By, Uchechukwu Ugboaja
Hon. Olarinoye Tope Olayonu Represents Offa/Oyun/Ifelodun Federal Constituency, Kwara State, as a former House of Assembly member, Hon. believes in grassroot politics of empowerment and qualitative representation. He takes on the controversial “June 12” from an incisive perspective, revealing why most Nigerians and true democrats will look beyond the politics of the declaration. Excerpts
Hon. Olarinoye Tope Olayonu
Question: HON. OLAOYUN NEWS OF THE NEW DATE FOR DEMOCRACY DAY HAVE BEEN GREETED WITH DIFFERENT REACTIONS BY NIGERIANS, IN VIEW OF 2019 HOW DO WE SEPARATE ITS GAINS FROM THE ASSOCIATED POLITICS ?
RESPONSE: First of all we must understand one thing that democracy as a human practice has gone beyond the generally accepted definition of government of the people for the people and by the people; because in reality since it cannot do without politics, it can be described as the business of harnessing.
Going further, I also see Politics as simply a dynamic way of managing the social standard between the poor and the rich in human society, and this is due to the evolution of human society from the Hobbesian state of nature to modern day civilisation as we have it today wherever you find yourself in the world, because there is politics even in the immediate family one comes from.
Having said that, I want to ask you if you have bordered to ask why SOME PEOPLE CHANGE THEIR PARTY BECAUSE OF THEIR PRINCIPLES, WHILE OTHERS CHANGE THEIR PRINCIPLES BECAUSE OF THEIR PARTY. HOW HAS EITHER POSTURE GUARANTEED THE ABSENCE OF IMPUNITY UNDER A CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY? But for me, the issue of impunity must be removed for any democratic system to survive, because there must be fair hearing to all persons.
Question: AS DEMOCRACY IS BASICALLY ABOUT PARTICIPATING IN THE PROCESS OF GOVERNANCE, CAN WE SAY THAT THE SYMBOLISM OF WHAT ‘JUNE 12’ REPRESENTS IS REFLECTIVE OF THE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN NIGERIA TODAY?
RESPONSE: The issue of June 12 in itself requires proper investigation, before now where were those shouting June 12 today. Have you forgotten what Al-Mustapha said about the death of Abiola and how most people who surrounded him back then reacted after his election was annulled.
I will say however that June 12 as announced as our new Democracy Day is worth it because it is the loudest statement made by Nigerians towards our democratic journey so far. However if we are to examine it in terms of the freedom of expression being enjoyed by Nigerians, I would say that we are not there yet, because today if one says anything that is not in tandem with the authorities opinion, you may be arrested the next day.
As we know Abubakar Tafabalewa died with no single house, but we know how Moshood Abiola the Champion of June 12 lived and died. SO FOR ME, IT IS CRITICAL TO NOTE THAT NOT ALL NIGERIAN LEADERS WHO ARE PRACTICING DEMOCRACY TODAY CAN CLAIM TO BE TRULY DEMOCRATS EVEN THOUGH IT IS POLITICALLY EXPEDIENT TO JUMP ON THE DEMOCRATIC WAGON TODAY.
So you may choose not to call me a Democrat because even Winston Churchill who was a well respected Prime Minister of Britain never claimed to be one himself, as he insisted that any day he stopped protecting the interest of his people, that is the day he stopped representing them.
For me in every thing, I do Nigeria is number one on my mind as I will never criticize my country, its leadership or the youths outside its shores.
For example, in the National Assembly there is a constitutional limit to how much a President can spend under the law, but today we know what the story about $1Billion is, so If we (the Parliament) over flog the issue of $1Billion, what do you think will happen today with what is going on around the Senate President.
Question: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATURE UNDER THIS DEMOCRATIC PERIOD?
RESPONSE: The relationship is not really bad per say if you ask me, but what is important to me which we must not overlook is the fact that the Parliament is not being respected in the way it should under a democracy.
Under normal circumstances, will it be right for the Parliament of the people to invite a Minister or a Director General and he/she refuses to appear and keeps giving excuses. May be it is because they don’t know that this is not Dr. Bukola Saraki’s Senate or Yakubu Dogara’s House. It belongs to the Nigerian people, we are their representatives, and we have the right to ask questions from them, but it appears that they keep looking down on us because their idea of democracy is not well entrenched in them. If some of them really understand what they are doing, they would appreciate the doctrine of separation of powers of the different arms of government.
Furthermore, the power of appropriation lies with the National Assembly, because we are the ones representing the people, we are from the grassroots and our primary job is to do proper representation by way a making good laws, carrying out oversight functions on the executives, as well as providing means of empowerment for members of our constituents, because any member that cease to protect the interest of the people he is representing could be recalled.
Question: BUT HON. THE MAIN RESPONSIBILITY OF LEGISLATURE IS TO MAKE LAWS, AND NOT JUST TO OVERSIGHT THE EXECUTIVE ALONE…
RESPONSE: Yes I agree with you but the National Assembly would not simply be judged by the number of rules, or laws made by them at the and of the day, but by the number of good laws made, because laws are not supposed to be made like bread in a bakery, they are people centred and focused on the ordinary people.
Whoever derives his/her powers from the constitution of Nigeria draws power from the people, because the National Assembly is the people. So can you tell me that a place where democracy is being practiced according to the spirit of the law, can the Parliament invite an Inspector General of Police and he refuse to obey the invitation? And incidentally the President also keeps mum about this attitude.
So at times when I call myself a democrat it is simply politics which I initially described as the business of harnessing. However I will show you my score card and what I’ve been able to impact my people with in terms of tangible deliverables [Hon. Tope shows the reporter a 16 Page catalogue of empowerment programs and projects executed and ongoing in his constituency].
Over 1,500 youths have gained direct or indirect employment through my intervention, primary and secondary schools have been renovated and remodelled in my constituency, bridges have been built, several roads have been constructed and delivered to the rural people, scholarships awarded, artisans and entrepreneurs are being supported, just to mention a few. All these are things that make my representation meaningful to my constituents outside that, I don’t think the number of bills moved by parliamentarian guarantees his/her return.
Question: WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ABOUT THE NOT TOO YOUNG TO RUN BILL RECENTLY SIGNED BY MR. PRESIDENT
RESPONSE: Well I will commend the initiators of the bill because it is one that has good intentions to enhance the quality of our democracy, but I must also add that the passing of the bill is not in itself uhuru for our democracy because there is still lots of work to be done for those of us in leadership.
However, most of the youths behind this clamour don’t know that TO BE IN GOVERNMENT AND TO BE IN PRISON ARE NOT REALLY DIFFERENT. WHEN I HEAR THAT THE YOUTHS TODAY SAY THEY WANT TO TAKE OVER FROM THE OLDER GENERATION, I CAN’T JUST BUT ASK IF THEY ARE WILLING TO LIVE IN PRISON, BECAUSE TO BE A LEADER TODAY IS TO GIVE UP YOUR FREEDOM AND LIVE IN THE PRISON OF THE OFFICE YOU OCCUPY.
It is an executive prison, because there are so many things to think of, so many things to attend to. So the difference may just be that in your regular prison, you’re been locked up in one location, while the executive prison is when a person is confined to the limitations of the office. So how many youths are really ready for this kind of life.
The truth is that I don’t envy the Senate President or the Speaker of the House of Representatives or any governor because they occupy positions that demand a lot of sacrifice.
Question: WHAT IF YOU ARE CALLED BY YOUR PEOPLE TO BECOME A GOVERNOR, WON’T YOU CONSIDER IT?
RESPONSE: If my people call me tomorrow to become their governor, why not, I would take it. It is a call to serve and I cannot reject it ,but I will need to sacrifice so many things, like my freedom, my leisure, social life. Haven’t you heard when governors give special appreciations to their spouses during public speeches for their sacrificial roles in assisting them achieve their set objectives because they had given everything else up for the development of the state and well being of the people.
However, today I am here in the National Assembly and i am focused on giving my constituents 100% representation, as you know ANY LAW PROMULGATED BY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY THAT DOES NOT BENEFIT OF THE MASSES IS AN AUTOCRATIC BYE-PRODUCT. So for me regardless of all that is happening, I can tell you that here in the legislature democracy is working in the way it is expected.
How many of you know that the legislature was mentioned several times before the Judiciary or executive was mentioned in the Nigerian Constitution, but so many people don’t know. Do you also know that recent actions against the legislature is not necessarily going against the law but against the spirit of the law which makes up most of the ethics and conventions of the legislature with a view to undermining a very important institution of our democracy.
The legislators are there because of the people because the peoples problem are theirs, and this is similar to the political philosophy of former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill who believed that every good leader must be one who never criticises his country outside her shores.