Edionwele, a member of the PDP, stated this against the backdrop of the refusal of many government officials to obey summons by the National Assembly
Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
A member of the House of Representatives, representing Esan West, Esan Central and Igueben Federal Constituency of Edo State, Joe Edionwele has said that President Muhammadu Buhari is encouraging disdain for the legislature by members of the Executive arm of government.
Edionwele, who is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), stated this against the backdrop of the refusal of many government officials to obey summons by the National Assembly to appear before it, as well as failure by the executive arm to comply with many resolutions passed by the parliament, insisting that the development constitutes a threat to the country’s democracy.
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The lawmaker also bares his mind on the preparation of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for 2019 general elections and PDP’s preparedness to win next year’s presidential election.
How would you assess the preparation for the 2019 general elections by INEC?
With what happened in Ekiti, one would comfortably say that they are not ready for free and fair elections. In a situation where vote buying is so rampant, a situation where thugs are still allowed to operate freely- with all the 30,000 police, about 4000 soldiers deployed in Ekiti, we still have thugs around and cash point for ‘see and buy vote’, it means we still have a long way to go. A situation where votes no longer count is dangerous for this country.
The police and soldiers are supposed to be under INEC supervision since the operation at the time concerns elections. Where you have 30, 000 policemen, 4000 soldiers and you are still talking about thugs snatching ballot boxes at polling booths, and you are cancelling such booths, doesn’t portend well for this country. It is a very sad scenario.
You heard people been unnecessary detained even before the day of election. On what basis, you may ask? A whole governor was blocked. That even scared the electorate. You heard the US electoral observers. There were thugs going about. They were ‘see and buy ‘cash points. Yet police was there. DSS was there. Civil defence was there. So, it is unfortunate. We just hope that doesn’t happen in 2019; otherwise, that will be the end of democracy.
Many of your party men are concerned that there may not be a level playing field in the 2019 polls. Do you also share that concern?
Looking at what happened in Ekiti, I don’t think there would be a level playing field. INEC said they were going to transmit results from the polling units. But nothing was transmitted. Results from the polling booths were different from what got to INEC.
The House recently passed a new electoral law , which the President is yet to assent to. What difference would that law make in next year’s election?
There are enough laws already. There are enough electoral laws. It is not about the law. It is about the enforcement. If the police looked the other way when people in government are manipulating elections, If INEC look the other way, when people in government are engaging in malpractice, where is the law? The law is impotent. So, it is not just about the law. It is about those who are implementing the law. In Ekiti, people were arrested for electoral malpractice, what has happened. Have you heard of anyone prosecuted?
How would you assess the preparation of your party for the 2019 general election?
If votes will count, of course, we will win. People are disenchanted. The government promised jobs, there are no jobs. People are hungry. Unemployment is so high. Which particular sector has the government touched? Is it health or education? Look at the economy. Which sector of the economy is stimulated? None. Nigerians are actually not happy. You see the killings everywhere. The bloodshed is unprecedented. Insecurity everywhere, in fact they are now killing even those who ought to secure us. Look at the number of security agents that are killed and they are not replaced.
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When in 1980, we had the Matasine in Kano, in one swoop, the President, Shehu Shagari then employed 40, 000 men in the police and 20, 000 in the army. Today, how many policemen have they employed? How many soldiers have they employed? Even the ones that have died they cannot even replace them. So the people are yearning for a change.
There have been concerns as to whether your party would be able to have a crisis – free presidential primary, what do you think?
Of course, we will. The people are ready to make sacrifices. It is about sacrifices. The errors, like in (former President Goodluck) Jonathan’s time, where they said nobody should challenge him, will not repeat itself. There are people who are ready for governance. And there are people who are ready to make sacrifices. I can assure you that it is going to be a free and fair primary. And there would be consensus.
The influence of the National Assembly, the House of Representatives in particular, seem to be dwindling. In recent times, there have instances where the resolutions of the House are treated with levity. House summons are ignored by members of the executive. What is your take on the development?
It is the destruction of the democracy we fought so hard for. It is not even usurpation of power. Somebody called it neutralisation of power. There is supposed to be separation of powers. The executive has its limitations. We have our limitation. Only the judiciary has what we call inherent powers. But you see they are trying to erode the total power of the National Assembly. When you say something, you are intimidated. Definitely, the House has to resist all these intimidations. This is democracy. It is not a military regime.
The House should start testing its cases in court. A situation where you summon somebody and he fails to come, you exercise your powers. The parliament has power to summon. If they say we don’t have, let’s go to the court to test it.
Beyond going to the court, what else can the House do?
You don’t have your own police. The executive controls the police and the army. They have the AGF. What will you do? You cannot physically go and force someone to appear in parliament. If you have your own police, then you can enforce. Even the Inspector General of Police, you invite him, he will not come. Where are you going to start from? But in advanced democracy, you will see that situation like this requires the intervention of the President, who is supposed to defend the law, the constitution which is the ground norm, at all times, because he swore to defend the constitution, irrespective of whether it hurts or not.
Would you say the members of the executive seem to be interpreting the body language of Mr. President?
Of course, that is what I am saying. In the executive, the persons who are elected are the President and the Vice President. It is their administration, particularly the President. He is the one, if democracy survives, he will take the credit. If democracy does not survive, he is the one that will be blamed. He is the one that should call his aides to order, whether they are ministers or heads of agencies.
His failure to do that means complicity. That is why many times, people blame him. And you begin to wonder, why are they blaming Mr. President?
The laws are clear on what should happen if you are summoned by the National Assembly and you don’t
appear. But when you issue subpoena, it is the police that will enforce it. They are supposed to be the defender, the protector of the law, but it doesn’t happen. There is so much executive rascality.
How has it been representing your people in the past three years?
We are lucky that we have been able to reach out to our people. We have 30 wards and we have been able to touch more than half of the wards. And of course, we have been able to raise a lot of bills and motions. So, it has been exciting, because as a first timer, one didn’t expect that we will perform this much. But I can tell you, my constituents are happy with me.
Are you seeking for re-election?
It actually does not depend on me. It depends on my people. I know that my people want me to come back. And I am available for them.
You state is under the control of APC and you have your former governor, Adams Oshiomhole as APC National Chairman and he may want to deliver the state to his party. Does that not bother you?
It is not egg and bread that you just give out. That was why I told you earlier that politics is local. When I won my election, we were in opposition. The governor was from the APC when I won my election. It depends on your people. It is the people that decide who they want to send to Abuja. And I can tell you that my people have no regret voting me the last time.
What effects will Oshiomhole’s emergence as APC chairman likely have on Edo politics, especially in the next election?
It is not a thing that you can ignore. Because whether you like it or not, he is a rough fighter, but I think the people are wiser. However, it is not something that you will say doesn’t matter. It matters a lot. But God and one’s legacy, what one had done in the past will be a great relief to those who did not abandon their people, when it mattered most. And I think I am one of them.