Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
Senator Rowland Owie, a former Chief Whip of the senate and one of the leaders of Action Democratic Party (ADP), has condemned the recent invasion of the senate by thugs, alleging that the disgraceful act had the support of security agents. He also hit the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) accusing it of not promoting democracy with its acts.
What is your take on the invasion of the senate last week?
It is a desecration of the order; all those that were involved certainly committed treason. When I was looking at the newspaper, I saw the vehicle that was used. I asked one of my sons the name of the vehicle and he said it was ‘Infiniti’, that the car cost almost 80million. That type of vehicle is not owned by a street hawker, it is not owned by a teacher, it must be owned by a top government official. For thugs to go through the well fortified gates of the National Assembly and then enter into the chamber of the senate where there is electronic check, it means that there was total collaboration with the security agents. From all indications what happened was supported by the executive of this country.
For them to be able to leave the National Assembly with the mace it is a shame on this nation, it is a shame on the security agencies. It means that all the security agents were aware and they were told to stand down. Police at the assembly is not less than 100 officers, so I don’t see how thugs could have breached the security if it wasn’t planned. All those involved should be brought to justice. If Nigerians don’t wake up it will be a disaster. This APC government headed by Muhammadu Buhari is not people-oriented. It is unfortunate that there are very good people inside it but they are quiet. And when you are quiet in the face of injustice it means that the individual doesn’t have the fear of God in him. My colleagues in the National Assembly have not lived up to expectation in checking the excesses of the executive. The legislature is the most important tool in democracy; the legislature should endeavor to check the executive. There have been a lot of irresponsible actions taken by the executive which the senate has failed to address.
What specifically would you have loved to see the National Assembly do to the executive?
How can the National Assembly which has the authority of confirmation of appointees reject the statutory appointment of an official and then the executive goes behind to retain such person? How can the executive neglect the rejection of the legislature? If the Senate was not sparing the rod, the moment the executive went ahead to confirm the appointment they would have removed the allocation meant for the particular office or position, so that if the chairman works and is paid, whoever that paid him would have committed an impeachable offence. The executive in this government has looked down on the National Assembly time and time again. How can the president spend over 469 million dollars on helicopter without approval from the National Assembly? The Senate should immediately send Buhari a message and begin impeachment procedure against him.
Are you saying that impeaching the president should be the only acceptable step to be taken by the senate?
Certainly he has to be impeached. It is the senate that is not doing its job. In a country like Nigeria, how will ministers and heads of parastatals decide not to show up to defend their budget? How would you have ministers who have not defended their budget under your watch and you still have FEC meeting with them every Wednesday?
But the president has openly directed them to defend their budget before the lawmakers, how then do you still blame him on that?
He said that after a lot of media condemnation of the attitude of those ministers. Is he saying that he was not aware that his ministers were not going to National Assembly to defend their budget? The executive has been over-pampered. How can the Attorney General of the Federation go and have a meeting outside the country with Maina, a fugitive, asking him to return to office?
The case involving Sen. Omo-Agege has thrown up doubt about whether the National Assembly actually has the power to suspend any of its members. As a former principal officer of the senate, what is your take?
Who told you that the senate has no power to suspend its member? You know Senate and House of Representatives are standing on order. The Nigerian constitution is for everybody. But within the legislative arm there is a standing order, when a member disobeys the standing order he can be suspended. For example, in the case of one of the senators during our time, he was reported to have called for military intervention. He was suspended. Later when it was investigated and we found out that he was misquoted, the suspension was revoked and that was the end.
The truth is that, wherever you belong to, you have to obey the rules. I was shocked when they said Omo-Agege was inside the chamber and he sat down, that shows that the senate has not been as forceful as it should have been.
Recently President Buhari gave his government a pat on the back, are you in agreement with him?
I was shocked when I heard that. What has he done to suggest that he has done well? It is unfortunate that the truth is missing gradually in this country. How has he done well; is it in terms of job creation? I read in a journal recently that those who have lost their jobs in the banking sector are over 217,000. Major industries in Lagos have closed since Buhari came on board. When it comes to electricity I just came to Abuja two days ago and we have been running the generator all through.
How about the government’s war on corruption?
On the contrary the corruption has even increased. Has Buhari told us why he has not been able to declare his assets which he promised to do on the day he was elected? Has the President been able to tell us what happened to the allocation for the health centre at the villa that his wife complained about? Has he been able to tell us how much resources he used during his sick leave outside the country? I don’t blame him for saying he has done well.
You have named areas you feel the administration has not done well, how about areas it has excelled?
I can’t think of anyone, let’s face it, when it comes to looting and corruption, are there not many ministers in his cabinet who were previously found guilty in their PDP state? Is Buhari now saying that the ruling of the state High Courts are null and void? There are many APC governors who were in the past government; they can’t give account of their wealth. Yet the president does not see them as corrupt. What corruption is he fighting when the only people who are corrupt are those who do not belong to the ruling party? There is more corruption today than in other regimes.
Is ADP planning to merge with any party or it will go it alone in 2019?
By the grace of God, the UPN was formed by a committee of friends. I was called from Benin in 1976 and we formed a party called UPN which fought against NPN. A year to the election we already knew all our candidates for the various offices- Governors, Senatorial seats, etc .As I speak today, the ADP has about 16 governors in 16 states that will run for election, the ADP is a divine party.
The party came with a bang; it was generally described as a mega party. But the steam appears to be fading out, what really is the problem?
Not at all, when you set up the organisation, be careful if you take a number of people from a background of pecuniary, if the people are money driven. That is why we are doing it gradually. We want to be sure of who they are. It has helped us to detect them. A group of people came to meet me yesterday, I told my National chairman not to bring those type of people to me again, they believe in the old ‘money at hand’ procedure, and are not willing to take risks. Those who can’t take risks cannot benefit, they are going to look for ‘food is ready’.
Call your correspondents and ask them about the ADP in their various states. The bottom line is we will cooperate with some parties but not merge. I was at Radio Nigeria recently and I spoke about politics, because of the lack of discipline in APC the party is going nowhere. In the old UPN or NPN, there was never a time a party meeting was held in the presidency, the budget for the state was never presented to the assembly until the party has scrutinise the budget. Today I am not sure if up to two percent of the governors have the manifesto of their parties.
Recently the APC leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu warned against party supremacy, are you in agreement with him?
Party supremacy is the only thing that can save democracy. Personally, I think he was misquoted. It seems as though he was talking about his party in particular. In APC there is no party supremacy at all, it is individuals who decide who will rule, which candidate will run. It is not only in APC but in PDP too, individuals have taken over; they would sit in their bedrooms and decide who become the governors in the states. The national chairmen of these parties cannot even make input on who is going to be the candidate for offices or appointments. Apart from Solomon Lar the only national chairmen we have had in PDP are Audu Ogbeh , Okwesilieze Nwodo. That’s all; any other party chairman was a misfit.
Can you deliver Edo to ADP ?
We don’t boast, we know ourselves. Let me tell you, APC is not a party, it is an amalgamation of angry people. There are good people there but the party is gone. The PDP that would have been a threat, impunity destroyed it. So, certainly, we will be competing. No problem at all.
Would you say today’s political leaders are selfish and more corrupt than the ones we had in the past?
I agree with you. I spoke with a group of National Assembly members about a month ago; we were robbing minds together on how to move forward. The moment a political leader becomes selfish that structure is destroyed. Some people as soon as they appointed, they don’t think about the welfare of the populace. They begin to loot and corner public funds.
This interview, published yesterday is being rerun due to production mix-up.