By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
The struggle for the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives has reached a crescendo as the nation awaits the inauguration of the new administration next week.
In this interview with senior journalists in Abuja, Hon. Munikat Akande-Adeola, one of the major contestants says that she has what it takes to lead the 360-member Green Chamber and would be transparent enough to write her name in gold when she would serve.
When did your interest in politics start?
I have always been interested in politics because when I was in school, I was always very active in campus politics. I and some of my friends always decided who is running for any position and who is going to get it so we were like king makers because we had a way with all the women on campus and even some of the men so if we are not supporting you, you are not going.
That was it. So I always know that I will like to be in politics one day. So at the end of 1998 when it became apparent that civilian rule was coming back that was in 1999, it started getting interested. I was living in Lagos then in Surulere. I found out about the PDP. I got to know where they were holding their meeting so I was attending. By year 2000 when I decided that okay, we are back to civilian rule and I will like to really go into active politics.
It takes a lot to control 360 members of the House of Reps. Do you think you have the energy and the capability?
Very much so. I have the capability. I am one person, like I told you I like to be around people. I’m very accommodating. So I know I have been a leader in so many spheres of my life and I know that for you to be a leader, you have to first of all believe that you are there by the grace of God. And that any other person could be that leader so if you are given that opportunity, you don’t have to lord it over them. You have to be a good listener.
You have to have the right temperament which I think I have because of my age now may be if I was talking 20 years back, it would be a different ball game. You have to be able to lead by example first and foremost. I am one person that don’t like someone to say you did this, why do you do that.
You know I like ideal things. As much as possible do the best at any given time and in a house like House of Representatives, you really need to be very open. If you are a very open person you will be able to carry your members along. You need to earn their confidence.
Let them know you that you are one of them and you won’t have any problem. We have to learn how to manage people. When I was working in the bank, I attended so many courses on team spirit, leadership, management skills and all that. Aside you need to know people, if you want to be a leader, you need to study people. I have been there in the last 4 years unfortunately, the returning members are only 100, we are having 260 new members.
We have been meeting with so many of them and it is only when you listen that you have opportunity to hear their views that you know which direction this person is going, what kind of person is this, what he or she thinks about you and all that. I think I won’t have any problem when it comes to control or carry the members along because what you aim at really is good governance and if you know the principles of good governance, openness, accountability, transparency, then you don’t have any problem.
You will also learn how to manage the banana peels.
I have told you the cardinal principle about the banana peel, when you are corrupt then you will fear banana peel but when you are very open, everybody is aware of what you are doing, I don’t think you will still have anything to do with banana peel. But if you sit down, assuming we are a group and all of us here agreed on something, definitely if you hear something about it outside, you will defend to beat your chest and say no.
That is not what it is. This is what it is because I’m aware and I don’t think people just go about to set you up if there are no reasons to do that and that has to do with accountability. Once you make yourself accountable to them and to Nigeria, I don’t think you have any problem it is when you try to hide things and it becomes suspicious. People build rumours around that line and when it escalates before you know it you cannot control it again.
There has been a female Speaker Hon Patricia Etteh won’t that be a minus for your aspiration to be Speaker of the House?
First and foremost, I don’t agree with you because the issue of vying for this position has nothing to do with gender. We are talking of capability here and whoever has that leadership quality or how the ability should be given an opportunity to do so. I said it many times before.
Some will say Etteh failed but I’m not here to rate her. I can not rate her and I don’t even believe that she failed. And if we have to consider the number of men who have failed in this country to women, I’m sure the men shouldn’t be given any further opportunity…general laughter
It’s true because men run most of our every day live and they have issues all over the place and we still give you opportunity so why don’t you just forget this issue of a thing and look at Mulikat.
The sit you are vying to occupy is a sit where you will meet with ideas, suggestions which will not necessary be ideal. Do you have the capacity to say no, when it becomes necessary?
Yes, sure. Dialogue is the solution to all these. Do you know how many times people go back to the conference table on one issue and get a solution at the end of the day? I am very much aware of the tasks that go with that office and I’m sure I have the capability. It’s not that why can’t you say no? You will be known for saying ‘no’ and if you say ‘yes’, you will be known for saying yes.
That is just it. All of you may not want to buy my idea but I can convince you and bring you along. At times, you may just be half convinced, and you okay let’s leave her execute it, she has convinced us. You don’t even win at all times. At times you loose.
There have been criticisms over what has come to stay as the bloated budgets of the National Assembly and the jumbo- pay syndrome among legislators.
Besides the committees have become so many that each members is either a Chairman or Deputy Chairman of committee. How do you intend to tackle these problems? There have been several allegations bordering on fraud in the House. Even right now there is a N10 billion issues on-going. How can you ensure that there is transparency in the system.
People often compare the number of the committees of our National Assembly to those of the United States of America. But we have to remember that the American democracy has lasted over many centuries and we are talking about a developed economy. Ours is different.
In a growing democracy, we have to do things that suit our circumstances, as much as possible. We will be narrowing them down. This is an issue on ground and people have been talking about.
How will you handle the chairmanship of House Committees, given that you have very few PDP members from your Zone without incurring the wrath of some interest group?
We are members of different political parties in the House. Whatever will make us move forward is what we will do. Don’t forget that we are a House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and I believe that should be upper most in the hearts of all us. It is going to be a collective decision of the House.
It is not a matter of you are a Chairman or a Deputy Chairman. The efficiency of the committees is what is most important. We are going to do it in such a way that everybody will be happy. One may not even be a chairman or deputy chairman and yet do better.
That is my believe. Looking at the sharing of the committees, I am looking at a situation where we put square pegs in square holes so that we can have maximum benefits. Right now each member belongs to about four or five committees and there is no way you can be effective in all of them. One could be effective may be in some but certainly not in all of that number.
You are in the House on the platform of a political party, the PDP. As a party faithful how would you react if the party asks you to step down for your opponent in the speakership race?
I don’t think my party would do that. The party is supreme, anyway, but I believe the party will give all members who are interested in the leadership position the go -ahead to test his or her popularity among the members. It is a democracy.
What is your political philosophy?
My philosophy in life, let me not say political, is to leave a legacy where so many people will be able to say that they are able to get here because of this person. This person has been the reason why I am able to achieve this or that. I want to help as many people as possible.
Our presidential system of government is based on capitalism so it is what you as a person want to achieve that is important. And whatever position God puts me I want to come out with a name written in gold. I will never be involved in these corruption that people are talking about.
In our society, a woman is considered more responsible if she is married.
We should be able to correct it because a woman may love to be married and her husband is a monster. What do you do to her?