We must pursue financial autonomy of state legislatures – Garba
He is young and determined. He also epitomizes a generational change in the Nigerian contemporary politics. He is the incumbent Speaker, Gombe State House of Assembly. He is Rt. Hon. Inuwa Garba. Recently in Abuja, Garba was elected the third Chairman of the Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria (CSSLN). He speaks with Saturday Vanguard John Bulus.
Some Speakers, especially the immediate past chairman of the conference showed interest and eventually contested the office with you. How did you emerge the winner?
It is not a matter of outsmarting or overpowering or something. No, this conference belongs to all of us as we all belong to Nigeria. I am a realist who believes in performance. You see, responsibility in leadership is to give or to put your own contribution.
It must not be necessary for one to achieve all as expected of him but however, the previous administration of the conference; they have tried their best and have given what they were able to give and I think what they have given is not enough. That’s why I said let me try and put my own effort so that I can contribute towards the development of the conference and by extension, democracy in general. That’s why I thought I should contest and by God’s grace, we were able to have the confidence, the support of my colleagues which at the end led us to victory.
The Legislature and the Executive Arms, especially at the state level have not always had a very cordial relationship and consequently, they are always at loggerheads which sometimes bring about impeachments. How are you going to handle this issue?
You see, we are brothers in democratic governance. Any good democracy without problems is like a party without music. It is good to have problem, that’s what will give you the opportunity to exercise your ability to think and act in accordance with the parameters that will solve the problem.
When you solve the problem, then you can utilize the opportunity given to move forward. We can say, yes, in Nigerian democracy, we have a lot of problems in the state, in the legislature. But that notwithstanding, some have tried their best in fixing those problems for the betterment of democracy and their various states.
But in the context of the Conference of Speakers, I think our major problem which we think is the only predicament is the Independence of the legislature in the State which by God’s grace, through consultations under an atmosphere which I think is going to be very, very conducive, we are going to see to all these things and make them understand that it is not something that should bring any rancor between the Executive and the Legislature.
We are partners and partners in progress. We are all responsible people, that is why we are entrusted with the responsibility of leading people so that we create opportunities that will make them very comfortable. So, I think that is not very worrisome.
The financial autonomy of legislature is one issue most lawmakers have groaned about over the time. As Speaker of Speakers, would you take it up to see to the realization of that?
In fact, I must take it up because it is part of the yearnings and aspirations of the State legislatures in Nigeria for us to have our own financial autonomy so that democracy will be strengthened. When the state legislators who are in the equilibrium point of Nigerian democracy have their own autonomy, even the Executive in the state and in the Local Government will be more comfortable, to my own understanding, in the discharge of their own responsibilities as the executive arm of government.
A situation where the legislature is always running cap in hand.., but due to the fact now that there is a very serious awareness on the part of the electorates, they will think as if the executive are conniving with the legislatures to do what they think, whether it is good for the populace or not. But by God’s grace, we will pursue it we hope to succeed.
The issue of constituency projects by the legislators seems to have always brought confusion in the system. The people expect the lawmakers to also embark on capital projects in their constituencies like the Executive Arm. Is that really part of your responsibility? Where do you get the money for the projects?
That is another important question which needs answers as clearly as possible. You see, it depends on what the legislator wants to achieve. Like two days ago in Gombe State, my wife commissioned a block of classrooms which I supported her to build. Why I did that was not because we had the money in the state for us as legislators to embark on projects. But from my personal income and earnings, I think I have to start giving back to the society. I am a third-timer in the Gombe State House of Assembly.
That must encourage me to appreciate what my people have done for me. Me, I used to go to the village, wear my T-Shirt and jeans to dig a bore-hole for my people. That is not my job. That is not my responsibility as a legislator. It is the executive that are supposed to do that. But I think if I do that, if I complement what the executive arm of government is doing, I think I am adding more colours to politics and supporting my government to solve the problems my people are facing. What you said is equally very, very important.
There is need for awareness for the general public to know more and understand the responsibilities of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Yes, like in some areas, even if a member did not promise or go and embark on any project, even the constituents, some people there will start asking, he did not build road for us. He did not build classrooms for us out of naivety and ignorance because there is proper enlightenment between the legislature and the electorate.
By God’s grace, I will not relent in my effort to see how we can partner the Nigerian media to initiate a nationwide programme on that issue of responsibility of the legislators in the state Houses of Assembly, the responsibility of the executive and the judiciary so that it will give maximum understanding between the legislators and the electorates.
Can you speak on those qualities that endeared your colleagues to you which made them elect you as their chairman?
I am not a first timer in the legislature. I am third-timer. I was elected a member in 2003. From 2007 to 2011, I was the Deputy Speaker of my state Assembly who happened to be a member of that conference. By my contributions in the last tenure, some of my colleagues who happened to return as Speakers or in various offices of the state legislatures know what we have been doing there.
They know my contributions. Some may have seen me and said I am a young man, but when they come closer, they see a different concept. One: you can not force me to lie to you. I am objective in whatever I do in my life. I don’t lie to anybody and I don’t fake my intentions. What you see on my face is exactly what you see inside me. So that gives my colleagues the opportunity to know my person. And the next is through interaction. We have been interacting through seminars, symposiums and visitations.
I used to visit my colleagues in so many states. I visit them and we interact, share experience, discuss issues and other things. Then, they came to the understanding that I, to an extent, have the intention to contribute to the development of democracy and in particular, state legislature. So from there, we began to discuss things and by the Grace of God, this is where we are now.
Specifically, what should they expect now?
They should expect productivity in terms of doing whatever we all believe is right and desist from whatever we all believe is wrong. And with that, we will showcase to Nigerians that we are equal to the task in terms of representation, in terms of the issues Nigerians are facing. Yes, Nigerians are looking for solutions, they believe in our capacity to contribute in that direction.
The Governors’ Forum is one democratic Pressure Group that has come to assert itself in the system, much more influencing the policies and some actions of the Federal Government. Should we expect the Speakers’ Conference to act like that also?
Gentlemen, we are partners in progress, not in destruction. All of us are leaders. We have a responsibility on behalf of not only ourselves but Nigerians. We are going to partner not only with the Governors’ Forum but all the stakeholders in Nigerian polity to be able to achieve a lasting solution to these numerous problems we are facing in this country. Primarily, one thing now is to have measures that will help Nigeria’s problems to be solved. That is very paramount. But apart from that, whatever comes up, we are going to partner to see how we will achieve positive results.
Talking about partnership with stakeholders, is the National Assembly included here?
There is serious need for that. You see, in terms of constitutional amendments, in terms of other issues that are involved which need the attention of state assemblies, we must partner them to be able to achieve that. We must partner. We are already doing that and we will continue to partner them.