Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
As the country continues to grapple with insecurity, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Owan Federal Constituency on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Julius Ihonvbere, has said that state policing is crucial in securing the country.
Ihonvbere, who is a member of the House Ad-hoc Committee on Media and Publicity, spoke with Daily Sun, on the crisis in the Edo State House of Assembly, insisting that the constitution must be adhered to and due process must be followed.
There have been debates on how best to tackle the security challenges in the country. While some think there should be state police, there have equally being arguments against it. Where do you stand on this issue?
There is a lot to say in favour of state police. In all federal systems that I have studied, there is none where policing is centralised the way it is in Nigeria.
It is people who know the community, who understand the local language, who know the traditions and the culture and where criminals gather, that can secure a community more effectively. I understand what some state custodians of power may do when the control of the police is in their hands, but it is the challenge we have to live with, until we get it right.
For instance, we are not going to say because our democracy is still fledging, with a lot of mistakes both at elections and so on, that we will no longer practice democracy. If you look at our democratic processes right from aspiration through primaries to candidacy, to election, to post election, it is filled with a lot of challenges; particularly the monetisation of our politics, which affects the entire spectrum. But we are still trying to make it better.
So I think that state police ultimately will be the solution. But we can also put guidelines. We can put checks and balances so that there is no excessive abuse of authority by either governors or other stakeholders.
The second issue for me is that security has to come to the grass roots, not just state police. I also believe that we must go back to the issue of having neighborhood watch.
The ninth House is starting on a turbulent note. In the aftermath of the inauguration of the House, there were allegations of vote buying with some seventy members threatening to go to court, if need be. There is also the crisis over the minority leadership that many believe if not well managed, will snowball into a bigger issue. How is the House leadership handling it?
First of all, let those who said that they are going to court give us the 70 names and let’s see who they are and the party, they belong . Then you will begin to understand why they are making all the noise.
I was part of that campaign and nobody campaigned for speakership in the history of Nigeria like Gbajabiamila did. We went to see governors, met with stakeholders, basically selling his candidature. He came out to say if you look at the logo of my campaign, it has the emblem of all the parties represented in the House of Representatives. It is a joint task; I am going to work with every body.
So, he had an edge, over the other candidates. Not one of the other candidates ever spoke with me. Gbaja spoke to me more than five times, before inviting me to join in the movement but I never met with any of the other candidates, not once, never spoke on the phone. They sent text messages, is that how you win people over in a campaign like this? Let’s not make mockery of a serious matter. Money exchanged hands? Let them go to court and prove it.
They said they gave us credit cards; let them show the banks where the credit cards can be cashed. If it is master card, let them bring a statement from MasterCard that say we give them cards.
They don’t understand the changing character of politics. They are still doing the old politics. So, they are now reading that to the contemporary politics that Gbaja played.
On the issue of the minority leadership, our standing order is very clear. The minority parties, their members in the House shall elect their leadership amongst them. And if one party sat down and draws up a list because it is the strongest, it is a long approach. Yes, this may have been done in the past, but people don’t like to read. Let them go back and read Gbajabiamila’s inaugural speech, he said this is a House of reforms. We hold office in trust for the people and we are going to shake the table just a little bit. If they understand the meaning of shake the table, it means we are going to rearrange things.
We should commend him that he has decided to do things differently. So, for me I do not see anything wrong from what has happened so far. Yes, it is normal that people will protest when they lose, but eventually, we will get together. If you look at the debates, there is no evidence that there is turbulence.
People have made their protest, but they recognise that the business of the House must go on. The truth of the matter is that at the end Nigeria is bigger than any political party.
How many people say I am going to hang myself because I lost an election?
Yes, they brood. They are angry. Some go round with soldiers and thugs to collect money they gave to people to vote for them. Some make enemies with a few people, who betrayed them. But most importantly they learn their lessons.
Yes, there is some turbulence, but it is that turbulence that enables the grain to settle well in the bottle.
Many are saying that the bubble will burst by the time standing committees are constituted, as a lot of persons who were allegedly promised committee chairmanships may be disappointed.
If a promise is made to you and you don’t get it, it will not be the first time in political history in the world.
There are 360 of us; we don’t have 360 committee chairmen available but I think everyone should wait and let the list come out. You cannot go to court because you were not given a committee chairmanship..
What is your party doing to resolve the issue in your state assembly?
The motion I moved concerning Edo Assembly has nothing to do with individual interest. I am a stakeholder and nobody can wish that away. I am glad that when I moved the motion, across parties, people rose to support it. Even those who called for amendments that I fully agree with, supported the motion that nobody, no governor has the power to prevent the inauguration of a state assembly. It is an offence. No matter how you manipulate it.
You as a politician should address the reasons why you don’t want the House inaugurated, not preventing it from being inaugurated. That was why we moved the motion, asking the House of Representatives to intervene and see how we can get the 24 members inaugurated so that the people they represent can enjoy the representation they deserve. It is as simple as that. To me, it is not complex thing.
But Governor Obaseki recently in Abuja said the House has been inaugurated and that only a few members have refused to turn up for swearing-in.
Did they inform them? Why will they refuse to turn up? They won elections and then you ask them to come for inauguration, for swearing in, and they will refuse to turn up? Is any sane person going to do that?
The constitution is very clear. You issue a proclamation and then you publish it, so that everybody knows.
That day they inaugurated nine out of 24 members, how many of them had a family member present? Have you ever seen any inauguration where people do not come with their spouses, their party leaders? Your proclamation should state the time and venue. So, why were some of them dressed as if they were just coming from a bar, in knickers while some were wearing slippers?
When Oshiomhole was governor, he wore his khaki to the House and the House sent him back saying that he was not properly dressed, that they would not listen to him. He went home and wore a suit and came back before they admitted him.
Look, what is not good is not good. I know they are political interests but the strategy is to approach those issues, rather than violating the law.