Igbakpa: Why I Want N’Assembly to Override Buhari’s Veto on Statutory Delegates
In this interview with Udora Orizu, a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ben Igbakpa, speaks on why he wants his colleagues in the National Assembly to override President Buhari’s veto on statutory delegates and other salient issues. Excerpts:
The primaries of political parties have come and gone and this time around it is the election proper we are waiting for while INEC is compiling names and political parties are submitting names of candidates. You participated in the primaries of the PDP in your constituency, can you tell us actually what transpired and how would you review the primaries generally across the federation?
For mine, it has come and gone, political parties primaries are internal working of the parties to throw up candidates, whichever way it went, good or bad, fair or not fair, whatever it has come and gone and winners in wherever form has emerged and losers have also emerged but losers have rights to have a rethink about what transpired and think of the way forward. For me, I am thinking of the way forward, I am no longer looking at what transpired at the primaries any longer.
What are the feelers you are getting as you talked about the issue nationwide because I understand that people felt bad, most party members felt bad and a total of 178 lawmakers in the 9th assembly are not likely to come back. There is that feeling on the ground that something is not right. Again House Speaker, Gbajabiamila talked about the system that denied so many of them, so how would you react to all of these?
Yes, most of the problem that happened at the last primaries is that frenzy that the seeming error which was not really an error but what the National Assembly seems to do is to clarify to avoid ambiguity and just clear it so that the common man on the street can look at the law and say this is what the intention is about because the issue seems to be around section 84 (8). If you look at the 2010 Electoral Act it is exactly the same thing but in this 2022, somehow I don’t know where it came from, there is this fear that statutory delegates were not particularly mentioned and the parliament said okay if that is the issue let us just put it there for people to know if there is really nothing. What we try to do is just for clarity so that people don’t misunderstand anything but it turned out to be our biggest undoing, trying to correct, not that there was anything wrong, we were just trying to make things clearer for people to understand.
So if you look at the 2010 Electoral Act and the 2022 Electoral Act prior to the amendment we did on the 11th of May, it is exactly the same thing, it is just to clear issues and some persons who seems to know what they were looking for, who probably threw up that confusion harped on it and that led to the massive loss of members. And people keep saying that laws were made for somebody, no, it was not made for anybody, it was actually the same that we were just trying to say let us explain it more so that people can understand what it is about. But my own quarrel still goes to the fact that the President did not assent to it when he ought to because it is a national issue, it is a serious issue, it is an election cycle and this is the time. My quarrel really is about our leadership recruitment process and when the leadership recruitment process is faulty, you don’t expect the best from the leaders that are being selected.
There are good ones, there are bad ones, there are some that fall far far below the threshold of the standard those certain persons have set but here they are, they have been thrown at the people. And I keep saying it that, nobody is a slave to any organization you belong to including the political parties. The political parties as far as I am concerned is a vehicle to a destination, it is not really, you wouldn’t take it as if it their problem or it is their fault but that is what Mr President not signing has thrown the country into. I quite agree if there are two laws that the 9th assembly will be known for, the PIB and this Electoral Act 2022 and we can’t afford to leave it with any doubt, we can’t afford to leave it in such a way that people will not know where it is, neither here nor there as to what is happening.
So we will try everything possible, I believe and trust in the leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate, they will look at it and bequeath that Nigerian law that will give us the enabling electoral process that Nigerians can actually harp on and move forward.
Talking about statutory delegates, the Speaker Gbajabiamila also touched on the matter, now there is a motion you are actually championing that says National Assembly will start overriding the veto of the President; how about that sir?
I think that there is something that we need to be really clear about. First the constitution, anything that you are doing that is in the constitution it is nothing new, it is not grand standing. I don’t know why people see overriding the president’s veto as a big deal, it is the constitution, it is the rule of law. The law of the land provided for it, they envisage that and that is why they put it that the president could have a position with the parliament that is not going on the same side and if the parliament believes that they have done what is right, the constitution said that they should do it.
People seems to be giving section 58 (5) of the 1999 constitution one big interpretation as if you are trying to overthrow the president, no, it is just the rule of law, it is the beauty of democracy. We looked at it and believed that he ought to have signed but instead he travelled outside the country, ignored and now exposed Nigerians to a recruitment process, a leadership recruitment process that has thrown up certain persons. Now, talk about the three adhoc delegates, these adhoc delegates are not people that are familiar, most of them, there are some that are politicians who have been around but a lot of them are people that are not familiar with the political workings, they don’t even understand who is who, we don’t know them and they don’t know us and they are not even bothered about the pedigree of the individuals they are voting for.
A lot of them turn out because how much can they get from the system, it became a cash and carry thing and even after the cash and the carrying, after the cashing, they don’t even carry because they still waited for their owners to give direction and that makes it difficult.
But for the working committee whom you have been working with, they understand the system, you have been with them for more than two years now, they understand who has done well as a representative, they understand who has done well as a governor, they understand who has done well as a president, so when they are voting they will be very objective in their voting.
Unlike these people that just showed up two weeks to the primaries, all they know about is how much is this person ready to bring, who brought me here, who did he say I should vote for. So funny that apart from the cash, they will still wait for their owners to give them directions, so that really has thrown up a lot of challenge in the caliber of persons that will occupy office between 2023 and 2027 because the recruitment process is very very faulty and it is likened to the foundation of a house that is not properly built, it is definitely going to crumble; so we don’t expect too much from them apart from those ones that actually merit being in the ballot.
What happens now that the motion has been stepped down?
Yes, I immediately met with the Chairman, Rules and Business on it. He should be the one but naturally, what I expected the Speaker to do was to mandate the Chairman, Rules and Business Committee to list the particular bill for consideration and passage and announce to members. The bill has passed the normal cycle of legislative process. We are going to take the third reading again. A lot of members came to the chambers today in preparation for this exercise but unfortunately, it was aborted.
Do you see President Buhari’s refusal to assent to the Electoral Act Amendment bill as the revenge for Lawmakers turning down his request to expunge section 84 (12)?
Well, Mr President is the head of the executive; he is not as per section 4 of the constitution, the powers of law making reside with the National Assembly, the House of Representatives and the Senate. So section 5 gave them the powers to implement what we have churned out and section 58 is for him to sign and if he does not sign within 30days or communicate his reason to us, the parliament, both Chambers have the powers using two third majority to pass the bill again and override his veto, meaning that his signature will not be required any more.
So I don’t think he is revenging, I don’t see why he should do that, the question should go to Mr President or his handlers who should actually tell us why he did not sign and he did not send anything to tell us this is the reason why.
Yes he wanted certain parts off it but that part is actually one of the major change, a very major change in the Electoral Act. How will somebody in an office, be seated in his office and still contesting because it means that you are going to use the power of that office, it is giving somebody undue advantage against the person that is not in office.
So that is why we said if you want to contest election, resign and be an ordinary man like other aspirant so that you can contest. You can’t sit in the office and contest election using that office to your advantage and the other person will be at huge disadvantage and that is an ailment that the law seems to cure, that is what we are trying to cure and Mr President is taking us back, that is taking us back years behind.
People now understand that there is need for us to have a free, fair and credible elections, the person was not elected, the person have no term of office; for members of parliament, for Mr President, governors, they have terms of office and nobody is going to that side, we are talking of people that have no term, people that are appointed that the constitution does not give any term to, that they should resign if they want to contest. You must relinquish that power, that privilege that you have and come clean like an ordinary man then you can contest with the other person, not sit in that office, enjoy the privilege and say you are contesting who is going to be at loss.
Can you envisage the 10th assembly populated by greenhorns, what is going to happen when you are losing many experienced lawmakers?
Well if you’ve followed up legislative business, the longer you stay the better you are; so out of the 178 House members who lost at their parties primaries, I know quite a lot of persons that have decided to look elsewhere to follow up their dreams and aspirations, so I believe some of them will still come back and those ones that benefited from the faulty process of delegates, I am sure too not all of them are going to make it because the general election is still there. The people, I know of situations, like in my constituency, I know the people, it was like a graveyard the day of that primaries, the celebration was only in one compound, the entire constituency were sad, people were crying as if they lost somebody.
But I happen to be stronger than all of them, I told them look, it is not over, let us believe God, whatever happened let’s give glory to God and I headed straight to Asaba for the governorship primaries the next day. So it is like that and I believe it is everywhere and the people have the right to decide at the general election who to vote for.
Some political parties have produced powerful presidential candidates; APC has Tinubu a well known figure, PDP has Atiku and the newest one Labour party, let’s not also forget NNPP where Kwankwaso is coming from; looking at the arrays of candidates we have got at the moment, how may you assess them and their chances of grabbing that position eventually?
Well it all depends on the assessment you want me to give. Is it assessment as a Nigerian or assessment as a politician?
I am a politician and as a politician it is very difficult to do an assessment as a Nigerian. Yes, as a Nigerian I want a president that can take us away from where APC has taken us to, that should tell you that number one, APC is cancelled and a vehicle that has take us this far.
I told you at the beginning that the party system is just a vehicle, one vehicle has taken us into the gorge and we are thinking of how to get out, I don’t think we should join that vehicle further because it is going to take us too far into it where we might not be able to come back. Then as a politician, I am a member of PDP and God has been able to throw up a very powerful and credible candidate and a running mate who has a lot to bring to the table. So based on the fact that the APC cannot take us to where we are going because we have given them eight years to do that and they have not been able to do it, I believe my party can take us to where we are going.
Then number three, the Labour party, former governor Peter Obi is doing well in the market, I wouldn’t want to say more than that and a lot of people are calling on him but most times I don’t believe in what happens on the social media because there are places where persons have won presidential elections via social media but the Nigeria situation, I don’t know if they can do that for the first time. But in all of these, as at this moment, I am still a member of the PDP, I believe my party is the best team to take us from where we are now and deliver Nigeria the way Nigerians expect the country to run, I stand with my party and I belief we are the best.
You are from Delta state and your governor presently has been chosen to deputize your presidential candidate; tell us about the candidature of your governor running with Atiku?
My Governor judging from most of the comments I see, he is somebody that is highly misunderstood and underrated. He is an A-1 administrator, somebody who has come over the years from secretary to local government, to chairman, to commissioner, to SSG, to the senate and now governor, I don’t know what anybody should even ask of that kind of character and the quality of person that he is. He is a very intelligent man, though not loud because of his calmness, a lot of people seems to underrate him but I tell you that man is a bundle of talent and capacity in one very small pack. In our place they say “small motor big engine”, he is a very huge engine, forget the frame that you are seeing, Dr Okowa has a lot to bring to the table and by the grace of God when they finally get to Aso Rock they will know that yes we have a vice president who can interpret the problems of this country and help Mr President to actualise the manifesto that he is bringing to the table.
There was this noise about his origin, his Igbo status and his claim to be Igbo.
Well, in Delta state we call it Delta Igbo, so I don’t see anything wrong in it. Even we the moment we cross certain areas of Delta and ask where are you going and they say the person is from Delta Igbo, they don’t know whether Anioma, Ndokwa, we call them Delta Igbo. So the vice presidential candidate, the running mate to Atiku, my dear governor has not made any mistake and he is not saying that because he wants to garner political points, he is actually Igbo yes, if you look if not for River Niger, they are just there.
You know the issues when the state was created and they have to make Asaba the capital, the people of Delta central and Delta south cried that no, the capital is for us, the capital is in the east, so why are they coming now. And if you look at Asaba now, about 50% of the land in Asaba now is owned by Onitsha people; so we are living together, they are part of them, certainly the governor has not made any mistake.
What’s next for Hon. Igbakpa?
For the next one year, I am still here at the House, for the next few days I will answer that question because as it is, I am consulting, I am still looking at people, I am not alone, I have a relatively large followership and leadership that I have to discuss with and communicate with, be on the same page, then I can make a statement on that.