Omotayo Olaleye holds a dialogue with the Chairman First Timer Forum, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, representing Akoko North East/ North West Constituency, Ondo State on the insistence of his group to support Femi Gbajabiamila to emerge the next Speaker House of Representatives
With the notable zeal radiating from first time members of the House of Representatives, what should we expect from the 9th Assembly, particularly the prevalent insecurity in the nation?
The security situation concerns everybody. No doubt, security is the most important part of our daily need. Our aspirations can only be achieved in a secure environment. Security challenge is not peculiar to Nigeria and government is doing its best to resolve the issue. Considering where Nigeria is coming from, there has been a lot of improvement. We know what has happened in the South-south, where the country was faced with militancy, Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east and the farmers/herders clashes. We are gradually coming up as a nation. The future is key. A better tomorrow seems to be the ideology of the present administration. It is my hope, however, that the 9th Assembly will work more closely with the executive arm to ensure that the security challenges facing the country are brought under control.
What kind of support are you looking at?
I always say that we need to consider what unites us as arms of government, which is the inter-dependency of the various arms of government. The legislative and executive organs must come together and set up a joint team that will look into challenges and come up with a workable solution to bring an end to the issues. Let us not forget that the approval of budget is in the hands of legislators. More can be achieved with good synergy.
Do you think government is fighting corruption the right way?
We have to understand government can’t be 100 percent exact. There is always room for improvement. I think corruption is being fought with an unimaginable zeal. We all know President Muhammadu Buhari as a man of integrity, who is not ready to dip his hands into the public purse. The TSA and BVN reflect government strategies at work in tackling corruption. We are growing, even after many years of military rule. We are on the right path to recovery and progress. There are also other suggestions as to embracing technologies for a preventive anti-corruption fight alongside corrective approach. If we can prevent crime from occurring, we should, so that we don’t continue to be seen as being reactive at every point.
What measures would you, as a newly elected member of the House, suggest to ensure that elections are free and fair?
The politicians, the populace and the electoral bodies, including INEC officials and security agencies, are the critical actors in every administration. As politicians, we must be ready to play the game by the rule. The populace must be ready to vote their conscience, based on integrity and track record while the electoral bodies must ensure that the will of the people prevail.
We need to start preparations early. INEC has done well but there is room for improvement. They need to work more closely with the National Orientation Agency to educate the Nigerian populace on the dangers of vote buying, an anomaly that is gradually finding its way into our voting system. As a legislator, I will suggest we encourage technology to make voting easier and more transparent. If we involve technology more in whatever, right from electronic voting, so that people can be able to vote at their convenience, we will ensure transparency and accountability in the system. America has about 350 million people and in Nigeria we are over 200 million. We can use card reader to accredit and authenticate.
Is Nigeria truly ripe for digital voting given the glitches often experienced with the card readers?
All these have to do with planning. The law gives INEC the power to do so. The responsibility falls on the legislature to give INEC all the support they need. A bill was actually passed the last time in National Assembly in line with this and was sent to the President but the time was too short for us to make those changes. If the President had signed, it would have been a law. We must start planning for the 2023 election now. The bill has to be sent to the President now for him to be able to assent it and INEC has three years from now to put its house in order. I trust the leadership of INEC and I know they will get it done.
Do you think the next election will feature a higher technology?
I pray so. It is better and more convenient for people. It reduces corruption and solves logistics problem. We can always tap from the benefit of ICT.
What change do you intend to bring to the people of your constituency?
Effective and qualitative representation are the key. I told them during my campaign, I will give them a voice and be the bridge between them and the federal government. I will do the best in ensuring effective representation.
As the Chairman, First Time House of Representative Members Forum, who do you envisage as next Speaker of the House?
It is not just who I think but who the majority of the house members want. We want a man who is a bridge builder and a nationalist to the core. Someone who has antecedent, a track record and a pedigree of delivering excellent performance in the House and who we know is selfless and has over the years been the voice of the voiceless. We want a man who rejected a national honour because of the Nigerian populace. We want somebody who has sacrificed more for the sanity and the development of the House than anybody in modern times. We want somebody who is known to be a pathfinder, who has authority and has made a carrier out of the legislative process. That person is none other than Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, leader of the House of Representatives. He is somebody that we know can be the bridge between the executive, legislature and even the judiciary. He is going to rebrand and change the impression of Nigerians about the government. Take it or leave it Nigerians have a misconception about what the National Assembly stands for. We need a leader with integrity, a leader that will be able to stand above all. And we think Hon Gbajabiamila is the one. Nigeria needs him at this point in time. This is time for recovery, as we just came out of recession. We need somebody who will be able to handle the House. We need somebody who will be able to partner with the executive arm of government and ensure that Nigeria does not go into recession. Gbajabiamila can ensure that key policies of government are treated accurately without any political imputation. He will see Nigeria first and Nigeria always. I personally choose Gbajabiamila for the sake of the future generation.