By Chinelo Obogo
Segun Olulade is the chairman, committee on health in the Lagos State House of Assembly. He speaks on the face- off between the presidency and the legislative arm of government, saying that political solution was the only option to resolve the crisis. He also spoke on other issues of interest.
How would you advise your party, the APC to settle the face –off between the presidency and the Senate?
We started this government on a wrong footing, right from when we were to elect the leadership of the Senate; so whatever is happening now is a product of how the leadership emerged in both houses. The issue was not properly managed and that is why we are still where we are today. It is time that the president gets involved in party politics and listens to the yearnings of the people. If you are not ready to play politics then you do not have any business being in government. Without doubt, we have some credible people in the Senate and we also have questionable characters there, and that is why the Senate is not in the good books of Nigerians. Unfortunately, those questionable characters are at the forefront in the Senate and they are just like the face of the National Assembly. When you put people who do not have credibility to be the face of a brand or an institution, there would be problems. As for the face-off, the issue is political and can still be resolved internally through a political approach. What we see happening is that everyone is trying to protect an interest.
But a section of the country believes that the Senate has performed averagely well…
(Cuts in) In some areas, yes they have. An instance is the stance it took when the Customs boss refused to appear in his uniform. When that happened, I criticised him and said that the Senate was right in insisting that he wears his uniform. Everyone at the Senate will leave one day and our children would occupy the Senate in future, but if we destroy that institution, how do we want our children to function? The legislative arm of government is the most powerful but the youngest arm in the country, so there is still room for improvement.
As the boss of Customs, you are required to wear your uniform; the rank is meant for humans and not animals. If you say you were a Colonel in the army and for that you would not wear the uniform, then you should resign so that those who want to wear it can take your position. There are people in Customs that want to be the boss, and because you were fortunate to know the President who appointed you to that position does not mean that you should not respect constituted authority. You need to wear that uniform to identify with the institution that you are representing. Whether we like the faces of those in the Senate or not, they represent more than the 150 million people in Nigeria, and when they pass a resolution, it should be respected.
On the issue of Ibrahim Magu, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) I would say it was the fault of the presidency that he was rejected. If within the presidency, the Department of State Security (DSS) is writing a report against the President’s nominee, then you cannot blame the Senate, more so, because the DG of the DSS is also a relative of the President. Let us assume that the Senate does not like Magu’s face, if there was no indicting report against him, they would have no other option than to screen him. In my opinion, the President goofed on the issue of Magu. You cannot tell me that Magu is the only Nigerian who can chair the EFCC; the President should have nominated someone else.
The issue of restructuring has been on the front burner. Are you a supporter of restructuring?
We will continue to discuss from morning till night without action, and as far as I am concerned, we have discussed and we know the right thing to do is as is being practiced in many democratic countries concerning true federalism. If we are going to have a federal system of government, we must have a federal system of government. We should not say we have true federalism and at the same time we are practicing a unitary system of government. It is the responsibility of the National Assembly to do something about it, but unfortunately that is where we are having issues. We should practice true federalism where every unit would develop on its own. We are running a structure where someone would score 150 in JAMB exams and get admitted into the university because he is from a particular state; whereas someone who scored 250 cannot get admitted for the same course. We are running a structure where a region is producing the oil used to feed the nation, yet it cannot get petrol.
There has been an outbreak of meningitis and over 300 people have reportedly been killed by the disease. Do you think that this outbreak is an indication that the government is unable and unprepared to handle any sort of medical emergency?
The fact is that we were not prepared for the outbreak and it is important that we promptly address such occurrence in future. When we get any report concerning any matter that has to do with the health of citizens, we should take it seriously. The government should always search for means of preventing an epidemic, rather than waiting for it to happen before we start curing it. The Federal Government should take a cue from what we do here in Lagos by addressing health issues with the urgency it deserves. When the issue of the outbreak of cholera in Queens College came up, the state government responded swiftly. The committee on health at the National Assembly should also wake up to their responsibilities. We know that no government can comfortably fund health services across the globe, but it is also the responsibility of the government to be proactive by putting up preventive measures in the first place.
Is the state going to prosecute the administration of Queen’s College over its negligence?
I expect the Committee on Health in the National Assembly to follow the issue up and the federal ministry of health should be questioned. When the Lagos Commissioner for Health ordered that the school should be shut down, it was because the state was concerned about the health of the students. I am not in support of mere redeployment of the school’s principal or reposting of the principal of the school. I suggest that a more punitive measure should be taken to serve as a deterrent to others to know that there are stiff penalties for such negligence. We should not sweep this under the carpet. Those who are responsible should be penalised.
There was an incidence that happened some few months ago where your committee discovered that the blood in the blood bank of one of the General hospitals was infected. As the Committee chairman, what steps did you take to resolve the issue?
It was while my committee was performing its oversight functions that it discovered it and I had to order that the blood bank be sealed up pending when the right steps are taken.