BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR
SENATOR Musa Salisu Matori represented Bauchi South in the Senate between 1999 to 2003. In this interview with Vanguard, he among others decried the media’s alleged bias against the National Assembly and why Nigerian roads may remain death traps for a long time. Excerpts:
You are a Senator from the North, your presence at the South-West Senators Forum is a surprise. Why did you attend the meeting?
It is senators’ forum and I am a senator. I am a national officer of the Senators Forum. Senator Victor Oyofo and I are representing the National headquarters at the forum.
What is the objective of the Forum?
The main objective is to let the nation benefit from the experiences of past senators, who have acquired tremendous experience through the legislative process.
Looking at the Boko Haram insecurity issues, what do you think Northern governors can do to address it?
Already, there have been efforts. Not only the Northern governors but also Nigerian governors including the President. They have not rested on their oars, they are trying to find a solution to the problem. It is not a question of any particular- western, northern, southern or eastern governors, it is Nigeria’s problem and I believe that those in authority are more concerned than you and I are to find a solution to the problem.
What is your assessment of the National Assembly?
How do you expect somebody to be a judge in his case? I was and I am still a member of the National Assembly. So, it is for the Nigerian populace to assess us.
However, I have told your colleagues several times that the National Assembly, unfortunately, from the days of former President Olusegun Obasanjo has been given bad publicity. Obasanjo decided to present the National Assembly in a bad light. Luckily for him, the press supported him. Right from the beginning, he introduced furniture allowance. It was not even furniture allowance, it was furniture advance, which every senator had paid through his earnings. But you kept on hammering on allowances and put the National Assembly in a bad light and up till now, it is what we have failed to understand.
Members of the National Assembly are doing their utmost best. The press had always highlighted the bad things happening in the National Assembly and nothing in the ministries, states and local governments. If you had taken a holistic approach towards fighting misdeeds, it would have been a different issue.
The executive has tried in most cases as much as possible to castigate the National Assembly so as to make it a lame duck and not to be as effective as they ought to be so that the executive arm of government can do whatever they liked unchecked. Unfortunately it has been happening so far.
But the National Assembly is not helping matters in redeeming its image…
The press should help the nation. The press should be reporting facts, what ought to be reported and taking the national interest at heart, not being biased because it is the view of most Nigerians that the press is more sympathetic to the executive arm than the legislative.
Everybody knows the legislator has no vote to control. He has no office like president, governor or local council chairman. He doesn’t execute projects. All these constituency projects they are talking about, they misconstrue things to read upside down. I am not holding brief for National Assembly. They have people to talk on their behalf but the facts are always presented in wrong perspective. So the press has a lot to do to help this country, by highlighting certain positive aspects of the National Assembly instead of the negative.
One of the senators who was a minister blamed the National Assembly for the nation’s bad roads, let’s say Lagos-Ibadan Expressway because they did not allocate adequate funds…
You should have told him that he was also part of the National Asswembly. He knows the reason he didn’t do it. It is not only Lagos-Ibadan, Benin-Ore, all our roads throughout this country need attention. I am not holding brief for the National Assembly or anybody who is handling roads. The kind of indiscipline and indiscriminate usage of roads in West Africa in particular was what led the European Union (EU) to refuse to give aids for road development to ECOWAS nations. They are not adhering to the rules.
If you go to any developed nation, for every road, there is limited life span and there is limited tonnage. That is why you have weigh bridges at the beginning, middle and end of every road. So if you are coming with your lorry, which is supposed to take 25tons and it is carrying 30 tons, you have to offload that extra there and then before you can be allowed to continue. So, from the very beginning people don’t ever exceed the law. But here, a lorry of 25tons you put 30tons, 50 tons, etc The life span of those roads cannot be durable.