By EMMAN OVUAKPORIE
Mr Zakari Mohammed a former journalist is presently the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Media and Publicity. Mohammed who represents Barauten/Kaiama Federal Constituency in Kwara State, in this interview speaks on various issues including the process that led to the constitution of the new committees of the House. Excerpts:
WHAT are your challenges as the chairman of the House Committee on Media and Publicity?
I hope to do my very best as I have not failed in all my previous assignments and I know this will never be an exception, I will put in my best and make sure the Seventh Assembly do not fall into booby traps.
There are allegations that some zones were short-changed in the distribution of chairmanship positions. What is your reaction to this?
I think that is wrong. The selection committee was represented by all the states of the federation and that zone which is the South West got a better deal even better than what they got in the 6th Assembly. Go and verify your facts, they got 12 juicy positions including the committee on Public Accounts and be reminded all members knew their committees before the final announcement was made public.
I want us to look at it from the point of view of the fact that all these committee chairmanships and memberships constitute a call to duty. And that should be primary.
We should see ourselves as very privileged because Nigerians have done us a favour. A favour in the sense that we are privileged. That out of a population of about 150 million 360 of us are chosen to represent Nigerians here in the House of Representatives. So every other position in which we find ourselves, they should spur us to greater responsibilities to our fatherland.
What is important is about service. We should sit down and work out ways of impacting on the lives of Nigerians in such a manner that armed robberies will decrease, unemployment will decrease; so that we will have a country that can sustain investments, that can at the same time compete in the comity of nations. So, what are we talking about? I want to say that in whatever committee members find themselves, we should get back to business.
We have 48 months to justify our mandate and end our tenure here. And we have signed a contract with Nigerians that we are going to represent them in very positive manner. Out of the 48 months, we have spent three, so we are left with 45 months and of the 45 months by my analyses. We have just 40 months to work. Five months are left for election issues and the rest.
How is the House leadership trying to forge unity among members?
All of us are products of an election that was acclaimed to be free and fair. We are tied in one destiny in that direction; that we are products of the resolve of Nigerians to for once put the Nigeria Project in the front burner. The important issue is that the leadership is trying to make the House a family unit. And if you want to do that, it will not matter whether the man who is at the other side did not share certain opinion with you before your election.
After your election, you are the leader of all. So, we want to bury party affiliations, groupings, and all other disuniting elements because those were the things that were the constraints of the past. They relied heavily on party affiliations. And whether you like it or not, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) needs other parties to make things happen in this parliament.
What were the criteria for the selection of chairmen?
We want a departure from the past where sometimes a cobbler’s job is given to a bricklayer. And within the limit of the resume of members that have been collected, I think we can say that we have gotten a pass mark in terms of placement of members in the committees. That is not to say that there won’t be disenchantment here and there but time will heal wounds I believe.
How is the House going to ensure that suspicion and rancor are buried?
But we are going to be as open as possible. We are going to run a house that is transparent. There will be no voodoo here; no “the more you look, the less you see”.
We will place our challenges and our limitations on the table for Nigerians to see. No matter how bad they seem, we will come out with them and let you know what our challenges are. We do not have all the solutions to our problems but with the co-operation of Nigerians, we will definitely not miss our steps. Certainly we are going to address and we are addressing those things that made the 6th House of Representatives fail. And that is reflecting on all steps that we are taking as humanly as possible. And that is why rather than see ourselves as antagonists of other arms of government, we are constructively engaging them with Nigeria as the point of focus because all of us whether the Executive, the Judiciary or the Legislature, have Nigeria at heart.