'PROPONENTS OF PART-TIME LEGISLATORS ARE ILL INFORMED'
Member of the House of Representatives (ACN, Shomolu Constituency, Lagos) Wole Diya told ODITA SUNDAY that poverty was responsible for the high cost of running a democracy. Excerpts:
WHAT do you make of the controversies generated by the cost of maintaining federal lawmakers?
It is what obtains all over the world. The Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary have budgets but what baffles me about what the Governor of the Central Bank Sanusi Lamido Sanusi said about the 25 per cent is that when the Minister of Finance was asked for his reaction, he countered Sanusi. But Nigerians don't want to hear what the Finance Minister said; they were only interested in what Sanusi said. The National Assembly has repeatedly said that our budget is not 25 per cent; in fact, it is less than 8 per cent. We are earning some money but it is not what people are speculating. Part of what we earn is spent on people. We, the legislators reach out to the grassroots much more than any other political office holder. The people come to us with their personal problems and expect solution from us. It is because I try to solve some of the problems they bring before me that I am free to walk on the streets in my constituency day or night.
Ahead of the 2011 elections, are you worried about those who will want to stop you in your constituency?
When you are in ACN in Lagos, you must expect opposition; the ACN is the party to beat, so we are warming up against the opposition not only in Lagos State, but other states of the federation.
Is your constituency, Shomolu satisfied with your performance in the House?
My constituency is proud of me. I was in the Lagos State House of Assembly for eight years. So far, I have sunk 10 boreholes in my constituency, I have built two schools, I am expecting the third one, I have brought in solar street lights, five transformers, sponsored several eye screening exercises where thousands of eye glasses were given out, distributed desk benches to schools, established health centers among other projects. I did these things for my constituency so I can walk on the streets in my constituency without fear.
How about adequate representation in the House?
Let me correct one impression people have about legislators. They think that it is only when you stand on the floor of the House to speak that you are representing your people well. The actual work of a legislator is in the various committees. More than 80 per cent of the work and performance of the legislator is in the House Committees. Nothing comes out from saying anything on the floor of the House, absolutely nothing. It is what you put in, your contribution at the committee level that would be used to measure your performance. I have been living up to expectation in the committee I belong. In Lagos State, we are only two House members that gave our constituencies solar powered streetlights.
Comment on the calls in some quarters for part time legislators
It is not possible. What is raising the clamour is the talk about the jumbo pay of legislators. Part time legislation is not attainable. Why can't they also suggest that the Executive and Judiciary be part-time? Are they doing more work than we are doing? Legislators are the only people that make democracy tick. If the army takes over now, it is the legislators that would first suffer it. The Executive would continue to be there, same as the judiciary but the National Assembly would be closed and the soldiers will usurp the powers to make laws. It shows that legislators are the real agents of democracy.
What would you say over worries that the economy is too fragile and might not support of the cost of governance?
I share such fears. That was what I was saying about the various problems brought before us in our constituencies. About 19 out of 20 persons who call you on phone are asking for money to solve one problem and the other. If you say you won't give them, you are in trouble because the poverty level is so high in Nigeria. It is not like that in other countries. A lot of people are suffering here. For now, we have to live with it. I know things will change after some time.
Do your have any kind of doubts or fears for 2011 election?
I have confidence in the INEC chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega. He has credibility and with the promises he has made, I don't have any fears about the credibility of the 2011 election. I am sure he will live up to his words. I am not part of INEC, but they have spoken and they have said that what they are bringing in is in excess of what they are going to use. They have assured us that it is not going to affect the conduct of the election and we believe them.
The ACN has been warned by opposition PDP to stay away from Ogun and Oyo states…
The ACN is waxing stronger and it is proving that it is not a South West party. Oyo and Ogun states have been won by the ACN already because the incumbent governors have not done anything for the people. Even PDP members especially in Oyo described their governor as a non-performer. If members of your parties could reject you, then how do you intend to win, so as far as we are concerned, Oyo is gone already, we are taking over Oyo and Ogun states. We are not talking about South West again, because the ACN has it already. Our task now is to see how we can win states in the South East, South-South and northern states.
Some of your colleagues were clamoring to become NEC members of their party. Did you support the move?
I don't want to talk about it because the ACN members in the National Assembly have dissociated themselves from such. The party should be left for the party leaders to run and National Assembly members should not have any business with the party. There should be distinction between the party and National Assembly members. I am happy they have seen reasons so it is no longer part of the Electoral Act.
Are you part of the debate in Lagos over whether Governor Babatunde Fashola should be given a second term ticket based on his performance?
Fashola has performed creditably well and even the opposition can attest to that. But the issue of second term ticket is a party affair. Presently, it is at the primary that it my own aspiration for a second term would be determined. As at today, it is only Fashola that has indicated his interest in Lagos ACN to run for governorship; I have not seen any other person. At the end of the day, if any other person comes out, it is the primary that would determine who carries the party's flag. But I must say that Fashola has done very well.
Some people have faulted his programme on road construction and Housing
I disagree with them. We have so many roads in Lagos. The road that needs to be done in Ikorodu alone is almost the same with what they will do in the whole of Ogun. Look at what the state is doing from Mile 2 to Badagry now. It is a massive road construction that has never been done any where in Nigeria and even in West Africa, but at the same time, human beings are insatiable, we will always ask for more and I know that the government will give us more. But this is where I have to urge our council chairmen to compliment what the governor is doing. Most of these street roads that are bad belong to the councils.