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Critical Analysis Of Nigerian Senator Oluremi Tinubu’s Recently-Published Book

By Fabiyi Rotimi
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Few months ago (specifically March , 2015), the senator representing Lagos Central Senatorial District of Lagos State, Nigeria Senator Oluremi Tinubu, OON released to the general public her second published book titled Stewardship Report: A Collection Of Town Hall Speeches (2011 - 2014). Her first book was an autobiography titled The Journey Of Grace – My Faith Walk and was published before she was elected a senator in 2011 but this her recent book Stewardship Report: A Collection Of Town Hall Speeches (2011-2014) was her first book as an occupant of a seat in the Upper House Of Assembly (The Senate) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The Book Stewardship Report: A Collection Of Town Hall Speeches (2011 – 2014) by Senator Oluremi Tinubu (who is the youngest of her father’s 12 children) is, as the title has made clear, a collection of speeches she gave during her several town hall meeting with members of her senatorial district throughout her 4-year stint as a senator before she was re–elected as a senator in the same senatorial district in 2015. Thirteen of such speeches were selected for the purpose of the book and each of the 13 speeches was used as individual chapter in the book.

The book is interesting right from its Chapter 1 because Senator Oluremi Tinubu, OON immediately showed herself as being very knowledgeable about the limits of the functions of a Nigerian senator when she said on page 2 that “… we all know that senators do not have budgetary resources to award contracts and do some of the things done through executive authority…”, repeated on page 61 (Chapter 7) that “… I need to stress that senators’ constitutional roles do not include award of contracts or mass employment as many [Nigerians] erroneously assume…”, and also reiterated on page 105 (Chapter 10) that “… a senator does not decide the choice of contractors and neither do we disburse funds as those in the executive arm..” . These three statements are very important because many Nigerians (even some of those that are educated) are confused about the limits of the functions of a politician or technocrat serving his or her own country through a political post be it by election (senators, representatives , president, governors, etc) or by selection i e direct appointment (commissioners , ministers , ambassadors ,advisers, etc). This means that many Nigerians are fond of confusing the functions of the legislature with that of the executive and sometimes uttering statements that wrongly suggest that the executive can function as the judiciary and the judiciary function as the legislature (it is common to hear Nigerians openly blame their senator for not tarring the roads in his senatorial district or building new schools in the selfsame district while being ignorant of the fact that a senator belongs to the legislative arm of the government, not the executive arm, and therefore has no budgetary resources whatsoever to award any contract because tarring of roads or building of schools is the function of the executive arm of the government but not of the legislature or judiciary).

Despite being a senator and therefore not having any budgetary allowance, Senator Oluremi Tinubu (who obtained her National Certificate of Education in Botany – Zoology from Adeyemi College Of Education, Nigeria and Bachelor of Science in Education from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State, Nigeria) still surprised many in her senatorial district by some of the highly-beneficial (and highly-capital intensive) programs she launched. 3 short months after being sworn in as a senator, she launched the Post-Secondary School Scholarship Scheme (PSSS) in which 26 youths from her senatorial district were selected and awarded an annual sum of N100,000 each for a period of 4 years to finance their university education (a total 10.4 million naira of her own money), while 624 other applicants received N10,000 bursary each towards defraying the cost of purchasing academic books in their respective institutions of higher learning (a total of 6.24 million naira of her own money). She also later launched the Petty Traders Empowerment Capital Scheme (PETECS) to empower struggling petty traders and in the process gave 650 petty traders in her senatorial district N 20,000 each (a total of 13 million naira of her own money) and commenced and completed the construction of a brand new multi-storey constituency office for her senatorial district (situated at 293, Herbert Macaulay Way, Yaba, Lagos State, Nigeria and costing her close to 100 million naira of her own money since senators receive no budgetary allocation for capital projects).

In Chapter 5 of the book, Senator Oluremi Tinubu (whose father is a Yoruba and mother is an Itsekiri) explained in her own words how she launched the Elderly Citizens’ Assistance Scheme (ECAS) in which she gave N10,000 each to 1300 men and women over 65 years of age in her senatorial district as a form of financial assistance (a total of another 13 million naira of her own money); in Chapter 6, she expatiated on how she commenced the construction of a 222.2 million naira Drug Treatment And Rehabilitation Center in Eti Osa part of her senatorial district and how she simultaneously started the construction of an ultra-modern market at the selfsame Eti Osa part of her senatorial district which is expected to cost 200 million naira on completion); in Chapter 8, she stated how she launched Youth Empowerment And Skill Acquisition Scheme (YESAS) to train 347 persons in her senatorial district in skill acquisition and upon completion of their training gave them a start-up kit worth N20,000 each (a total of 6.94 million naira of her own money) and she also explained how she gave out N100,000 each to 80 youths (as part of the Good Boys And Girls Empowerment Scheme, GBGES, she launched) to enable them start commercial activities in the area of recharge cards, charcoal, used clothes, beverages, rentals, etc (a total of 8 million naira of her own money); and in Chapter 12, she described how she launched the Widows’ Economic Empowerment Scheme (WEES) in which she gave 650 widows aged 50 years and below in her senatorial district a sum of N25,000 each to help them start a business or re-capitalize an existing one (a total of 16.25 million naira of her own money).

Unarguably deserving a lot of kudos for personally launching several schemes targeted at bettering the lives of people in her senatorial district (and that cost her about 596 million naira of her own money), one will even be compelled to praise her almost endlessly if one sees what and what she has done for Nigeria in the area of legislating in the Upper House Of Assembly more commonly called The Senate. Starting from Chapter 1, one could see how she used her membership of the Senate Committee On Education to arrange for the committee to meet with stakeholders in the Nigerian educational sector to resolve arguments between Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB), university vice chancellors and prospective university students over the relevance or irrelevance of post-JAMB tests and also to look into possibilities of resolving the ASUU–Federal Government face-off that usually leads to strike actions that seem doomed to perennially re-occur. She would later be responsible for demanding for significant constitutional changes that will reflect the need for fiscal federalism, state and community police and other populist concepts (due to her membership of Senate Committee On Constitution Review).

Her further legislative efforts (as stated in Chapter 1 of the book) included her constant push for the passage and subsequent implementation of a bill on social security in Nigeria and also a bill ensuring that pragmatic measures are put in place to address the plight of widows, dependent children and orphans in our society; co-sponsoring the bill that effectively banned same-sex marriage in Nigeria; moving a motion for the creation of a database on unemployed citizens as well as the creation of job centres across Nigeria; co-sponsoring another motion that addressed the alarming rate of rejection of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members by federal establishments; and co-sponsoring (a) the Bill For An Act To Provide For The Prevention, Control And Management Of Sickle Cell Disease (b) the Nigerian Industrial Development Authority Bill (c) Fertilizers And Agricultural Remedies Bill, and (d) the Harmonized Retirement Age Of Nigeria Armed forces Bill.

Moving to Chapter 2 of the book, one could see how Senator Oluremi Tinubu was chiefly involved in the presentation of Report On The Investigation Of The Illegality Of Post-UME And Failure Of JAMB To Conduct Examinations Acceptable To Universities which was a Senate Committee On Education’s report on its (the committee’s) investigation of parents’ and applicants’ complaints that post-UME tests constitute multiple expenses, added stress, exorbitant charges, non-standardization of screening processes, etc on the one hand, and universities vice chancellors’ collective assertion that post-UME tests ensure the admission of quality candidates with better potentials for good character and appreciation of learning on the other hand.

In Chapter 3, Senator Oluremi Tinubu (who once vice-chaired the Senate Committee On Employment, Labour And Productivity) further explained how she single-handedly sponsored a bill to affirm the rights of women in employment in Nigeria by soliciting for the expunging of Section 57 of the Labour Act Cap L1 LFN 2004 that consisted of a provision potentially limiting the participation of women in certain ventures and industries and how she was the person that successfully advocated for the full employment given to Nigerian casual schoolteachers who have upgraded their qualifications (an act that clearly prevented the exacerbation of Nigeria’s unemployment problem without sacrificing the quality of education) though her advocacy for both the listing of education as a right in the 1999 Constitution Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria and for the entrenchment of the right to food for school children (i e school-feeding program) in the selfsame 1999 Nigerian Constitution have continuously foundered.

Her efforts that sequelled into the conduction of a public hearing to look into the management of Nigeria’s expatriate quota system with a view towards ensuring that non-Nigerians do not continue to arbitrarily take jobs that ought to belong to Nigerian citizens was detailed in Chapter 4 and she also stated how she remonstrated with the Federal Government of Nigeria (in her capacity as a member of Senate Committee On Marine Transport) to train Nigerians as seafarers (both officers and ratings) so as to address the dearth of seafarers of Nigerian origin in Nigeria because all the vessels operating from and within Nigeria’s maritime waters are foreign-built and foreign-owned; also detailed in this Chapter 4 was how she used her membership of the Senate Committee On Trade And Investment to arrange for the commencement of negotiations on the rightful demand of Lagos State Government for the return of the ownership of Tafawa Balewa Square to the state government by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Moving to Chapter 6, Senator Oluremi Tinubu’s membership of Senate Committee On Women Affairs made her work with other senators to sponsor the Bill For An Act To Ensure Full Integration Of Persons With Disabilities Into The Society And Establish A National Commission For Persons With Disabilities and she was also responsible for investigating the rumour that pregnant women, babies and infants were being kept in prisons by influencing the aforementioned Senate Committee On Women Affairs to visit Suleja Prisons in Niger State, Nigeria. The committee was dumbfounded to see several pregnant women and nursing mothers being kept in detention but subsequently intervened for some of them to be freed and the cases of others reviewed. Her suggestions that there should be a provision in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution for a constitutional role for Nigeria’s traditional rulers and the removal of the Land Use Act from the selfsame 1999 Nigerian Constitution are worthy of note but even more noteworthy was her passionate yet realistic debate on Lagos Senator Olugbenga Ashafa-moved motion on The Urgent Need To Investigate The Imminent Collapse Of Third Mainland Bridge In Lagos even though the then Jonathan-led Federal Government simply ignored her numerous achievable and pragmatic suggestions.

In Chapter 7, the ever-busy and ever-thoughtful Senator Oluremi Tinubu expatiated on how she was actively involved as a member of Senate Committee On Education in the Senate’s approval of the establishment of 11 more federal universities in Nigeria (individually situated at Dutsin-Ma, Kashere, Lafia, Lokoja, Ndufu-Alike, Ikwo, Otuoke, Oye-Ekiti, Dutse, Wukari, and Uyo) but was quick to point out how the selfsame Senate Committee On Education is presently arranging a partnership with the Nigeria Universities Commission (NUC) and the Federal Ministry of Education to work on a bill that will ensure the maintenance of national minimum standards for old and new universities. She further stated how she used her membership of Senate Committee On Constitution Review to (a) suggest the increase in local government autonomy by separating local government accounts from state government accounts and allowing direct payment to local government from the Federal Government Of Nigeria (b) suggest he separation of the office of the attorney general from that of the minister of justice at the federal level; and at the state level, the separation of the office of the state attorney general from that of the commissioner of justice, all in an effort to allow independence (c) suggest he increase in the powers of state through inclusion of railways, prisons, lands and agriculture, aviation, youths, telecommunication, and wages in the concurrent list and deletion from the exclusive list (d) suggest he deletion of the NYSC Act, Public Complaints Commission Act and the National Security Agency Act from the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (e) co-sponsor (with the other 2 senators from Lagos State) a bill (pursuant to Section 164, Subsection 1 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution) seeking the provision of financial grants to Lagos State in recognition of its role as the economic nerve centre of Nigeria, and (f) suggest gender equity in acquisition of citizenship.

In Chapter 8, the eagle-eyed Senator Oluremi Tinubu detailed why she suggested (based on her membership of Senate Committee On Constitutional Review) that Section 29, Subsection 4(b) should be deleted from the 1999 Nigerian Constitution because that is what the few Nigerians clamouring for child marriage are using as their constitutional backing. Section 29, subsection 4(a) states that ‘…“full age” means the age of eighteen years and above…’ while Section 29, Subsection 4(b) states that “…any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age…” Even though the Nigerian Senate has bluntly refused to pass a bill legalizing child marriage, the few supporters of this type of marriage have continued to loudly and fervidly state that any little girl that has been presented into marriage (even if she is just 12 years old) “…is deemed to be of full age… “ because she is married because of the unclear statement contained in Section 29, Subsection 4(b) so we should really applaud Senator Oluremi Tinubu for suggesting the deletion.

Senator Oluremi Tinubu’s achievements as a senator as enumerated and detailed in the book Stewardship Report: A Collection Of Town Hall Speeches (2011-2014) are actually too numerous to write about in this present article but the surprise is not really in how numerous her achievements are but actually in how she has been able to touch so many lives with her many self-funded programs and also by her numerous legislative efforts in the Nigerian Senate. So important were (and still are) her many beneficial contributions to the Nigerian society that the Federal Government of Nigeria awarded her the Officer of the Order of Nigeria (OON) national honor; the Adeyemi College Of Education, Ondo State, Nigeria awarded her a fellowship of the selfsame institution of higher learning; and the Kings’ University, Ode Omu, Nigeria made her the chairman of the board of trustee of the selfsame university.

Her aforestated self-funded, society-benefitting programs and far-sighted legislative prowess also gave her international attention that made her garner international accolades like the Noble International Award For Leadership she received in Ghana, the Diamond Award For Immense Contribution To The Emancipation Of People From Poverty she received in Gambia, and the Humanitarian Award she received from the Association Des Femmes De L’Afrique De L’Ouest-West African Women Association (AFAO-WAWA) during their international convention at Dakar, Senegal. The selfsame AFAO–WAWA also simultaneously named a newly-built women training centre at Gorom, Senegal Oluremi Tinubu Women Training Centre as a well-deserved honour for her.

The book Stewardship Report: A Collection Of Town Hall Speeches (2011-2014) is very interesting and encyclopaedic. It is a must-read and a must-own for anybody interested in the improvement of the lives of his or her fellow human beings.

Engr Rotimi Fabiyi, MNIM, MNSChE, MNSE, COREN Reg

P.O Box 1709, Ikorodu Town, Lagos State, Nigeria

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