Court never declared 37 defectors’ seats vacant – Yusuf



Ayodele Tajudeen Yusuf represents Kaba-Bunu/Ijumu Federal constituency of Kogi state in the House of Representatives on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview, the lawmaker tells AYODELE ADEGBUYI that the court judgement on his defecting APC colleagues, did not mandate them to vacate their seats. He also believes the lower chamber was being affected by partisan politics, a trend that must be halted to save the situation

Controversy over 37 APC defectors in the House
There has never been a time that the APC had the number to become the majority in the House. It was a deliberate attempt to mislead the public by certain elements in APC. We are lawmakers and expect every one of us to be in the forefront of those who want to rule by the rules. If you have majority, call the clerk of the House on the floor and call for change in the leadership of the House. You cannot take what you can’t have.
On the ruling, I want to state clearly that it did not state that the 37 members should vacate their seats. It says they cannot participate in anything that has to do with change in leadership. However, there was a ruling on Friday. Before the purported defection, I am a lawmaker and do not expect to be part of those who break the law. The Nigerian constitution in Section 68 clearly states how you defect, so anything that you do that contravenes the law is a nullity before the law. They went to court on December 17 asking for an injunction to restrain the Senate President and the Speaker from declaring their seats vacant knowing that if they make that move, the constitution empowers the presiding officer to declare the seats of whoever moves from his party because in Nigeria you don’t contest any party sponsorship. That  is why Rotimi Amaechi of River state became governor without standing for election.
Remember that Friday preceding the judgement on the 37 lawmakers, the court struck out that which was meant by the APC to tie the hands of the senate president and speaker from declaring their seats vacant. PDP remains the only party that has democratic norms and practice. As  a member of the party, you can voice your opinion and that does not make you an enemy of the party. I dare say that none of the members of the other parties would dare disagree with any authority of their party even when they are not consulted before decisions are taken. This made us to sit down and reflect on what to do and realizing that we do not have to go back to the era of the 6th Assembly when the House of Reps was turned into a theatre of war, and we resolved that we are not where we should take decision. PDP caucus is still meeting.
If you remember, Hon. Chinda raised a point of order when the purported defection was been carried out on why it was illegal and he was reminded of a pending court issue. By implication, the point of order Chinda raised on December 18th 2013 still stands since the court order has been vacated. As at Wednesday last week, the leadership of the House has not been served of the court judgment, so we must allow those documents to be served

PDP members in the House want full legal fireworks exhausted. Is that correct?
To your question, it is an emphatic NO.

Were you under any pressure from the presidency and the party leadership?
No, we simply came together. Anywhere  in the world, there are caucuses. You can’t have a parliament without caucus and ours is one of men/women of honour. We have lawyers with up to 20 years at the bar amongst us. Do we need party leaders or the presidency to tell us what is in the constitution as law makers? All we are saying is that the law should be allowed to take its cause. I always insist that in this country we do not punish offenders.

As mover of subsidy motion in January 2012, do you still hold believe that subsidy should be retained?
If you had listened to me on the day in question, I said I was not opposed to the removal of subsidy. I am an economist, you do not subsidize consumption, but rather, you subsidize production. Anywhere you subsidise consumption it is fraudulent, but the procedure of taking away subsidy should have human face. We met and told them that we should start in states by having palliatives. If you want to take away subsidy from Nigerians, plan it because if you do not, the common man on the street will face the challenges he cannot bear and he will revolt. I never opposed subsidy and till date I am not, but I insist that you plan so that the masses do not suffer unduly for no fault of theirs.

What led to the partisan politicking which has taken the center stage at the lower chamber?
That is a very good observation and if you observed, without sounding immodest for some months now, we’ve not done anything and with the situation we are now, we either make the House return to the path of honour or explode to what you used to see during the 6th Assembly when disorder was the order of the day. Fortunately, many of our colleagues share this opinion. There is no parliament without contestation but my advice is that we either return to the House we used to have or the bubble burst.

Are you not worried that most of the motions are not been implemented?
I think our feedback problem is poor. Let me give you an example. There was a motion I moved about the sack of 3,000 workers of a particular establishment, three weeks later, they were all recalled. Nobody got back to the floor of the House to tell what happened. So, I think that it is our feedback mechanism that is poor. On the strikes, sincerely, I have a lot of issues with our education. Our curriculum to me is archaic, obsolete and cannot meet the present day challenge of a nation that desire to move to the next level. Every of our students are trained in such a way that they begin to look for job. Nobody is training you to generate employment. No nation can develop like that. We must strike a balance. There was an education summit recently, I followed a little bit of it and I pray that such a seminar will focus on change of curriculum. We must change the orientation we give to students so as to get the kind of output we deserve. Government’s lack of attention to strikes is rather unfortunate. Strike is beginning to lose its potency. We have used strike to cripple academic calendar such that a four year programme ended in eight years. I entered the University in 1990 and did my youth service in 1998.

National Conference is ongoing, and it appears the National Assembly has reservation about it. So far what is your assessment of what we have seen there?
Sincerely, we must rise and take our destiny in our hands. We take delight in articulating positions but refuse to take the challenge of stepping into the ring to become the change agents. The members came from different organisations. Some came through the NBA, MAN and what have you. I want to let Nigerians know that nobody relinquished power by just wishing you can have it. In the 90’s once NUJ or NANS took a position, it becomes a national issue. The government either bowed or they were cowed. We have allowed people who have no business in confab to take over.
National conference to me is very necessary. However if those we think are parts of the problems are, then it is time for those whose age are sixties to leave us. The conference should be an opportunity for new set of leaders to emerge for Nigeria. I know some characters there and if they behave true to type, we should not be voiceless in the National conference and I believe that it is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war. There has never been any good war without coming back to a round table to discuss. If we are privileged to talk 100 times, I will support It. I doubt if by now anybody is in doubt of the fact that we need National Conference.

You represent a federal constituency where lawmakers elected into the House of Representatives do not have the privilege of having a second term and this has been on since 1999. What is the reason behind that?
Kaba-Bubu/ Ijumu Federal constituency as the name implies, have three districts of Kaba people of the old Kaba province. Having  the privilege of been the headquarters of the constituency,Bunus, our brothers and the Ijumus are of different districts. We have two local governments, so in order to foster harmonious relationship, bridge the gap and reduce fear of dominance, there was an unwritten agreement that this position should rotate between these three districts which was started in 1999.

Also, in Kogi, the Igalas seem to be dominating power at the centre, do you think there is need to revisit this idea of power rotation in the constitution?
In the 7th Assembly’s constitutional review, especially in the House of Representatives, the idea of rotating power among senatorial districts came up. The beauty of democracy is that all have their say but the majority will have their way. So it is important that you lobby and canvass your way in such a manner that the dominant group will not feel threatened that when power leaves their hands and comes to you, you will not use that power to retaliate and they will regret ever giving you power. Trust must be there as nobody gives out what he has without trust. We must continue to build bridges across. It is on the table right now and I am sure we will get there.

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