By Daud Olatunji
Hon Suraj Adekunbi has been the Speaker of Ogun House of Assembly spanning the 7th and current 8th Assemblies. Since 2011 when he became Speaker the Assembly seemed to have run on auto-pilot. He got re-elected after the 2015 election, returning as the Speaker of the Assembly to continue to paddle the canoe of the legislative arm.
He vehemently denied the allegations that the House has been reduced to rubber stamp of the executive, saying, the Assembly could not resist good governance and growth of the state as provided by Governor Ibikunle Amosun. He spoke on national issues particularly those affecting Ogun State directly. Excerpts:
ON the belief that the House has been rubber stamping the bills by the Executive
So far so good, I need to appreciate our people for following what we are doing in the government, because we are given the opportunity to govern them through election. And for them to be reacting to issues regarding activities of the government, really shows they are up and doing, they are alive with what we are doing. I believe by the special grace of God, if by now people are still saying that we are rubber stamping, that the current legislature is a rubber stamping legislature, may be they are just doing that to challenge us. And I believe that with the little we have done since we came in the second term, they could see that we did not really have one difference from the first term.
All we are concerned was the welfare of our people, if the executive brings anything to us, they could see that what is important is the diligence and if they bring anything to us we always follow that process that will give us that eligibility. And you could see that so far so good, we have been operating within the ambit of government, and if we have done anything contrary as citizens of the state, they have right to challenge us. Because we believe that the only way the people can feel the effect of good governance is for the three arms of government to be on the same page.
The executive in their own wisdom would come up with ideas and bring to us innovations that will facilitate development and growth. And for us in the house of assembly, we are 26 in number, without considering our political affiliations, we believe that what is important for us is to do our bit by giving a legislation that would aid whatever the request. And also before we come up with anything we always follow due process.
Passing the bill granting approval for another N65 billion loan to the state government: The money in question was N64billion and not N67billion; we had our 2017 appropriation passage on December 29, 2016. And at the moment, we are happy that we have in place the appropriation act, and in that appropriation estimate, there was a provision for loan. The totality of the loan was in the tune of N65billion. And Mr. Governor put it to the house for the approval of the loan.
Because of the current realities, the loan request was based on some factors and you could see that we had numbers of banks that would probably have granted the loan if they had the requirements. Because of the situation of things, almost 80% of the debt we are having in the country today is domestic debt and does not give room for lending. And since there is a global approval for such, the executive or system can always make their request. We just did that for convenience sake and nothing more.
We believe that people are complaining about the on-going project, there is no way we could do that without adequate funding and one of the provisions that we have made in the budget was that N65billion. Of course, we must do that to hasten the governance process.
On the peace in the House: I believed that since we don’t have anything to hide, we are always on the same page and matters for discussion are always about Ogun State and not about any political party. When it comes to the issue of our responsibility, everybody is being alive, because the primary responsibility is just for us to give to our people that legislation that enhance their social economic well-being.
The socio economic well-being which include on-going project across the state, we have wages and some other areas to touch, and nothing could be done without doing the needful, so far so good, what is important to us as members of the assembly is about Ogun State, not about any party. If they have any issue regarding that, of course, we could have our moment, it is normal in any setting, because the way we perceive issues differ.
And if we are having an issue, we always disagree to agree in the issue and everybody understand that unity will always have a positive impact, we always ensure that everybody is keyed into what we are doing. We have been able to achieve that by providing information that is verifiable to them, which they confirm or get their information somewhere and they know they will see it the way I put it. We believe that we are privileged to serve our people, and we must ensure that we deliver our mandate given by them.
We are doing all we can to have good impact. The executive in their own way have been alive to their responsibility, and we must complement each other. When it comes to issue that borders on the well-being of our people, I think we are doing our best.
The executive and the legislation until tomorrow, we believe that we are in the same page and we are still running one government.
On separation of power between executive and legislature: In the contest of separation of power, we believed that lot of things graduated to factors that must be considered, when you look at the 1999 constitution we are operating now, there is nothing we could do without the input of assembly, legislation is number one arm of government, when you look at our constitution today, you will see that without legislation, there will be nothing like democracy. We have been clamouring for autonomy, when we have autonomy, I think we will do our job better, whether there is money or not.
In the constitution, we are mutually independent but cannot exist without others in the democratic settings. I believe that in the contest of separation of power, if executive can be alone, they will not make request to the house, and so far so good, we have been doing our job and have been giving executive the necessary follow-ups.
On way to evolve the Local Governments in Ogun State: The reason why we have the newly created LCDAs is to make government closer to the people at the grass root. We just have the LCDAs which must be followed with some processes that will lead to stability, and I believed that by the time that one is done; definitely the inactive of the Local government will be addressed. It would be recalled that so many times the governor has said that the funding of local government from the federal government is not that encouraging. At that level, I want to believe that they have nothing to do or they would not do much due to lack of fund. But I believe overtime with the creation of the new LCDAs, things will get better. Looking at Lagos state, they are up and doing and I hoped that our state would get to that level soon.
Suggestion on way out of economic recession: To me the federal government has really done a lot to elevate the lives of the people at the moment, and also in the way of regulating the economy. But the fact remains that the economic expert have come up with so many measures, just that I would enjoin our people to be patient, because, everything would get better in a short while. Because that would be left in the hand of the expert, but so far I believed that the federal government and the state government too in their own little effort have been doing everything in capacity to restore the economy.
On 2019 election and Yewa agenda: Well, as a Yewa man, I am using this medium to appeal to our people to continue to support the government of the day. While doing that, we should be strategic and tactical in the pursuit of our ambition. I believed that with the situation of things at the moment, everybody in the state will do everything within his reach to assist our senatorial district to produce the next governor of the state. For me as the Speaker of the state, I don’t want to really say much about that, but I know that it is just a matter of time. And I hope that by the special grace of God, after the tenure of his excellency Senator Ibikunle Amosun, a Yewa man would take over the leadership of Ogun State and we pray to God to grant the governor good health till 2019.