Abdulraheem Tunji Olawuyi is a member representing. Ekiti, Isin, Irepodun and Oke-Ero Federal Constituency in the National Assembly. He recently spoke to journalists about his intention to become the Speaker of the 10th assembly. ROTIMI IGE, who was there, brings excerpts of the interaction.
You are gunning for the Speakership of the 10th Assembly. Tell us about your antecedents and why you are vying for the position.
My first election into the National Assembly was in 2018. It was an election that changed the political narrative and landscape of Kwara State. In about three months after the first election, I was re-elected because in the previous session, I finished the tenure of Honourable Funsho Adedoyin. Again, in the 2023 general election, I was re-elected. This is my third time in the house. I’m one of the few returnees of the ninth Assembly and the 10th Assembly. Based on this, I think I’m eminently qualified to lead the House because of my experience, level of interaction and the friendship I have made in the last four and a half years in the House. I know how the House works and I have also seen many areas where I can improve the standard of our legislation at the National Assembly. Some few weeks ago, precisely in the first week in April, I made an official declaration in Abuja to run for the office of Speaker of the tenth assembly and by the grace of God, the house will be inaugurated by the eighth of June where members-elect will select their leaders. By the grace of God, if elected as the Speaker of the House, I have a lot of plans to change the narrative. As much as I want to run a seamless government and legislative signage with the executive, I want to assure Nigerians that my leadership is not going to be the ‘rubber stamp’ kind of leadership. Having said that, we would do our job, as a legislature, we would not be a rubber stamp but at the same time, we would not want to be an antagonistic Assembly to the Executive. By the grace of God, the 10th Assembly is going to be a vibrant house, a sizable number of us are returning with experience.
Zoning is an important Issue. Going by the memo by APC governors, there is clamour to zone the position to the North-West. If it’s not zoned to your region, would you still be vying?
A lot of people don’t know that I am a party person and in my political history, I have never gone against the wishes of the party. We are all hoping that the party leadership would speak up and adopt one region in this zoning formula. You would agree with me that zoning arrangement in any political party is just done to carry every region along to give every region some sense of belonging. So in all of this, if the position of the speaker is not zoned to my region which is the North Central, It’s fine. We should all understand that I’m not so desperate about this aspiration. If it’s not coming to my zone, I wouldn’t go against the party’s wishes. I would be the first person to adopt the zoning formula of the party.
What are the plans of APC lawmakers to make sure that you don’t lose your position to the minority? This is because they have made it clear that they are also going to vie for that position. Also, speaking about your aspiration, what are those things that you have identified that you plan to actualise if you’re elected?
First of all, when you get into the house, the issue of party is secondary. The interest of the House is much more important. Even, within the greater majority, when the chips are down, I can assure you that it’s not about APC. It’s about the leadership of the house which everyone of us has already keyed into. It is good the way the greater majority are bringing themselves together to coordinate. We are all colleagues, we would all work together. I’m from APC, but I would be a speaker presiding over various parties. I can tell you that a sizable number of the greater majority would work together. A speaker for the House would emerge, irrespective of political affiliations. Definitely, it’s still going to be the APC that will produce the speaker. Secondly, with my experience in the house, I have identified some areas that we need to improve upon. The relationship between the executive and the legislature needs to be strengthened. The government is doing a lot. The most important organs of government are supposed to work together seamlessly. There are some lapses that we need to improve on. Also, we need to speed up things so that there would not be so much delay in the passing of bills.
Positions like this need a lot of endorsement, who are the people backing you?
My colleagues in the House are my major endorsement. I don’t want to downplay any of my co-contestants. They are all vibrant. But, in a contest like this, the most important thing is who are going to participate in that electoral process? They are the legislators. That does not mean I don’t have major stakeholders supporting me. I would not mention names here. I have them rooting for me. They know my capacity and strength. In all of these, loyalty to the system is very important. While you’re playing your role as Speaker of the house, you need to be loyal to your people. Who are the people? Nigerians who gave you the mandate. So, a lot of things would count when it comes to choosing the speaker of the National Assembly. We have our unique style. Going around to see people is very important but at the same time there is a lot of underground work needed. This would change the narrative in this coming election. It appears some people are more popular in the media space or elsewhere but they are some working underneath.
Can you state three reasons why the Reps-elect should elect you as the next Speaker and if you emerge, what kind of bills would you encourage your colleagues to sponsor?
When you come to the National Assembly, every bill is important. This is because bills are being sponsored based on one objective or the other. But, as for me, I would encourage my colleges to push for bills that are people oriented. All bills are important but some are more important. You would agree with me that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in the ninth assembly was one of the most important bills this county has been waiting for. That’s a milestone. Those are some of the sort of bills that I would encourage my colleagues to push. A bill that would create enabling platforms for business to run smoothly in Nigeria, where all the bureaucracy surrounding most of our businesses would be taken off. To answer the other question, the speaker must have great interaction with members. I’m a friend to virtually all of them. Even to the newly elected member, we have all interacted. I’m not a rigid person. That does not mean I would not stand my ground in policies that I feel it’s the best way to go. Secondly, the Speaker must be able to carry all stakeholders along in his policies. I will respect their opinion. These are some of the things that set me apart from other contestants.
How do you address the perception that the president is Yoruba while the person who is making an attempt to become the next speaker is also Yoruba?
When we talk about a region, we are not talking about a tribe. I’m Yoruba from Kwara but in the zoning arrangement I’m from the North-Central.
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