The senator representing Kwara Central Constituency and Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Dr Ibrahim Oloriegbe spoke with reporters in Ilorin, Kwara State on the crises that rocked the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state after displacing the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as the ruling party in the state, his exploits so far at the upper chamber of the National Assembly and his take on the calls in some quarters for adoption of electoral college for presidential elections, among other issues. ADEKUNLE JIMOH was there.
WHAT has been your relationship with your constituents as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
The functions of legislators worldwide are basically three, namely legislation, oversight and representation. In view of these, the assessment of any legislator should be based on his performance in these three areas. However, it should be noted that a legislator’s role or function is the most misunderstood in Nigeria, particularly in Kwara Central Constituency where the legislator comes from.
This can be attributed to a number of factors. Basically, the fact that many years of Nigeria’s post-independence has been under military rule makes the citizens to recognise and understand government from the executive roles and responsibilities as the local government areas (LGAs), states and federal governments were under unelected executive functionaries.
Under democratic dispensation, majority of citizens do not understand the difference between an elected legislator and an elected executive position holder in terms of roles and functions.
Now to a leg of your question, in Kwara Central, the position of the senator for the constituency in the last 40 years had been under the direct or indirect control of one family who dictated what happened to all office holders in government and determined all that happened in governance. Hence the citizens were and still not able to differentiate between the roles and responsibilities of particular office holders. The situation was worse in the last eight years where the occupant of the senatorial seat was the ‘godfather’ of all political office holders in the state, and all things were done in his name and attributed to him. So I hope my people will understand these situations very well and know the real functions and duties of a legislator. I used more of innuendos because there is no need for name or character assassination.
I had within this short period of time moved at least nine motions, sponsored six bills, co-sponsored 13 bills, contributed to over 10 debates on bills and motions by other senators.
You moved the first motion in the 9th Senate on July 2, 2019. What was the propelling factor for the motion titled ‘the need to strengthen security at the Nigerian Airport’?
The reason basically stemmed out of a great concern for adequate security at the nation’s airports, particularly for the Muslim faithful who periodically travel to Saudi Arabia for Hajj and Lesser Hajj. The subject of the motion was also relevant to my people at home as majority of them are Muslims who often engage in religious or business undertakings outside Nigeria.
The key background to the motion was the wrongful arrest and conviction of two Nigerian citizens for drug trafficking, based on the detection of hard drugs in their luggage. More investigations into the matter revealed that some unscrupulous persons at the airport planted the banned substances. The resultant effect of the motion was the strengthening of security at Nigeria international airports and such sad incidents have not been reported in recent times. Some of my other motions include the urgent need to make the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) work for Nigerians. This led to the appointment of a new Executive
Secretary for the NHIS and accelerated consideration of the NHIS reform bill sponsored by me. By God’s grace, I moved another motion for the urgent need to transfer back to the Federal Ministry of Health (FMO) the responsibility/authority to process all its procurement activities. The executive arm of government has returned the Procurement functions back to the FMO.
I had within the last two years sponsored six bills among which are the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Bill, 2019 (SB66) awaiting committee report; Psychiatric Hospital Act (Amendment) Bill, 2929 to establish Federal Psyhchiatry Hospital in Budo Egba, Kwara State (SB376) at First Reading; and Federal College of Complementary and Alternative Medicine of Nigeria Bill 2020 (SB394).
Your party, APC, has been enmeshed in crises since the end of the last general elections, especially at state level. It was rumoured in some quarters that there is no love lost between the state governor and the chairman of the party in the state. Don’t you think the development could stifle the growth of democracy in the state if left unresolved?
The tsunami like revolution that swept off the old political order in the state was unleashed without any visible arrow-head, who could have served as the leader of the group. Instead, leaders of various groups fought the battle at their levels and with their own tactics.
The method was a very good one because we were all fighting our common opposition at the same time from all fronts. But it had its own backlash at the end, I must confess to you. As usual, each of these leaders started asserting his or her rights to everything concerning the party and governance. We saw the problem nevertheless as a family problem that was not unexpected. But the good news is that we have been able to resolve the crises because we have no alternative but to come together as an entity. In Kwara APC today, many aggrieved persons have been assuaged and others too will soon see the party as the only way out of subjugation and exploitation.
What is your view on whether the nation should use electoral college for its next presidential election in order to save the enormous cost of conducting elections of that cadre in Nigeria?
As a student of political science, I believe that the history of Nigeria is awash with numerous experimental political systems. In fact, there seems to have been no system of governance that has not been tried in this country before now. I believe that what we are doing at present is still the very best we should stick to, considering our heterogeneous identities as a nation. Universal participation in elections gives more representation. We are not yet matured to go for electoral college system.
I will be on the side of the proponents of universal electoral college. What we need to do is to infuse more technological know-how into our electoral system to reduce the cost of conducting elections in our country.