Dr Muyiwa Oladimeji, a Russia-trained medical doctor and Ph.D holder in Cancer Immunology (Wales) and Nuclear Medicine (London), is a former member of the House of Representatives. He speaks with MOSES ALAO on the row between the executive and the legislature over the 2017 budget, the Osun West senatorial by-election and chances of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), among others.
Of late, there has been an argument between the executive arm of government and the National Assembly over whether the latter had any right to alter the budget, with top lawyers already wading in with their views on the matter, as a former member of the National Assembly, what is your take?
The National Assembly is not a rubber stamp arm of government; it has the right to look at whatever is in the budget and to make amendments either to reduce or to increase based on what the constituencies and the nation needs. They are not just supposed to just get the budget from the executive and rubber stamp it; it is expected to make amendments. Even in other democracies, that is what obtains; the executive and the legislature always have to find a way to meet, harmonise and reach consensus on the budget.
The National Assembly, in its wisdom, may feel that the amount budgeted for a particular sector is too low or too high. For example, look at the Obama years in the United States of America; the legislature did things like that. The National Assembly could find out, for instance, that the amount budgeted for education is too low while the amount budgeted for defence might be considered too high based on the fact that there were no defence challenges to warrant such.
But the National Assembly is currently being portrayed as being roguish to have reduced the amount budgeted for critical roads and in their place adding clinics and boreholes in their constituencies to the budget. Do you think this is right?
That is the importance of having a point of convergence between the legislature and the executive on the budget. Normally, the minister will defend the budget before the legislators and they have to reach a consensus; nobody should have a supreme authority or be possessive about the budget. It should be a joint effort for the progress of the country. But I don’t think that discussion or point of convergence has been there. Ordinarily, there are committees in the National Assembly; the joint committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives on works should have been able to discuss thoroughly with the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing on the budget and fine-tune the budget of the ministry. This committee should have discussed with the minister, the permanent secretary and other key figures in the ministry so that they will be able to reach a consensus instead of coming to the public domain to trade words. These are matters that should have been resolved internally, especially when the same party controls the executive and legislative arms of government.
In a few days, the election to fill the vacant Osun West Senatorial District seat will hold, with the two major parties, the PDP and the APC, set to lock horns again. The insinuation out there is that the chances of your party are quite slim given the polarisation in the party and entrenchment of the APC in Osun State. What do you have to say?
Let me clear something, anyone who believes that because the PDP is polarised, then its chances of winning the Osun West senatorial election are slim is either out of tune with reality or just being delusional. The PDP is going into that election as a united front against the APC with all its impropriety, misrule and maladministration of the Rauf Aregbesola’s government in Osun.
So you believe that your party’s chances are bright?
If we are dealing with people who are cerebral and unsentimental, which is what I believe Osun West voters are; people who follow the trend of governance and the existing reality about how the APC has destroyed everything in Osun State, then the chances of PDP to win the election are bright. This is an Osun State being controlled by the APC, where workers are not paid their salaries as and when due for many years now and when they are paid, it is only half salary; where the education sector has been bastardised such that the SSCE and UTME results are getting worse than what they used to be in the Bisi Akande and Olagunsoye Oyinlola years; where every aspect of governance is in reverse gear. If you say the APC is entrenched, these are what they have entrenched in the state. So, if that same APC is fielding a candidate and you are saying they are entrenched, then we may have to leave the judgment in the hands of voters who have been bearing brunt of the maladministration and misrule of the APC and have determined to take back Osun State beginning with Saturday’s senatorial election. This election is one of the indices to judge the Aregbesola government; it should be a strong message from Osun people that they want to take their state back from the Lagos gang.
What can you talk about as the legacy of this government?
Is it the Opon Imo that was celebrated as an achievement? Go round the schools and see if the Opon Imo are still in the hands of the students and if they are working. Therefore, based on facts and not fiction, the chances of my party are quite bright.
Again, you have to remember that we had a misnomer in that Senator Isiaka Adeleke, a very prominent politician and a passionate believer in the Osun project, passed away before the end of his tenure and one would have thought that the APC would assuage the feelings of his followers by allowing one of them to succeed him, but the APC has become intoxicated with power and it is going to pay for that. You see, the PDP in Osun State became intoxicated with power in the past when some egocentric characters in the party frustrated Senator Adeleke and former Governor Iyiola Oyinlola out of the party. Some of us warned that the loss of those people would affect the fortunes of the PDP and of course, it dramatically affected the fortunes of the PDP. PDP’s loss was APC’s gain back then. So, in this instance too, APC has also become intoxicated with power; otherwise, it should have allowed Chief AdemolaAdeleke to contest the seat on its platform.
You said the APC should have allowed Ademola Adeleke to contest, but some people have argued that he is a greenhorn as far as the legislature is concerned and that the legislative seat should not be a family inheritance such that when one’s brother dies in office, his brother should take over from him. What is your reaction to this?
You see, some people speak from both sides of the mouth as it suits them; let us go international with that argument. In the US, there was President George Bush Snr; one of his sons was a governor in Texas while another was governor of Florida. John F. Kennedy was president and one of his brothers, the late Robert Kennedy was Attorney-General and another brother, Edward Kennedy was a senator for decades. Back here in Nigeria, the National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu was in the Senate and his wife is now a senator. I think what should matter is the competence and the background of the individuals; the antecedents and historical background of each individual should be subject of focus.
In any case, if anyone can make such statement about Ademola Adeleke’s ambition, what about Senator Hussain?
Why did he have to be the one to get the APC’s ticket, especially when he is already a commissioner in the state? Are there no other qualified people from Ejigbo and across the senatorial district?
So you don’t agree with the claim that Ademola Adeleke is a greenhorn in parliamentary matters compared to Senator Hussain?
Who is making that claim? I cannot agree with the claim because it is baseless and sentimental; Chief Ademola Adeleke comes from a politically-active family. In fact, I can tell you that his history and antecedents qualify him for the office more than individuals who we don’t know where they are from. Apart from being the brother of late Senator Isiaka Adeleke, Ademola Adeleke’s father was a Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) senator; he was a political follower of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and so it will not be right to call him a greenhorn, because you don’t become experienced in legislative matters simply because you were elected into the Senate to warm the bench for four years. Ademola Adeleke had always been actively involved in all the campaigns for his brother’s political ambitions right from 1999.