By Omoniyi Salaudeen
Other than the public outcry over the intrigues about the health status of President Muhammadu Buhari, the seeming impasse between the senate and the executive is also another source of worry to many stakeholders. In this interview, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe takes a look at the scenario, suggesting that the ruling APC must take a leading role in the running of the government.
Preparation for Local Government elections in Lagos State is already at top gear. How prepared is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the polls?
First of all, we have a handicap bordering on the power tussle at the top. If we are able to surmount that, then we start to prepare for the election. But now, it is a problem to all of us. We are praying that it will be sorted out at the Supreme Court as soon as possible. That is when we can plan. For now, we are not planning; everybody is doing things in his own way. Adewale is doing his own; Salvado is doing his own, which is not good for the party. Even for you to campaign now is difficult because it is like we don’t have a party.
What happens, if the Supreme Court judgment does not come before the election?
It depends on which faction of the party the INEC chooses to recognize. So, we rely on the judgment of the electoral body in Lagos State or at the federal.
Last week, Chief Bisi Akande, a former governor of Osun State, issued a statement warning the cabal in the Presidency against dragging the country into another round of political crisis in view of the way the health condition of President Muhammadu Buhari is being held in secrecy. Would you also subscribe to the insinuation that the outburst is an indication of a looming crisis in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)?
No, the health condition of Mr. President is a concern of everybody. Every Nigerian must be concerned about the health of the president. We pray that it doesn’t get worse. But the people who are handling the matter should also be more forthcoming. More credible voices must join these leaders to get closer to Aso Rock for us to know what is happening. No cabal can debar them from having an insight into what is happening in Aso Rock. They should gather more of our past leaders and insist on seeing the president so as to know what to do more appropriately.
Are you saying the meeting of the three ex-generals -Olusegun Obasanjo, IBB and Abdul -salami Abubakar, is coming at a right?
That is the way to go. They should add more people. They should add Obas and Emirs. Let them sit down and talk about the health matter of Mr. President. They will get a solution. Let’s give them the opportunity. There is nobody that can stop these people from asking questions. The elders of this country are very crucial in this matter and they must act fast. What is happening in the country is beyond a political party. It is a national issue and we must address it that way.
How do you also see the position of former vice president Atiku Abubakar blaming Nigeria’s socio-economic woes on the present federal structure and governance?
These are political statements. Everybody is trying to place himself in appropriate position for the 2019 general elections. Don’t trust politicians for whatever they say now. Let us keep our fingers crossed. What is more crucial for everybody in Nigeria now is the health situation of Mr. President. Who can give us the true picture of what is happening. Who can be in control? Anybody that is talking now is placing himself appropriately for the 2019 general elections. For me, that is what is happening. It is not about party matter, it is about ambition. And it is not unusual. What borders me is the health status of Mr. President.
The PDP as a leading opposition party is still in crisis awaiting the Supreme Court judgment. Is there any indication that the party will be able to present itself as an alternative option to the electorate in the next general elections?
It depends on how the scenario plays out. Whether or not Buhari is re-contesting is one scenario. If he is not contesting, it is another scenario. So, any form of permutation now depends on Mr. President because he has a role to play. If he is around, he can determine who to succeed him. So, it depends. What is most crucial now is the health of the president, which we must all pray for so that he can get well. Once he gets well, all these infightings, people placing themselves in proper positions for the election will reduce. For me, one major concern is the food situation in the country. People are really very hungry. Go round the market and see how much they sell gari, beans and palm oil. We must ensure we have food security. These people who are making noise are no more than one percent of the total population of this country. All those who are making noise in the newspapers are doing so for themselves. Nobody is taking about the masses.
As a former member of the National Assembly, how do you see the seeming impasse between the executive and the Senate over the confirmation of the new appointees of the president?
In every presidential system, there is always a third force that will not allow the system to run. There is no need for all these competitions because it is a political party agenda. APC has what is called national caucus which consists of the president, vice president, the Senate president, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the party, the secretary, among others, in its constitution. For any issue to be discussed, that national caucus must first of all discuss the matter. Once that is done, whatever confirmation that is needed will be done in a week because everybody will be involved in the process.
But where the executive is seen to be different from the legislature, it won’t work. It is not peculiar to this government. There are some powerful people that will not want the system to run. They are the ones that will not want the party’s constitution to be followed. But it should be managed properly in the overall interest of Nigerians rather than engaging in flexing of muscles over who is superior to the other. Once you are a member of the ruling party, it is the party that must take control of whatever you are doing as a legislator. But in this case, the voice of the national chairman of the party is not known. We don’t even know who the secretary of the party is. Party caucus doesn’t meet. They don’t have a role to play in the government. When we were there, Audu Ogbeh was a member of the Federal Executive Council. He was always sitting there as the chairman of the party. It doesn’t happen now. Oyegun should be a member of the Federal Executive Council. As far as I am concerned, ministers cannot control the government. They are the appointees of Mr. President and they can be sent out at any time. The more important arm of government that must be part of any government is the members of the National Assembly and the executive of the party. Party in this instance has a very little role to play in what is happening now. That is unfortunate. It is not good for democracy because the party is the vehicle that transported everybody into power. Now, the party is taking a back seat. It is not good for our democracy at all. The leadership of the party must play a role in the government. When it comes to campaign for election, it is this same party that will go on the streets campaigning and not those who are acting behind the scene manipulating issues. It happened to PDP too. There were people who manipulated things and made sure we did not get certain things done.
In other words, one may blame APC for poor handling of the situation?
You cannot blame APC per se. I am just suggesting what they should do. I have not seen enough participation of the party in the running of this government and it is not good for the party. What is more curious is the manifesto of the party that is not being followed. In the party’s manifesto, they mentioned restructuring. One of the ministers is talking of power. If you check concurrent legislative list, power is there, as if it is a centralized issue. That portion should be removed. The aspect that gives a lot of portion to the national grid should be removed. Once you remove that, every region, every local government can have its own power. For now, that aspect of the constitution is a constraint and it must be looked into. All over the world now, nobody relies on national grid any more. There can be zonal grid; there can be local government grid. Why must it be only one national grid? It is not good for our country at all. And we will never get it right unless we remove that portion of the constitution. How can you centralize electricity and expect me to come and get license from you before I can generate electricity? Every federating unit should be free to implement the type of electricity its wants in its locality. What is the business of the Federal Government on how I generate my electricity in my state or local government? We must unbundle things like that.
When people talk about restructuring, they don’t know that our problem is our constitution. For instance, the budget has no place for saving. But they will abuse the people in government for not saving for the rainy day. We must put it there that a percentage of our revenue must be saved. The governors went to court on this and the Supreme Court said the Federal Government didn’t have the authority to do so. Those are the areas we must look into. We must also look into the area of mineral resources. Why must mineral resources in my local government be a federal issue? Why can’t I explore the mineral in my locality for the purpose of our people? Commodities are centralized under exclusive list. You cannot export, you cannot import without the authority of the Federal Government. These are the things we are talking about. One body will register all companies in Nigeria. In other climes, a state can register any company. There is also the issue of a unified police force. How is it helping us? When we talk about restructuring, they think it is a big deal. It is a constitutional matter. As long as we have a centralized government, we can never make it.
You talk about corruption where we have a presidential system of government. In a presidential system like ours, to contest an election, you need so much money. Why can’t we go back to a little bit of parliamentary and mix it with presidential so that you only contest election in your constituency? It is cheaper. How much do you need to win your constituency? Everybody that is stealing here and there is for the purpose of next election. There is no future for the country unless we look at these areas and address them.
On 29th of this month, this administration will be two years in office. What is your assessment of the performance of this government so far?
Any form of assessment now will be insensitive. The health of the president is far more important than whatever anybody may be talking about now.