Hon. John Dyegh represents Gboko/Tarka Federal Constituency of Benue State and is a top contender for the position of Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives. In this interview with PHILIP NYAM, Dyegh, who has a Ph.D in Economic History, says his ambition is to join hands with President Muhammadu Buhari to reposition the nation
You want to be the Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives, what exactly do you think makes you fit to be the number one man in the Green Chamber?
First of all, as an elected member of the House of Representatives, I am qualified to vie for any position in the chamber. But most especially I believe that I have the requisite experience and competence to lead the 9th House of Representatives having spent eight years in the Green Chamber. I am mentally, physically and psychologically prepared and it is my conviction that my colleagues who know my abilities and capabilities would like to have a speaker like me.
Remember, I am coming in for third term and in the legislature, the longer you stay, the more experienced and efficient you become. So, I am coming into the race with a rich wealth of legislative experience that will benefit Nigerians. Again, my decision to contest for Speaker is also a response to the clarion call by my Constituents, Honourable colleagues in the House across party lines, party faithful and other stakeholders in the North Central geopolitical zone and Nigeria in general, for me to offer myself for this office. And like I said, when I was making my declaration, I am ready to offer my time and talents, and make sacrifices for the good of every Nigerian. Also, my decision to join this race is based on my unyielding faith in a united and prosperous Nigeria.
Besides being qualified, what is your plan of action or policy thrust you intend to implement should you be elected Speaker on Tuesday 11?
My coming into this race is not by accident. I am well prepared and have a seven-point evidenced-based legislative agenda. This agenda is an elaborate work plan that when implemented will transform the legislature and repositioned it for better service delivery. And what does the evidenced-based legislative agenda sets out to achieve? With the evidence- based legislative agenda, we intend to ensure enhanced capacity of legislators and legislative support services through training and retraining to enable the 9th National Assembly pass National Priority Laws in critical sectors such as security, em- ployment and productivity, power and agriculture.
The 8th Assembly has so far set a standard by passing the highest number of bills ever in the history of the legislature in the country. I intend to improve on this in the 9th Assembly, if I am elected as Speaker. The House under my leadership would improve on what the 8th Assembly has achieved and I believe that we can do. Thirdly, we will deepen oversight processes of the National Assembly to ensure value for money and project performance by Ministries Departments and Agencies in compliance with the Appropriations Act. My administration will also instill openness in the financial operations of the National Assembly to guarantee accountability, transparency and responsiveness.
Most importantly, we intend to initiate Legislative measures and Laws that will promote and engender national unity, providing equal opportunities to all Nigerians irrespective of ethnic, political, social and religious affiliations; and work with legislators in a multi-partisan manner for the stability of the House and Nigeria at large. We will also work round the clock to create effective collaboration with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Civil Society Groups and Development Partners for active participation of all sectors of the society in the law making and legislative processes. Then, we will sustain and deepen the independence of the National Assembly and ensure harmonious interdependent working relationship with the Executive arm of Government without undermining the principles of Separation of Powers. The independence of the House is very important so that lawmakers would be free to work in the interest of the constituents without any interference.
We are ready to work with the executive but will not mortgage or surrender the role of the legislature to the executive. We will discharge our responsibilities in line with the provisions of the constitution. Like I said, our relationship will be anchored on mutual respect and compliance with the laid down laws.
One of the key components of your legislative agenda is to champion the amendment of the Constitution to prolong the tenure of legislators from four to six years. How feasible is this?
This may sound strange or odd to some people but, it is not a personal or partisan stand. It is a proposal that when implemented will benefit Nigerians; it is an idea that will deepen and strengthen our democracy. Don’t forget that the legislature is the only arm of government that has suffered so much interruption and legislative knowledge is garnered over time. But with what we have today, not much of the institutional knowledge is there because of the high turnover of legislators. Lawmakers are elected for four years and most of them are not return; and then we have a new set, so a lot of experienced lawmakers are thrown out. If you look at the judiciary, judges spend many years on the bench and this gives them enough experience to deliver quality judgements. Again, look at the executive; for example the civil service.
Civil servants are allowed to grow on the job and by the time they get to the position of directors or permanent secretaries, they become authorities in their fields. This is adding value to their job. But when a lawmaker comes in and spends only four years and leaves, Nigeria loses her investment in the person. So, straight six year tenure can help to improve our legislators.
At different fora, you have reechoed your loyalty your party, yet you have joined the race to be Speaker in spite of the fact that the APC has zoned the position to the South-West and even endorsed Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as its preferred candidate?
This does not in any way vitiate my loyalty and commitment to our great party. My loyalty to the party is not in doubt.
I did the party’s bidding in 2015, in spite of the odds against us then. I worked for Gbajabiamila and supported him fully. But this time around, we are giving the party an option; we are offering the party and indeed members of the House a credible alternative to choose from. We are giving members of the Green Chamber an option to look at fair play. We are insisting that there must be fair play in Nigeria. We are insisting there must be fair play and justice in the Green Chamber. We have no quarrel with that. My loyalty to the party is 100 per cent. When I was doing the party’s bidding in 2015, everybody said I should go the other way, I said no let me do the party’s bidding. I am a party man. So if I am giving the party an option today, they should also look at what I did for the party yesterday.
It is not in my character to disobey constituted authority and I am a loyalist of President Muhammadu Buhari and the party. You can see the emblem I am wearing on my chest is that of President Buhari. He has done very well in the last four years and I wish to join hands with him and deliver good governance to Nigerians in the next four years. I am not contesting the election to fight President Buhari or his government, but I want to complement his audacious and ambitious efforts to transform this nation.
I am still contesting for Speaker because the zoning arrangement as announced by the National Chairman of our great party is lopsided. It is not fair and that is injustice; that is why we are given the party an option. It is not fair because you said you are taking the speakership to the South West but you have failed to give us convincing reasons why those of us from the North Central should not contest. But we are saying the South West already has the office of Vice President and the north central has nothing at hand.
It will only be fair, if the position of Speaker is given to the North Central, having taken away the seat of Senate President to the North East. We do not have problem with that. All we are saying is, if you are taking away number three from us, give us number four and not number six. But I want Nigerians and in fact our party to know that the North Central has neither produced Speaker nor the Deputy Speaker since 1999. We are saying that reward in politics is based on what you bring to the table and the North Central brought the third highest number of votes in making President Buhari’s second term a reality and enabling the APC to form Federal Government. We are not quarrelling; we are only appealing to the party to take a second look on its zoning arrangement based on the facts we have put before the leaders, perhaps they were not aware of this.
But these are the facts on ground. Most importantly, I want our party to also take a closer look at the provisions of Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (As amended), which states that: “the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies”. Does the present zoning arrangement conform to this provision?
There is this contention in several quarters that you are not so visible in this campaign unlike some of your opponents especially candidates like Hon. Gbajabiamila?
This is not the first time I will be contesting for elections; and I want those who think I am not visible to know that the election for the post of Speaker is not being conducted for the general public. It is an election to be conducted in the chambers of the House of Representatives. So, it is laughable when people flaunt posters and display them all over the place.
As far as I am concerned, I am reaching out to my colleagues in the chambers as well as fresh memberselect who will be deciding who becomes the speaker of the 9th House on Tuesday, June 11. But, I wish to advise Nigerians to wait for that day to see who God will crown as speaker.
I think it is not how loud you sound or how flamboyant your campaign is that matters, but it is ones acceptability amongst the honourable members. So far, I do not think there is any candidate with the wide acceptability I enjoy among our colleagues. And I want you to know that if majority of the lawmakers were not behind me, I would not have come into this contest. I am contesting to win and I believe with the special grace of God Almighty, victory will be ours come next Tuesday. I am still in the race and I have no reason whatsoever to step down. I will see this election to the end by the grace of God.
There are insinuations that the PDP, led by the outgoing Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, may file behind you. How true is this?
I will be happy if this is true. But I want people to know that when you are canvassing for votes, you do not restrict your campaign to a particular group or political party. We are 360 in the House and each of us has a vote; but we are from different political parties. So, being an APC member should not make me to limit my campaign to only APC members I must seek for votes from my colleagues in APGA, Labour Party, SDP, PDP, AA, APM, APC and indeed from all parties. In fact, the coordinator of my campaign in Benue is a Labour Party lawmaker.
He is not even an APC member. I am the only APC lawmaker from Benue State in the House, so if I say I will go only for APC members, it means I will lose all lose votes from my own state. You have to understand that if I become Speaker by the grace of God, I will not be the Speaker of APC, I will be the Speaker of the House of the Nigerian people and that is the House of Representatives. So, we have to get this right in our minds. I don’t think there is any of us contesting for Speaker that would not seek for votes across party lines. Even in the general elections, it was not only APC members that voted for me to return to the House for the third time.
The votes came from party members and non-party members. People from different walks of life voted for me. I know as a fact that PDP and SDP members voted for; it is a fact that Labour Party and APGA members voted for me; PRP members voted for me, ADC members voted for me and so and so forth. So, don’t expect me to be a divisive Speaker; I will be a Speaker that will unite the House to be able to pass quality laws that would stand the test of time and improve the lot of our constituents.
How do you intend to resolve the perennial unhealthy fight between the legislature and the executive?
Everybody is concerned about the constant misunderstanding between the legislature and executive arm of government. I believe there is no harm in disagreeing in order to agree; but when it degenerates to a level that the Nigerian people are left to suffer, it does not augur well for us as a nation. We intend to run a responsible House that will be anchored on the principles of separation of powers and check and balances. We will work for Nigerians and Nigeria. Whatever decision we would take will be in the interest of the nation. We will not allow our personal biases or interest to override national interest.
The transparency in handling of the legislature’s finances has been an issue of concern. How would you resolve this?
The House of Representatives is the house of the Nigerian people and as a speaker; I will lay everything bare for the public to savour. The House under my leadership will not hide anything from Nigerians because the money that is used in catering for the needs of lawmakers belong to Nigeria and Nigerians; the funds used in executing projects is Nigerians money and our constituents have the right to know how their common purse is being expended. We will be open and transparent in all our dealings.
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