Senator Suleiman Adokwe represents the Nasarawa South senatorial district. He is the chairman, Senate Committee, Senate Services. In an interview with AHMED TUKUR, the lawmaker spoke on the Rivers crisis, the politics of defection and the inability of the National Assembly to see its probes through, among others
It is politics because the governor of Rivers came through a political process and if he decides to heat up the polity in his state, certain things are bound to happen. It is a power tussle between two opposing forces and if each party is adamant, nobody is ready to listen to voice of reasoning, we will continue to have those skirmishes.
In my opinion, the governor is elected to rule for 8 years and he has barely one and half years to go and he should be able to create a conducive atmosphere for his state for governance to thrive. What is the meaning of having rallies every day when you are supposed to be governing and in an atmosphere that is well charged?.
Amaechi did well in bringing down the spate of militant activities using the cooperation of the police and the army. But the same people who gave him the cooperation to overcome those activities are no longer on his side all of sudden which means there is something wrong and he has to strive to restore that cordiality.
Government is about having the capacity to provide peace and security and when you lack that capacity you are in trouble. Capacity to provide peace and security is to have the apparatus of coercion which is the police and army, but they are no longer on his side. That is the true reality on the ground.
No governor has police or army but they are chief security officers of their states because it is exclusively preserved for federal government. And of course, when we are doing the amendment, we are trying to find ways and means to which you can give them proper role as chief security officers of their states. They should be able to have some power of command over the police and the army station in their jurisdiction.
As long as they don’t have that, you know you cannot order them to do what you want them to do. You know you have limitations why do you want to stand on the road of an express train. My colleague Magnus Abe is a fine gentle man and a lawyer and if you book on a rally in an atmosphere you know is obviously charged, it is fully hardy you stop because time for rally has not come and under the electoral law, the security has a duty to provide security for all parties during rallies. I think it is putting the lives of young innocent citizens on the line by insisting on holding rallies in such atmosphere.
It’s equally bad. Believe me, it is not what should take place at the moment because the situation in Rivers state should be that of truce so that people look at the subsisting circumstances. As you can see, people who own the instruments of coercion of power hold their rallies successfully and whether you like it or not that is the reality of power.
The inspector general of police has a duty to deploy and redeploy. You cannot tell him to do either. We can only say because the man has become unpopular, the proper thing to do is to remove him from the scene but the decision practically rests with the IG. We passed a resolution in the National Assembly asking the IGP to redeploy him and he has not responded to that. May be he knows why he is keeping him there, but at the end of the day if something fatal happens, the IG will be fully responsible because if at the end of the day the man he thinks will effectively maintain peace and order in Rivers fails, then his sense of judgment will have been incorrect.
The resignation of Bamanga Tukur is a patriotic act to save the party, whether he was solely responsible for the crisis that engulfed the party or not, he was the helms man of the party and the bulk stops at his table. So, all accusations were pointed at him of been unable to stem the tide of the crisis that bedevilled the party and under that circumstances, he did the honourable thing to resign. You know it is a common feature in a large organization anywhere in the world when profits are not made but losses are been incurred, the chief executive is usually demanded to resign so that fresh air can be breathed into the system.
So on that normal logic, one will say he did the patriotic thing because it is not in our culture in African societies to have people resign due to our monarchical tendencies where somebody wants to stay as traditional chief until he dies before his successor will take over, but we are running modern organizations where there are tenures and accountability and responsibility needed to be taken. And in that situation, the party was not fairing well and he needed to act responsibly and I applaud him for that.
Agenda for his successor
His successor, Ahmadu Adamu Mua’zu has started it in clear terms that he is going to embark on reconciliatory trips and visit to bring everybody back to the fold, So, those that left if they are sincere that their motive for leaving was because of the manner which the former party chairman was running the party, particularly the forum of governors whose arm is the fulcrum of party affairs not only in PDP, but in almost all political parties in Nigeria.
You know the governors have assumed kingpin positions in party affairs and even if you don’t like it you detest it at your own peril because the system as it is now, has made them very vocal in the determination of electoral fortunes for any party.
That is why I am one of the senators that was determined that there should be local government financial autonomy without going through the issue of joint account, because if local governments have financial autonomy they can form another level of political activity that can reduce the undue influence of the governors. But because they(governors) decide on both the finances of the state and local governments, so they determine the political process.
Everybody depends on them for his political fortune. So, If you want to be a councillor, local government chairman or member, National Assembly and even the President, it is the governors that help him win his election. So they have a very strong hold on the political system.
Judgment on Oyinlola
I am a lawyer and every lawyer knows that once a judgment is delivered by a court of competent jurisdiction, your duty as a lawyer is to abide by the judgment of the court and if you have any reason to disagree with the judgment, you do the next thing, that is to go to the appellant court and at the supreme court. Once a judgment is given whatever you say is mere academics, because litigation must end somewhere and if it ends at the Supreme Court, you abide by it.
Democracy is all about rule of law and that is why there are three arms of government, executive, legislature and judiciary. Where the courts are given the powers of interpretation and if there is any dispute and you go to court and the court decide you abide by it, and if you don’t, you are inviting anarchy which means everybody can resort to self help and we don’t want that to happen. There are certain issues that can be dealt with politically. Under employment law, you can say no court should impose a servant on unwilling master, so if PDP doesn’t want Oyinlola and the court said you must give it to him, it is also left for Oyinlola to say the master doesn’t want me to work, I give up. It is also left for the party to go to a court of appellant jurisdiction to challenge the verdict of the court. .
Defection in the NASS
I hope you know there are also people crossing over to PDP from other parties in the House of Representatives. The Senate president made a very beautiful speech in the opening of the new year, drawing our attention as statesmen that should be seen in contributing in the stability of Nigerian polity and not to overheat the polity. I believe defections and crossovers are well anticipated and provided for in the constitution and in my reading of the constitution, the spirit is not really to encourage defection but in the event it happens, certain conditions must be obtained before it happens.
This means, defection is not something that should be encouraged. Just like in Islamic law, though I am not a Muslim, but I read Islamic law and there is one particular provision of divorce that I really like, which does not encourage divorce, but at the end says, if you must divorce, separate in kindness. That speaks volumes of how you can separate.
Their is a lot of moral questions where people are taken for a ride particular like the 2011 elections where there was much improvement because most of the people that were elected were the true reflection of what people wanted. And for you to come and abandon it half way, is not fair to the electorates.
For some, the cross carpeting is an indication of the fear of next election that made them move over but at the end of the day you are the one to determine whether you can be elected or not by the level of what you have done to your constituency.
The governors can only help you to win elections mainly at the point of making sure you get the ticket of the party, but the general elections if you are not in touch with the people, you will lose.
Some people who jumped ship lost while so many who were deprived ticket and got into another party made it, even in obscure parties.
The truth of the matter is if you look at all the political parties in Nigeria, ideologically the difference is the same and so the person who will stand elections can make a difference in the fortunes of a political party, so to that extent, it is always better for elections to be conducted on party platform.
But what we need is a clear distinction to exist between the political parties . For instance if you are told about the Republicans in America you have no doubt to their economic ideology because their responses to social issues are always conservative. So you will be able to differentiate between the democrats and republicans. But here the PDP and APC have no clear ideological difference. In fact, APC is largely made of falling stars from PDP, so it is all the same. We pray and hope our party will re-invent itself with the new chairman and distinct it self from others with policies that will guide the country into positive transformation agenda.
Let me start by indicting the National Assembly were i serve. The constitution has given us the mandate to oversight government ministries, department and parastatals based on the laws we have made and how they are been implemented, including the appropriation act and how finances appropriated are been expended, how projects earmarked are faithfully executed. That is what really makes a difference in checking corruption. Unfortunately, the constitution only allows the National Assembly to investigate with a view to exposing corruption, inefficiency and waste and nothing beyond that. That is how handicapped we are. Besides, the legislature is the youngest arm of government in terms of institutionalization because we don’t have the competence to do a thorough investigation as we should.
The National Assembly is supposed to have a well staffed and knowledgeable department of budget affairs which will give us all the correct economic readings which we will be able to take decisions and also investigative departments that will crosscheck all the books of government and detect misnomer. But we don’t have such competences and because of the nature of our politics, the moment the National Assembly starts an investigation, the hunter becomes the hunted.
No investigation we have started without the legislators involved in it getting rubbished one way or the other. So, all this have gone a long way in aiding and abetting corruption. That is why minister and other government functionaries get away with it. For instance, we started investigating the steel scandal, the chairman of that committee, no sooner have they started that they were robed in.
We started investigation in the subsidy everybody involved got rubbished , that of the pension, the kingpin of the scam became bigger than the country and instead allegations of corruption were levelled at the chairman of the committee and so on and so forth. So once the legislature is intimidated, corruption will find a free hand, and even the judiciary becomes helpless over the whole matter because all that we do even if you investigate at the end of the day, is that the attorney general of the federation that is supposed to pick the findings and study it and prosecute if there is any crime committed . But so far, nothing has happened. The little the executive did was to try a few people under the fuel subsidy and we have not heard much about it till today.
Expectations on indicted ministers
Yes, the president is always in the middle of the deep blue sea and the devil because he works with his ministers, knows their capabilities and abilities and also knows the contributions they make in running his administration, Therefore, he cannot at the simplest accusations kick out his ministers. He has to verify those allegations.
Yes, the National Assembly is a deliberative assembly and we deliberate, investigate and bring out facts and figures. Those facts and figures we bring out may convict someone and they may not because the ultimate verification of facts may take place in court at the end of the day.
These are facts available and when you take them for trial there is the possibility that the facts can be debunked. The finding of the National Assembly in my opinion is not sacrosanct. The ultimate determination of facts lies in the court. So, the president in the face of very clear facts and evidences, the proper and civilized thing to do whether a minister or anybody is guilty or not, the civilized thing to do is to excuse yourself from government so that you can go and clear your name.
The president has that duty to balance between what in his opinion amounts to true fact findings and whether to sacrifice his minister or not. It is a difficult task for him. But I am sorry to say in Nigeria there are so many ways the people can cook facts around you and condemn you even before you are given a chance to speak is frightening.No tags for this post.