‘ Legislators Should Consider National Interest, Not Loyalty to Political Party’

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In this interview with Adedayo Akinwale, Hon. Ben Igbakpa, who represents Ethiope East and Ethiope West Federal Constituency of Delta State in the House of Representatives, reflects on the trajectory of federal lawmakers on the 60th independence anniversary of Nigeria

As Nigeria celebrates 60th independent anniversary, what are the ways the legislative arm has strengthened democracy in the country

I think one of the most recent is when the late President Umaru Yar’dua was ill and there was no proper transmission of power. The legislative arm rose to the occasion and invoked the Doctrine of Necessity, thereby making the Vice President the President. I think that was a constitutional debacle and if not for the legislature it won’t happen.

Coming to the present day, you will agree with me that there have been life changing moves that the legislature has done, in terms of trying to check the executive. Of late, the legislature has taken the executive to task, bothering on budget implementation. I believe the legislature is living up to its billing. We are not where we ought to be, but we are close to it.

Can you mention a past lawmaker that made the most impression on you?

I still remember the late Chuba Okadigbo, I’m still in love with late Pius Ekweribo from Delta State and in the very recent, the present Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, is one of the persons that actually made some of us into believing that you can actually come into the National Assembly and make a mark. Not forgeting Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, the Minority Leader in the Senate.

Why the choice of Okadigbo and what exactly did he do that left a lasting impression on you?

Okadigbo was a fearless man. He will say it the way it is. He was not bothered about the party when burning national issues came up. You will see a block of party supremacy and party loyalty and he will come in to form a ring of defence over it. Those crop of legislators didn’t look at party discipline, they looked at national issues and they discussed on that ground. In this our time, we should start looking at the nation and not party, because we see a lot of things come up, we see a rig of party defence coming to play.

Do you think Nigeria has made any progress, and how can the legislature help the excutive arm bring development to the country

We have made progress. We have had unbroken democracy over this period, Nigerians are beginning to find their voice. I agree there has been some level of human rights abuses people have been arrested, which ought not to be. As a democratic nation we find our voices and our voice is supposed to be heard. Today, I know that there are issues that Nigerians care not go into, there are some rooms that must not be opened and people are punished, which is not supposed to be. Be that as it may, we were able to find our voice, we were able to keep a democratic line going over the period, because during the military it could have been worse, because there was no voice, they had to run away. Based on that, I think we have made some progress.