Chief Sharafadeen Abiodun Ali, a former Secretary to the Oyo State Government, former Chief of Staff to Oyo State governor, former chairman of Ibadan North Local Government, former chairman of Odua Investment Limited and the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for Oyo South Senatorial district, speaks on his candidature and why he thinks he’s the man for the job with SAM NWAOKO.
Would you say you are pleased with the way the National Assembly goes about its business?
To a large extent I will say I’m pleased. I’m pleased because I’m more concerned about the amendment of the constitution and when this is done, those who are turning the law on its head would not find it easy and things would be put right. By that time, we won’t have any problem. The current National Assembly has proposed many amendments and they have sent these to state houses of assembly. The president has signed the the financial regulation No. 2 which talks about local government autonomy, independence of the state houses of assembly; he has met with the governors. Nothing can happen if the constitution is not amended. Recently when Tinubu said there is going to be state police, his attention was called to the fact that you will have to amend the constitution. So, the National Assembly has done its own part.
There is over-concentration of power at the centre in Nigeria. That is one of the complaints of Nigerians. Don’t you think that the National Assembly should have addressed this by way of legislation?
We talk of restructuring. We talk of devolution of power and we talk of true federalism. The three are similar, they are about the same thing. We are saying if we have true federalism, apart from defense, immigration, currency and a few other items, the federal government doesn’t have to bother itself about so many other things. So, until we amend that constitution we cannot achieve this.
Then can’t it be said that the APC government is insensitive because the constitution has remained a problem for us all and there is little done to muster the political will to amend it. Don’t you think that things like these have affected the equipping of Amotekun?
Amotekun is a precursor to state police. It is coming. This is the matter: We have exclusive legislative list in the constitution. The items there are so much. It is exclusive and for this, state governments cannot legislate over such matters. The National Assembly has not proposed such amendments as may be required to states and the states have not done anything. We have been asking for devolution of powers. That is what it means. I’m a supporter of state police and I believe that Amotekun will be subsumed into the coming state police that we desire.
What do you think is wrong, why would the state governors reject the proposed amendments to the constitution?
It is because so many of the state governors are feeding fat on the funds of local government. They asked them to go and look at the entire bill and you cannot take some of the issues and leave the others. There are many things they don’t like and for this, they have left the bill to be gathering dust. That bill contains things that would give state houses of assembly some form of independence. Likewise the judiciary… I was made to understand that speakers of state houses of assembly were invited to the National Assembly sometime ago to tell them again that some of these things are for their benefit. But they have not done anything up till now. So, the National Assembly has done their bit.
Are you saying that state governors are the ones holding things back in the country?
I have said this several times. I’ve even said it on air on many occasions. Let then tell me that it’s not true. I said that bill is with them. Oyo State is one of the state that have not done anything about the constitution. They have not discussed it up till now and we have about three months to elections. They have less than one year to the end of their tenure and to be able to do that, you need to organize public hearings, you will need to call for memoranda and do some other things. But nothing has been done. Even if they don’t do any of these, they know the feeling of the people, that the people are not happy with the way local government administration is and that what they want is to amend that Section 7 to ensure that local governments are taken away and are no more seen as an appendage of the state government.
So, you’re saying in effect that National Assembly has done their bit and by extension, the Federal Government has done well including in the area of security…
No. That’s not what I’m saying. Nobody is happy that people are kidnapped and that we have bandits or armed robbers. No, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that until something is done about the constitution. Secondly, the government has not done enough but in recent times when the federal government has acquired powerful fighting equipment, they have been able to silence some of these people.
Going back to local government autonomy, why do you think the state governments are not in support of local government autonomy, even after the president has showed interest in this?
The president had signed a regulation to that effect but the law has not been amended. For this, I blame the Houses of Assembly because even if the governor is telling you not to do it, as a true representative of your people you should have a second thought. I was a local government chairman when there was true autonomy, and it was still under this same 1999 Constitution. We’ve had chairmen since 1999 that operated under Governor Lam Adesina, Governor Rashidi Ladoja, Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala and Governor Abiola Ajimobi. It has never been this bad. And there will never be any development if there are no local governments. The word ‘local’ means that they are the grassroots. When last did you hear that the governor is going to a local government to commission projects? That was common during last regimes.
If we take what happened in a place like Benue and expand it to Zamfara, Kaduna, especially Southern Kaduna, Niger State and some other state, do you think the federal government has handled the issue of insecurity to the admiration of Nigerians?
The issue in Southern Kaduna is ethnic. The problem is Zamfara is gold mining. These issues have different dimensions to them. The issue of Boko Haram has actually been fought by the Federal Government and that is what led us to the issue of banditry. Banditry is associated more with gold mining. Unfortunately many Nigerians didn’t know until recently. That is the reason why Governor Wike is complaining. He said we are enjoying our oil together while you people are enjoying your gold alone without telling us. Thank God it has now come out. That is what led to the issue of banditry. Quite sincerely, the Federal Government has started fighting the insurgents decisively.
ALSO READ FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
- TUESDAY FLAT OUT: Between The Content Of Our Character And The Colour Of Our Currency
- EDITORIAL: Toxic Suya
Don’t you think that is because the elections are coming?
It’s not just that, it’s essentially more because it was only recently that we were able to secure some of the fighting jest from the USA. Before now, we had issues with them on things like these.
As an elder statesman in Oyo State politics, without recourse to age now, would you say you have reached out to the governor to inform him about some of these things you have heard?
No, not in recent time… This is because I’ve tried unsuccessfully to reach out to him even before now. I had made attempts to reach the governor but there was no response except when we meet at functions, which are not the appropriate place to table such issues.
How else do you think this issue of exclusive legislative list or, generally, the amendment of the constitution can be handled because it looks like it’s very difficult to do?
If you look at the manifesto of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, you will see that all these things are there. What we need first and foremost is the political will on the part of the president. I can excuse the current president because what his people had kept on saying is that we had had a Yoruba man there before, we have had Bayelsa man and they never asked for devolution of powers. Why are they asking for it now? Let us enjoy the juicy power until their man comes into office. I’m sure with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu we are going to get it done.
Are we going to get it done with the same kind of legislature in place?
The National Assembly as constituted today has done their bit. They have passed the constitution amendment to the states. It is at the states that we are having problem and all the delay. But with the political will on the part of Asiwaju Tinubu, he will be able to persuade some of our governors that are giving us problems. Unfortunately, it is some of these sitting governors that are killing the local government and when they get to the Senate, they will start asking for local government autonomy because they will now be seeing it in a different light.
What is that you really want to do as a senator?
I possess more qualities than any other candidate in the race to Oyo South senatorial district seat in the Senate. Apart from lawmaking which is the primary job of a lawmaker, I also believe that I would attract Federal Government presence to my senatorial district, especially for the agrarian community in Ibarapa to be able to develop that area. This will certainly lead to the birth of agro-allied industries in that area. We have a medical centre there and a hospital that is under the management of UCH. With my colleagues, I will ensure that we upgrade it to a federal medical centre. I’ve seen several federal medical centres around, some of them are not as equipped as what we have in that place. I will work assiduously in ensuring that we have that. Apart from the FMC Idi Aba which has been there for a very long time, I don’t know of any that is better equipped that in Igbo Ora.
Youth development is very important because they form a large percentage of the voting population today. We have a lot of young men who are out of job: school leavers who are unemployed or underemployed. I’m going to ensure that we find jobs for so many of them and also align with the state government, especially, by the grace of God the government of Senator Teslim Folarin, who has made agriculture one of the areas of focus for his administration. We have to think out of the box and be creative. We have to go to other areas like tourism, entertainment, sports are some of the many areas where we should have our youths today. That is one of the reasons I have decided to continue with what I had been doing before on a larger scale now – there is a football competition that is going on within the senatorial district. It is a way of catching them young and attract scouts from all over the world.
I also believe in empowering our people, especially women. It’s not the N5,000 or N10,000 the people are given in the name of empowerment. We are going to look for ways of not giving people fish but teach them how to fish.