June 9, 2009

Harmony between Legislature, Executive not in people’s interest — Lagos Speaker

By Gbenga Akanmu
RT. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly is an engaging personality with fresh perspectives on issues that bother on legislature, rule of law  and governance.  To him the people are central to the building of democracy and their views and opinions must be reflected in how they are governed. In this interview he argued that the Lagos House has been outstanding in representing the interests of Lagosians and believed that Nigerian politics has transcended ethnic divide and is now a battle ground between  progressives and conservatives.  Excerpts:

For the first time since independence Nigeria is experiencing 10 years of uninterrupted democratic governance. Do you think we are making progress?

I will want to modify it and say 10 years of uninterrupted civilian rule. It is still not a democracy.

We are some miles away from the democratic post, but we will get there. I am one of those who believe we have not done it right, but like I often say, we are on the path.

We are crawling, but we would get there. We could do it a lot better than we have done it in the last 10 years. But there is no doubting the fact that we have made substantial progress.

The problems we have right now are not the problem of Hausa versus Ibo, or Yoruba versus Kanuri. I mean, that is gradually fading away. We now have the problem of the progressives and the non_progressives, let me not call them any other name. And they cut across what you would call the ethnic barrier.

How do you feel  leading almost a one party House where opposition is virtually non-existent?

Well, the truth remains that this is not a one party House. We have a minority, no matter how small it is. I am sure if we have not being doing it right, if we have not been forthright and people oriented, the three members that belong to the other party would have given us a hell of a time. But I guess, knowing that we are doing it properly and we are carrying the people along, they have no option, but to also join the moving progressive train.

How would say the House has impacted on the present administration in the last two years?

I think it is a very straight forward thing. How much progress has been made in nearby states where the Houses are at loggerheads with the Executives? Go across the nation; let’s try to place Lagos House and the relationship between the Executive and legislature in Lagos side by side with what we have in the other 36 states in the country. It becomes very clear the role that the Lagos legislature has played. Without the commitment,  resilience and perseverance of the legislature, there is no way the executive would have been able to get things done the way it has done it in the last two years.

How would you assess the level of legislative activities in Nigeria within the last ten years?

Okay, I know we have not done perfectly well. I know the legislature still have a long way to go to catch up with the advanced democracies. But we should not condemn the Nigerian legislature. There is no way a ten-year old kid can compete favourably with a 100-year old or even the other arms of government in this country that are at least 95 years old.  The Executive, yes, whether military or civilian, it is still the Executive, same thing with the judiciary, they have come a long way. But the legislature has been the ‘Abiku’ child of the system. And now that it is ten years old, we should encourage it, we should do everything to nurture it to maturity.

How would you assess the performance of the progressives and non-progressives in the present political experiment?

I think the picture is very clear to all. We are all Nigerians, we all live here, we all go around the country and we have been to the various states.

We know what some governors have done in their states, we know what the federal government is doing with the whole lot of us. We know what those who belong to which party are doing in their various states. And of course, you can easily see the big difference between those who are progressives and those who are not. I don’t think I should start giving the statistics here, they are even better known to you than me.

How do you think the lingering Niger Delta crisis can be resolved?

I think if you put this question to ten different people, you are likely to come back with 20 different opinions. Personally, and this has nothing to do with politics, I think we have been unfair to ourselves. I think Nigeria has not been very fair to the people of Niger-Delta. And the leaders of Niger Delta themselves are not fair to the people.

But on the other hand, the truth remains also that the amount of fund that has gone to the Niger Delta cannot be justified with the infrastructure and the standard of living of the people in that area. Where is the money?

So, the problem is not just the issue of federal government but the issue of who we are as a people, all of us as a people, we tend to be extremely selfish

How would you describe the relationship between the executive and the legislature at the federal level this past two years?

I know the executive has thrown a number of challenges at the legislature.The fact that they have still not agreed on  the 2009 budget is is a sign that the executive is not really willing to be ambushed by the legislature and the legislature on its part also tries to exercise its freedom. I think it is good for our democratic development. We should not only look at the negative side of it, we should think of the positive side of such development.

It is not in our best interest that the legislature and the executive should work in perfect harmony without questions or some rough ride sometime. I think there should be moments of upheavals and the way they conduct themselves and come out of that is what determines the level of maturity and patriotism on the part of the two arms of government. So it is not really bad that there is that little tug of war between the executive and the legislature at the national level.

How well would you say the Lagos House of  Assembly represented the people of the state?

I think to the best of my knowledge this House has been very outstanding as far as representation is concerned. We have passed many Bills that were for good governance in this state, we have passed many Bills that affect the lives of Lagosians directly and I think we will continue to do so. So I say we are doing fairly well, we could do better because to be honest with you, I think there is still room for improvement.

What do you think is fundamentally wrong with the nation’s executive arm of governments?

Honestly, it is a question that should be answered by everybody. Have many of us really taken time out to think about Executives at the various levels. Across the nation so many of them were handpicked and some of these either had never worked all their lives or where street gang leaders.

But then how many people have really stood up to question their actions These people are from Nigeria and we know their background. If they are not doing well, how many among those that are close to them have been honest and fair enough to tell them the truth.