In this interview, Mr Olajide Olatunbosun, representing Atisbo/Saki-East/Saki-West Federal Constituency of Oyo State in the House of Representatives on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, tells SundayPunch’s LEKE BAIYEWU about some of his plans if he becomes Speaker in the coming Ninth National Assembly
How has your speakership campaign been so far?
It has been very good; the last two weeks have been very challenging for me. It has opened my eyes to new possibilities. My colleagues have well received me even beyond my wildest imagination. I have made wide consultations across party lines, across geopolitical zones and across religious lines, and the reception has been very good. One thing that is common, that people want is a House of Representatives that is independent and be for the Nigerian people.
Members-elect have been divided over which voting method to adopt for the Ninth National Assembly leadership election. Which do you prefer between open and secret ballot?
Let me explain certain things on this issue of voting. In the parliament – in this instance, the House of Representatives – we operate based on set rules. We have the Standing Order and that book is where the rules for the conduct of our day-to-day businesses are taken from. Order 2, if you check, specifically mentions that in electing the presiding officers – the Speaker and Deputy Speaker – voting shall be, where ‘shall’ means mandatory, by electronic voting or secret. That Standing Order, its rules were approved in 2016 and to the best of my knowledge, those rules have not been changed. So, on the day of inauguration, it is the same rules that the Clerk to the National Assembly is going to apply in conducting the elections.
The coming Ninth National Assembly will have a majority of newcomers. How do you intend to build the capacity of the newly elected members to be able to raise their legislative performance?
With due respect to members, whether returning or new members, they have achieved successes in their various areas of endeavours — we have professors, people from the civil service, accomplished businessmen and people from the organised private sector. So, it means we have a very good foundation. But we still need to do more of capacity building because the moment you say that you don’t want to learn again, it means that you are already dead. We need capacity building in the area of leadership. That is very key because everything rises and falls with leadership. I have seen that area and the need to do it. Also for our people, politics is not a vocation that you can engage in forever. As I am talking to you, there are also other people who want to also come and represent their people. So, when people leave this place (National Assembly), how can they live a normal life? There must be enough financial education in investment and how to manage funds. We are going to do that for our members.
How would you assist the President Muhammadu Buhari administration in the fight against corruption if you emerge the speaker?
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission Act, we are going to look at them again. For me, I’m not comfortable with delays in the prosecution of cases. There are cases that go on for 10 years even with the new law (Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015) that gives specific timelines for cases to be dispensed with; it is still been observed in breach. We need to look at all of that. Corruption is a major issue. The meaning of corruption is that our people are deprived of basic necessities of life: good roads, hospitals, schools; that is the meaning. How do we ensure that it is reduced to the barest minimum? Our President once said ‘if Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria’. That is just it. Also, we in the parliament, will live by example. That is very important so that Nigerians can see that we are living practically what we preach.
What are the things you want to do differently as Speaker of the House?
The perception of Nigerians about the legislators; as they say in marketing, ‘perception is real’. We will show that as Nigerian legislators, we are part of the people. We are not from another planet. We feel their pains and we are together. We feel their frustrations and that even our lifestyle will reflect that we are for Nigerians. On the job itself, I will make sure that our oversight is more effective. I am an accountant. Oversight is like audit. The funds we have given to you, how have you spent them? Have you achieved the purpose for which the funds were dispensed? Oversight will be more painstaking, more meticulous.
There is a bill which we have been unable to conclude in this Assembly, that is the Security Trust Fund Bill. It is like we are warehousing all the security agencies inside one apartment – the Armed Forces, Nigeria Police, Department of State Services, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps. The fund from the yearly budget is inadequate to effectively support their operations. So, that bill will make sure that we get money from other sources. I am not going to reveal that now. By the grace of God, in the Ninth Assembly, it is a legislation that we have to promote. Also, on the issue of revenue, there are a lot of leakages. The Treasury Single Account is a fantastic idea; we need to ensure that it is strengthened by legislation and Acts of the National Assembly. Looking at the issue of the reports by the Auditor-General of the Federation, for now, many don’t take it seriously. We have to ensure that whatever is the report, in accordance with our laws, we will take action that will make people to know that it is not business as usual.
How are you going to manage the Legislature-Executive relationship as Speaker against the fact that the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances must be observed while you will also want to assist the APC-led government at the same time?
Separation of powers is very important because government will outlive all of us. Shakespeare said life is a stage; we are the ones playing on the stage now, so we must ensure that this institution of parliament, we protect it and we don’t compromise its independence. But having said that, we must cooperate with the executive. Fortunately for us, we have a President that is our father and leader who means well for this country. So, without compromising the independence of the parliament or the House, we will cooperate with the executive and the judiciary. It is not going to be by confrontation.