Still basking in the euphoria of his victory at the primary election of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and hopeful of a to return to the House of Representatives in 2019, Hon. Kolade Victor Akinjo, representing Ilaje/Ese-Odo Federal Constituency of Ondo State in this interview bares his mind on some trending national and state issues in this interview with Olaseni Durojaiye.
As a federal legislator, What’s your take on the recently signed Executive Order 6, recently signed into law by President Muhammadu
I recall that the only time Executive Order was signed was when he was ill and was outside the country. The Vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo signed Executive Order 1,2,3 – as regards tackling the issue of economy, how to register companies and many other things – before he came back from his sick leave.
So his coming with this Executive Order bordering on foreclosure of assets and banning of people travelling abroad until when their corruption cases are exhausted in court, is an order that is going to be fully tested in court. You will recall that it’s been tested in a High court; the High court has ruled that the president has the power to so do. I believe it will advance to court of appeal and eventually advance to Supreme Court but I know that constitutionally no one has the right to foreclose anybody’s right to movement and to own property. You have the right to own property in any part of the country except court of competent jurisdiction says otherwise. I believe a defendant is presumed innocent in any criminal matter except when it is proven. So to rush to the harbour of justice and put the processes in the hands of the executive is wrong. It is only the judiciary that can make an order like that, I believe such an order is reactionary, it is unnecessarily reactive and it is coming from a vineyard that is suffering from trepidation and fears.
Corruption is not something an individual can holistically tackle. You have to deploy rule of law and create institutional mechanism to tackle the issue of corruption so I believe that more than ever before such an order will likely inflict political and socio economic blow on our economy, that is very fragile at the moment.
The court has stopped some people from travelling in this country before now. The court has also adjudicated over some of these criminal matters and some People’s passports had already been withdrawn. Even some that are not related to corruption cannot travel. However, in this same country we have seen a case where the then head of pension agency who left the country came back and dramatically rose to become director in another department. I’m not sure his name is on the watch list.
The Minister of Finance who supposedly forged her NYSC certificate and left the country was not stopped. So what people are saying is that the corruption fight of this administration is targeted at opposition; that in itself has watered down the impact or the pursuit of genuine end to fighting corruption in this country.
It is heartbreaking that a man who ought to have deployed the right institutional mechanism to tackling corruption is beginning to hijack judicial powers and then falling back into almost a state of political anarchy and then colouring it with some kind of dictatorial tendencies. Nigerians who are all products of democracy and who have seen the actions and inactions of military at that time cannot accept that type of Executive Order just like that. The general perception is that the Executive Order 6 is targeted at people who are opposed to this government especially towards 2019 general elections.
Nigerians are surprised to witness the division as a results of primary elections some parties particularly the APC. I’m sure your party the PDP will be watching and hoping to capitalise on this cracks
Who would have expected that the ruling party will find itself in that state, with all the apparatus and paraphernalia of office will conduct itself in such manner? I am not a member of APC and because of some of their undecided cases one may not be able to speak authoritatively about their internal issues but because I’m a democrat and also and someone who takes pain to analyse and read in-between the lines, it is very clear that there is a lot of gap, crises and cracks within the All Progressives Congress.
There is crises everywhere, Ogun, Niger, Zamfara states are all engulfed in crises. Ondo state APC is in political turmoil, some part of Delta too and so on. Lot of cases like that. I am aware that they sat in their rooms and nominated cronies for legislative positions. And I’m also aware that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party did not help matters by saying direct primaries in one state and indirect primaries in the other, so a lot of confusion everywhere. You cannot get out of such disorganised primaries without being hurt.
I’m very sure that another political party like the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) will benefit from the problems in the APC. I’m a member of the PDP and I went through primaries in my constituency, Ilaje/Ese-Odo Federal constituency where I emerged as the candidate of my party. It was transparent; it was a delegate election, an indirect primary where people voted for who they wanted.
Yes, it is their internal problem but there is no way you can extricate or disconnect the general public from the political participation and development or habit in the political party. So by and large, I think it is too early for a party which is just barely three and half years to suffer this sort of political blow as a result of unpreparedness, lack of foresight and lack of right leadership to guide the party. It is very sad. From what I have heard from friends, colleagues and other people what is happening in the APC leaves much to be desired.
Unfortunately, a significant number of your colleagues might not make it to the 9th Assembly as things stand today. Talk us through how you scaled the primary election hurdles of your party?
For me, the major stakeholders in democracy are the people. Like I said in one of my theses, people are the oxygen of democracy, so if you want to oxygenate democracy then you oxygenate the people, if you disconnect yourself from the people for three years when you go write democratic or political exams, because party primary is like political exams then you get your result. The more you stay away or the more you are unable to navigate the people through your philosophies and market your programmes to them, the more problems you will have.
When we say you should not disconnect with the people it does not mean they have to be coming to your house everyday but because you have to connect yourself with the people through progressive programmes. And when you are able to initiate all these programmes and make them own it they will give you a return ticket.
So for us not to return so many legislative members in the National Assembly is what is described as legislative attrition. In some other part of the world, they believe that the level of experience you have in legislative business will add value to the progress and development of the nation and helps to strengthen the principle of Separation of Powers, especially with the legislature. Making laws that are robust, laws that can deliver us from the cocoons and shackles of poverty; and advancing our political trajectories can only come from an experienced legislature.
So it is quite troubling if we have a scenario where 50 to 60 percent of those coming into the parliament are new comers. Ranking membership is not something you can borrow or buy; it is earned. For me, I consider it a democratic responsibility on the part of political parties to ensure that a significant number of their parliamentarians are returned. Going forward, if this will require organising colloquium, town hall meetings for the parliamentarians and then connect the parliamentarians with the people.
Another perspective to it is that non performance on the part of many state governors and local governments has placed so many burdens and pressure on the parliamentarians and the only way to remove that burden is for the party to come in and educate the people regarding what a parliamentarian can do or give to the people.
Using the Zonal Intervention Project Programme for example, the project is being viewed in the constituencies like parliamentarians are responsible for building bridges and construction of roads, health centres and schools; provide scholarships, all of which are absolutely alien to our direct constitutional responsibilities as enshrined in Section 4 of the constitution. We are lawmakers, we are to make laws for the betterment of this nation but now we have moved from that to executive responsibilities and expected to execute projects on behalf of our federal constituencies which of course have placed extra burden on us. This again can affect the returning of members who are unable to meet those kind of expectations.
You once served as a Special Assistant to former President Obasanjo, what were the key take outs from working close to him
I cut my political teeth when I worked as his Special Assistant on Youths and Students Matters in 1999. One thing you cannot take away from former President Olusegun Obasanjo is that he is Nigeria personified. He is an embodiment of every good thing this country is all about. He served this country meritoriously and he is a unifier and a stabilizer, and I believe that he has made sacrifices for this nation. So many of his actions are tailored towards Nigeria of his dreams. Former President Goodluck Jonathan once referred to him as a political oracle; through him you can gauge the political pulse of the nation. He speaks the truth no matter whose ox is gored. You may not absolutely like him but you cannot throw away his message. The messenger may not be loved but his messages cannot be discarded. People like him are very rare in a country that is blighted with so much inadequacies and injustices.
He stood his ground for justice and spoke the truth. He supported this administration to get to power when he felt that President Goodluck Jonathan was not living up to expectations; he has done the same thing with this administration, he has also raised alarm about the competency and efficiency of the current president and before he went into writing this President Buhari I’m sure he has put a lot of things into consideration. One of the things he wrote in a letter to the President we all know that this country is being run on a defective political engine and some of the people running the country were not voted for. In fact the President Buhari is running the country by proxy. The simple presidential media chat that the President ought to use to engage the people was not done and that is because the President can’t sit down to talk about his policies except someone has to write it down for him to read. If you are the initiator, driver and pilot of many programmes of this administration you should be able to speak on those programmes without having to read them. So the action of President Obasanjo is to a reasonable extent very instructive as to the political direction and he is a political compass of this nation and so for me I will always believe and trust his political leadership. And I will continue to drink from his tank of knowledge for a very long time. The nation is blessed to have such an upright leader. According to President Jonathan, you can only ignore President Obasanjo at your own peril.
Talking about connecting with the people and impacting their lives, there hasn’t been power supply to the Southern Senatorial District of Ondo State from the national grid for many years, in what ways are you intervening in that direction?
Darkness is very expensive, add to it poverty is expensively dangerous. It takes an average inhabitant of Ilaje, Ese-Odo, Okitipupa, Irele and some parts of Ore town an average of about N1000 to run on petrol and about N2000 to run on diesel per night. For Ilaje alone it has taken them over 10 years to run this, despite the fact that Ilaje is from the oil producing belt. And then you can imagine the cost spectrum from there to part of Ore.
As a parliamentarian, one cannot keep quiet; we cannot keep quiet in the face of tyranny and injustice. Lack of power is an infrastructural tyranny against our people. And I remember I took the first motion around this and I had written to Minister of Power and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). At some point a meeting was called and we met with Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and they promised to begin the process of restoring electricity to these areas. As we speak today, I’m aware that new lines have been laid especially on the Ilaje side and I believe that the Ese-Odo side will receive new lines because all the lines are outdated and in a bad state. So we are seeing lines being restored and believing that achieving restoration of electricity is closer and soon what is being enjoyed in the north and central senatorial districts of Ondo State will also be enjoyed by the southern senatorial district. Of course, the district that is oil producing and local government that is oil producing in Ondo State which is Ilaje can also be connected to national grid. And when the transmission line that is coming from Omotosho as being installed by Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) is commissioned I believe the problem of electricity will be a thing of the past.