Victor Ogunje dialogues with Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele who represents Ekiti Central senatorial district on issues concerning the new leadership of the National Assembly and the attempts by Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State to turn around the economy of the state
Governor Fayemi has sworn-n the chairmen of boards and parastatals. What is your charge to them in view of the economic situation of the state?
To begin with, Governor Fayemi has done well with these appointments in spite of the very lean purse of the state government. Expectedly, the new appointees would have to make sacrifices and think more of how to make Ekiti great. The essence of an appointment is to serve the people and not yourself. If this still remains sacrosanct, then they must join hands with Dr. Kayode Fayemi to move the state forward. They must not forget the fact that the expectations of our people are very high. If you move round Ekiti, virtually all the strata of our society had been abandoned before Governor Fayemi came on board and that was why the teachers, market men and women, civil servants, pensioners , drivers, ‘okada’ riders are all expectant. It was disheartening that the immediate past government owed as much as between five and eight months salary arrears of civil servants and pensioners and since government is a continuum, Governor Fayemi has taken up the assets and liabilities and he is doing everything to defray all outstanding bills in due course. As of today, Governor Fayemi has earmarked the sum of N100 million monthly for payment of pension and gratuities instead of N10 million under the last administration. All these are ongoing and our people have implicit confidence in us and that informed their opinion to vote for us in the July 14, 2018 governorship election, as well as, in the 2019 general elections when our party recorded 100 percent electoral success across the state. Looking at the combination of all these factors, the appointees must know that they came at a most challenging time and they must demonstrate their patriotic zeal by being committed to the policy thrust of this administration, rather than self interest. Going by the antecedents of many of the appointees, I have no doubt that they are credible men and women of integrity who would work hard to add value in the overriding public interest even despite economic challenges.
Governor Fayemi had solicited the enactment of a transition law to enforce continuity of government. Do you align with this in view of differences in manifestoes of parties?
Though political parties in Nigeria might be different, but the problems confronting our people are almost the same. Go to the North and South, East and West, the problems bedeviling our people are those of poverty, unemployment, insecurity , corruption, economic deprivation , environmental crisis and many others. So, I believe efforts being taken by the government in power are geared towards settling all these crises, but the methods and approach might be different. I align with Mr. Governor that there must be a law prohibiting abandonment of uncompleted projects inherited by a new administration from the preceding administration on account of not belonging to the same party. If you check properly, this has been one of the main reason why our people are experiencing sufferings. It marveled us to see a government abandoning a project or policy of the previous government just to ridicule that government. If you check your records, Governor Fayemi introduced the social security scheme in his first term and Youth in Commercial Agriculture and other safety net programmes, but all had fizzled out before he came back for the second term and he had to begin again to bring them back to life. This will cost money, time and energy while our people will be at the receiving end. That was what actually distinguished the APC government from others. We are democrats and we demonstrate this by our commitment to the ethos of democracy by embracing continuity in governance. This you can see with the way President Muhammadu Buhari has been doing. All the projects initiated by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan were given attention. In actual fact, the suggestion made by Governor Kayode Fayemi was apt and well thought out and this will serve the nation well if the law is promulgated.
What of the projects some people consider as patronage to members of the and not in the overall interest of the people? Why should such projects be continued by a new administration?
If there were faults in the way and manner a project was conceptualised or implemented, the government in place enjoys that latitude to amend and do the necessary correction to meet up with the standard expected, but the idea of jettisoning a project that had gulped multi-million or billion Naira public funds should be discontinued. It should not be part of our culture and way of life. It forms part of the drains that waste public funds and cause serious angst in the system.
Senator Ahmad Lawan emerged the Senate President having been pushed forward by the APC for the 9th Assembly. What should Nigerians expect?
Nigerians should expect progress, peace, stability and development in terms of robust and hitch free executive -legislative relationship. You can’t deny the fact that the eighth National assembly under the leadership of Senator Bukola Saraki and the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara had frosty relationships with the executive arm and this in actual fact slowed down governance, but this one will be different. The combination of Senator Lawan and the Speaker Gbajabiamila of the House of Representatives constitute an embodiment of knowledge and experience and this will help President Buhari, Nigerians and even the legislature. If you look at the whole gamut of government, the legislature is very important because it is the intellectual organ of government, that is where laws are made for good governance at the executive arm and where sensitive issues of national interest are debated and passed into resolutions to guide government policies and this forms the basis for why that arm must see the executive arm as ally in progress and development of a nation, rather than a rival or enemy culminating in muscle flexing and all that. Their emergence as leaders of the ninth assembly has brought a paradigm shift in the politics of our nation, it has redefined it. It was a product of party supremacy. In the eighth assembly, some lawmakers defied the party and worked with the opposition to defeat the party’s choice. But this was different and showed that parties as vehicle for electoral contests have a say in who becomes what either at the executive or legislative arms. We have to thank the National Corking Committee of our party, led by our hyperactive chairman, Comrade Adam Oshiomhole as well as President Buhari, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, our governors and other leading stakeholders of the party for bringing to life the doctrine of party supremacy, because APC is the majority party and should automatically have a say whenever issues of national interest come up.
What of the fear that the leadership of the National Assembly having been influenced by presidency and APC could make them pander to their dictates?
Both Senator Lawan and Rt. Hon Gbajabiamila are too experienced to be rubber stamp leaders. They understand this legislative work and know when to maintain a hard stance and when to soft pedal. Let me also add that those saying that were just not familiar with the modus operandi and structure of the National Assembly. If you study the voting pattern, Senator Lawan and Hon Gbajabiamila got non partisan support and votes that transcended the number of members, which shows that all the parties will have a say before critical decisions are taken. However, the APC came into power to make tremendous positive impact on the lives of the people and that is why the present leadership will cooperate with President Buhari for his dream of leaving a country that we can all be proud of realizable. In a nut shell, I can boldly and confidently say that there won’t be frosty relationship and we shall key into the APC’s agenda , but this won’t make the leadership to be a lame duck . We will strike a healthy balance between the doctrine of separation of powers, interdependence and checks and balances; while jealously safeguarding the independence of the legislature as an arm of government.
Coming down to your district in Ekiti. What are you bringing on board to combat the menace of poverty in the state?
I have a record in Ekiti as a good representative of the people and this is not my own making, but it has been the impression of my people about my performance when I represented Ado/Irepodun/Ifelodun Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives between 2011 and 2015. During that time, I attracted 89 projects that actually helped my people in no small measures and that part accounted for the enormous support I received from them when I was given the ticket to represent Ekiti Central senatorial district at the Senate . So, I ran on a record and my people should expect the best from me by the Grace of God. I am particularly elated because the state government has been initiating policies that can resolve the issues of unemployment, poverty and poor economic situations of our people. As a federal lawmaker, my utmost priority would be to attract federal projects that would be of help to my people as this will complement what the state has been doing . The areas of human capital development and economic empowerment to youths and women will also be given priority .
As a lawmaker from the southwest, how do you see the alarm being raised that kidnappers are on rampage in the region?
This should be a source of concern to everybody, because no sustainable development can be achieved where people are not secured. Of recent, there were reported cases of kidnapping along Aramoko-Erio-Efon-Iwaraja Road . But my fear was assuaged because everybody is now taking the issue of security serious, we are no longer leaving it to the police alone to do. Again, the security outfits are taking the matter very serious and responding to the situation in a serious way. If you drive along that road now, you will see police checkpoints at frequent intervals trying to checkmate influx of criminals to the zone. Again, all the six governors from the region met in Akure, Ondo State capital recently and decided on how to deal with the situation and the results are being felt by way of aggressive mobilisation of our traditional and religious leaders as well as their subjects in all the nooks and crannies of the towns on the need to report strange faces to the security for proper action. Everybody is now vigilant and I believe this will help in taming these criminals, because everybody is involved in the fight.
Do you have confidence in President Buhari to be able to rise to the occasion?
Absolutely. If you see how President Buhari mobilised the security to end senseless killings in Benue and environs, then I have no reason to doubt the capacity of this government on the issue of security. Even, if you look at the Boko Haram attacks in the North-eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, what we now have is occasional bombings unlike before when it was a daily occurrence. This is because the Buhari administration has actually won the conventional war fare while Boko Haram has resorted to guerrilla tactics. Of course, it is not yet Uhuru in that regard but everything must be done to encourage the administration to sustain and eventually defeat terrorism in all its ramifications. The banditry in Zamfara, Katsina and Niger states as well as the emerging cases of kidnappings in the South-west must become a thing of the past.