Fred Itua, Abuja
Senator Gabriel Suswan chairs the Senate Committee on Power. He is the former governor of Benue State and former member of the House of Representatives. In this interview with Sunday Sun, he revealed that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will zone the position of the president to the North.
He also explained why it will not be micro-zoned to a particular geopolitical zone. He also spoke on loans approved by the National Assembly for President Muhammadu Buhari, low key celebration of Senate’s one year anniversary, among others. Excerpt:
One year anniversary of the Senate was without funfair. It was unusual. What happened?
You know that given the current circumstances that the world has found itself in there are rules against socialising and the Senate as an arm of government should lead by example. We cannot be asking people to show social distancing and at the same time socialising among ourselves because we want to celebrate. You know that very important events across the world have been postponed. So, we are just working in consonance with the current situation. That is not to say that there’s nothing to celebrate. You know that more than any time in the history of the Senate, we have touched on very important issues, whether in form of bills or motions. We have done very well. The Senate has addressed the security challenges that we’ve found ourselves. We have addressed economic issues, we have also addressed social issues and so it is important to say that our reason for not celebrating is not because there’s nothing to celebrate, but because we wanted to work within the current circumstances.
The current National Assembly is often described as rubber stamp. It is often accused of pandering to the dictates of the Executive. As a lawmaker, are you not bothered?
Well, I wouldn’t say that the current Senate is rubber stamp. The leadership of the National Assembly decided that unlike what happened previously, we are all elected whether on the executive side or legislative side, with a common objective which is to serve Nigerians. And the only way that can be feasible is for us to cooperate among ourselves even though the doctrine of separation of power exists. That doctrine of separation of power in principle presumes that there will be inter-independence. It’s not that you can take actions that are totally opposed to the other. We have to collaborate for us to move forward. And so I think what the Senate has done, given the experience of Nigerians in the previous Senate when nothing was working – budget was not passed and even if it was passed, it was passed mid-year. So, it was impossible for any activity of government to continue. So, we said let us depart from that. That doesn’t make us rubber stamp. We just feel that we should cooperate. Yes, the PDP is an opposition party. You know in a Presidential democracy, you don’t have opposition parties. What you have is minority parties. And so, the minority can have their say, but the majority will have their way. So, we are overwhelmed in terms of numbers. When we look at issues that will impact positively on the country, of course, we support. Take the issue of the loan, for instance. Given the global economic contraction, there’s no country that is not borrowing. America which has the healthiest economy in the world has borrowed the most. So, yes borrowing down the road becomes a problem because generations yet unborn are going to confront it. But then, if we die now, there will be no generation for tomorrow. So, borrowing, provided it is applied judiciously can pay back itself. It is when it is misapplied or misappropriated that it becomes a problem. So, we approved the loan not because we are rubber stamp, but because if you look at our economy, if we don’t borrow what will happen. And so I think that it doesn’t make us rubber stamp; we are just facing the reality of our current situation.
Your committee has commenced another power probe. We have had series of probes in the past and they didn’t yield anything. Why this new probe? To what end?
No, what we are doing is not so much of a probe, it is an investigative power hearing that is not punitive. What we want to put on the table is, what are the issues that are militating against efficient power delivery in the country and we have arrived at that. All the stakeholders came together for the first time and agreed on the issues militating against efficient power delivery in the country. So, what we are looking for is solutions, not to probe and apportion blame to people. This is not a punitive investigative power hearing, it is for us to find solutions. And by the time we put our report together, everything that needs to be done for us to have efficient power delivery in this country will be encapsulated in our report. And, of course, if we follow it, since that report has every person – the DISCOs were here, relevant people like the Minister of Finance, the Central Bank, GENCOs and other very major stakeholders, agreed knowing that there’s been a lot of misalignment in the power sector, but now every person has agreed that this is the way to go. Before then, every person was operating on their own, but now they have all agreed that we need to align ourselves from generation to transmission to distribution. And I think that that will help alot.
Did the committee dwell on what went wrong in the past, monies that were spent, etc?
No. We looked at monies that were spent and asked why so much monies were spent with no result. So, we are not probing that people have embezzled the money; we are probing why that money has not impacted positively on the power sector.
As a founding member of the PDP, a former governor and now a Senator, will your party zone the position of the President to the North in 2023?
Of course, the PDP will maintain zoning. We have not realised it, so the zoning still remains in the North in the PDP. In PDP, we zoned the Presidency to the North and have we realised it? No. So, the zoning still remains in the North for 2023. Presidency is not micro-zoned. Once you say North, every person in the North is entitled to contest and the best person wins.