‘Nigeria is Paying the Price for Building National Institutions’

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Domingo Obende

Adibe Emenyonu discusses with Senator Domingo Obende the fundamental concern in some quarters that the Edo State House of Assembly may become a rubber stamp and the prospects for a better economy during President Muhammadu Buhari’s second tenure

Why do you think the pattern of voting changed in Edo State between the state assembly polls and the National Assembly/Presidential elections?

We give all the glory to God because there are lots of people who probably worked harder than us and they did not get even one or two seats. Having given glory to God, we will also look at the leadership structure of the state, vis-a-vis the governor himself, Mr. Godwin Obaseki and Oshiomhole who is also providing backup leadership.

I believe that because of the collaboration and sensitivity attached to the feelings of people, we have done well. Doing well has to do with the fact that the governor is delivering on his promises. If people naturally do not want to vote for APC for one reason or other, either because of the performance of Godwin Obaseki or because of Adams Oshiomhole and a few people like us that are in the party, that is another thing all together. We have personal relationship with the people, so people will obviously want to vote us and that is why I can say that the party is doing well because of the leadership structure.

There are fears that the Edo State House of Assembly, which is dominated by one party, may become a rubber stamp. What is you take?

We have one body and in this body, there are a lot of components, for instance, the tongue and the teeth. They exist in the same environment yet they fight themselves every time. It is either the teeth is biting the tongue or the tongue is wagging at the teeth.

There is usually a legislative tension whether it is one or three houses or many political parties. The moment the tension starts, then it becomes an issue of deliverables. Now, I have been voted in and what I am going to show to my people. Then you now see the tension building up but for what I think we are doing, and the strategy Obaseki has put in place, it might be practically impossible for the house to be divided against themselves.

Looking at the issues that came up during the presidential election, like snatching of ballot, people were not even deterred by the presidential order to shoot ballot box snatchers on sight.  

There is a price to pay when you are building national institution. I call it institutional strengthening. It is not something you give an instruction and immediately you get an answer. People are naturally ballot box snatchers.

It will take a long time for it to get out of their blood. Some just carry the ballot papers, go and thumbprint, but if you check, the rate is minimal now.

Many have lost their lives. Assuming such instruction was not there, only God knows what would have played out. I think it is part of the institutional strengthening. I believe that as we go on, things will take shape.

Ahead of next year governorship election, what do you think your party, the APC should do?

I think addressing community challenges, individual complains and reaching out to so many people by way of engaging them will solve the problem and that is why I am happy.

We have almost a year to go before the election and we have a lot of job to do. The leadership of APC in Edo State will obviously do the job.

Yes we have 24 over 24. It is a reflection of the will of the people but like what you said, working against ourselves, that is where the challenge is but I think that will be resolved.

As a former member of the National Assembly, how do you think the incoming senators and members of the House of Representatives should conduct themselves, considering the crises that trailed the selection of the leadership of the national assembly in the past?

One thing I am grateful for is that majority of them that are going back, served in the 7th assembly and they saw the collaboration and the peace that existed and how the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan then could navigate a lot of issues without running into crises.

The 8th assembly did not have that benefit. It is an experience to them that when the legislature is not together, it becomes practically impossible for government to run smoothly. Secondly, it is difficult for the legislators themselves to have anything to show in their various constituencies.

My advice is that they should cooperate with the executive so that government can run smoothly, permitting both the executive and the legislative arms to work together in a way that the common people can feel the impact of governance.

One of the challenges of the 8th national assembly was the way the leadership emerged. What modality should be adopted to avert a repeat?

The party does not need to be advised because the people running the party now know what it is for the leadership of the party not to cooperate with the executive but we are all going to work together by the grace of God. Zoning will be done properly and those who do not have business contesting for specific positions will not even apply for it.

Naturally, I do not think the senate presidency was going to be zoned to the central but somebody got it but now if they are doing proper zoning, if it is now going to the central, then other zones do not have to compete with them. I believe that it is going to be fine.

One of the issues Nigerians complained about was economic hardship under President Buhari and now that he has a second term, should Nigerians expect better economic policies?

If you remember his speech, he said that things are going to be tougher. When he used the word things are going to be tougher, it does not mean the economy. He is looking at it that this is the time for us to give our best, being the last lap of this administration.

Obviously, he is going to commit his time to do much more and work harder than he did before. If you are doing much more and harder than what you did before, obviously, there will be respite in the economy and I believe that the people will smile at the end of the day.

Economy is one issue. Government has the responsibility to provide the enabling environment. Our youths and women must be engaged. Skilled men and women must be encouraged and by the time all these things are flowing, no matter how small this money is, the ripple effect will bring some comfort to the people. I believe that Buhari’s second term which is his last lap, is going to witness development.

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Obviously, he is going to commit his time to do much more and work harder than he did before. If you are doing much more and harder than what you did before, obviously, there will be respite in the economy and I believe that the people will smile at the end of the day