Member representing Okigwe South Federal Constituency of Imo State for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the House of Representatives, Chike Okafor, has applauded President Muhammadu Buhari for coming out to debunk the rumour that he is scheming for a Third Term in office by those he described as detractors.
The lawmaker opined that the decision by Buhari to openly disassociate himself from any plan to elongate his tenure has doused tension, adding that Mr. President has shamed the detractors of the ruling party which according to him was aimed at heating up the polity.
While commending his colleagues for restoring the budget circle which he said led to the early passage of the 2020 Appropriation Bill, Okafor expressed doubt over the actualization of Igbo Presidency in 2023.
He speaks about other issues.
Many are anxious to know the content of the budget especially communities in terms of constituency projects, on your part what are some of your input that would improve the lives of your constituents?
For us in the Imo caucus both in the Senate and the House of Representatives, we are united in the language of how much we will bring home irrespective of party affiliation. However, the question is, how much can we bring home? That is the driving force for us. Now that the budget has been passed and signed into law, as a person, I see this as an opportunity to look at another sector of the economy having done well in the health sector since I was the House Committee Chairman on Health Services. I had a lot of health centres revitalized, refurbished and new ones constructed in my constituency and they are now at equipping stage. Now that the 2020 Appropriation Bill has been passed into law, I hope during Christmas when we will be at home, the formal presentation of the 15 equipment meant for the three local government areas in Okigwe South will be done. Right now, the equipment are domiciled in Ihitte Uboma Local Government Area. Meanwhile, the equipment will be distributed to the three LGAs. Therefore, in 2020 budget, I’m looking for how some of our secondary schools can be revitalized. Some of these secondary schools were constructed through community efforts.
You are emphasizing much on education, are you in the education Committee?
Yes, I’m a member of the Education Committee. Not only that, I’m a member of committees which include, Appropriation. I thank God even though I came late into the 9th Assembly when head of committees have been shared, yet I had the honour and privilege of the Speaker to have allowed me to be a member of some key committees. Apart from education and Appropriation, I’m also a member of Finance committee, downstream petroleum, health institutions, pensions and defence. I believe much can be done through these committees because you don’t necessarily have to be Chairman of a committee to make impact in the lives of your constituents as a legislator. In fact, your chairmanship of a committee restricts you from making the much desired inputs in the committee for the sake of equity. Yes, as Chairman Committee on Health Services I did much, but my membership of the Appropriation Committee will enable me do more.
Most Nigerians have described the 9th Assembly as toothless bulldog hence, according to them, the Assembly doesn’t have the bite which they say has reduced the legislature to a mere rubber stamp; how do you react to this insinuation?
It is very early to draw conclusion. The 9th Assembly was inaugurated on 11th of June and to me, it is too early to draw conclusion. That is also without prejudice to the fact that the two principal officers in both chambers are most qualified and experienced. I’m talking about the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan who graduated from the House of Representatives as a two-term member before he came to the Senate where he has done third term. What about the Speaker of the 9th Assembly, Femi Gbajiabiamila who is doing his 5th term as a member of the House of Representatives. However, experience is not lacking in the present leadership of the National Assembly. The relationship and synergy between the legislature and the executive is also not lacking including knowledge. So, I don’t know what you mean by rubber stamp. Is it when we begin to take up arms against the executive and Presidency you will commend us? Why not applaud us for the first time in 20 years that we passed the budget before the end of the year. I repeat, for the first in 20 years we have the budget passed into law before the end of the year. Therefore, it is high time people begin to look at the positive side of the legislature in our democracy. Our laws recognize January to December as a fiscal year and for the first time in many years, the budget was passed into law ready for Mr. President’s ascent and implementation. The National Assembly did everything within its powers to ensure the 2020 budget was tidied up before passing it into law having gone through the first and second reading and at the committee and Appropriation stages where members worked tirelessly to ensure it was ready before the end of year for the President’s assent. Does that suggest that we are a rubber stamp? The answer is no. It is the President and his ministers at war with any of the chambers of the National assembly as was the case in the 8th Assembly? The answer is no. Did we have the ministers, departments and agencies come to defend their budget? The answer is yes. Was there any issue of compromise or collusion any where? The answer is no. Where is the rubber-stamp you people are talking about? Must our expectation be to see the executive and legislature fight? To me, that is not ideal. So, let’s applaud the leadership of the 9th Assembly for stabilizing the Assembly for the interest and development of the country and to the benefit of Nigerians.
But most of the governors of the ruling party are calling for the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole to resign, isn’t that a sign that all is not well with your party?
This is politics and this should be expected. When Chief John Oyegun was the National chairman of APC, people also called for him to leave, even PDP that ruled the country for 16 years, what was the turnover of chairmen? One of the chairmen of PDP was forced at gun point to resign. I think APC has given us a reliable democracy. So, whatever you see happen to our party is part of politics all over the world. And talking about the NEC of my party, I’m a member of NEC and I ‘am one of the 16 members of the House of Representatives who represent the chamber in the NEC. The NEC meeting had an agenda and the list on the agenda was exhausted. If the issue of a particular state was not in the agenda, what do you expect us to do? For your information, the Edo issue was not in the agenda, hence all items on the agenda were exhausted. I think enemies of the ruling party were expecting rancour, but when the rancour did not come, they are criticizing the party. May be you journalists were expecting a different thing and that didn’t happen. So, APC has shamed its detractors.
Even though President Muhammadu Buhari has debunked the Third Term rumour, some Northern leaders are insisting the zone will produce Buhari’s successor and the other zones especially, South-East are laying claim to Presidency, isn’t this going to tear the ruling party apart if the North continues to hang on to power beyond 2023?
Thank God Mr. President has debunked the Third Term rumour and urged the public to undermine such insinuation because it is a mere speculation. It is the handiwork of our detractors. President Buhari has come out to say, count me out because the constitution recognizes two terms and he is on the second term and come May 29, 2023 when he has completed his tenure, he will go back to Daura to continue his farming. On whether the North will relinquish power in 2023, this is democracy, nobody wants to leave power. We in the South-East want to produce the next President of the country just as the other geo political zones are desirous of the position. Are you saying that it is wrong for the North to seek to continue in power beyond 2023? Where then is the definition of democracy as to who gets what and how? So, this should be expected. It is not happening for the first time, even when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, late Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan were Presidents of Nigeria, the desire was expressed, but at the end of the day, we arrived at a compromise. Therefore, let’s see how it goes as we approach 2023. As for us in the South-East, I’m sorry to say that we have not got our acts together in the quest for the Presidency. Is it PDP or APC that will zone the Presidency to South-East? My advice to Igbo is that we should show a lot more concern and play all inclusive politics. We had opportunity to position the zone for the Presidency and possibly change the paradigm in 2015 and 2019, but we were overtaken by sentiments. If the South-East had embraced APC 40 per cent in 2015 and 2019, it would have been easy for us in 2023.
Having realised this, what is the South-East caucus in the National Assembly doing to correct what can be described as political mistake?
We came into the National Assembly through different political platforms and most of us, if not all are expected to align with our parties. I was one of those who embraced the ruling party in 2015 at inception and I won my election to represent the good people of Okigwe South Federal Constituency on the platform of APC and I was re-elected on the same platform. No doubt, our people are more at home with PDP, but like the question I asked earlier, did PDP zone the Presidency to the South-East during the 16 years it ruled Nigeria or even now that they are out of power, can they zone it to the zone in 2023? The answer to both questions is no. We all know that in politics, there is no permanent enemy, but permanent interest. APC having won in 2015, the people of South West studied the political terrain very well and realized that President Buhari is loved by majority in the North and they decided to give him second term. When Buhari’s tenure ends in 2023, Yoruba can lay claim to the Presidency because they paid their dues by voting for Buhari massively. Unlike Igbo, they play politics of collective interest. In 2015 and 2019, APC won the Presidency and also won majority in both chambers of the National Assembly and I expected Igbo to take a closer look at what happened in 2015 and change our game plan by being futuristic and embrace the ruling party in 2019, but that never happened. That is not to say that APC did not make impressive progress in the zone in the last general election. APC won four federal seats, two Senatorial seats at the first ballot. So, there was an improvement compared to 2015.