The Oyo South Senatorial Candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Chief Olufemi Lanlehin, in this interview with journalists, explains the need for virile legislatures at all levels in the country. OLALEKAN ADETAYO was there. Excerpts: You were in the governorship race before opting to contest the senatorial election. Why did you change your mind?
The Action Congress of Nigeria is a very disciplined and democratic set-up. Initially, I was desirous of contesting the governorship position of Oyo State. But as God would want it, the party in its wisdom decided that I should contest as a candidate for the Oyo South Senatorial District.
Did that do anything to your personal ambition and how do you think you can use the senatorial position to accomplish your dream if elected in April?
Basically, the most important thing for me is to serve and do my best for my community. If the party in its wisdom thinks I can serve best there (in the Senate); so be it. I also believe that by virtue of my training and experience, I can serve very well in that position. As you do know, I am a lawyer of very many years and the knowledge of law is helpful in understanding the rudiment of lawmaking which I believe I am equipped to face. For some time now, people have played down the role of the legislature in the governance of the society. But I believe that the legislature has a very vital role to play, more so that it is the least developed of all the three arms of government.
Each time we have a truncation of governance, it is the legislature that bears the brunt because it is the legislature that has its activities suspended, while the executive and the judiciary carry on. To that extent, the legislature has had the kick-and-start, stop-and-go history, which has stunted its growth. That means we must have men of experience and dedication who know what they are there for. In those numerous circumstances, I believe I am equipped and ready to serve Oyo State in that capacity. The fact that I went for the governorship position and at the end of the day I was told to serve in the Senate does not matter. The most important thing is serving and I am very desirous of serving. The state to which I belong has been short-changed by the kind of government and representation we have been having. There has not been any challenge to the way and manner that the government is run and there has not been any strong representation or strong push for the interest of Oyo State at the federal level. I believe I can make a difference by going out there and represent and push the interest of Oyo State at the federal level.
As a lawyer and politician of many years, how would you assess the quality of legislature in Nigeria?
The quality of legislature in Nigeria has been very disappointing because it seems to accept the subordinate role in the act of governance. It seems to have tied itself to the apron strings of the executive which should not be so. In all developed clans, you discover that the legislature really provides the stability that the polity and the government desires. As you know the government comprises three arms – the executive, legislature and the judiciary. Each balances the other to give stability to governance and the polity. But here, there is a tendency for people to believe that government is the executive and down play the role of the legislature. I believe the legislature has a very important role because the society is guided, directed, controlled and organised by the system of the laws. That depends on the quality of the laws that are made and that depends on the quality of people that make the laws. The people that should be in the legislative, first of all, must be people who must be dedicated to the course of the Nigerian project. That is, they must be ready to go into the society, be well-organised and cater for the people. Lawmakers should also be men and women, who are reasonably independent, people who are independent in the face of intimidation and manipulation and can stand on their own. So, to that extent, I think we have over the years been let down by the performance of the executive in the sense that the dividends of democracy have never been passed to our people even since the time of Independence. I believe this is because the executives have not done what they should do. But I believe democracy, which is defined as the government of the people by the people and for the people, should have the legislature that performs a very important and stabilising role. More often than not, we hear of the members of the legislature trying to take good care of themselves to the detriment of the people they are supposed to be representing. I intend to represent Oyo South Senatorial District to the best of my ability and I believe there are so many things that are needed to be done out there. There are so many things that the Federal Government needs to be made to know. Look at the Ogunpa channelisation situation for instance, it has been there since 1979, nobody seems to be talking about it and it is so central to environmental survival of Ibadan. During the rainy season, we all know what happens. The whole place is always flooded and the whole place is in bad state. There is also the issue of water. I know that the state should take adequate care of that, but the Federal Government, through its Ministry of Water Resources also have responsibilities to provide all these things for Oyo State and particularly my senatorial district.
You were one of the contestants, who protested the alleged imposition of Senator Abiola Ajimobi and some have even gone to court. Some people believe that you opted out because you have been settled with the senatorial ticket. What is your position on this?
No, I don’t believe that. Initially, I took a very strong opposition to the methodology adopted in the selection of the governorship candidate, but in the course of sitting at the peace table and in the course of moving the party forward, a lot of explanations were made, a lot of reconciliations were made and a lot of attempts to smoothen injured feelings of members were made. I believe it is in the interest of the party to make sure that the people, who we profess to want to serve, should not be left in the mud of the government in power. Despite everything that happened and despite all things said and done, the interest of the people is what really matters. If we let this opportunity go and allow the ruling party to come back into power because of our own personal feelings and sense of injury, then we will let what we have been fighting against go through. So, I thought that despite my personal feelings about this thing, I should let peace reign. A lot of other people were not given any offer. There are so many ways one can serve in government apart from senatorial candidature that was offered to me. I accepted because I felt that we should not throw the baby away with the bathing water and that we should go on and face the real enemy of the people and make sure that Oyo State is moved forward.
Now that you are not among the people that went to court, does that suggest that you are willing to work together with other party members in Oyo State as from April if your party is elected?
It is only a few of the aspirants that went to court. Some that are not contesting – all opposition – did not go to court. So, it is not about me not going to court because I was offered a post. Some other people that were not even offered any senatorial position or any other position did not even go to court. It is about settling a family misunderstanding.
When you look at our political system, the winner takes all. Even when parties score close to half of the votes cast, the parties with the majority votes still take all. Do you think this is best for our democracy?
It is not the best and that is another issue that the parliamentary system should improve. In the parliamentary system, you must have the majority of the members of the parliament or any number as provided by the constitution before you form a government. That means you must have a minimal amount of support in the parliament for you to succeed in governance. If you don’t have up to that minimal amount, then you can’t form a government and to form a government then you must get a consensus. I believe in the situation that we found ourselves now, we should be able to form a government that is all-inclusive whereby each and every party that has met the minimum standard should be allowed to participate in governance and then people’s interests are taken care of. This is opposed to a situation, where a governor wins and he becomes is a tin god.
What should your constituents expect from you if you are elected in April?
They should expect quality representation. I intend to stay with them, listen to them and then aggregate, articulate and present their views. Look at Ibarapa, which is part of my constituency, one will want the arable land there to be re-cultivated. We used to have beautiful farm settlements. A couple of them were in Ibarapa and they were really providing the agricultural products used for food for the whole of Oyo State. I will obviously push to a return it to its past glory. Look at the dry port in Egbeda for instance, it has been abandoned for some time and that is the place that can generate a lot of funds. Although it is not strictly within my constituency, I still believe it is part of Ibadan land and it’s just very near my constituency and to that extent one will want things like that place to be revived and get commercial activities around my constituency. But it is bound to affect commercial activities in my consistency. So in conjunction with the representatives of that area, we will make sure that the place is completed for the benefit of the whole of Oyo State and its environs.
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Oyo is being short-changed by its govt – Lanlehin