In his words, “All I am saying is that, I am still knowledgeable, sensible, experienced and have the background that does not allow me to insult the integrity of the National Assembly in any way. But you know, if I disagree or if statement made by the leadership of the National Assembly is against the position of the presidency, it is my duty to clarify it.”
Okupe further said: “What I did was to actually bring to the fore the areas where the Presidency differs from the positions that were expressed individually by the leadership of the National Assembly. I hold the members of the National Assembly, both the Senators and members of the House of Representatives to high esteem.
“These are people that carry the mandate of their respective constituency. I am a politician and I know what it is to be elected. Apart from that, I’m a very experienced and knowledgeable person with a very high pedigree by birth. I do not insult people. I do not insult leadership and definitely I do not insult institutions that have very serious relevance in our establishment.
“My job as the public affairs assistant to the president is to interface between the Presidency and other arms of government and the general public. Where there are misconceptions and misunderstanding, it is my job to explain that. Obviously, when the President went to present the budget speech, it is our opinion and I still stand by that, that was not the place and that was not the function where he should be berated by the leadership of the National Assembly.
“And anybody who watched that programme knows that was what really happened. But I didn’t just stop at that, I then went on further to clarify the issues that were raised.
“We are running a democracy and as long as every Nigerian has the right to free speech. I also expressed the Presidency’s right by reacting. All I did was to pick each subject matter that was raised in the speech of the Senate President and the Speaker and to bring to the fore the position of what we feel as our opinion on the points raised.”
While emphasising that the budget presentation which was done in advance of year 2013 shows a great deviation from the old way of doing things in that regards, he also said that was the first time in the history of the country that a budget has been sent to the National Assembly three months before the end of a preceding year.
He also spoke on the measures taken by the Federal Government to tackle the flood that has ravaged some parts of the country, informing that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in its quest to ensure that the country does not suffer food security challenge, has introduced several measures to cushion the effect.
He pointed out that such measures include provision of flood resistant crops in addition to providing other basic farm inputs.