By JOSEPH ERUNKE
Senator Olubunmi Adetumbi representing Ekiti North Senatorial zone on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in the Senate in this interview reviews the brewing political face-off ahead of the 2014 gubernatorial election in the state, the merger of the major opposition political parties into a single entity and the culture of mutual respect in the senate among other issues. Excerpts:
What is your reaction to the adoption of Governor Kayode Fayemi by some ACN leaders for the 2014 election in Ekiti State and the criticism that has trailed it by Honourable Opeyemi Bamidele?
First and foremost, let us accept that we are running a popular democracy where one of the freedom guaranteed, is the right of expressing and choice and aspirations.
To that extent, I think anybody is free to aspire under the Nigerian Constitution and the constitution of our party. By the same token, it is the right of the other people with different persuasions to say this is the person we want.
So, what I see here is an exercise of rights which is not a breach of any law. At the end of the day, the people will make their choice, both within the party and in the general election. I really don’t see any serious disagreement here and there are no breaches of any type.
You need to visit Ado-Ekiti and tell me what you see. What we are celebrating in Dr Kayode Fayemi is not politics for its own sake; it is a continuity that is evidence-based and performance-driven and it is easily measurable.
It is a product that has advertised itself by virtue of attribute and not because of propaganda. Some people say he is completing Segun Oni’s projects; should he have abandoned them and flushed the commonwealth of Ekiti down the drain in the name of partisanship? Is that the kind of governor we are looking for?
We are looking for governors that recognise issues and the interests of the people; a governor that is able to lay aside partisan divides and works in the interest of the people.
Do you think that the merger of the major political parties would help to dethrone the PDP from power at the federal level?
First and foremost, failure is not a destination, but just a pass through. So, if a merger had been attempted in the past and it didn’t work, it is not an enough reason that it should not be explored again. It has to continue until it is gotten right.
I was at a book launch recently, and all the leaders of the political parties there said that the fragmentation of opposition parties in Nigeria is not healthy for our democracy because it is not providing a strong alternative to a behemoth like the PDP.
The parties realised that in their small bits and pieces with different jurisdictions and different scales of influences, they are not strong enough to take on the PDP.
The only wise thing to do is to come together and let there be a meeting of minds and that is what is going on.
I can tell you that the reason why this debate is going now is because what ACN and CPC are doing is making some people having sleepless nights and it will continue to be until that merger is consummated and what Nigerians thought is undoable will be done in 2015. Mark my words, it will happen.
One of the worries in the polity today is that there is no virile opposition today, particularly in the parliament. What is really happening?
We are not running a parliamentary democracy where you have a formal opposition desk that have its own shadow cabinet so that when the Minister of Labour comes, there is a shadow cabinet of Labour that talks from both sides of the ideological divide.
That is not the kind of constitution we run. Yes, the Senate is one family; we are not supposed to be boxing each other.
But it does not stop people who disagree on issues from raising them. I can attest that when I have strong views to express and I have the benefits to express them, I don’t shy away from doing so.
The nature of our party is such that it has a defined manifesto, a defined programme and a defined ideology and that informs the choices we make on the floor.
Don’t forget that whether you are opposition or not, you cannot speak unless you are called; it is not a market square where you can just shout, like they do in the House of Commons.
The culture of a parliamentary democracy is different from the presidential system. So, things are done by rules and the rules say you will indicate and you are called and when you are called, you express yourself.
If you watch the House of Commons, you don’t wait till when you are called to shout and boo people and actually behave like an opposition.
If you do that here, you are not working in the spirit of the tradition of the chamber.