Recently, the number three man and the amiable leader of Ogun State House of Assembly, Rt. Honourable Suraj Adekunbi spoke with selected journalists at his official quarters. The illuminating interview took us to the happenings not only in governance but also the relationship between the legislative and executive arms in the State. Our reporter, WALE ADEWUMI was there. Excerpts…
Could we meet you Hon. Speaker?
I am Rt. Hon. Prince Suraj Ishola Adekunbi MNSE, the Speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly. I am a member representing Isokan State constituency in Yewa North local government.
Could we also have your background?
I was born into a family of 15. I am from Ayetoro. I had my primary and secondary school education in Ayetoro. I had my National Diploma from Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro in Mechanical Engineering. After my one year IT programme, I proceeded to The Polytechnic Ibadan for my Higher National Diploma in Mechanical Engineering in year 2000. I had my NYSC at the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company along Sapele road, in Edo State. After that, I was opportune to be one of the beneficiaries of the NAPEP. It was from there I joined politics and after some failed attempts, I was elected as a member representing Isokan State constituency in 2011 and all praises to Allah, that I was eventually elected the Speaker of the House.
How has it been as the Speaker of the OGHA?
Well, let me give thanks to the Almighty for everything He is doing in the House. Let me also appreciate the Executive Governor, Sen. Ibikunle Amosun for the wonderful support we have been getting. He has been demonstrating good and mutually supporting role for the House. Mind you, with each member coming from different backgrounds, different constituencies and different parties, there is no way we could have achieved the results so far recorded without proper consultations and support we are giving one another in the House.
Mr. Speaker, if you are asked to score your Assembly under your Speakership; what percentage would you give?
Well, so far so good, it has been okay. Mind you, I cannot be the judge in my own case. The people of Ogun State are to score us and assess our performance. But, speaking modestly, I think we have been performing our responsibilities as expected of the Honourable members in the Ogun State House of Assembly. Some people may say that we are pushovers, but we are not. We have ranking members with experience in the House who have been assisting in the way and manner certain issues are discussed and resolved.
On the on-going infrastructural projects in the state, people have been questioning the price or the cost of the projects. What has the House done to verify some of the projects’ costs allegation or perhaps may be you are trying to cover up something?
Well, when you are talking about the cost of the execution of a project, you know there are processes that would be involved in the execution of any project. I am a project-management person and you know we have varieties of products and projects [Example] Let me just make a simple analysis. We have Bold 5, Bold 6 and many more; all of these are performing the same functions. It now depends on the choice, which goes with price but, the general submission is that we all use Bold model phones. I can tell you that all that you have seen so far in terms of projects in Ogun State is the best. What you have seen so far is what is expected of any serious and masses government to meet the yearning and aspiration of people. So when you are talking about costing of project; it is not static, it depends on your expectation. We are talking about a road, with drainage (precast drainages), that will have electrification, walkways and beautification paths. So far so good; what the present administration has done and that we are still doing is what people are expecting from any responsible government.
Some of the members in the House believe that you and some others are stooges of the governor, particularly your emergence as the Speaker. Because of this, some of the legislators are not happy with you and the style of your speakership.
I want to believe that my election was witnessed by good people of Ogun State and of course, there could be some politicking before the real election that is normal in any democratic setting. But, my emergence as the Speaker was a collective decision of the whole members. So, where was the hand of Mr. Governor?. This was same for the deputy speaker and other principal officers. To elect any principal member of the House, there is a process and this we followed to the letter. The process led to my election as the Speaker.
On whether one is a stooge or not, yes, people may have such an opinion but the fact remains that what good people of Ogun State are expecting from us is to deliver the expected role as lawmakers, we are not elected to fight the Executive. Of course, we can have issues, I want to tell you that so far so good, before anything could be done in that House of Assembly, I want to tell you we always meet up to 75% of what is expected of the Executive to give us. There is absolute separation of powers in Ogun State. I am not a stooge and that is the truth because I have and we have our integrity to protect as well.
In fact, if I am, you will not meet here because, this interview was an impromptu, yet you see me with my people in my quarters. Ordinarily, a stooge will have the Governor’s Lodge as his “bed” quarter but, see me I have been at home since morning.
Could you give an instance where you actually demonstrated that separations of powers do really exist and that you are not at the beck and call of the governor?
My brother, there must be check and balances in any system that aspires to be just, fair and transparent. It is clearly stated in the constitution also. We have our own responsibilities, the judiciary has its own responsibilities as well, but the fact remains that none would work without the other, we have to complement each other.
Now you would [pause], I want you to cast your mind back on when we had issues. On the issue of TASUED, we had the news that the name of the school had been changed. We made a correspondence to the Executive after a resolution was passed that no such change should take place until the necessary House resolution is made and the status quo remained, does that not send any message?
But, there is no denying the fact that the House is sharply divided between those loyal to the governor and those that are loyal to the former governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba. But, you are painting a different picture now?
As far as I know, there is nothing like that. When you are talking about division, there is nothing of such, we have Osoba as our national leader and the governor as the state governor and our leader. If you are talking about division in the House, there is nothing like that, and I am saying this in the true sense of it (Cuts in).
Are you saying you are not aware of Remmy Hazzan and Adijat Oladapo-Adeleye joining Labour Party from the ACN because of the crisis in the party?
Well, let me tell you one thing. As a citizen of Nigeria, you have the right to associate with any group or body, but, I believe both of them are elected on the platform of the ACN, which has metamorphosed to APC and immediately after the APC launch, I read on the floor of the House that henceforth all the members elected on the platform of ACN are now automatic members of APC and up till now, none of them had come to the floor to say contrary (Cuts in).
You mean they are yet to announce that they are no longer members of APC?
Yes. I stand to be corrected. There are processes to be followed to such thing. As the Speaker, I have done my own beat, and if they had anything contrary, they have the right to put their letters forward. So, am I not justified that we are still one in the House?
But we heard that the governor may likely have obstacle in getting the second term ticket with the crisis and that there is plan B to dump APC for Accord Party.
That is laughable. What a plan indeed. Well, I don’t know where the issue of Accord Party is coming from. APC is our party and there is nowhere for now to go. See what is happening even at the national level, where ruling party governors are joining the APC train and a governor on APC platform will say it is Accord Party that will be his next bus stop. Governor Amosun is not such a desperate politician. We are going to resolve our differences (if any) before 2015 and APC will still be the party to beat, not even with what we are achieving in our first attempt in government under Sen. Ibikunle Amosun as the governor.
I don’t see any reason why his Excellency would not be allowed to go for the second term, I don’t see any reason because of all he has demonstrated at his capacity and capability. His mission is to ensure that good people of Ogun State are given true dividends of democracy, and the issue of Accord, I don’t know why people are talking about Accord Party, APC is the party to beat, APC is a party that would actually give hope to Nigerians.
Do you see the Labour Party as a threat in 2015?
Threat to whom? To APC? Please let us get serious. Where was Labour Party in the last election in Ogun State?. The poorly organized Anambra election last week, where was Labour Party?.
What is your opinion on the upcoming election, are you repeating the “class” or moving forward?
Power belongs to God. And our prayer to God is to grant us good health and to spare our lives. Number one thing is sure and that this legislature has the four years of lawmaking for the good people of Ogun State. I want to believe we are yet to deliver to the good people of Ogun State, so when you are talking about 2015, we are still in 2013 of course, we are mindful of the fact that there are numbers of people heading for one post or the other that is normal in a political setting but the fact remains that 2015 is in the hand of God.
In your address during the budget presentation, you sought the intervention of the Executive in some areas, could you shed more light?
That is part of what we are talking about. If we are stooges, will I as Speaker have the effrontery to make such demand in public and in black and white? What I read is very simple. We are remembering the Governor of the promise to rehabilitate the House of Assembly complex, which had shown visible signs of weakness, most especially, the roofs of the Chambers and the Office building which need urgent attention.
What is your view on the recent visits by the APC leaders to former military heads of state, including IBB, Shonekan?
It is part of democracy, which will strengthen the country’s unity and development. Except those against it may be jittery of the strength and consequence of such visiting team. It is part of democracy, which the ruling party cannot do because of their track record of putting the country into the mess we are into in the country.
For every politician, politicking is allowed, there is need to meet and speak with people to sell your agenda and canvass for support in the mission you are about venturing into. We all know the peculiar situation the ruling party has put us into in the last 14 years, so if like minds come together to visit major stakeholders on their mission, that is purely democracy.
Why IBB and his likes were the targets?
Since every stratum is divided into the high and the low, “it is only appropriate for those in that category to meet with their contemporary at that level. There is nothing absolutely wrong in their action. Mind you, I can tell you that we at the lower level are also making similar visits to the grassroots to our own contemporary and it is also yielding fruits. The general submission is that the people are fed up with the PDP at the centre, just as they are doing with the people at the top, we are also doing for our people down at the grassroots.