The Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Funminiyi Afuye, tells ABIODUN NEJO that the legislative house has passed people-oriented bills that have aided Governor Kayode Fayemi’s administration’s accomplishments in the state, among other issues
You have an all-APC House of Assembly but some people prefer a legislative house comprising members from different political parties; what do you think?
The composition of the House of Assembly in terms of political division is a choice of the people; it is not forced on them. In their wisdom, they voted for 26 members of the same party. There is nothing to show that the performance was better when we had a multi-party House of Assembly. We have 26 APC members; the implication is that we must listen to the yearnings of the people who gave us the mandate freely.
By and large, to the best of our abilities, we have performed very well in the sense that we have passed laws that are people-oriented for the good of the people. We have about 75 bills passed within three years, and all these laws are meant for one purpose or another; be it gender sensitivity, or infrastructural development. All the laws passed are in sync with the agenda of good governance as espoused in the five pillars of governance by the governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi. We are working together. There is no point in asking a question when there is no need for one. It is not that we do not have disagreements but we have our ways of resolving them.
Wouldn’t the absence of criticism, which could have come from opposition members, have robbed the House of some achievements?
I still insist that it is the people’s prerogative, through their votes, to say that these are the people we want in the House. Criticism can come from anywhere. The parties that are not in government can criticise us, the public can criticise us, the civil society organisations can criticise us, and it is meant for the general public to say good or bad things about a government of the day.
The Assembly is not the final decider of all the things that are happening in the state, even though it is a body of people elected. If they are not doing what the people want, people have the right to take them to the public domain, but we haven’t seen that.
The public, which gave us the mandate, has the right to say one or two things. We engage the general public in the operation of passing laws —we do public hearings, constituency engagements and a lot of other fora to know what the people feel or think about you and what they want the House of Assembly to do. We are also open to criticism.
There is the insinuation that the Assembly is a rubber stamp because…
(Cuts in) It is a rubber stamp for whom? Look at the contents of the laws we have passed. Are they for self-aggrandisement, the aggrandisement of the Speaker, or that of the governor? We are working together because we must listen and implement the mandate of the people. The mandate of the people is that the 26-member House has been elected. Are you going there to fight yourselves and let the people suffer?
So, if somebody is saying it is a rubber stamp, I accept. Let it be a rubber stamp in favour of the people, not in favour of myself, the speaker, or the governor or the three arms of government.
Let them draw out what we have done wrong or the laws we have passed that are not people-indulgent or that are indulgent to the governor or me. Is it the law against gender violence? Is it the law against oppression, sexual exploitation of children, against rape?
Are these rubber stamps? These are governance issues. We just passed that law to enable the operation of the knowledge economy and every other aspect, including agriculture, and every other thing that is progressive, which we stand for! We have been doing that.
Over 75 bills passed into law — is that a joke? Let anybody in that school of thought come out and say this or that law is misplaced. Let anybody come out and challenge us, and I am ready to defend whatever position.
What are your contributions to the achievements of the outgoing Fayemi administration?
It is evident. If there are no laws, a state cannot function. We give them the legislative wherewithal to function. That is our input. Apart from that, we listen, we collate the opinions of our people, being their representatives, and we tell them what people expect them to do. We are not executives that we will start implementing road construction or the like, but when the executive wants laws passed to enable such, the House of Assembly is an enabler through its oversight functions and by representing the people and engaging them in their constituencies.
Under Fayemi’s APC government, education has improved, agriculture has improved, the economy has improved, infrastructure development is second to none, and roads have been built and rehabilitated.
The roads across the state are in bad conditions and the people are suffering; what is the Assembly doing about this?
What we have done is to draw the attention of the Federal Government and the general public to the state of the roads in Ekiti State, the federal roads in particular. Ekiti State has been able to fulfil its mandate for the people in terms of road construction. All the state roads are well paved, but unfortunately, because of the bad state of the federal roads, vehicles now flow onto the state roads. While the federal roads are spoilt, the state roads are becoming dilapidated.
For instance, Iluomoba – Ikole Road was constructed by the state government, but the state of the road is bad now because the bad federal roads snowball into all these areas and heavy trucks pass through those places.
The state government has constructed Ode Ekiti – Omuo Ekiti Road, a state road; if not for the truck barrier that has been put on the road, it would have become impassable by now. The border from Ilawe through Igbara Odo to Ondo State has been constructed; there is a bar on it, but the trucks that come from different parts of the country will bypass the barrier, and the result is that our roads are getting damaged.
The federal Ado Ekiti-Ikere Ekiti road is in bad shape, and it has been awarded to Dantata and Sawoe. Look at Igede-Itawure, which is bad, that is also a federal road. Same as the, Ifaki-Omuo Ekiti road. That is why, last week, we passed a resolution that the contractors should come and see us, and we drew the attention of the Federal Government to all these roads. That is the contribution we can make as a House. That is part of our oversight function.
This takes us to the issue of insecurity, some road-related. Some communities daily lament that they are under siege. Is the Assembly not worried?
Ekiti State is making the best effort to ensure that it protects the people by supporting and arming the police and other security agencies.
Among your contributions to the constitutional amendment, the Ekiti Assembly voted for state police and a state judicial council. What was on your mind?
They are part of the recommendations we made to the constitutional amendment body in the National Assembly because without state police, even without local police, and without police in big institutions like the university, we may not be able to come to terms with the insecurity in the country. That was why Ekiti State was the first to pass that law. There must be the state police.
There is no need to federalise everything that will make governance easy for the three arms.
For instance, the issue of state police concerns the executive while the issue of financial autonomy concerns both the judiciary and the legislature. The implementation of all these laws will take time to gain traction.
Why do you think the noise over the APC Muslim-Muslim ticket has refused to go away, and what is your opinion on it?
The Constitution of the Federal Republic says Nigeria is a secular state. The moment the Constitution is very explicit about that, whether it is Muslim-Muslim, Christian-Christian, or traditional-traditional, it is very clear that religion is not a state matter.
Having said that, the noise over the Muslim-Muslim ticket only shows we are talking about religion. What effect has the Muslim-Christian or Christian-Muslim ticket had on Nigeria? As far as I am concerned, there is none.
If you see an obvious attempt by the country to drift toward a particular religion, should the noise then not be loud?
This present noise, as far as I am concerned, is just window dressing. Religion has done a lot more damage to this country than any other thing that people don’t know. They have taken our people to the extremes of religion. We are only talking about religion. Why should it be now, when there are so many churches and mosques that we have the greatest crimes in Nigeria?
When Sardauna and Awolowo were here, the issues that were causing crises were political, not religious. I have nothing against the Muslim-Muslim ticket. The personality involved here is the presidential candidate of our party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. He has a track record of good governance in Lagos State, and he has never intimidated anybody based on religion. His wife is a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God.
Also, there is nothing to tell us that his running mate, Kashim Shettima, is a religious bigot. As governors, both of them have track records of good governance, not based on religion in their states. They protected all the people during their time in government. Muslim-Muslim tickets are just an artificial creation of some religious bigots.