Hon. Abiodun Awoleye-Dada is a two-term member of the House of Representatives, representing Ibadan North Federal Constituency. In this interview with JEREMIAH OKE in Abuja, the lawmaker speaks on his governorship ambition, why he’s against the proposed immunity for the leadership of the National Assembly, his commitment to the development of Oyo State, the trial of the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki and the forthcoming Edo and Ondo elections. Excerpts:
Why were you among the lawmakers who fought against the proposed immunity for principal officers in the National Assembly?
Because it is absolute bunkum! Many of us opposed it when the minority leader was trying to introduce it to the House. The legislator has to be a check on the Executive but by the time the members or leadership of the House are given immunity, they may not be able to perform their duties effectively. For instance, the ongoing trial of the principal officers, who are accused of corrupt offences, may not be possible if they are given immunity. That means somebody, who’s supposed to be a watchdog of the other arms of government, now becomes a subject of corruption and is untouchable. To me, I don’t think there should be immunity for any legislator. In fact, it is surprising because some of us are considering removing immunity of the Executive arm so that no governor will say because he is in office, he cannot be investigated for corrupt practices or criminal offences. Yes, some people may argue that it will create a kind of distraction, but to me, if you are vying for a post, you must be morally clean. And if you are taken to court, your legal department can handle that while you focus on the business of governance. To me, it is arrant nonsense, unfair to Nigerians, unreasonable and unthinkable.
If National Assembly resumes from recess, it will commence investigation into the alleged diversion of bailout funds by governors. What is responsible for this development?
Is it a good development? From the report we received, most of the governors didn’t use the bailout fund for the purpose it was meant for. To investigate and ascertain if they really used it for its purpose. Any governor, who did not spend the fund for its purpose, shall face the music. In the first instance, many of us in the National Assembly were against the bailout fund because it is not reasonable to take loan to pay salaries. But for the benefit of our people who are civil servants, we have to allow them to take it. Government should be interested in businesses now. They can take loan to invest in agriculture and other businesses but not to pay salaries. If you take loan and use it to pay salaries, of what use is that? Does that mean that the state government will continue to take loan every time to pay salaries? For how long will the states continue to apply for loan to pay salaries? Will the state governors continue to hold the state into ransom for many years due to the carelessness of the governors? So, to investigate the bailout fund, it’s a right step in the right direction.
As a result of the current recession, Nigerians are groaning under the hardship, what is your party, APC doing to address this trend?
Don’t forget that our party inherited a virtually dead economy. The country was already in tatters. We came to power after sixteen years of PDP misrule. We received Nigerians’ mandate when PDP had almost torn the country apart. We came in when the price of oil on the international market had drastically dropped. When we took up the mantle of leadership in Nigeria, it was less than $30 per barrel and it was sold at $120 and above during the time of the PDP. When PDP had surplus, what did they do with it? PDP was unable to apply the surplus appropriately. But now that we are selling the barrel of crude oil for less than $30 per barrel, we need to understand and be patient with the government. Meanwhile, oil which remains the only source of our income is not flourishing as before because of the blowing of pipelines by the militants in the South-South. Our foreign reserve has continued to dwindle over the years. These are the factors that determine how wealthy a nation can be. All these contribute to the economic hardship. Except now that the government is trying to diversify the economy to solid minerals and agriculture, which we can be rest assure will complement our crude oil and the economy will fly again. The President is also trying to encourage locally made products, which will generate more job opportunities for our teeming youths. Though many people are complaining about our foreign exchange, it is the best for us because at a point, the country had been “dollarised” completely. We had stopped talking about our own currency which is Naira. We trade in dollars. But now, the currency is appreciating. So, it is true we are experiencing hardship but I see light at the end of the tunnel.
For how long will Nigerians wait for the implementation of your party’s policies?
To revive this kind of economy, we need to exercise patience and support government policies. It is not something that can be decided by individuals. However, we are optimistic that Nigeria will begin to flourish again soon.
With the trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki by the Federal Government, the recent hullabaloo between Senator Oluremi Tinubu and Senator Dino Melaye, don’t you think your party would soon meet its waterloo?
Waterloo? Not at all. It is to tell people, especially those who believe that APC is selective in his fight against corruption that there is nothing as such. Saraki being taken to the Code of Conduct Tribunal for fake assets declaration and also for the forgery case against him and Ekweremadu, it’s an indication that President Buhari is not selective in his fight against corruption. If Saraki, who is a Senate President and a stalwart of our party could be investigated for alleged involvement in criminal cases, that means the President is committed to moving Nigeria forward and has respect for the rule of law. It shows that Nigerians are equal before the law. The issue of Senator Tinubu and Senator Melaye, is really unfortunate. It has nothing to do with the party but morals. It has to do with individual discipline. It shows that Melaye has no respect for women and lack maturity. If he says Senator Tinubu called him a dog, a thug and other derogatory names, everybody knows the way Senator Melaye behaves in the Senate as an uncultured element. He behaves as if he is the only person in the Senate. He has no respect for the rule of law. He has no respect for women, no respect for the Presidency, no respect for his colleagues. I think it is a show of shame on the part of the person of Senator Melaye. It has nothing to do with APC as a party but individual characters. But thank God, the issue has been resolved.
Are you saying you are one family in the National Assembly, despite the face-off between different APC members?
Yes, we are one family but even within the family we have different interests and politics is all about interest. Family members may have divergent views on a particular issue but that does not prove that they are no more a family. So, we are one family under the same roof but we may have divergent interests. Interestingly, I have not heard anybody defecting to any other party; which is a proof that we are still one family.
Do you think your party stands any chance in the forthcoming Edo and Ondo elections?
The two states are for APC going by recent survey reports. Performance of the comrade in Edo State is enough to give us victory in the state. If you go through Edo State now, you will see the level of development in the state. Comrade Oshiomohle has transformed the state. I was in Edo State during the regime of former governor Lucky Igbinedion and it was in a bad shape. It was an eyesore. Go to the state now and see the development. Comrade has changed the face of that state. He has built schools. He has done many roads. Health care is greatly improved upon. Workers are well care for. So, he has done numerous projects in the state, which have obviously developed the state. In Ondo State, our people have been waiting to experience what it means to be part of the progressives. And I can bet it with anybody, they will vote for APC. If you see the atmosphere in the state, you will agree with me that the state is for APC. All the good politicians in the state are now with the APC. Even their last flagbearer in the last governorship election, Olusola Oke, is now with us. So, who else do you have left in the PDP? Mimiko is an empty barrel! He cannot win any election in the state again. So, as for me, PDP is gone and gone forever. I can only appeal to all the aspirants to work with the winner of the primary, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, to ensure victory for our party at the poll.