Nigerians have been advised to continue praying for President Muhammadu Buhari’s early recovery from his health challenges rather than allowing such to become a source of friction in the polity.
Making the appeal in an interview with SATURDAY SUN in Lagos, former Alliance for Democracy, AD leader in the House of Representatives, and Afenifere chieftain,Chief Oladipo Olaitan urged Nigerians to refrain from turning Buhari’s health challenge into a subject of controversial debates.
According to Olaitan,a lawyer and former gubernatorial candidate in Osun state, the recent meeting between Afenifere and Southern leaders was not a gang up against the North. Olaitan spoke explained this further and also spoke on other national issues with TUNDE THOMAS.
As a former principal officer in the House of Representatives, how do you see the seemingly recurring face-off between the Presidency and members of the National Assembly on many issues in spite of the fact that the ruling APC which controls the executive is also the majority party in the National Assembly?
The three arms of government namely the executive, judiciary and the legislature not only complement one another but are also supposed to be independent of each other. One is not supposed to be a mere rubber stamp for the other, whether they belong to the same political party or not, that’s talking of the executive and the legislature.
So what is happening should not look strange to people. All of us can’t see things the same way. There must be voices of dissent on certain issues.
Where there is any need for the National Assembly to assert itself, it should not hesitate to do so because the members there represent the people, and they are supposed to protect the interests of the people they represent.
Where the battle line needs to be drawn with the executive, it should be drawn. The National Assembly should not be seen to be mere rubber stamp of the executive.
But some Nigerians are concerned about a situation whereby members of the same political party who also control both the executive and the legislature are hardly on the same page on many issues …
Cuts in … It is not compulsory that they should be on the same page especially if members of the National Assembly believe that what they are doing is right. If they believe that their position on any issue is for national interests and also based on principle, they should stick to their gun.
Let’s use the case of Magu as an example. Magu’s case is very instructive, and I dare say that some of our lawyers are not helping matters at all. To me, Magu’s case is a very simple matter, very simple indeed.
One of the functions of the executive is to nominate names or would-be political appointees for confirmation by the Senate, and one of the functions of the Senate is to confirm these nominations.
There are rules and regulations for doing this, and let me tell you this, there is hardly anybody that will be confirmed by the Senate without getting security clearance from the DSS. And in this case, the Senate declared that it had received security report on Magu, and the security report was not favourable to him, so why then blame the Senate for refusing to confirm him. Senate didn’t write the report that indicted Magu, and up till today nobody has denied that a security report that indicted Magu was submitted to the Senate.
And for those lawyers and some members of the executive that are saying that Magu doesn’t even need the Senate’s confirmation, I’m very surprised. If Magu doesn’t need Senate confirmation, then why did the Executive in the first place submitted his name to the Senate for confirmation?
Supposing the Senate has confirmed Magu, would all these lawyers saying that he doesn’t need Senate confirmation be saying what they are saying now?
On APC, some Nigerians have expressed surprise that the party is not facing any major opposition from other political parties but internal strife within the party itself, what’s your take on this?
I have no problem with that at all. It is to be expected. We all know how APC came about, how the party was formed. What is happening is part of politics. Nigerians should understand that the various components that came together to form APC had their own core values, and they brought those core values into APC so whether you like it or not there must always be friction in APC but it is nothing to worry about.
Presently in the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister Theresa May had to reach out to a political party to enable her form government, but this political party’s members have their own core values while Theresa May also has her own core values, but the two parties have to respect each other’s core values.
Referring to APC as a party of strange bed fellows as some people have been doing does not even arise at all, there is nothing strange in strange bed fellows sitting together.
C has provision for restructuring in its manifesto but surprisingly the party’s National Chairman, John Oyegun is saying he doesn’t believe in restructuring. How do you reconcile that?
Political parties have failed Nigerians and the earlier we make provision for independent candidate in our constitution the better so that individuals can come out to seek elective offices based on their own merit and accomplishments and not based on political parties. Independent candidacy I believe can work in Nigeria, and we should give it a try.
You were one of the prominent Afenifere leaders that took part in the recent Southern Leaders meeting which brought together eminent leaders from South-West, South-South and South-East, but that meeting was described as a gang-up against the North by some Nigerians, is that true?
Gang-up? I can’t understand what those saying that meant. If you held a meeting on how to protect your interest and the interests of your people, do you call such a meeting a gang-up? It is only mischievous elements that would describe that meeting as a gang-up. We held the meeting to deliberate on how to foster peace and unity in the country, and also how to move the country forward. There was a threat issued by some Arewa youths and southern leaders met to deliberate on the issue. It is only a tree that you will tell that tomorrow we are coming to cut you, and tomorrow you will still find the tree there.
Do you expect southern leaders to fold their arms with that threat? We are being patriotic by talking about it. If we have an ulterior motive, we could have issued a counter-threat to the Arewa quit notice, but we didn’t do that, we only deliberated on how to protect southerners’ interests and also to promote harmony among the various ethnic nationalities in the country.
Restructuring being canvassed as the way forward for Nigeria is being given different meanings by individuals, and groups, some are now even confused by the concept, to you, what does restructuring mean?
Those who are saying that they don’t understand what restructuring means are just being devilish and mischievous. You call a dog a bad name in order to hang it. Restructuring is very simple.
When this geographical entity called Nigeria was to come into existence, the founding fathers asked the question, on what terms are we to be together?
We know then that all the various ethnic nationalities were not the same, that they had their differences, the Hausa knew they were Hausa, the Igbo knew they were Igbo, and Yoruba also knew they were Yoruba. We also have the minorities.
Then they all agreed regional government. Each government in the regions then, that was in the First Republic had their own constitution, not only that, they were developing at their own pace. There was healthy competition. Then some regions were even paying better salaries than what the federal government was even paying. What restructuring mean is that we should come back to that arrangement. It is when they want to confuse you that people will start using different interpretations and different grammar for restructuring. Restructuring means true practice of federalism and it is only when we return to true practice of federalism that Nigeria can truly move forward. It was the military intervention that truncated true practice of federalism in Nigeria.
Each region under federalism develops and exploits resources in their region to develop their area and you then pay tax to the central government. The federal government will only concern itself with issues relating to defence, external affairs, immigration and things like that. If the constitution of the First Republic allows for secession and referendum it was even the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello that insisted that provision must be made for secession in that constitution, that if the North wants to secede, that the region should be allowed to secede.
Why are the Northerners now attacking Nnamdi Kanu, and IPOB members who are clamouring for a separate state of Biafra? It is all hypocrisy. The northerners first insisted that the right of any region to secede should be incorporated into the constitution of the First Republic.
Are you now saying that a return to the government of the First Republic would help move Nigeria forward?
Yes. That government allowed true practice of federalism, and it is only true practice of federalism that will solve various problems confronting Nigeria today.
The major reason why some Nigerians are afraid of true federalism is because they have become lazy. People no longer want to develop resources in their region. Everybody believe in easy and free money gotten from crude oil sale. But Nigerians should realise this, oil wells may dry up one day, and then what do we fall back upon. Even dependence on our oil was not as strong as before by developed countries. Most of those nations that buy our oil now have alternatives.
They have even developed cars that don’t use patrol. They have invented and are now using electric cars. Those opposing restructuring are lazy people who don’t want to be enterprising.
At a time, members of the House of Representatives of which you were a member then under the leadership of Umar Ghali Na’bba attempted to impeach former President Olusegun Obasanjo, but surprisingly it was members of your own political poarty, Alliance for Democracy, AD that came to Obasanjo’s rescue even when members of his own party PDP including House Speaker, Na’bba were determined to impeach him, why did AD rescue Obasanjo or come to his aid?
We saved Obasanjo from impeachment because at that time we believed that Obasanjo had not done anything to warrant being impeached. As at that time Obasanjo was able to stabilise Nigeria’s economy. He was doing the right thing that time and we felt he should be given a chance to do his job.
We again felt that those PDP members that were bent on impeaching Obasanjo that time had ulterior motives that were not in the best interests of Nigeria. It was at that time some politicians have started lobbying and positioning themselves for presidential elections in 2003, and we AD members felt that it was wrong for PDP members who have ulterior motives to now make attempt to use the House to achieve their selfish objectives or serve their own self interests.
It wasn’t easy to stand up to those PDP members who wanted to impeach one of their own not for national interests but purely for self-interests. Our coming to Obasanjo’s defence was aimed at stabilising the polity and not even meant to help Obasanjo or save his political career.
Was it true as it was reported then that you described Obasanjo as ex-convict on the floor of the House?
Very correct, but Obasanjo didn’take kindly to it. He almost physically attacked me for using that term to describe him. I described Obasanjo as an ex-convict because that time he had become aggressive and very intolerant of opposing views. He was scheduled to address us on the floor of the House, and questions were supposed to be asked him but you know Obasanjo ,at a point he became hostile and refused to co-operate with us and some of us were annoyed.
We became more annoyed when he later stromed out of the parliament. It was at that poiint that I described him as an ex-convict. I told fellow lawmakers that it is only an ex-convict that could behave the way he did, and that that was the reason he was behaving that way.
Although a peace meeting was later arrranged between us and in that meeeting Obasanjo was furious and almost fought me but when I explained the reason for my action he became calm.
What is your reaction to the defeat of APC by PDP in the recent Senatorial bye election in Osun State?
It is the beginning of the end of APC in Osun State. APC is gone in Osun State. APC has come to the end of the road. APC has brought nothing but misery to Osun State, and people are tired and angry.
They are also hungry. The defeat is an eye opener to APC leaders that Osun people are no longer with them. APC should forget Osun in 2018 when the governorship election will come up and in 2019 during the general election.
APC can’t rise again in Osun State. The people of Osun have sent a strong signal to APC with that bye election which APC lost. The days of Osun people’s romance with APC is over. With that defeat, APC has become history in Osun State.