Honourable Abubakar Amuda Kannike is the Vice Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Works. The former Kwara State Commissioner for Works and Transport who is now representing Ilorin East/Ilorin South Federal Constituency in the National Assembly speaks with BIOLA AZEEZ on some issues affecting the polity. Excerpts:
Do you see any end to the current economic recession in the country, especially as it affects states of the federation, anytime soon?
I believe that tough times do not last but tough, proactive and imaginative people outlive tough times. The situation is not likely to continue like this but we must also do the right thing to make sure we bring it to a halt as soon as possible. You see, the question is how long will it take. We are paying for a positive change now but the earlier we take the right steps and decisions the better otherwise we might be in this predicament for a long time. I must accept the fact that the [All Progressives Party] APC as a new government did not hit the ground running. I am a member of the party but the leadership did not hit the ground running. That is the simple truth.
However, we must take right steps and right decisions to make things happen. Governors must continue to take proactive steps. The low-hanging fruit here is to make sure we optimise what is accruable in internally generated revenue both at the federal and state levels. That is the immediate succour. Any other thing that we might say we are doing, be it agriculture, solid minerals exploitation or tourism, has gestation, and the period of development of such ideas will not ease the immediate pain of the populace. So, the quickest thing to do is to optimise internally generated revenue, block economic loopholes and look at generate-able revenue, which is not going to be too biting on the people under the current economic hardship. Blocking economic loopholes will provide immediate succour for us as a nation.
There are some policies we need to quickly act on, in my opinion. For instance, why I said we didn’t hit the ground running is that from the experience of the last administration, I believe that we should have taken a decision earlier on oil subsidy and forex policy. We need to be decisive in charting the way forward. This is the only way to turn things around.
How do you see the proposal of immunity for the leadership of the National Assembly and the negative public reaction it has generated?
We have two opinions on the issue of bill on immunity but, as they say, if a bird learns to fly without perching, the hunter must learn to shoot without missing. Before now, nobody talked about immunity for the legislature. But can you imagine a situation where we have the president and the deputy president of the Senate on trial? If they have a court stay, then that means the National Assembly is on holiday, because under the constitution, nobody can sit in for the Senate president and his deputy, not even the majority leader. The constitution does not allow that. It is this situation that has evolved that made us feel that maybe it is expedient to give the bill a consideration. And I want to say that the advocates of this immunity clause are looking at it in the best interest of the nation.
Mischief makers might say it is because the Senate president is on trial but it takes a process and the president has to endorse it eventually. The process of constitutional review is long. That does not stop the ongoing trial but, you see, sometimes you need to take proactive steps. It is the current experience that is making people say that maybe we should protect the institution. The essence of immunity is that, because of the seriousness of the work you do, we will leave you for now and when you step down from that seat, you will answer for any charges against you. So, the question we must ask ourselves is that is it worth it to protect the National Assembly as an institution to such an extent that even if the leadership is found wanting, it does not stagnate the activities of the legislature? The answer is yes, because I can tell you categorically that if you don’t have a legislature, you don’t have a democracy. If you asked me, I would even say that we need to protect the leadership of the legislature more than we need to protect the executive because the lifeblood of democracy, as it is defined and as we have adopted, is the legislature. So, who says that we should not protect the leadership to such an extent that they should be able to do what they are supposed to do and be independent?
What is your take on clamour for the independence of the National Assembly?
That is a discussion that is ongoing. The truth about it, like somebody said, is can anyone charge me for forging my own signature? The answer is no. You can only say, ‘there is irregularity in your signature. Are you sure you signed this? Come and defend it.’ But you cannot charge me. This is the rule made by members of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Even in the course of the legislative year, you can still review. The Senate in session has asked the question, under the deputy Senate president that, ‘is there a forged rule of the House?’ The answer was ‘nay.’ At that point, even if there was a ‘forgery,’ that nay has nullified whatever there was. Because that is an adoption by the majority of the House that made whatever is in the rule book substantive, binding and legal.
Does it seem okay to you that the APC has not held any meeting since its victory in the last general election?
The North Central caucus, we have met in Nasarawa State. All the stakeholders – governors, party leaders and members of the National Assembly, were in attendance. Those that couldn’t attend sent representatives. That meeting, I was quite aware of, because I was part of it. I would not be able to say whether other geo-political zones have met. Maybe what you are saying is that the party has not had a national meeting of its members but I believe members of the executive meet. There has to be a reason for a national meeting, because everybody is busy trying to settle in, in their new activities. In most cases, it is in form of a convention. We already elected the officers, so if the executive members are meeting on our behalf, we are the ones that are meeting. So, I will not agree about the notion that we are not meeting. We are meeting as a party.
But more importantly, I am sure that what you are trying to say is that in the face of all these crises in the party, what is the role of the leadership of the party? I believe that the leadership of the party must intervene because this is our success and we need to manage it. Let us not pretend about all these things that are happening. If they get protracted, in opinion, it is a subtle threat to our democracy. What I see happening is just people allowing personal consideration, ego, ambition to overtake national interest. That is exactly what is happening, and we are flogging it too much and too long. There are serious issues we need to address and everyone is needed to be on board to address these problems. They say that you have to be very careful of a stupid man in the crowd because he can cause you collateral damage. Whether you are an established fellow with issues bordering on credibility or you are a born-again democrat or a repentant corrupt person, we all need to come on board and salvage this nation. If we do not do it properly, we are risking too much.
What is your expectation as regards the travail of the Senate president?
Personally, I believe that if justice is done, there is nothing to fear. I just want to say that if you are convinced that there is a case to answer, you should give serious consideration to the fact that justice must be done and must be seen to be done.