Honourable Saheed Akinade-Fijabi, is the chairman, House Committee on Telecommunications in the lower chamber of the National Assembly. In this interview with SEGUN ADEBAYO, Fijabi, who adds a year today, speaks on his foray in politics so far, among other issues.
From the look of things, your political profile has continued to soar, especially since you got the people’s mandate to return to the House of Representatives for the second time. How have you been handling the pressure that comes with the leadership position you are assuming in the politics of Oyo State?
I want to thank God for the opportunity He has given me. I have said this before that it is really not about me being at House of Representatives but my family that is very popular in Ibadan and Oyo State at large. I want to give thanks to God and the good people of Oyo State for their continued support for me. I would not have been here without their unwavering support and prayers. Talking about handling the pressure, I don’t see it as pressure. I see this as another huge responsibility to continue to touch the lives of the people through quality representation. My decision to join politics was borne out of my desire to give back and impact on people’s lives in my little way. I am not going to deny the fact that the pressure has been much, given the economic condition of the country and its attendant effect on the lives of an average Nigerian. But we have to keep working on ways to wriggle our ways out of this disturbing situation. So, I have tried as much as possible to manage myself, my political career and the people that I represent.
The leadership of the House has been enmeshed in one crisis or the other in the last few months with the latest budget padding scandal being the last straw. As the chairman, House Committee on Telecommunications, how would you assess the leadership of the House, the allegation leveled against it?
I am very much in support of the leadership of the House, because I can say that I am also part of that leadership as the chairman of a committee. Looking at the formation of the House, where we have about 360 members coming from different ethnic groups and ideologies, for me, our focus should be on the task before us. Our people back home want to get the best from us. They want to be reassured that we are still representing and protecting their interests, no matter the way things turn out. We should concentrate on doing what we have been elected to do. What I am saying is that the House is more than Yakubu Dogara, it is more than Fijabi or Lasun and Gbajabiamila. It is an institution that we need to grow, and we need to remember that we can’t continue to wash our dirty linen outside. The House has a responsibility to win the people back to our side and assure them we remain resolute in our resolve to put their interest first before anything.
Do you think the House was right to have suspended Jibrin and spare Speaker Yakubu Dogara?
Hon Jibrin actually went too far, when he said all the members of the House are corrupt. We have referred him to the Committee on Ethics and Privilege, which is our own mini-court. All the 360 members in the House agreed that he should be suspended after the investigation of the Committee. The House has extended its Olive branch to him to apologise for putting the House in disrepute. The House is bigger than Dogara, Jibrin, and any other member. If the House discovers I have done something wrong, they would refer me to the Committee on Ethics and Privilege. In the House, we have what we call the Code of Conduct. If you step out of the line, you will be cautioned. I think that was exactly what happened in this matter. We thank God that we are gradually coming out of that phase now to concentrate on other jobs in our hands. I really don’t want to dwell on this issue of padding because it does not exist as far as I am concerned. It is normal for the Executive arm of government to bring its estimated budget for the year to the Legislative arm for scrutiny. If you state in the budget that you are spending one naira at Mokola/Dugbe roundabout, it is our duty to look at the budget and review it. That is how it is done across the globe. What many people don’t know is, that the people can only feel the presence of the Federal Government through some of the constituency projects that we facilitate. We are the ones representing our people; we know what they want, and we can’t touch their lives if we don’t do it through constituency projects, because the local government councils don’t function anymore and for a long time. If they say we should change it, we will. As I am speaking with you now, a committee has already been raised by the Speaker to look into it.
Let’s talk about your relationship with the people you represent. Some of them claimed that you are not accessible and that you don’t pay attention to their plight. How are you addressing these insinuations?
In the last few years, politics and life have taught me a lot of lessons. But today is not the time to talk about all that. I am a politician and I know what is expected of me. The truth is that anybody who tells you that Fijabi is not accessible, is probably not saying the truth, because I know that I am very close to the people. What people have failed to understand is that my job is not only to go to Abuja and make laws; there are additional responsibilities that consume much of my time. The people should be happy that I am progressing politically, because what that means is that it will afford me the opportunity to bring Ibadan on the map. For me, I believe that politics is about service to the people. My position as the chairman, Committee on Telecommunications, has been a plus to my constituency and even Ibadan where I reside. I have been able to facilitate a number of projects to my community. What people are missing is that they expect me to do a project of one million naira and use N10 million to make noise about it, so that people will see that I am working. As long as the project is working for the people and the people are happy, I don’t have to start jumping up and down about what I have done. For example, the University Teaching Hospital (UCH), Ibadan does not fall under my constituency, but I know it is in Ibadan. It is in Nigeria. Whatever I am able to do there would be of great value and benefit to millions of Nigerians. I facilitated a project worth N300 billion through NCC to UCH, Ibadan. Those are the things we are talking about.