The 9th National Assembly is due for inauguration on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 and it’s a three-legged race in the House of Representatives. In this interview, Hon. Victor Afam Ogene, the spokesman of a frontline contender in the race, Hon. Mohammed Bago tells ONWUKA NZESHI that his principal was already coasting to victory
How prepared is your camp for the elections coming up next Tuesday?
Thank you very much. It has been two months of intense engagement with members elect, the civil society, critical stakeholders, including present and former leaders of the country, and the mass of the Nigerian people.
During this period of electioneering, we have endeavoured to stay on the issues, without recourse to personal abuse or mudslinging. And what are these issues that have dominated the campaigns?
For us in the Hon. Mohammed Umaru Bago Campaign Organisation, what we have put out centred on the need for justice, equity and fairness in the leadership recruitment process of our dear nation. Quite unknown to many persons, or maybe they simply elect to gloss over it, is the constitutional requirement for equity in the choice of leaders so as to consciously reflect our geo political diversity as a nation.
In fact, under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, as captured in Chapter 2, section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended,” 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 the need to promote national unity, 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.”
In fact, this provision of the constitution aptly sums up the entire disputation as far as the contest for leadership of the 9th National Assembly is concerned.
But in spite of this constitutional provision which you have cited, your party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), remains resolute on its choice of particular candidates as presiding officers. How do you reconcile this?
You see, a lot of people do not quite understand what is meant by the phrase “Spirit and letters of the Constitution.” Which is why I think that going forward, Chapter 2 of the Nigerian Constitution ought to be made justifiable. When the Constitution talks about commanding national loyalty, those two words are far deeper than many ascribe to it. Today in Nigeria, a lot of groups no longer show loyalty to the nation, be it Boko Haram, insurgents, ethnic militias, kidnappers and the likes.
Now, while not excusing their recourse to self-help, our collective failings as a people in giving them a seeming sense of belonging could have unwittingly contributed to their disenchantment.
Going forward, therefore, I would suggest that leaders across all strata would not only memorise the wordings of the section I just mentioned, but would also indeed commit to its faithful implementation.
Can you therefore see why it has been such a herculean task getting the other side speaks to the issues of equity, justice and fairness which we have deposited in the public domain?
Besides the country’s constitution, the APC’s Constitution promotes same ideals, which is why they don’t have any strong grounds to canvass their candidature. Now, we no longer hear the popular phrase ‘Baba so pe’, literally interpreted to mean, ‘the leader has spoken’, which has dominated Lagos politics, but the party has endorsed.
With this endorsement, where does that leave your candidate, Hon. Bago?
Oh, he’s doing very fine and by the grace of the Supreme Creator of the universe, we shall emerge victorious on Tuesday. The National Assembly is not the Lagos State House of Assembly and so cannot be equated to it. While they play draft in Lagos, the name of the game in Abuja is cheese.
You sound so confident, but would you react to Hon. Abdulmumuni Jibrin, Director-General of the Femi Gbajabiamila Campaign, who was on a TV programme with you and dismissed you as a non-voting member?
(Laughing), He did more than that. In fact, he contended that I am not widely travelled to understand the issues surrounding Gbajabiamila’s Supreme Court of Georgia conviction. That has been the nature of their campaign, riddled with personal abuse. With every sense of modesty, I am sure I saw the outside world before Abdulmumuni.
In February, 1998, when I was chosen as the only Nigerian participant for that year’s prestigious International Visitors Program which took me to five American states, Abdulmumuni was probably still unsure if he would escape the almajiri scourge. You see, my friends, I do not want to waste valuable space on the fellow because Nigerians know him sufficiently. Here is somebody who was at the centre of the budget padding saga, got suspended from the House for over a year and has hopped in and out of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) offices for sundry allegations.
My understanding of history teaches that felons cannot sit in judgment over just men. I do not have a file with the EFCC, so if he junkets around the world, you should understand why, and how. His indeed is a classic case of the blind leading the blind. Here is someone who in 2015 taunted Gbajabiamila with the same conviction issue, nominated Speaker (Yakubu) Dogara on inauguration against the same Gbajabiamila, and went on to name his new principal in the budget hoopla which he ignited in 2016.
As a matter of fact, Abdulmumuni has never remained loyal to a cause. In 2011, he promoted a new members forum, pretending as if he was working for the Presidency only to switch to the camp of Aminu Waziri Tambuwal camp when he sensed his impending victory.
It was the same scenario in 2015, when he crossed over to the Dogara camp only four days to election. I will, therefore, not be surprised to see him seek to join us before voting commences. Yes, I may not be a voting member but I played same role for Dogara’s campaign in 2015 and to the glory of God, we got victory. That should tell him something.
A lot of people have pointed at your camp as being responsible for the allegations trailing Hon. Gbajabiamila. Is this true?
First, let me start by saying that besides the fresh allegations that have come to light, the conviction of Hon. Gbajabiamila has lingered in the public domain for over a decade now. Even the subject himself has severally admitted to the facts of the matter which is why it is tantamount to spitting in the face of Nigerians for the same Hon. Jibrin to publicly deny the existence of the conviction and 36-month disbarment by the Supreme Court of Georgia.
Besides this, it is out there in the public arena that the same man has engaged in identity theft, used a dead American’s social security number, defaulted in honouring fiduciary obligations as recently as 2016, and above all else engaged in perjury by lying under oath.
Now, how does my campaign organisation come into all of this? Did any of us in any way precipitate any of these scandalous acts on his behalf?
I thought that in a situation like this, silence cannot be golden. For a man who seeks to speak for all Nigerians and their country, how come it has become extremely difficult to get him to speak for himself? A Speaker of the House of Representatives cannot be a speaker of the APC, or of only members of that house; he is the Speaker of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and so his private and public life must be beyond reproach. To seek to enthrone anyone with reputational deficiency, therefore, would amount to doing violence to our party’s anti-corruption battle, as the opposition will regularly remind us of the log in our eyes whenever we seek to remove the speck in theirs.
Our leaders must as a matter of national pride move to prevent the occurrence of this avoidable tilt to legislative damnation.
In the final analysis, do you think you have the numbers to swing victory to your side?
We’re aware of plans to engage in massive deployment of financial resources for the election, but thankfully majority of the members elect are self-made individuals who cannot be swayed by monetary inducement.
Only one week ago, no fewer than 195 members elect, across party lines, had signed on to vote for us. As we speak, we have grossed over 200 and counting, and with their desire to foist a strange open voting pattern having crumbled, many more APC members are expected to come on board, paving the way for not only a landslide victory but the continuing guarantee of the independence of the House of Representatives.
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