By Kemi Yesufu
HON. E.J Agbonayinman is the lawmaker, representing the Egor/Ikpoba/Okha Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. In this interview, the lawmaker speaks on the chances of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the forthcoming Edo governorship election, the appointment of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as national chairman of the PDP and recent court rulings, which were in favour of the PDP. Agbonayinman, who is chairman of the House Adhoc committee investigating the N1 trillion railway contracts awarded from 2010 to 2014, also spoke on the probes being conducted by the House. Excerpts:
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has released the dates for the governorship election for Edo State. What are the chances of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the coming election?
PDP in Edo State is not quiet at all. If you have been following trends in the state, you would have heard that the people are tired of deceit and they feel it is about time to separate darkness from light. Having seen what the governor has been able to do, I and many others can say he did his best in certain areas. But looking at things in all ramifications, there were huge expectations from the LGAs that were never met. For instance, I have been crying that my constituency Egor/Ikpoba-Okha has been marginalised. The Edo State government has nothing to show in my constituency. I can tell you that the PDP is ready and well positioned to save the people from suffering, hunger and starvation. Edo people are saying they need a change, not the change that the ACN, now APC has shown them these years, but the kind of change, they believe the PDP can bring. In Edo, it’s a case of once beaten, twice shy. The people of Edo don’t believe they have enough democratic dividends in comparison to what the state has received as allocation from the centre. Now with the economic crunch, whoever will be Edo State governor has to be a person that will think outside the box, someone who will empower the youths and women because when these two groups are empowered, the state’s economy will be built on solid ground. With what I see on ground, I have faith that the PDP candidate will be elected governor. In the PDP, those that have indicated interest to run for governor have what it takes to take the state higher.
But some say the big names running in the PDP are those who had their time in government but didn’t do much…
I am telling you the true feelings of Edo people, not the talk that you hear here in Abuja or what people are saying in the North-West or the South-East. I can tell you, those aspiring to be governor under the PDP are qualified, able men who can deliver. Ultimately, only one candidate will win the election and I can tell you, it will be the PDP candidate. It will not be right for me to say the Comrade Governor hasn’t done anything. He has done his best, but it is not good enough for the people of Edo State and the PDP is coming to take, water, light, education and healthcare to the people at the grassroots. I am confident that the PDP will take over in Edo state as we will sell our manifesto to the people, who I can tell you are really yearning for a change from what they have had these years.
Some PDP faithful say they want as national chairman, someone who is less controversial, someone whose reputation is not argued about?
Tell me who has the best reputation in Nigeria? We are all sinners. In Nigeria, we just have to change from our ways. We are all guilty for the underdevelopment we are faced with today. I always say that a witness to crime who doesn’t report the crime to the security agencies is as guilty as the person committing the crime. So, I say, it is not only the party chairman who will make PDP work. We all have a role to play and we should start by giving Modu Sheriff the chance to lead the party and support him the best way we can.
What is your opinion of recent judicial pronouncements as it affects the country’s democracy?
We can only aspire to perfection because we are mere mortals. There is no perfect system here on earth. So, talking about the judiciary as much as we have been anaylsing recent rulings and some people have criticised the judiciary, I call for people to be understanding. Sometimes, we need to appreciate them (judiciary) and avoid trading blames. With regard to the rulings that favoured the PDP, I think we have to give the judiciary the thumbs up for sticking to what they believe to be the stance of the law. Even with the embarrassment the 2016 budget has caused us within and outside the shores of Nigeria, which I believe was caused by some sycophants, I still think President Buhari deserves commendation for allowing the judiciary give the ruling according to the dictates of the law. I appreciate and applaud the president for allowing justice take its course. This is just like how President Jonathan ensured judicial independence which also saw the opposition winning states through the judiciary. Today, I see President Buhari equally abstaining from interfering with the workings of the judiciary and rightfully, he has been commended for this. I have joined in commending the president because if he had interfered in the cases which had his party and the PDP fighting for power and the courts gave the day to the APC, nothing would have happened. Maybe some people would have protested or talked about it for some days. But people will move on with their lives. This is Nigeria. As much as I have been talking as a member of the opposition, critiquing the policies of the APC, I have to commend the president for abiding by the Rule of Law at this particular time.
Beyond the upholding of the Rule of Law, how would you rate President Buhari’s performance so far?
We expected a lot from the APC government as they campaigned on the promise of change. But look at what is happening to our economy. Look at how the naira has crashed to the dollar. If you ask me, I say, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria should resign. Rather than initiate policies that will lead to the survival of businesses, the CBN has policies that are causing hardship not just to people but businesses. I think the governor of the Central Bank should just say, “I am packing out. I am resigning”. I think the president should part ways with those that are not ready to work for the benefit of the people. I am not saying the economy is down just because I am of the PDP. Rather, I am saying the president should only work with those who know what their jobs entail.
The House has been involved in a number of probes in different sectors. This is not the first time lawmakers have conducted probes but in many cases little or nothing spectacular come from those investigations. You are chairman of the Adhoc Committee investigating the N1 trillion naira railway contracts awarded from 2010 to 2014. Can the 8th House produce different results?
It’s not because I am a member of the 8th House that I say that under the leadership of Speaker Yakubu Dogara, the House is not playing to the gallery. The House is being led by a unique personality who puts Nigeria first and when you put Nigeria first, issues like probes will be seen to its logical conclusion. I started the Nigeria First Group years back because I believe it is very important to put country first for any leader or even individual. I am positive about what we are doing with the investigations being conducted. We are working very hard to make Nigeria work for its citizens. On a personal note, I can say I am committed to doing what is expected of me. Like I have been saying, my committee is not out to witch hunt anyone. What we are concerned with is unearthing, identifying those who have mismanaged Nigeria’s money. We have to bring wrongdoers to book. We are not going to cover-up for anyone. We have been transparent.
I see something like heading the Adhoc committee as a call to service. We really have to ensure that whatever is allocated for development is used for development. Look at the state of the railways, the health sector, education and the roads, it is about time we get things right. If we don’t begin to ensure money meant for development is used just for that and those who mismanaged such funds in the past are identified, our children will ask us questions.