Hon Emma Oghene-Egoh is the member representing Amuwo Odofin Federal Constituency of Lagos State in the House of Representatives and a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview he frowned at comments by certain individuals to the effect that the PDP has zoned former Vice President Atiku Abubakar out of its presidential race. He believes that the APC was behind the rumour. He also spoke about the clamour for state police and other issues. PATRICK OKOHUE report
******* There are feelers that your party through its governors’ forum intend scheming out presidential hopefuls like former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and present a weak opponent against President Muhammadu Buhari, who they say is already reaching out to governors in your party. What do you have to say to this?
That is quite laughable, how will the party screen out Atiku who has so much clout, commands respect and brought so much integrity to the PDP, it is not possible. Secondly, on the issue of propping up a weaker candidate to enable President Buhari ride roughshod and win the 2019 Presidential election is all rubbish. We, the National Assembly Caucus of the party had a meeting with the National Chairman, Uche Secondus and the National Working Committee, NWC, and he told us that the meeting they held in Asaba, they never discussed presidential candidate and no decision was reached on who should be the party’s presidential candidate. He also said that the issue of running mate was not discussed. In fact in his words, he believed that the APC planted the story to cause discomfort in our party. At the meeting, he admonished us, including every other person elected under the party not to support any presidential candidate. That the presidential candidates should work within the party and no decision as to who flies the party’s flag will be taken at the congress. So to say that Atiku, Dakwambo, Markafi are all schemed out is total rubbish. He said more presidential candidates will come in and that the party will welcome them and even further to state that other people from other parties may join the party and we are not going to bar them from seeking for office just because they are new comers. So long as they have clout and can win elections, the party is open to them. Indeed he said, the impunity of the past has gone and everybody will be given a free and level playing ground.
******* Moving to your state, Lagos, can you say the PDP there is united?
Yes, Lagos PDP is doing so well because of one man, Salvador, who is the state chairman of the party, he has united the party. There is a possibility of having a few disgruntled persons who might still be dissatisfied, but he is reaching out by setting up a reconciliation committee, an elder’s committee and a state caucus as recommended by the party’s constitution.
********There is palpable fear that people like you who are not indigenous to Lagos, though grew up there, might not be voted for again going by a supposed rumour making the rounds that the Yoruba wants only people of their ethnic nationality to henceforth represent them. If true, where does this leave you in the next political dispensation?
I don’t think this is true, Lagos people are very welcoming, just like they are doing in business. If you look at Lagos State, it is the number one in the country as far as Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), is concerned, the state welcomes investors. An example is business magnate Aliko Dangote, when he muted the idea of building a refinery, he thought of states that were oil producing, but the economic indices did not support citing of the refinery in such states, so he decided on Lagos. Major industries are coming to the state. The state is safe, it is encouraging people to come in, and there is no tribal politics in Lagos State. Those behind such rumour are either being mischievous or have ulterior motives. Another thing, every party has a right to choose its own candidate.
*********Honourable, do you have the intention of coming back to the House of Reps, if yes, what can you point to as dividends of democracy that you have given to your constituents that will make them support your coming back?
On the issue whether I’m coming back or not; yes, if God permits and my constituents permit, first, I have to win party primary, if my party agrees to give me ticket and then win the general election if the constituents vote for me, I will come back. As to what I have done for my constituency, I have always said, when I want to come back, I don’t want people to ask what have you done for us but I want them to see it. As far as empowerment is concerned, we have done for the youths, widows, market women and the general party people. Right now, we are running free lectures, for JAMB, GCE and NECO candidates in some centres in the entire local govt. We have provided electricity through the provision of transformers for the people. Don’t forget that I am a lawmaker and do not have a budget, but to the extent of what I can do from my pocket and what I can influence, we’ve done that. We have also provided free school uniforms to many schools in my area. As I speak to you, about three buses with a capacity to carry 80 persons each, they ferry students to schools free. We’ve dug many boreholes. It is difficult to count what we have done, but the records are there and this should guarantee me a second term. I am one of the distinguished lawmakers at the National Assembly, though I’m a first termer, I’ve moved a lot of Motions, especially on issues that touch on the lives of our people. We have talked about infrastructural decay in our local govt. We are happy today that there is a road that is now open from FESTAC to ASPAMDA, the trade-fair market, this was made possible through some of the Motions we moved. We were able to put the sum of N300m to tar the ASPANDA road, though the money has not been released, they know we did that. Talking of Lagos State in general, the Motion on the repair of the National Stadium in Surulere, I moved it.
When there was conflict in the country and Northern youths moved that Igbos leave the North by October 1, which created much tension, I was the one who moved on the floor of the House, calling on all Nigerians that they have a right to stay wherever they are and asking the Youths from the North and IPOB to rescind their decisions. We called on both the Federal and state governments to provide security for the citizenry and I’m happy that after that Motion, the governor of Kaduna State intervened and that issue was resolved amicably.
********Talking security, what is your take on the situation as it affects the common man and the role the NASS have played in tackling the menace?
You can see that on the floor of the House, we have discussed the issue severally, two days back, we moved a vote of no confidence on the Inspector General of Police. We have called on the President severally, to take proactive action on the herdsmen/farmers clashes, suggesting that government should do ranching and even assist them. We have been proactive on ways out of kidnappings. In all of this, I must confess that I am very pleased with the statement issued by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to the effect that states will be allowed to have their own police. When this policy comes into effect, you can now blame the police for insecurity in their areas.
********In your opinion, how would you suggest that this state police policy should be kick-started, will you support an executive Bill. Also don’t you think politicians such as governors will hijack this police and use it to intimidate their opponents?
The issue of politicians taking advantage of state police to intimidate their opponents cannot be ruled out, however, we have to look at the sunny side of it; which is better; for kidnappers to go ahead with their nefarious activities, for herdsmen to be killing people, that scenario is worse but we believe that as time goes by the various governments will get used to it. As to take-off, there is an on-going constitutional amendment at the NASS, the issue was not approved the last time we debated on it, it can be sent back to us and we can pass it this time around. The executive can also initiate and executive Bill, pass it over to us, we will look at it favourably. It is not going to be a novel idea to have state police as there used to be in the past.
********Would it not have been easier for the numerous para-military agencies in the country to be reorganized and made to become state police with indigenes sent to their respective states?
What is state police, the state has to pay for it, this means the different states will determine those to be employed, how much they will earn, facilities they will have. So it will not be as easy as you just put it. The different states will advertise, such as that if you are a commissioner of police at the federal level and you want to come down to your state and the state considers such a person fit for the job, can accept such person, it will take time but at the end of the day, a better police force will be provided for the people. This project is achievable before 2019. Even the issue of restructuring the country can be done within this period also, it’s a matter of pushing members to hasten the process or go by way of the Executive Bill earlier mentioned.
********Don’t you think adapting the 2014 Confab Report will make the whole process easier?
That is another issue, that report, we don’t know why it is being held up. If the executive arm of government tells us at the legislative arm that they prefer it that way, we will look at it very quickly and if they say they don’t want it that way, what they want is to bring a new Bill, we are also ready to oblige them.
********Talking about the 2017 Budget that was passed by the National Assembly, some prominent lawyers in the country have carpeted it, describing it as a shoddy job done by the legislative arm to feather their lots, is this true?
My reaction is to just laugh, how will the legislature pass the budget for its selfish interest, if as an instance, you find out that roads in your area are not captured in the budget and you are able to convince the appropriation committee to include the roads in your area, it’s for the benefit of your constituents, so that is not for the legislator’s selfish interest. You discover that some ministers put all the projects in their area, when we see such and call their attention and they are not able to defend it, we make them to relocate some to areas that were not captured. Just like the last budget, there were grey areas of disagreement, a committee was set up of the National Assembly and the Executive and these areas were ironed out.
If it is true that learned men like lawyers said that about the last budget, it means they don’t understand the working of the National Assembly. It is the executive arm that awards contracts and not the National Assembly.
********This session cannot be concluded without talking about the fight against corruption. The NHIS boss has just been recalled to his office by the Presidency despite his case with the EFCC, will you say that President Buhari has been right in his fight against corruption?
I wonder why the President would do that. A man who came to office and everybody had high hopes, everybody believed he was fighting corruption, he took some actions, like the Maina one and now this, he used it to taint his credibility. He knows best and it is left to Nigerians to judge. I think he should have allowed investigations to be concluded first.
Last take: I want to tell Nigerians that this country belongs to all of us, let us be patient, we are going through trying times, sometimes, solving these problems might be slow, but the good thing is that Nigerians are unanimous in condemning anything that is bad irrespective of religious and ethnic differences and with that kind of attitude, it shows that we shall overcome.
We have been proactive on ways out of kidnappings. In all of this, I must confess that I am very pleased with the statement issued by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to the effect that states will be allowed to have their own police. When this policy comes into effect, you can now blame the police for insecurity in their areas.