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In politics, you don t plan too far ahead because a lot of things can happen but all things being equal, I should be coming back as the leader of my party and invariably, the leader of other minority parties as well. What are those things you would have wished to change if the opposition has had more numbers? Rightly, PDP was like a super majority in the House, with more than 260 members. So, it was difficult getting anything done. There is a cliché in the House that You can have your say but we will have our way. I would love to see a situation where people will be true to the oath they swore to do the bidding of Nigerians and not the wish of a party. With the new trend now, I hope that minority parties will unite because our biggest problem has been lack of cohesion. But if we can come under one strong umbrella with one voice as Opposition, we will get a lot more done, especially in the area of budgeting because now, the majority party, the PDP, must talk to us now. How will the swell in opposition s rank affect the engagement among legislators? First, the cliché of You can have your say but we will have our way will be a thing of the past. Nothing will be slammed down our throats anymore and there will be a lot more lobbying and confrontation. This eventually will affect the quality of government s policies and laws. The interest of a particular party will no longer be supreme; there will be more robust debate. It will be a House of many colours. Before, there is no rule of engagement because our number is negligible and they can afford to ride roughshod over us. It s all PDP affairs. But that will surely change now. However, for that to change, the opposition must marry its numbers with unity. If we still have more than one opposition, rather than one opposition, the swell in number will not make any difference But some legislators are new in the business; won t their inexperience affect your expectation? We all know that being a good legislator takes years of training and experience. It is a serious business. In advanced democracies, you see people who have been legislators for more than twenty years. Legislation involves a lot of intrigues and unfortunately, we are going to suffer for that lack of experience. However, that case is not peculiar to the opposition alone, the PDP also has many new comers, who are equally inexperienced. So, it means those of us with relatively longer experience have a big task of carrying others along. If you come back as the Minority Leader, do you think you have the mien to unify ACN and CPC legislators, now that the alliance talk has broken down? First, the alliance talk has not broken down. It may be a post-election alliance. But we have been at this effort of having a united opposition and our seed is beginning to grow. What we have done is to reshuffle the structure of the opposition in a way that the ACN, which has the highest number of the opposition members, did not take all the positions. Before, ANPP, which was the leading opposition party, took three of the positions and gave one to ACN. I made sure that each party is represented. This has paid off in that we now have better understanding among ourselves and I hope we can continue the trend.
The first is the independence of the legislative arm of the government. How will this looming danger be avoided? That is another example of the many lapses that exist in our constitution. after which we modelled our democracy. We should not have more than 10 items. states should actually be stronger. So they have the best hand and they therefore get the best result. while the VAT it generates goes to the federal government. The quality of support staff for federal legislators has been reputably poor. It is said that fund meant to hiring quality staff end up in the pockets of legislators. Do you see this as a big issue that will eventually affect the quality of legislation the country enjoys? Money meant for legislative staff does not end up in legislators pocket. And I think there is a standard defined under the civil service rule. But this issue is one of the issues we will definitely take up. especially the exclusive legislative list. But let me agree with you that the quality of legislative staff needs to be seriously considered. What is your relationship with him? . Recently.What exactly will be the agenda of the opposition members in the House? I am going to be pushing for issues that will ensure the growth of our democracy. I will be pushing vigorously for true federalism where we will have a weaker centre and stronger states. I don t know why a legislator cannot employ a lawyer or an accountant who will be well paid. States should be the one to raise taxes. We work at the federal level but we actually represent our respective states. It has to be done eitherby legislation or regulation for us to have better output. on that list. a bill to increase VAT rate and reduce that of personal income tax is being mooted. That is paramount. Many of our problems will disappear if we substitute this unitary system of government for true federalism. is not coming back to the House. Federal government has no business setting minimum wage for states. So. About minimum wage. most of us end up employing people who have run our campaigns for us and who do not even have an idea of legislative business. So. at most. The most important thing is for members of the House to have the interest of their states. if you are not from the Ivy-league university. We have many legislators who do not understand that they do not represent the federal government. In US. We know that gone are the day of rubber stamping whatever comes from the executive government. Will you be pushing for such legislation? Yes. It is paid directly to the staff by the National Assembly Service Commission. there has to be a legislation that will standardise the level and capacity of legislative staff. But we have 53 items. In Nigeria. I don t pay a single member of my staff. where will the states get money to pay if the federal government is collecting all the taxes? I think this issue may end up being resolved by the judiciary. DimejiBankole. your chances of working for a legislator is very slim. Lagos stands to be the worst victim because it relies heavily on PAYE. This will call for further constitutional amendment. May be an enforcement of that standard is what we need. The Speaker.
I don t know. What is your assessment of the national assembly election? It went well but I wont be one those who will start rejoicing that it is perfect. They said everyone has freedom of association. Opposition parties in Lagos have alleged several irregularities said to be perpetrated by the ACN. What is your reaction to the belief that Governor Fashola s sterling performance boost the chances of other ACN contestants in Lagos? Without taking away anything from Fashola. He has been magnanimous in defeat. which is what we have now. then bring the evidence. ACN will surprise quite a number of people. He is a good man. you are rigged out. Is there a structure or strategy to prevent that? At the end of the day. If you allege. this is something that may resort to lawsuit. we are not yet there. First. I will be glad if they can provide evidence. He is young and I am sure will continue to be relevant to Nigeria s development. which I don t think is an absolute freedom. The fear is there.He is a personal friend and we will remain friends. both from ACN and other parties. What number does the CPC has that ACN does not have? There is a new fear that some people who won election on ACN s platform will defect to PDP. What are you going to miss about him? I have so many colleagues that are not coming back. But compared with what obtains in advanced democracies. I think a local government conference needs to be called so they analyse their problems and proffer solutions. But thePDP argued otherwise. But I think it is high time people wake up and begin to use the power of recall. A lot more has to be done. What is ACN s chance at the presidential poll? ACN is a party of surprises as the national assembly election has shown. We tried to prevent that during the last constitutional amendment by proposing that cross carpeting be banned out rightly. And I think Nigerians appreciate that. It may be a constitutional issue or lack of fund. It is not like another party was holding sway before Fashola came. Will you say ACN also benefitted from our imperfect electoral conduct? It is a cultural thing for Nigerians to cry foul where there is none. the standard has been set so low that any little improvement. I must say that there were ACN elective office holders in Lagos before Fashola came on board. who has done very well. Camera phones were allowed to monitor the election. But the local councils have not received the same admiration that Fashola has got? I have to agree with you that the local governments structure is complex and inefficient but that is not peculiar to Lagos alone. . which they have under the constitution. I know I m going to miss them but what exactly I will miss is what I haven t really thought about. If you lose. becomes so big.
There was a day the finance minister came to the floor of the House and one of my colleagues asked the minister to clarify the issue of constituency allowance in the presence of the media. American legislators do not do poverty eradication programme. They do not sink boreholes. I bought about 10 newspapers and none carried it. which is the running cost of their offices. So. those are not my job but how do I explain that to them? So I have to accept the responsibility. if the motivation is to help the . The minister said he has heard about it but that there is actually no such thing. by 100 percent. If we truly wants to stop the economy from bleeding. we failed to ask where the remaining 75 percent goes. which is an arm of the government. there is no basis for comparison. How much is the allowance of the CBN governor? How much is his travel and hotel allowance? We should look into all that. The next day.But local governments must be up and doing because they made my campaign very difficult. I told my colleagues that I was ready to bet my last kobo that no newspaper will carry such vital information. let me say again that there is no such thing as constituency allowance. construct roads. gutters etc. everybody in the executive government also have allowances. But the legislature has the oversight function of stopping the bleeding? Well we know where the 75 percent is going but journalists will not look at issues holistically. So. is even more than the budget of the national assembly. people complain about their roads. It is no secret. Everybody in your constituency as a Nigerian legislator comes to you for one problem or the other and you have to meet their needs. money that could have ended up in pockets of some political appointees of government. People do not know the job of a legislator yet so when I go for campaign. So. And journalists should know if they do their work. We do not regard such allowance as part of their take home pay but we do same for legislators. On the other hands. Do you think it is deserving or should it be reduced? First. Nigerian legislators do all of these. Our allowances has been compared with those of legislators in other climes. How do you oversee the 75 percent when the 25 percent they are selling to you is even wrong? CBN s budget. which is just an agency out of so many agencies of the executive government. when the CBN governor said the National Assembly spends 25 percent of national budget. which is totally wrong. pay school fees. we have to look at all arms of government and not single out the legislature. buy motorcycles or sewing machines. But don t you think the national assembly could have prevented this attack if it has been proactive in its oversight function? We have save so much money for the country that is not even reported. But I always say that I will rather be an American legislator and keep all of my money than a Nigerian legislator who end up spending most of his earnings on constituents. The issue of legislators allowance will not go away.
A couple of times. He is a very intelligent man.. You will be shocked where the economy bleeds most. The issue about godfathers is that they make an overbearing demand. We look at issues and debate. he has a more compelling argument. we should look at everything holistically. I haven t have that experience. 9 times out of 10. Fashola who we all acclaim has also learnt a lot from Tinubu. so he is more experienced and see things from a better angle. But honestly.country rather than vilify a set of people. He just state his own opinion. he doesn t ram it down your neck. He was a legislator and a governor. . Don t forget he was Tinubu s Chief of Staff. Frankly. he has made his position known about issues being discussed on the floor. What influence does Bola Tinubu have on you? He is somebody I have learnt a lot from and I continue to learn from the great man.
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