Chairman, Forum of First Time Members of the House of Representatives on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, who is elected to represent Akoko North-east /North-west Federal Constituency of Ondo State, says the best way to avoid chaos and controversies in the choice of principal officers is to stick to the position of the party
Presently, about seven members are jostling for the speakership position of the House representatives. As a Chairman of the Forum of First Time Members, what is the position of your forum?
Our position as a forum is not different from the position of the party. I am a party man. I have the blood of the party running through my vein. The leader of the party, President Muhammadu Buhari has spoken, the National Chairman has spoken, the NWC has spoken and all other organs of our party are fully aligned to the choice of the party which is Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives. On that position of the party, we stand.
But some members of your party still ignored the decision of the party on the anointed candidate. What is your view on this?
I don’t think their agitation or their position is tenable and I will tell you why? One, the party has to zone the position because of fairness and equity. It is hypocrisy for you to say the party must zone the position again to the North. That is the peak of hypocrisy. Having said that, we all know that Nigeria is broken into two different parts. That is, Northern and Southern regions. The North has the Senate Presidency already, so it will just be fair if the highest position in the House of Representatives should go to the South. If you look at it critically, Mr. President is from the North, while the Vice is from the South. Likewise, the Chairman of the National Assembly is the Senate President. The position has been zoned to the North. And the Deputy Chairman of the National Assembly is the Speaker of the House of Representatives. And this has to go to the South. So that both regions can balance. There should be no marginalisation. I do not see any issues on that.
Part of their disagreement with the arrangement of the party is that ordinarily, the position of the Speaker should have been given to the North-central or any other zone apart from the Southwest that already produced the Vice President?
Whenever politics is on ground, we politicians play with figure and statistics too much. Nigeria is broken into the North and the South. Either North-west, North-central and North-east, they all North. On the other hand, South-east, South-west and South-south are all South. The senate presidency, to the best of our knowledge, has been zoned to the North. In that instance, it has been zoned to the North-east. It is just normal, just fair that the Speakership should come from the Southern part of Nigeria. When it comes to the Southern part of the country, we have South-east, South-west and South-south, I think the party, maybe, looked at their strength in various zones. This, I don’t know. APC has only four members in the entire South-east.
In the South-south we have just seven members. I think we have about 39 or 49 from the South-west. Apart from that, the party looked at the personality involved. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila has been in the House for the better part of 16 years and 12 years out of the 16 years, he has been there as a Principal Officer. He was the Minority Whip, Minority Leader and is the current Majority Leader. He has the leadership experience. It is just conventional when a party in the opposition wins the majority in the House, the Minority Leader ordinarily becomes the Speaker.
So, this is just normal. He has the experience. No doubt that all the contestants are qualified, but even in the animal kingdom where all animals are equal, some are still more equal than the others. Gbajabiamila is much more qualified by the virtue of his experience at leadership positions, by virtue of bills, motions and his interpersonal relationship with all members of the House. For us as a forum, we are happy that the party took the right position. We are happy that the party gave us somebody that can be a bridge between the executive and the legislative arms and not a wall.
Don’t you think that the way things are going, a repeat of the 2015 scenario is imminent?
Anybody that thinks that will happened must be day dreaming. The indices are not the same. Yes, the two scenario might be similar, they might be identical, but they are not the same. One, APC has about 225 members in the House of Representatives now and PDP has about 119 members if I am not wrong. With the crop of Representatives on the platform of APC that I see, I can bet that we don’t have legislators that will rock the boat. We are united in our quest to position the party effectively. Two, in our Forum of the First Timers, total in APC, we are 164. Out of the 164 APC first term members, I tell you, we are united in making sure that the party position prevails. In any developed democracy in the world, the party is always stronger than the government.
Because it is the party that has the manifesto. Government is meant to implement the manifesto of the party. So, the party is in position to know the best person among its members that can implement the manifesto of the party to reposition Nigeria. Don’t forget that as Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, I was not on the ballot paper. My name wasn’t there, neither did my picture appear on the ballot paper. My constituency voted for APC and voted for the broom as a logo. We’ve had Supreme Court interpretation saying that it is the party that wins elections. It means that people voted for the manifesto and they entrust the party with their mandate to be able to better their lives. If a particular candidate disappoints the people, it is the party that has disappointed. The party has a lot to lose if anything goes wrong.
The party has a lot to gain if everything works out fine. So, it is just the norm that the party must take centre stage and take charge of the situation like this, because the party is going to be affected either positively or negatively. For us, I want to assure you that we are all loyal party members and I want to tell you that even our PDP members will join us, because a lot of them want this government to go to the next level. A lot do not want constant confrontation between the executive and legislative arm of the government. A lot of them are not happy with the delay of budget passage for seven months out of 12 months.
A lot of them are not happy with unnecessary clog in the wheel of the country’s progress. A lot of them are not happy that many of the nominees of Mr. President are not confirmed which is the core responsibility of the National Assembly. We have so many nominees for strategic positions that have not been confirmed. I believe that a lot of our PDP brothers are not aligned with that type of style. Most of them that genuinely love this country perhaps more than us, will join us in making sure that the leadership of Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila is properly enthroned for the betterment of Nigeria and above all to give a better country and future as a people.
What are you doing to pacify those that are not in line with the party on the choice of Gbajabiamila as the next Speaker?
I am not speaking for the party, but I know that that we have very responsive leadership in the party led by our National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. We have a lot of confidence in his ability to trouble shoot. Don’t forget that he was a former labour leader and crisis management and crisis resolution is part of his call or his area of competence. I want to assure that a lot of work is going on behind the scene. At the end of the day, you will be shocked that we will go into the election as a united family.
What kind of House are we looking forward to in the Ninth Assembly?
An interesting house. A house that will do things right for the betterment of Nigerians, a house that will prioritize the interest of Nigerians and in all, a house that will be loyal to the people of Nigeria. Above all, we are looking forward to harmonious relationship with the executive arm of government. To me, you don’t need to rubber stamp to have harmonious relationship. The executive should be able to complement the legislative arm and the legislative arm should be able to complement the executive arm of government. Don’t forget, we are still talking about separation of power. We focus much on separation of power and we forget the interdependency of government. What makes government work is interdependency. That is, Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. Although, we are arms of government, but, we are still one government.
The ability to work together, putting the interest of Nigerians forward is what will actually move Nigeria to the next level. I am looking at a house after four years that will be able to come up with bills, motions and resolutions that will take Nigeria to the next level. We can’t continue to crawl as a country. If we can’t fly now, at least, we should be able to run. Criticism is allowed. Executive can criticise us. We can criticise them, but it has to be constructive criticism. Criticism that will bring better results. Nigerians are not interested in this petty fight. They are interested in having better lives. They want the economy to be better. They want jobs to be created. They want a secured environment. They want this country to be the country of their dreams. That is what the National Assembly will be focus on.
Presently, the country is facing as serious security challenges. Some people are of the opinion that the federal government is not doing enough on this. Do you have any plan to bring this to the House when you are inaugurated?
The federal government is trying to address some of this security challenges. We have to understand that Nigeria is a diverse and very big country. And the security situation before this government came on board had deteriorated so much that we lost so many territories in terms of local government to insurgents. The level of crime was at alarming rate before this particular government came on board. But now, we have no territories under the control of terrorists and that is a big plus for this government. Moreover, security is a continuum. Every day of our lives we have to keep improving on security because the insurgents are also improving on their methods.
Before crime process was synonymous, now you don’t know who you are fighting. And I think our armed forces are doing very well in adapting to the new challenges of security. But nevertheless, there is still room for improvement. We can say we’ve gotten there, but as a government, I think we are doing very well and I think the next National Assembly will be able to collaborate with the executive towards bringing up innovative ideas that will give us a better result on our security challenges. The government is doing very well. We can do better, but we are not doing badly.
What do people of your constituency expect from you when the House resumes in June?
I aim to give them a voice at the national level which I think I have started doing. I will continue to do and improve. Two, I hope to give efficient and effective representation to the people of my constituency. I should be able to facilitate developmental projects to my constituency. One that is very important to me is the road between Ikare to Oke-Agbe to Oyin to Omuo. It is a road that links the South-west region to the North-central region. It is a death trap. Our people are suffering and it is a federal road. We want to ensure that the federal government intervenes.