Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, representing Akoko North-East /North-West Federal Constituency of Ondo State, is the Chairman, Forum of First-Time Members of House of Representatives on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Tunji-Ojo speaks on the jostle for the speakership of the House.
Presently, about seven members are jostling for the speakership position of the House of Representatives. As Chairman of the Forum of First-Time members, what is the position of your forum?
Our position as a forum is not different from the position of the party. I am a party man true and true. I have the blood of the party running through my veins. The leader of the party, President Muhammadu Buhari, has spoken, the National Chairman has spoken, the NWC has spoken and all other organs of our party are fully aligned with the choice of the party which is Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives. On that position of the party we stand.
But some members of your party have ignored the decision of the party on the anointed candidate. What is your view on this ?
I don’t think their agitation is tenable and I will tell you why? One, the party has to zone the position because of fairness and equity. It is hypocrisy for you to say the party must zone the position again to the North. That is peak of hypocrisy. Having said that, we all know that Nigeria is broken into two different parts. That is,northern, southern regions. The North has the Senate Presidency already, so it is just fair if the highest position in the House of Representatives should go to the South. If you look at it critically, Mr. President is from the North, while the vice is from the South. Likewise, the Chairman of the National Assembly is the Senate President. The position has been zoned to the North. And the Deputy Chairman of the National Assembly is the Speaker of the House of Representatives. And this has to go to the South. That way, both regions can balance. There should be no marginalisation. I do not see any contestation or issues on that .
Part of the disagreement with the arrangement of the party is that, ordinarily, the position of the Speaker should have been given to the North-Central or any other zone apart from the South-West that already produced the Vice President.
Whenever politics is on ground, we politicians play with figures and statistics too much. Firstly, Nigeria is broken into the North and South. Whether. It is North-West, North-Central or North-East, it is the North. South. South-East, South-West and South-South are all South. The Senate presidency, to the best of our knowledge, has been zoned to the North . In that instance, it has been zoned to the North-East .It is just normal, just fair that the speakership should come from the South. When it comes to the South, we have South-East, South-West and South-South, I think the party ,maybe, looked at the strength of their party in various zones. APC has only 4 members in the entire South-East. In the South-South we have just 7 members . I think we have about 39 or 49 from the South-West. Apart from that , the party look at the personality involved. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila has been in the House for the better part of 16 years and 12 years out of the 16 years, he been there as a Principal Officer. He was the Minority Whip, Minority Leader and is the current Majority Leader. He has the leadership experience. It is just conventional when a party in the opposition wins majority in the House, the minority ordinarily becomes the Speaker. So, this is just normal. He has the experience . No doubt that all the contestants are qualified, but even in the animal kingdom where all animals are equal, some are still more equal than the others. Gbajabiamila is much more qualified by the virtue of his experience at leadership positions, by virtue of bills, motions and his interpersonal relationship with members of the House. For us as a forum, we are happy that the party took the right position. We are happy that the party gave us somebody that can be a bridge between the executive and the legislative arms and not a wall.
Don’t you think that the way things are going with the APC more members in the House, the repeat of the 2015 scenario is imminent?
Anybody who thinks that will happen must be day-dreaming. The indices are not the same. Yes, the two scenarios might be similar, they might be identical , but they are not the same. One, APC has about 225 members in the House of Representatives now and PDP has about 119 . With the crop of Representatives on the platform of APC that I see,I can bet it that we don’t have legislators that will rock the boat. We are united in our quest to position the party effectively . Two, in our Forum of First-Timers, total in APC, we are 156. Out of the 156 APC first-term members , I tell you ,we are united in making sure that the party’s position prevails. In any developed democracy in the world , the party is always stronger than the government because it is the party that has the manifesto. Government is meant to implement the manifesto of the party. So, the party is in the position to know among its members who is the best person that can implement the manifesto of the party to reposition Nigeria. Don’t forget that I as Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo was not on the ballot paper. My name wasn’t there ,neither did my picture appear on the ballot paper. My constituency voted for APC and voted for the broom as a logo. We’ve had Supreme Court interpretation saying that it is the party that wins elections. It means that people voted for the manifesto and they entrust the party with their mandate to be able to better their lives . if a particular can di date disappoints the people, it is the party that has disappointed .
The party has a lot to lose if anything goes wrong . The party has a lot to gain if everything works out fine . So, it is just a norm that the party must take the centre stage and take charge of the situation like this ,because the party is going to be affected either positively or negatively. For us, I want to assure you that we are all loyal party members and I want to tell you that even our PDP members will join us , because a lot of them want this government to go to the next level. Many do not want constant confrontations between the executive and legislative arms of government. A lot of them are not happy with the delay of budget passage for seven months out of twelve months. A lot of them are not happy with being a clog in the wheel of the country’s progress . A lot of them are not happy that many of the nominees of Mr. President are not confirmed which is the core responsibility of the National Assembly. We have so many nominees for strategic positions that have not been confirmed. I believe that a lot of our PDP brothers do not align with that type of style .
Most of them that genuinely love this country perhaps more than us , will join us in making sure that the leadership of Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila is properly enthroned for the betterment of Nigeria and above all to give a better country and future as a people.
What are you doing to pacify those who are not in line with the party on the choice of Gbajabiamila as next Speaker?
I am not speaking for the party, but I know that that we have a very responsive leadership in the party guided by our National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. We have a lot of confidence in his ability to trouble shoot . Don’t forget that he was a labour leader and crisis management and crisis resolution is part of his area of competence. I want to assure that a lot of work is going on behind the scenes. At the end of the day, you will be shocked that we will go into the election as a united family.
What do people of your constituency expect from you when the House resumes in June ?
I want to give them a voice at the National Assembly which I think I have started doing, and I will continue to do and improve. Two, I hope to give efficient and effective representation to the people of my constituency. And able to facilitate developmental projects. One of such which is very important to me is the road between Ikare and Oke-Agbe, Oyin and Omuo . It is a road that links the South-West with the North-Central. It is a death trap. Our people are suffering and it is a federal road. We will ensure that government intervenes .