‘Direct Primary Gives the People a Better Deal’
Dr. Ajibola Basiru, candidate of the All Progressives Congress for Osun Central Senatorial District seat considers his aspiration as a bid to strengthen Nigeria’s laws, Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes
In many Nigerian states we have governors who are leaving office to become senators. Right now, 22 out of the 109 senators are former governors. Is this a good development?
I don’t come from the same senatorial district as my governor. The governor comes from Osun East and I come from central senatorial district. My governor is a progressive to the core. He believes that it is not part of the tradition of progressives to leave governorship to the senate. That is usually more of the conservative ideas of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) extraction of our polity. The governor has a lot of roles that he will play by the grace of God in our government after he must have left office. He need not go to the senate.
You are the state Attorney General, what areas of legislation will you pay attention to in the senate?
You need to find out essentially what the functions and responsibilities of the legislator at a national level, particularly the senate level are. One, is law making activities; second is oversight function and then also the power of appropriation. These are the topical areas I will look out for. In terms of law making, I believe that with my experience in governance places a serious role on me in the area of law reform and also to work with other federal legislators to ensure that our laws are in line with modern realities, particularly in the area of public finance management and also in terms of social protection programmes in government. With the experience of somebody who was in charge of policy coordination and law reform in Osun State, for the first term of the Governor Aregbesola government and now as Attorney General, I believe that I’m well informed and experienced to discharge responsibilities in the senate to take critical look at our laws, consider their continuous relevance and make necessary reforms where it is necessary and also to articulate the position of our own tendencies in politics which is as to restructuring Nigeria in a way that will bring about the devolution of powers and ensuring that human beings are the focus of any administration. That I will pursue vigorously if I’m given the mandate in that regard. In terms of oversight function, it is very critical that the experience I have garnered as part of the executive will also assist in areas where oversight function needs to be exercised in a functional way that will ensure that the nation’s resources are used in a way that will give optimal performance and results for the people. In terms of the third aspect which has to do with appropriation, I will ensure to the best of my ability to collaborate with the leadership of National Assembly in ensuring that we are able to attract good projects, collaborating with the legislature both at the state and national level as Osun Central Senatorial District. I don’t believe that the jobs of legislators is essentially to perform the roles of an executive but even when there is separation of powers there must be collaboration and cooperation between the executive and legislative arms in ensuring that projects that are beneficial and will uplift the people and ensure primary purpose of governance as stated in section 41(not sure) of the constitution which is that security and welfare of the people should be paramount role of the government are put in place in exercise of the functions of legislators in National Assembly both in terms of lawmaking, oversight and exercise of power of appropriation.
This 8th National Assembly seems to be the most challenged in terms of relationship with the state executive. What do you think the issue is?
Of course everybody knows the issue. Rather than focus after politics, they should pay attention to governance. But when you mix governance and politics,that is the end result of what you see in the National Assembly, particularly the Senate. You see a situation whereby people are saddled with the leadership of an important arm of government decide to look at everything, take decisions and make plans only from the paradigm of political benefit that they will derive now and in the future, that is the genesis of the crisis. Of course it has taught our party a lesson that ultimately we cannot leave decisions as to who heads and who are the officials of such important organ to just personal ambition. It must be something that is articulated and built upon party supremacy to ensure that the ideals and vision of the party are put in such places. What we have in the senate is like this senate is peopled by an opposition party which is really not the case. There is really no cooperation, no synergy and no proper articulation of decisions in a way that ensures that the programmes and vision of our leader, Muhammadu Buhari is actualised. You have situations whereby the leadership of the National Assembly, particularly the Senate sees it as a platform to strengthen opposition, weaken the party and pave way for those who are in the leadership. We know that by the grace of God, the Nigerian people will give mandates to many members of our party the All Progressives Congress (APC) and ensure that we have a leadership that is in sync and believe clearly the programmes and policies of President Buhari and the APC, in transforming Nigeria and ensuring that governance makes meaning to our people and that power is not just held for power sake but for the purpose of accomplishing humanness and greatness of our people.
Who occupies the office you seek now?
The incumbent Senator is Professor Shola Adeyeye. He has done very well in the two terms that he has been in the Senate and he is a voice we are very proud of in the senate. My aspiration is based on understanding. He is not contesting again. The coast is clear and I believe with my ideological orientation, I seriously believe that he will be a big supporter of my ambition.
Supposing you have a situation where the other two senators are not from APC, how do you hope to work with them?
As I said, there are two stages in this process. There is a stage of politics and that of governance. At the stage of governance we have to promote the interest of our people and energise democratic processes. We have to collaborate in a way that the principles and ideologies of our parties will not be compromised. The battle has been won and lost at the election, we can’t still take it to the level of governance. I’m very optimistic that the three senatorial seats in Osun will go to the APC.
How do you hope to manage the fallout from the primaries where some very notable names in the APC left the party because they couldn’t get the governorship ticket, will that affect the chances of the APC not just in the governorship election but in the general election as well?
I don’t see it affecting the fortune of our party, to a very large extent and that is not meant to say we do not appreciate the effort of the ones that left the party but they are best left to take the decision that they have. But it will really affect the fortune of the party because the exit of these few individuals came at the twilight of our administration and came as a fact that notwithstanding their adoption of a more democratic process to pick candidate of our party through direct primaries, some people felt they ought to have been picked and, of course, that will be undemocratic if you have come to a primaries through direct primaries and the party members have spoken. Secondly it is also that the opposition party as it were has now been broken into three political parties. You now have them in PDP, Social Democratic Party (SDP), and African Democratic Congress (ADC). In previous elections all of them were PDP elements. When they were together in their strength, they were unable to defeat our party. I will tell you that with all sense of responsibility that the people that left the party were too negligible. Initially, there was a claim that there were 6000 executives have left the party but we had a meeting, only 21 ward chairmen left the party. We have 332 ward chairmen so what percentage of that left the party? When it comes to the issue of aspirants, we have more than 17 or so that collected forms, I think only two of them left the party, one of them said that he has gone to court to nullify the primary. We don’t know if he is going to stay in the party or not. As far as I’m concerned, the strength of our party is the masses not in big names. We will continue to focus on mobilising the masses of people and galvanising them towards sustenance and continuity. If you go round the state, you will discover that the only political party organising meetings, grassroots discussions is our party, APC. The electorates will play a very significant role and with the adoption of the direct primary by which close to 180, 000 votes came out for party members. We just need to put more effort, to get the electorates to win the election. For me, it is part of the process when electioneering comes to decamp, thinking that you will get a better deal in another political party. Ultimately, it is about the people, the desire of the people and the agenda of the party that will determine who to choose.
Is the APC likely to adopt the direct primary everywhere else in the country?
The issue of direct or indirect primary is clearly stipulated I think in section 87 of the electoral act that a political party may pick its nominee either by direct or indirect primary. The truth is that of the two, the leadership of our party in Osun believes that direct primary has an advantage over indirect primary. There is no system that is perfect. It’s a question of relative advantage. So the advantage of direct primary is that it allows every member of the party to have a say as to who will fly the flag of that party. Secondly, it energises the party members ahead of the elections. Then thirdly, it addresses the question of vote buying and imposition. It is strange that people who complain about imposition by incumbent governors are the same people that complain about the direct primary because from what we have seen, the crisis in Ondo primary election and in other places is that indirect primary is susceptible to being corrupted because you already have an identified delegate. Even the system of indirect primary adopted by the APC using executives is also faulty, the fault being that the mandate of those executives might be given at another time without contemplation of the election. Anybody should know that when majority through direct primary are picking people, it is far more democratic than when few people are selecting because it is susceptible to manipulation either financially or otherwise without casting aspersions on any member of the leadership or executives of our party. The question of controversy arising from it is that every system adopted is not perfect. The issue should have been, was the process transparent, open and was everybody given opportunity to participate in the process? Tous, the answer is in the affirmative.
What if you don’t get the ticket?
Politics to me is not a do-or-die affair. I have come out to the people of Osun central. I have travelled to consult with the leadership and party members in all the 10 local governments. I believe I will receive positive endorsement. Ultimately, if I don’t secure the ticket, which I doubt, I will still continue to be within the party, I will still continue to work for the growth of the party and I know definitely that I will continue to be relevant within the context of the party. I know I have campaigned very well. I am still going to campaign very well to ensure that members of the party pick me as the flag bearer in Osun central.