'WHY NATIONAL ASSEMBLY LACKS HUMAN CAPITAL'
Democratic experiment and legislature
The question you have asked is a very broad question. If you are talking about our democracy, I think things are getting better, though it can be better than this. I believe if we allow democracy to thrive, most of the problems we are facing will be a thing of the past. If you look at most of the countries we are making reference to today, Britain, America, Germany, Canada, they also had their teething problems at the initial stages of their democratic experiment.
My experience in the National Assembly vis-Ã -vis the way the average Nigerian perceives the workings of the parliament, I still believe there is that missing link between the parliament and the general public in the sense that roles and functions of the National Assembly are not properly understood by the public. I think the reason for this is largely due to long military rule, because anytime there is a military take-over it's the parliament that normally suffers, because you'll still have the Executive and Judiciary at the end of the day. If we allow democracy to endure, I believe the role of the parliament will be better appreciated. The National Assembly is not doing badly, though we may not be at the level the masses expect us to be.
Huge expenditure, less bills
You said a lot of money was spent, yet we had few bills. Let me give you a scenario - if you give a minister N5bn today to build a house, under two to three weeks you'll start seeing structures and people will appreciate that work is going on, but art of making laws is not that easy. Let me correct an impression. If you look at the number of laws enacted under the last house it was over 50, and the act of making laws takes time. If one of the Houses of Parliament passes a law, the other chamber must concur.
After the concurrence of the two, they still have to meet at the conference to harmonise their differences, so it takes a lot of time. We don't make laws for making sake, we make laws that will stand the test of time. Some say the cost of running the National Assembly is high, I will say yes and no. I am saying no because I know what it entails to maintain a lawmaker. I will say yes because if you look at the standard of living of the average Nigerian and you look at the amount of money being spent to service people in government. Most people misconstrue the running cost of my office to be my personal money. I buy everything that has to do with me from this running cost. On the average, I spend about N2m on air travel, transport and hotel accommodation to service my constituency every two months, and that is aside other expenses.
Frequent changes of lawmakers is affecting and it will continue to affect the parliaments in Nigeria if we fail to stop it. The cost of maintaining a lawmaker is high and the country is losing a lot of money changing them every four years. This is my third time in the National Assembly. This is a place where you learn on the job. If you become a governor today, somebody will give you a hand over note to let you know the journey so far, but in the National Assembly there is nothing like that. It takes you about two years to learn on the job, the third year you are in the midst of another election and fourth year you are out. That's why there's low capacity. Now, we have less than 100 cognate members of the House. If it continues like this, there is no way the legislative arm will be strong.
Governors, parties angle
You know what, immediately you get to Abuja, you are branded Abuja politicians. It's as if everybody at home wants to take your place and they now turn themselves to friends of the governor and leaders of the party. It's because we have not really understood the reason for continuity of the parliament. It is the constituents that suffer for it. My constituents enjoy me and I think that's why they returned me because during my second term I was able to do a lot of things. In my first term, I think I was able to get employment for two people, but in my second term I was able to get employment for about 180. Also, in first term, I attracted one or two federal projects, and in my second term I was able to get about 80 federal projects in my constituency. So, this is the benefit of returning to the house.
From PDP to ACN
I left PDP because of the internal crisis, which could not be resolved. After talking to my political friends, I was advised to join the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
Advice for Amosun
I don't think I am in the right position to advise him because he is the governor of a state and he sees things from a global perspective. As a governor, he has a clearer picture of things than I do. I will only say he should keep to his promise by ensuring that the change that brought us to power is maintained, to ensure that the dividends of democracy get to our people.
ACN and opposition role
I think Nigerians will enjoy this 7th Assembly because of numerical strength of the opposition in the National Assembly. You will see that the opposition played a major role in the emergence of Speaker Tambuwal, and that has put the opposition in the front row. I can tell you that it will not be business as usual again. Henceforth, I think nothing meaningful will be done without the opposition in the greater interest of Nigerians.
I want to continue from where I stopped. The environment I am representing is the most marginalised part of Ogun State. Last year, I based my programme on human capital development. I zeroed on employment for the people because it is when you develop the capacity of human beings that they can benefit themselves and the society. I will continue in that regard. I will make sure that the dividends of democracy do not elude my people. They have not seen anything yet, the next four years will be better for them.
Addressing education challenge
That is one of my reasons for focusing on employment. Only few people go to school in my area. Even the few that attended school don't have jobs, and that discouraged parents from sending their kids to school. But because of my intervention, those in school now believe that when they finish their education, somebody will help them get employment. In fact, the area now has an international school that can compete favourably with others anywhere in the country. It is a product of my efforts and others who pulled resources together to give back to our people as a way of encouraging them to go to school.