by Tunde Ogunmola
Contrary to the belief in many quarters that President Muhammadu Buhari, who has been away in London for treatment for many days now could lose his seat to constitutional provision, a Lagos lawmaker has said that he could be away for as long as he wants. Hon. Tunde Braimoh, who is the Chairman of the Lagos State House of Assembly Committee on Information and Strategy, said that President Buhari has not flouted the constitution in any way.
Braimoh, who said that Acting President Yemi Osinbajo is doing well, however expressed fear at the future of the Nigerian democracy.
He speaks more on these and other issues in this interview with Tunde Ogunmola for Happenings:
The opposition party, the PDP has described the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osibajo as a figure head. How would you react to this?
This is a very uncharitable statement from a discredited opposition. This was a party that held the country by the jugular for 16 years. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) moved Nigeria backward. It is surprising that a party that is irresponsible is making such a statement.
The power of the Acting President is clear cut, he is aware of the constitutional provisions for his powers. To say he is a figure head is wrong because we still have a substantive president. We have gone down this route before, when former president Goodluck Jonathan was acting president for so many months. What people were campaigning for now, was in existence then.
He who is acting President, must employ maturity and utmost fidelity. If Professor Osinbajo had been avaricious or covetous with power or ambitious, we would have said he is power drunk. Now that he is being cautious with power. people say what they say. Since President Muhammadu Buhari has not been around, government apparatuses have been functioning the way they should. There are people who have been in charge of the ministries before they left or died, since they left, the ministries have been functioning properly.
So, it does not mean that the Acting President lacks the capacity to appoint the new ministers into offices. Governance is not just about an individual, it is a collection. It is your responsibility to deduce the action of the helmsman, and the way his mind works. We all know that of course that there must be a minister in each ministry at a time.
I remember, at one time,the Ministry of Finance about four ministers at once. They had about two ministers of States back then. The way we operate in Nigeria is that there should be a federal minister from each of the 36 States of the federation. The machinery of government continues to work, for instance, in the ministry where the late James Ocholi was the minister of state, the ministry has been functioning since his death. So, we put some of these people there to satisfy quota system in the country. Left to President Buhari, he would have reduced the ministries to 20 or 15, but he has to obey the constitutional provisions.
There are calls for the resignation of President Muhammadu Buhari in some quarters due to his state of health, how would you react to this and how long can a president stay outside the country?
They can say whatever they like, government is like a talking drum, it faces someone and backs another. The way they feel about the situation , is that if President Buhari cannot perform his duties now, he should resign, it is a very delicate issue. It is not as straightforward as they see it. He is from a part of the country, who feel it is their time to rule. Thus asking him to leave office before his tenure is being completed, would create a problem. The President is not dead, so why do you want to cause problem with all the animosity that is going on? How do you address the issue of the people that ought to be in power?
Osinbajo should be given credit, for being a capable replacement for President Buhari and everything is going on well, apart from certain areas. He is even addressing the issue of security well, he has been to the Niger Delta and to the North East. Without being a retired soldier, he has been able to act gallantly. The fact that the President is not around has not affected anything in any way.
On the issue of how long the President could stay outside the country, there is no limit to the number of days he could spend outside the country according to the constitution. He can be away as long as he wants because of his health. The President is sick, but he is not insane, he can discern, he meets people, he talks to them. He is not infirm, he has attended to people.
He is only convalescing and recuperating from an illness, which seems to relapse. He has been advised by his doctors to conquer the sickness once and for all. He agrees that he must now obey his doctors, because he had disobeyed them in the past, by excessively traveling back and forth between countries. Thus he felt he should stay back and recover fully, so he will come home once and for all and continue to serve his people.
How would you describe the impeachment of the Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, the second in a year, and how does this affect our democracy?
There is nothing wrong with the removal of a Speaker once it is the will of the majority, once they come together to remove him then there is no problem. Having said that, we discovered that most of the time there is an intervention by the executive in the affairs of the legislature, which is unfair.
What happened in Delta State shows that the executive interferes with the legislature and that most of the lawmakers are appendages of the executive. You would see that most of the recent amendments to the constitution by the National Assembly would not see the light of the day as most of the state assemblies won’t support them. Some state governors would write the scripts for the States Houses of Assemblies, but this does not happen in the Lagos State House of Assembly. We don’t have a Governor that writes the scripts for the Assembly.
Even in the twilight of the 7th National Assembly in 2015, most of the issues that affect the State Assemblies such as financial autonomy for States Houses of Assemblies were discarded by the assemblies. Some governors wrote these scripts for lawmaker. This is just like in a south west state, where all the lawmakers were virtually appointed by the Governor. I think it is a question of the end justifies the means.
What we had in Delta State was a situation, where the Speaker was impeached because he went to visit former governor James Ibori. You see a situation where people who contest for elections, without money of their own and they are sponsored by the rich, who then controls them when they get to office.
We are lucky in Lagos State because Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of the state has democratic tendencies. He is surrounded by credible people and he knows his constitutional power.
A situation, where the executive lord stands over the legislature is not good enough. Such a scenario where former governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State locked up the state house of assembly for a long time is not good enough. The same thing happened under former governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State. Where you have impunity in governance is bad for our system.
We must look at the nitty gritty; our way of thinking and doing things is not good enough. We can’t do things the same way for a long time and expect different results. Why don’t we sit down and think?
I watched the video of how the late president Samuel Doe of Liberia was killed and I was afraid that it could also happen in Nigeria. The way we go about with our barbarism, myopism and sentimentalism can cause major problems. I am afraid for the future of democracy in Nigeria. It can come from any quarter. Some democrats are capable of seizing power, they have so much money, ambition and drive.
We give individuals so much power, because the beginning and end in Nigeria is money. What ought to be a means to an end has become an end in itself. It is the beginning and the very end. Take a look at what is happening, where assassins killed people in a church in Anambra state, over issues bothering on money. When we leave so many loop holes all over the places, you see wanton killings with reckless abandon.