It is better to agitate for creation of states than secession – Ogun Assembly Speaker

Speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly, Rt.Hon. Olakunle Taiwo Oluomo, is not intimidated by the intimidating position of Lagos State in the Nigerian equation as he believes that the Gateway State is the industrial hub of Nigeria. In this interview he granted Oladipupo Awojobi in his office in Abeokuta, Oluomo speaks on how he has been managing the affairs of the House amongst other issues. Excerpts…

How have you been managing the affairs of the Ogun State House of Assembly since you emerged as the Speaker?

The fact remains that all the 26 of us were elected into the assembly by our people and all of us work for the progress of the state regardless of our political parties.

What have been the challenges of the office as the first among equal and as the number three citizen of Ogun State?

As you have said, I am first among equal, other members chose me to speak for them, we see ourselves as one and we manage ourselves effectively. Of course, you cannot get everybody to support an idea, but the wish of the majority will prevail. Even if the minority feels somehow they will still reason with what the majority has done. Besides that, everything we are doing here is for the progress of the state. That is why we don’t have any challenge at all.

APC is the majority party in the state House of Assembly and the Governor is from the APC, don’t you think the people may have the feeling that the House is a rubber stamp?

People are free to make their comments. There is no law that says that the legislature should be quarrelling with the executive or that the executive should quarrel with the legislature; it is give and take issue. We have occasions where we argue, but we are guided by the principles of fairness, equity and justice. You don’t expect 26 people from different backgrounds to feel the same way over an issue every time. But we disagree to agree and we sort out issues to build blocks for democracy. If we have any disagreement, I won’t go to a radio station to start shouting, all that I do is to point out the particular area to the executive and we discuss it.

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How have you been performing your checks and balances roles on the executive as a House of Assembly?

I have just told you that it is give and take issue. Checks and balances means, when you come up with an idea we will discuss it. But, we also perform our oversight functions on the executive to see what they are doing.

Have you ever had any contentious issue, where you told the Governor that things should not be done in a certain way?

I have just told you that this is a government that is based on the principles of justice, fairness and equity. If the executive brings any issue that we feel will not be in the interest of the people, we will draw their attention to it that if you do it this way or that way it would be better. We discuss it and we tell them what to do.

Are you satisfied with the legislature in Nigeria so far as we have had disruption to the legislative arm of government each time the military took over?

We are progressing. We are evolving gradually, by the time we get what is required, Nigerians will know that the Nigerian legislature is one of the best in the world.

What about this contentious bill on traditional rites being contemplated by the Ogun State House of Assembly, how far has it gone?

It’s still in progress, we are working on it.

Restructuring is an issue people have been talking about. We had a Constitutional Conference in 2014, and the issue was discussed there. Do you think Nigeria needs to be restructured?

Yes, but it should be through the constitution that we have on ground. The constitution tells us how we can change what we don’t want. Now that the National Assembly has come up with a programme for amending the constitution, what else are we waiting for? Restructuring does not mean that you should divide the whole country, it means devolution of power or you want state police, or change the mode of revenue sharing. The constitution is very clear on how to change what we don’t want in the country. The National Assembly has started, they are going all over the country, the governors have made their inputs, the state assemblies have done their own and other stakeholders have done their own too. Everything is now before the National Assembly. By the time they finish work on it they would tell us what they have agreed upon and once 24 states in the country agree with them, these will become part of our constitution. So, what other restructuring are we talking about? If we all agree on what is to be done such as devolution of power, giving more powers to the states, giving the local government autonomy, and letting the judiciary be autonomous in their operations among others, what other restructuring are we looking for? Are we looking for the breakup of the country? No. If we talk about restructuring like devolution of power so that every state or region can feel the sense of being part of the country, then we are okay.

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Do you support the creation of more states in Nigeria and state police?

I support the creation of state police and it has always been in the Constitution that more states can be created in the country. All we need to do is to follow the procedure, but someone cannot sit down here and say he does not support creation of more states in the country. I have my state and I am okay with it, but if some other people feel that their states are not serving their interest, nothing stops them from agitating or asking. It is their right, I believe in this than someone saying he wants to secede. Why are people crying for secession? They feel they are not getting a fair share from where they belong to. Though there will always be agitations, it is not wrong for anybody to asks for the creation of more states in Nigeria constitutionally.

The issue of insecurity is serious at this time, whereas the APC came to power at the centre in 2015 and said they would fight insecurity, restore the economy and fight corruption. How best do you think the Federal Government can fight insecurity?

As a matter of fact, the Federal Government is doing its best in fighting insecurity in the country. But we are also asking them to devolve power to the states, let us have state police and encourage other security institutions. In advanced countries such as the United States of America, there are federal police, national guard and state police. But in Nigeria, we have just one structured police with headquarters in Abuja giving commands. If we can have state police, involve the traditional rulers, the youth and make it all-encompassing to fight insecurity, it would be better. We also need to create jobs for the young ones to fight insecurity and allow information technology to be grounded in everything we are doing.

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Ogun State is regarded as the Gateway State and the closest to Lagos State. This is where newspapers started from and we have so many elites there, how do you think the state can catch up with Lagos in respect to development?

I don’t know what you mean by this; every state has its peculiarities. Lagos State is regarded as the Centre of Excellence, but Ogun State is the industrial hub of this country. We have enough facilities for people to come and establish industries in the state. As far as Nigeria is concerned, we are the host to most industries in the country. Most of the higher Institutions that you can count on are based in the Ogun State and we have some other things like that. So it is a question of peculiarities. But if we are putting Ogun State side by side Lagos State in terms of development, yes Lagos has developed more from the time of colony. So, every state of the country has its own peculiarities, we are not competing with Lagos State, but we are the best in our area.

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