Politics

It’s wrong to say we have rubber stamp legislature –Rep Akiolu

Hon. Moshood Kayode Akiolu is the son of the Oba of Lagos, HRM Rilwan Akiolu, and represents Lagos Island II Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with PHILIP NYAM, he speaks on a variety of issues

 

How did you join politics? Were you influenced by your father? What attracted you to politics and what’s your mission in politics?

 

My joining politics has nothing to do with my father. I joined politics as a very young boy when my uncle, Chief Demola Adeniyi Adele was contesting for the position of chairman of the Lagos Island Local Government. He was my inspiration when I got into politics. He became a local government chairman at the age of 27 or 30 and he performed very well.

 

So, my father played absolutely no role in my becoming a politician. In fact, my father discourages his children from joining politics because he believes that in politics, you are made to compromise your integrity and principles.

 

My father is someone who does not want people to be entangled in positions where they will not be able to speak their minds. But I was able to convince him that politics is bound to change and it is changing, even though some people may disagree with me.

 

My mission in politics is to impact positively the society and engender positive change. I’m a young man and I belong to the new generation. My mission is to bring back Nigeria to the good old days where with the green passport, anywhere you step into on the international scene, you will be accorded your due respect.

 

I want to change the narrative where Nigerians are being held in contempt and treated with disdain and disrespect. Nigerians are good people and deserve the best.

 

A recent report in the media indicated that you are among the 10 lawmakers from Lagos without a bill in the last two years. How fulfilled are you as a legislator?

 

Immediately the report came out I received calls from different personalities including my constituents, friends, colleagues and associates. The report is actually a big misrepresentation of the procedures of bills and motions in the National Assembly.

 

I am a lawyer by profession and I am trained to make policies for the good governance of the country. I am working on various bills and motions. But you don’t just dabble into bills or churn out bills in the name of sponsoring bills. You sponsor bills that are workable and implementable; bills that can become law; bills that can impact positively on your constituents and the society.

 

If you look at the first motion I sponsored when I was inaugurated into the Houseto immortalise Stella Adedavoh and others that were involved in the treatment of Ebola patients.

 

The motion made headlines and it reminded Nigerians that people who sacrificed their lives fighting deadly diseases and offering selfless services to the nation deserved to be honoured even in death.

 

If you see what other countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone went through, you will appreciate the contributions made by Stella Adedavoh and other health workers, some of whom paid the supreme price.

 

But I am not in the National Assembly to play to the gallery. We have about two years to go in the current Assembly and so there is time for my representation to be felt. The problem we have is that many people don’t know how the parliament works.

 

In the US, if you are a new legislator, you are expected to study the system and get accustomed to how it functions. I believe those who carry out the assessment of our performance did not do their due diligence before releasing the result.

 

However, that will not distract me. I have two years and can achieve a lot within the remaining period.

 

Since coming to the House, how many motions have you sponsored and what were the House resolutions on them?

 

I have sponsored a lot of motions, one of which is the one on the immortalisation of Stella Adedavoh, which I told you earlier. I also sponsored a motion concerning the state of affairs in the South-West when we were having crisis there.

 

And there are very many other motions and bills that I will come up with when the House reconvenes later this month. But as I have said before, lawmaking is not only about sponsoring bills and motions.

 

The work of a legislator involves a whole lot of things- representation and oversight. So, I’m not restricting myself to bills and motions but I’m looking at the whole job of a legislator.

 

Lagos is a state with a large number of unemployed youths. As a young legislator, what programmes do you have for them and what have you done for them since you were inaugurated as a member of the House?

 

I have done a lot for my constituents both with the National Assembly and in collaboration with some NGO’s and multinational organisations.

 

For example, we have trained so many artisans and we have given out various tools to them to carry out what they were trained for. We have also been able to distribute laptops and ICT equipment. I have also been able to secure employment for some of my constituents.

 

There’s a very important project I initiated and which I intend to continue with even when I’m no longer in the House of Representatives- and that is fishery. I believe that those of us from the coastal areas, Lagos especially have not made good use of our natural resources- the coast God has given us.

 

I also donated security equipment, including motorcycles for patrol to the Nigeria Police. I believe the security architecture of Lagos II needs to be looked into, which was why I made my little contribution. I’m also working on a bill to amend the Local Content Act.

 

This will help the youth to be employed in the maritime sector. I want the maritime sector to be included in the Local Content Act because as it is today, the Act only talks about people in the oil producing areas, which I feel shouldn’t be so. The Local Content Act is supposed to cover all sectors of the economy. This bill will soon be presented on the floor of the House.

 

Many Nigerians have canvassed for the scrapping of constituency projects because they are mostly mismanaged. What is your opinion on this? Have you executed any constituency project in the last two years?

 

Those calling for the scrapping of constituency projects are unfortunately misinformed about the whole concept. Constituency projects are done through the ministries, departments and agencies of government. Legislators don’t take money meant for constituency projects.

 

What we do is to recommend to the MDAs and they execute the projects. Even though, project execution is the primary responsibility of the executive, we as representatives of the people are closer to the grassroots and know better the needs of our constituents. We interact personally with the people and they tell us their problems.

 

So, we are in a better position to tell the executive, this is what our people need now. I think what we have to do is to educate and enlighten people more on the issue of constituency projects.

 

People complain about corruption involving constituency projects but antigraft agencies such as the ICPC and EFCC are constantly monitoring these projects.

 

So, we should all support this policy. Some people may want to cut corners but the anti-corruption bodies are watching and monitoring so we should support the projects and also assist the agencies to expose those involved in corruption. Therefore, I will not support abrogation  of constituency projects. The process can always be modified.

 

Some commentators have called for the scrapping of one chamber in the National Assembly saying it is a waste of public resources. Do you think bicameral legislature is good for Nigeria? Is the National Assembly truly a waste of funds?

 

National Assembly is not and can never be a waste of resources. So, it is a total misconception saying National Assembly is a waste of resources.

 

There are a whole lot of things that go on in the parliament. In the US, a senator or congressman has several staff that do various things for them. And we also have legislative aides who assist us in our daily activities.

 

So, when you see motions and bills being moved or sponsored it is not one man’s job. A lot of research is being carried out. So, it’s unfair to describe the National Assembly as a waste of resources. Mind you, there cannot be democracy without the National Assembly.

 

Instead of advocating for the scrapping of bicameral legislature, we should modify it. If you scrap bicameral legislature it won’t augur well for Nigeria. We are a diverse entity- multiethnic, multicultural, multireligious etc. And there is unity in diversity and so a bicameral legislature gives every component a sense of belonging. If you scrap it, some minority groups may not have representation. There is limited representation in a unicameral legislature but bicameral legislature expands the scope of representation. Let us maintain bicameral legislature.

 

The debate on where the 2023 presidency should go is hot in the air. Where do you think the president should come from and why?

 

I think the debate on the 2023 presidency should be played down. I think we should be concerned with the state of the nation today. We need to work towards resolving some of the knotty problems militating against the nation.

 

We have to fix the nation first before we start thinking of 2023 because if we don’t get it right now we will be endangering 2023. I will advise that we stop dissipating our energies on 2023 now and face the realities on ground. There is time for politicking and time for governance and now it is time to concentrate and deliver dividends of democracy.

 

The current National Assembly has been described by many as rubber stamp legislature. As someone who is part of the 9th Assembly, are you satisfied with performance of your colleagues? How would you assess the leadership style of Speaker Gbajabiamila?

 

Calling the 9th Assembly ably led by Senate President Ahmed Lawan and Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila as rubber stamp legislature is very unfair. Because in my little experience as a young legislator, I know what it means to coordinate and lead people from different walks of life. We have 109 senators and 360 honourable members.

 

These are people from different backgrounds with different orientations and beliefs and it is not easy leading them. But I give kudos to Speaker Gbajabiamila for holding the House together and effectively.

 

Under his leadership, the House has taken landmark decisions and passed historical bills to enable the executive deliver on good governance. The House has consistently put the Executive on its toes.

 

We are a rubber stamped legislature yet we successfully passed the PIB now PIA, which had been in limbo for close to 20 years. Will you still call this rubber stamp? This is an Assembly that summons everybody whenever the need arises

 

There is no minister or head of agency that has refused to appear before us because they know we will not condone that. But we have had instances in the past when ministers shun summons from the National Assembly. In fact, there was a time a particular president said the parliament should stop disturbing his ministers.

 

The 9th Assembly is working and the lawmakers are up and doing. We have regularise the budget cycle; budgets are no longer unnecessary delayed. We have stepped up budget monitoring and you can see the result in its implementation. Is this also rubber stamped? Because one is doing the right thing, you tagged him as rubber stamped.

 

Yes, the parliament can disagree with the executive but people should not expect us to be fighting like touts in the name of oversighting or checkmating the executive. There are better and decent ways to call the executive to order when it is derailing.

 

As legislators, we are doing our beat within the confines of the law. We cooperate with the executive where necessary and disagree where necessary. The 9th Assembly has maintained the independence of the legislature and the facts are there for those who want to be fair and objective in their criticism. I think we should not see everything from a partisan prism and be patriotic.

 

The youths are said to be the leaders of tomorrow, but do you think Nigerians youths have any future?

 

There’s no doubt that the youths are the leaders of tomorrow. But I must say that the government at different levels needs to do more for our youths.

 

We have to make the youths believe in themselves and start seeing themselves as true leaders of tomorrow. I think there should be a special fund dedicated to the youths. We need to heavily invest in the youths. We saw what happened during the SARS protest.

 

So, if we don’t invest in the youths, we will be destroying their future and creating more problems in the nation.

 

Nigerian youths are very creative and determined and what they need is just a little push and they will excel. So, I have seen a future in our youths given the right environment and support from the government.

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