Hon. Oluwole Oke, a Peoples Democratic Party member, represents Obokun/Oriade federal constituency of Osun State in the House of Representatives. He is chairman of the House Committee on Public Procurement. In this interview with Damilola Oyedele, Oke calls for sanctions against Hon. Jibrin Abdulmumini, the man behind the on-going budget padding controversy in the green chamber. Excerpts:
On his opinion on the on-going budget padding saga involving, principally, Speaker Yakubu Dogara and the former chairman of the Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Abdulmumini Jibrin?
It is a very sad development in the history of the Nigerian legislature. It is a very strange word: budget padding, it does not exist in our laws, in our constitution, in our penal or criminal codes. The crafters of our constitution have never mentioned such word as padding. Somebody has called it forgery; I know forgery exists as an offence in our criminal codes and penal codes. But the purpose of any constituency giving its mandate to its representative to represent them in parliament is actually because of the budget bill. The budget bill is what attracts development to our areas, constituencies, and senatorial districts. Lobbying, relating with people, furnishing energy to attract projects to constituencies should not be criminalised.
I do not know what Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin wants to achieve, but considering the whole drama, I would wish to tell Mr. President, the security agencies and intelligence community that they should be worried about the activities of Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin. It has a lot of security implications. What the lawmaker is doing is to put the legislature and the executive at loggerheads, put our democracy asunder. The Mr. President, in line with the provisions of our constitution, sends the budget estimate to the parliament, and the parliament sits on it, and sends it back to Mr. President for his assent and it becomes law. Assuming we all concede that there are projects that have been tampered with, the president has a lot of gateways, he has a lot of tools to manage the budget, he can ask for amendment. For somebody to wake up after appending his (Abdulmumini) signature to the budget, and later say there is padding or insertion, that is just busy body!
On what should be done to Jibrin
The All Progressives Congress government should sanction him because he has painted the government of President Muhammad Buhari in bad light. Hon Abdulmumin Jibrin has christened the APC-led government as a corrupt government because virtually everybody he has mentioned so far, with the exception of my own leader, Hon. Leo Ogor, is a member of the APC. The party has all the mechanisms to address the issues he has raised and the legislature also has its own rules.
Honestly, I am totally disappointed and I am not proud of Abdulmumin Jibrin being a part of the parliament, with his level of education, a PhD holder, roaming the streets and talking about issues that do not exist. At worst, if he is aggrieved, he should have approached the court of law; he can challenge the processes if he wants. But to label every member of the parliament as corrupt is uncalled for. I am not corrupt, I am standing very, very straight, not bending, I can be seen. I am supporting Speaker Dogara, I’m supporting the Deputy Speaker, Hon Lasun Yusuf, I’m supporting the Minority Leader, Hon Leo Ogor, who is a member of my own party on this matter.
On the constituency project controversy
In the past, between 2003 and 2007, I had had cause to attract federal government projects to my constituency, Obokun/ Oriade federal constituency in Osun State. Would you call that padding? The Nigeria Air Force Safety Training sited in Ipetu-Ijesha, would you call it budget padding because I influenced the siting in my area? I did not even know the contractors that executed it, as I have no business with them.
The president had all that it would take to manage the budget. If there is a project that has been inserted, that has been captured in the budget act and Mr. President is not pleased with the project, Mr. President has tools to manage such scenarios. Mr. President can return the budget to the parliament for amendment.
At any rate, Dogara, Lasun Yusuf, Ogor, Doguwa and others mentioned have no access to the treasury. All the projects captured in the budget, either by constituency, by name, by zonal intervention, are all going to be implemented by the executive arm of government. They have the procurement procedures as gateways to arrest any project they do not want. So the on-going dramas are mere distractions and like I have said, the security agencies should watch Abdulmumin Jibrin, he is out for mischief.
On his reaction to concerns that some external forces may be behind the whole drama
That is my worry, and that the activities of Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin constitute a very high security risk, which security agencies should investigate. What he is doing has the capability to put our democracy in trouble. We all understand and believe in the separation of powers, but he is out to cause confusion in the entire polity by knocking the heads of the executive, judiciary and parliament together.
On whether Jibrin ever raised any of the issues he is complaining about now during your executive sessions
As far as we are concerned, all these allegations by Abdulmumin Jibrin are not known to the House. One, we are not in session and, secondly, he has not tabled any petition against any member of the House or raised them in the House. So legislatively Abdulmumin Jibrin’s position is not known to the House. When we resume, he has the window to ventilate his views, he can, by way of point of order, put his position on notice, or do so by way of motion on notice.
But all the blackmailing, the distraction, the allegations against the institution of the House of Representatives and all the un-parliamentary language will be addressed when we resume.
On whether some members are collecting signatures to demand the removal of all the principal officers of the House over the budget saga
That cannot happen. I can give you the statistics of the position of the House. In the North-east caucus, Dogara has 98 per cent support, in North-central, he has 99 per cent support, while in North-west, he has 95 per cent support. In South-south he has 100 per cent support, in South-east he has 100 per cent support, and in South-west, he has 75 per cent support. So which signatures are they collecting? We are 360 in the House, and I put it to you, 310 members are behind Dogara, that I know. I do not know of the remaining 50, but at least, by my own records, I have 310 members that met, who are fully for Dogara. There may be pockets of members who are disgruntled, who are not happy, maybe because of the speakership election, but as I speak to you, nothing can shake Dogara’s leadership.
On the suspicion in some quarters that there may be a plot to sack the principal officers and replace them with persons who conform to the ruling APC’s original arrangement for the leadership of the lower chamber.
I think the House has moved forward, we have put that behind us, we have moved passed that scenario. You have seen Gbajabiamila’s position on the issue, so we have moved forward. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila is happy with the role he is playing in the leadership; we have moved forward, nobody is talking about that.
On why the House has not reconvened to resolve the budget issue
This is holiday period; we have families, we have children, most members have planned their programmes, they have travelled with their children. Most members are busy in their various constituencies. We have a number of days we should sit in the parliament. So we cannot reconvene the House because of this misnomer, because of an issue that does not exist. Abdulmumin Jibrin should not be gratified or accorded any respect on this matter. I have listened to him, I have seen his submissions, I do not see any truth in all his allegations and nothing has happened. As I said, all these things on television, radio and the papers are not known to us as a parliament; there is nothing before us to discuss.
On whether the budget issue has any connection with the rumoured plot to impeach the president
Anybody who is thinking of impeaching President Muhammadu Buhari must be insane. Nobody has discussed such issue, there is nothing like that. We are in the state of economic quagmire, we are trying to get out of it, and it has not crossed anybody’s mind. That is why I said that the security agencies must find out what Abdulmumin Jibrin is up to.
On what he would suggest as a way out of the scandal
We as lawmakers in the parliament are guided by our House rules and there are procedures for managing these scenarios.
On the leadership crisis in PDP
It is all politics. Now you hear of Makarfi, you hear of Sheriff, at the appropriate time you would see that in the party, we are one. In a big party like PDP, this kind of struggle for power is expected, so it would be resolved.
On the position of the PDP national leadership on the factionalisation of the party in Osun State
The truth of the matter is that we had congress twice, and a candidate emerged as chairman of the party. I think what is on the table now is that the chairman, Hon. Soji Adagunodo, is trying to accommodate the other party and he is doing that. Osun State, in particular, is leadership driven, we know ourselves. I can give you a scenario as an example. Sen. Iyiola Omisore is from Ife- East; nobody in Ife East would think or dream of contesting the national delegate with him. I am from Obokun/Oriade, nobody among us would think of competing with Prince Ade Fadahunsi when it comes to the national delegate. In Ilesha West, except for the fact that Chief Ebenezer Babatope is an automatic national delegate, being a member of the BoT, there are other leaders there like Remi Olowu that nobody would want to start thinking about competition with. So we know ourselves.
Is it in Oshogbo Local Government Area that someone would want to compete with Dr. Olu Alabi, who is our first gubernatorial candidate and a BoT member? Osun PDP is leadership driven, so I do not see any crisis. The few issues here and there, we are brothers and we need ourselves.
When we were together, we contested for gubernatorial election in 2014 and we failed; is it by going our separate ways that we would win election in 2019? So we all need to come together, we all need ourselves; PDP in Osun is one family.