BY BASHIR ADEFAKA
Senator Babafemi Ojudu, vice chairman, Senate Committee on Public Service and Establishment told Vanguard in his office at the National Assembly, Abuja that efforts so far made by the authorities to address the insecurity situation in the country have only touched the surface of the problems. The opposition he claims has been shut out: Excerpts:
What is the National Assembly doing to address the worsening insecurity of lives and property in the country?
It is one of the issues we have discussed. Now, I have come to see that there are a lot of limitations or, may be, self-created limitations by legislators themselves. For quite some time, you move motions on pressing issues, you come up with bills, committees are set up to investigate matters and you come up with reports. It doesn’t seem as if the executive is taking the legislators seriously. And we all have to come together and say, “No! We cannot be here without having any impact on governance!”
We are representing our people. People voted for us and we are here representing them. If we feel that things are going wrong or not being done in the way they should be done and we express our opinions; come up with motions and bills and the Senate passes such reports to the executive, they should do something about it.
Right to blame the legislature
So for me, it would not be right to blame the legislature. There is a separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. If the legislature does what it is supposed to do under the law and the executive fails to carry on the baton from there, it is so bad. That is what we are experiencing and it has become a major issue on the floor of the House.
So the legislature has become a toothless bull dog in the matter….
The actions we can take are specified under the law. There is a limit to which you can go; we are not the executive and so, you can’t execute laws. As lawmakers, we make laws and perform oversight functions. In the course of performing oversight functions you call in those who are in the executive that are responsible for some actions and when you write your report, you send it to the plenary session and the plenary session approves what you have written and send it to the executive to implement! If they fail to implement, may be we need to take action and that is why we now have to call on our leadership to get up and take action where the executive fails to take action on some of the issues we are looking at now.
Would you explore the impeachment option if the trend continues?
The party in power has the majority and so it is as if you now want to sharpen their knives for them to start killing themselves. We in the opposition cannot but continue to shout and continue to make it known to them that the people of this country are not happy generally with the situation of things in Nigeria.
Don’t you think that the inability of the National Assembly to carry out its role of checks and balances with regard to the executive’s actions and inactions justifies the call for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC)?
Yes. You saw what we did on April 18 when the motion was almost killed and people were not going to be allowed to talk and we had to start shouting. We were practically shouting and raising our voices. All through the sitting I raised up my hand but I was not called to speak.
Why did they prevent you from talking?
Well, the reason, I don’t know. But again, nobody can keep me down. If I’m not allowed to talk on the floor, I can always talk after the plenary session. If you are in the opposition, it becomes a big problem. You have to shout and shout and complain and complain. It is left for them to accept what you are saying but we are all here to bear the consequences.
Increasing vote of the security
Now look at the issue of security for example, everybody was talking about increasing the vote of the security, this and that. That is the cause of the problem! You leave the disease and you are taking care of the symptoms. Go back to the last 25 years we have neglected the young people in Nigeria. We sowed the wind and we are now reaping the whirlwind! Young people have been neglected. If 20,000 Nigerians graduate out of universities in a year, less than 1000 of them get employed and 19,000 others will be roaming the streets.
These are people who are educated in Physics, Nuclear Engineering and all kinds of scientific studies; many brilliant and imaginative young people. Where do you expect them to deploy their energy?
We need to work out a system that will get our young people employed, give them hope and the feeling that there will be better things in the future. When they know that there is hope for them, they won’t go into the kind of things they are doing now. We have seen how things are done in all parts of the world. We have heard of the Red Brigade in Italy and so on and the way we are handling things here is not the way they handle them over there. You have to first of all understand the root cause of these problems, which is unemployment; poverty!
And when you are able to pinpoint that, you can then have a long term plan on how to solve the problem. Not this fire brigade approach to solving problems. You see, the more we produce people who are not employed, the more we produce people who have no hope belief in this country and the more problems we are going to have with our young people.
What is your own take on the ongoing South-West integration project?
If you are within an arrangement and that arrangement is not working and people are suffering, why don’t you look within and find internal solution to the problems? Most of us who are in the opposition in the House (Senate) today are senators from the South-West. We are not having our way.
Problems at the national level
Most often we are not even having our say and there is a tendency for you to recoil to where you come from and say, “well, if we know that we understand what the problems are and how to solve the problems and we are not allowed to make contributions or to be part of solving the problems at the national level, let’s solve the problems at our locality.’ That is why we are having this idea called integration.
Let us integrate: how can we solve our energy problem as a people? How can we solve infrastructure problem as a people? How can we solve our education, employment problems as a people? You know, in a smaller enclave, maybe we will able to show some seriousness and show understanding to all the other people.
A senator from the South-West, for instance stood up today – Senator Kaka – got up and said, “Look, I have an addition to this motion. Let us declare a state of emergency on unemployment in Nigeria.”
Somebody shouted him down. If he does that in a meeting of South-West, nobody will shout him down. He will be hailed and will be taken seriously because, genuinely, they really know that he knows what the problem is and how to get it solved.