Principles, guidelines should shape leadership of ninth National Assembly —Oba Abolarin
Oba Adedokun Abolarin, the Orangun of Oke-Ila in Osun State, though a traditional ruler, is passionate about issues affecting the polity. He speaks with Deputy Editor, DAPO FALADE, on the raging controversies over the leadership of the ninth National Assembly.
ONE of the main issues on the front burner in the national discourse is the leadership of the ninth National Assembly. What is your view on this idea of a particular zone producing the Speaker or the Senate President?
It is important for us to take the totality of Nigeria into focus. There should not be imposition; there should be certain principles and guidelines to shape the emergence of the leadership of our parliament. Take for example, this is a presidential system of government and we are in a democracy. There is the majority party and there is a minority party. A majority party is a majority party. Positions meant for the majority must be strictly handled by the majority party. The positions of the minority party must be handled by the minority.
Be that as it is may, this is not the first year that we are experiencing democracy in the country; we have been on it since 1999. So, it is applicable that you have better and well experienced people as the leader. That is where the issue of seniority or senility will now come into play. This is what I always tell people that yes we don’t expect everything to be put down in black and white in the constitution. There are norms and conventions that must guide the activities of the constitution.
So in terms of the National Assembly, the norms of senility or seniority and specialisation should come into play. We should be able to tap from the wealth of the most experienced and the most senior. This is just like in journalism where you don’t just expect a rookie to be the political editor of foremost national newspaper like the Nigerian Tribune or that you will expect somebody with just two years working experience to be the editor of your organisation. This is also applicable to the National Assembly. The best hands must be elected and that is what we have in the established democracies.
We must look at who among these contenders is the most senior; who among them, in terms of experience, either from being the minority leader and chairman of appropriation and there he moved into the Senate as the minority or even a majority leader and probably he has been in the National Assembly since the commencement of our experience in democracy. This is not a difficult thing to do; you can even Google and it will give you who is the most senior.
But what we are having here is a plan by some vested interests to thwart the arrangement you talked about…
Yes, I know the problem started in 2011 when some of those who are now seeking the leadership position of the National Assembly thwarted the efforts by the then majority party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to have Honourable Mulikat Adeola-Akande as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. But some lawmakers from the minority Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) connived with some elements in the PDP to elect Honourable Aminu Tambuwal instead.
But to a very large extent, we should let our institutions be built. Let us start to build institutions; let us put round peg in a round hole. At the same time, we should balance the whole thing. Nigeria is made up of nationalities. One nationality should not just be behaving and looking as if it is not part of the Nigeria nationhood. Right now, I am for the most senior and, for God’s sake, a majority party is the majority party. We should get that clear.
We have a situation at hand where the leadership of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), is adamant that a particular set of people should emerge as the leaders of the ninth National Assembly. Do you think this is right?
This may be because of their experience the last time. There must be stability in the National Assembly and we need experienced hands because the executive and the parliament, and to some extent, the judiciary, must clash. But in terms of management, that is what they have not been able to see, may be in the last eight years.
One of the contenders for the Senate Presidency, Senator Ndume Ali, insists that due process should be followed and that the members of both Houses take a decision on whom and whom they want without the party or external forces dictating…
Yes, external forces should not determine or dictate on the leadership of the ninth National Assembly; it should be done internally. And if it is to be done internally, it is not a difficult thing to determine who is the most senior and the oldest in terms of wisdom. To confer wisdom on the most senior, you must go senile. If you are just into the National Assembly two, three or four years, you are not yet senile. 1999 is not a joke and that is the tradition we are already establishing.
Let us be objective now. It is either of the two, Senator Ahmed Lawan and Senator Ali Ndume; let us give it to the most senior among them. Let us look dispassionately at their records and give it to the more experienced of the two. Why am I saying this? It makes for stability. Two, it makes for predictability; you can easily predict and you have better laws being made. This is better than just giving the leadership to a set of people who can say, ‘yes, I can gang up with the minority’. The minority party should not gang up with some people in the majority party. The minority party is a minority party; let them face their own issue.
For me, the most experienced in the minority party now and who should be the minority leader is Senator Ike Ekweremadu. But you will not see that happening because he has been the Deputy Senate President and coming back to be the minority leader will appear to be downgrading. That was the mistake we made the last time (2015). Senator David Mark in the Senate this outgoing National Assembly, but it is like we don’t even know that he was there. His party being the minority party, he should automatically be the minority leader, but probably he thought such an office is beneath him. We are talking about building institutions; nothing is beneath anybody when it comes to doing that.
But don’t you think that people out there would say Senator Mark is too desperate to cling unto power by all means?
No, I don’t think so because that is what lawmaking is all about. It is not for people who are just coming in. You need experienced people there. That is why I always advocate that as many times as possible, a David Mark should always be in the National Assembly for stability and in order to control the president. We need a strong personality to be able to do that. In 1999, when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was the president, he took his decisions based on this principle. A wise president will listen to a strong and experienced National Assembly.
How did you think the legislative arm of government can get it right?
We have been at it since 1999 and we have had enough. We need to start now to begin to cut costs. Many of the old senators are not back in the Senate. We need the experienced hands. Udoma Udo Udoma is an experienced hand; David Mark is an experienced hand. I think Mark should now set up a private legislative institute at Otukpo area and it must be patronised. Instead of sending our legislators outside the country, junketing all over the world, we have enough mature materials now to train our people. I, the Orangun of Oke Ila, because of my passion for the National Assembly and lawmaking, I can train our lawmakers. I know the nitty gritty of the National Assembly, despite the fact that I am a traditional ruler.
I am not being personal now. But I think it is high time we now looked inward. We should now believe in ourselves. Why do we need to waste money? We cannot even afford it now, anyway; the economy is not ripe for us to start junketing all over the world learning things that we know can be provided within our shores.
We need to go back into the drawing board. Senator Olabiyi Durojaye is there; Senator Femi Okunrounmu is there and several others. These are experienced legislators who are well versed in lawmaking. They should train the present crops of legislators, both at the state and at the federal levels. We should stop being akotileta; we should look at the brightest and best within the shores of Nigeria who can train the public servants in the National Assembly and the elected members in the National Assembly.