The Speaker of Kwara State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon RazakAtunwa, is a delight to interview any day. He speaks fluently, in fact Queen’s English; he does not parry questions, he takes them head long. Atunwa, former Commissioner for Land in Kwara, is also a close associate of former governor of the state, Senator BukolaSaraki. So it was pleasurable when on Wednesday in his office in Ilorin, Kwara State, WESTERN POST’s team of TUNDE RAHMAN and TUNDE OYEKOLA confronted him in an interview on the assessment of his leadership of the state House of Assembly, the achievements, the developments in Ekiti State House of Assembly and at the House of Representatives in Abuja and other sundry issues…
Honourable, you have been on the saddle for close to 3½ years now, how has it been being the Speaker of Kwara State House of Assembly?
It’s been challenging and rewarding and it has also been eventful. I perceive my role as a speaker to be a servant of the people. A role that gives me responsibilities and duties, and as far as I am able to say, I have fulfilled my responsibilities and duties so I am satisfied in my role as a representative and as the Speaker of Kwara State House of Assembly.
Prior to 2007 or so, you were abroad, in the UK, and you just suddenly emerged on the political scene in Kwara State as Commissioner for Land, what really prompted you to go into politics?
I have been engaged in politics in Kwara State since year 2000. I was in the United Kingdom for a long while. I practiced at the bar in the UK as a practicing Barrister. I felt that I needed to come back home to see what I can do to assist in the development of my dear country. Nigeria is where I was born and my home, so I thought it is better for me to come back home to see what I can do in the development of my country.
Within your tenure as the Speaker of Kwara State House of Assembly, what has been the level of achievement?
The records are there. If you examine the number of bills, the number of motions, debates and public hearings. As a matter of statistics if you put those things together, then I’m sure when you rate Kwara State House of Assembly nationally, we will definitely be top 3 or top 5 because we work very hard in this assembly.
Take a look at what is happening in neighbouring Ekiti State House of Assembly, what is your comment on the happenings there?
What is happening in Ekiti State House of Assembly is highly regrettable. In a situation where 7 members are usurping the power and constitution and the rules and functions of the assembly calls for great regret and concern.
Let me make it clear, as far as ‘am concerned, the Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly remains Dr.AdewaleOmiran. I don’t recognize any other speaker. The conference of Speakers of State Legislature of Nigeria held a meeting on 22nd of November, the Chairman who is the Speaker of Akwa-Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Sam Ikom made it clear that as far Speakers of all the State Houses of Assembly are concerned, the recognized Speaker in Ekiti State is Dr AdewaleOmirin.
We are fed up with a situation whereby the Executive will be interfering in the affairs of the assembly and using all sorts of improper measures to remove the speaker.
The mathematics of PDP says that in Kogi, 12 is greater than 13, whereas we all know that it requires a two-thirds of the majority to remove speaker. Also in Rivers, PDP mathematics says 5 were greater than 22 and now in Ekiti, the mathematics says 7 are greater than 19. What ‘am saying is that it is unconstitutional for a governor to recognize such a speaker or any process for confirmation of commissioner- nominees that came out of such a fraudulent process. I can’t blame Gov. Fayose for what he is doing by engaging in such rascality and unconstitutionally because it is the same thing that President Jonathan is doing with House of Representatives Speaker Tambuwal. He is also doing the same thing in Rivers State where 5 members were said to have impeached the legitimate speaker. I was amazed to watch on TV when the First Lady of Nigeria went to Rivers State and when she was reading the list of protocols she acknowledged Rt. Hon. Evans BP as the speaker. The question now is who made Evans the speaker of Rivers State with just 5 members? A situation whereby the President and his wife condone unconstitutionally is quite somehow, and I believe all the previous similar events that have taken place gave Gov. Fayose the liberty to join in that unconstitutionality. ‘Am pained and aggrieved that we should allow such illegality to pervade our legislature.
What advice do you have for your colleagues in Ekiti State, for instance when the game changed, i think the rule of engagement should also change, when government changed hands, the rule of engagement should also change. Before, it was a government controlled by the APC but now it is the PDP- controlled government and a majority of the House members who belong to APC did not want to do anything with that government, they are holding the government to ransom, so what advice do you have for your colleagues in a situation like this?
I’m not sure that the Ekiti House of Assembly was holding the government to ransom. It is not uncommon for the parliament to be headed by one party and the executive to be headed by another party. Parliaments should be devoid of partisan politics. When you are in a chamber you deal with legislative matters affecting the entire state or nation. As a parliamentarian, the first duty is to your state. As far as the parliament is concerned the issue of party politics should not be paramount. Each arm of government should respect the other arms of government. Let everybody follows the rule of law.
Along the line you keep talking about Speaker Tambuwal, don’t you see what the House of Reps. members did by scaling the fence as a show of disgrace no matter the blockade and provocation?
Not at all. What they did should be commended. They stood firm for democracy, they showed by their action that they will not allow this country to become a police state. So I commend them because they indeed have the right to enter parliament and sit. The police are there to serve the people; the police are there to ensure that the rule of law is followed and not bar legally and legitimate elected members of House of Reps from entering the chamber. If they had not done what they did, I would have been thoroughly disappointed in them but they have showed that absolutism should not be encouraged in the society.
Formerly you were elected on the platform of PDP and now in APC, what was your switch-over like?
The switch-over has been very good. It involved majority of the PDP members moving to APC as a result of division in the PDP. APC is a party that follows the rule of law and it is a party we believe will take Nigeria to greater heights. Come 2015 we believe APC is going to take control of the administration of this country.
Are you coming back to Kwara State House of Assembly?
No, I’m not coming back.
Where is your next target?
That is a matter for the party leadership and the people but so far it has been suggested that I seek election elsewhere.
The other day you granted an interview where you described Senator RukayyatGbemisolaSaraki, Alhaji Abdul Raheem Oba and former ACN governorship candidate Belgore as paperweight politicians and you even said come 2015, the APC would trounce them. Are you still saying that those names are not relevant in Kwara State politics?
Firstly, I’m not sure I mentioned their names in that fashion but at the same time it’s not my style to belittle personalities, I don’t like dealing with personalities, I deal with issues. Coming to your question, the PDP in Kwara State is not a heavyweight party because what made the PDP in Kwara State was the leadership of Senator BukolaSaraki and now that Sen. BukolaSaraki is no longer in PDP, the party as far as ‘am concerned has been relegated to the waste basket. The party of the day in Kwara State is PDP led by Senator BukolaSaraki. We have a good leadership, we have a performing governor, we have a host of House of Reps members, members of House of Assembly and also all the local government chairmen, so taking together all these, there is no way the PDP can match APC and the leadership of Senator BukolaSaraki. That is the point I simply made so ‘am confident Insha Allah come 2015 elections, APC shall hold the ace.
You were in the UK for a long time, and now back in Nigeria, how do you rate governance at the national level?
I’m afraid that all the gains we have made in this dispensation since 1999 have been regressed gradually from 2009. Particularly under the regime of President Jonathan the gains we made both economically and politically in terms of governance have been regressed. So we are not comparable favourably in world affairs. If you look at the statistics for example, Nigeria is the sixth largest exporter of oil in the world, we are the tenth largest exporter of natural gas in the world, 80% of the federation revenue comes from oil and gas, yet 80% of the benefits of that revenue are felt by less than 1%of the population of Nigeria. The economy is grounding to a standstill for various reasons such as poor management of the economy, lack of focus on industries, lack of sound economic policies and lack of sound physical and monetary policies. Transparency does not exist in all our processes. If you look at corruption perception index of 2013/2014, it says that Nigeria is one of the top 25 corrupt nations in the world out of about 187. The world says that our budgeting processing from the beginning to the end is rated zero in terms of transparency. All these can be verified online. And that has been the case since 2009, which shows that the federal government has not added any value to our economy.
The government has not added any value to the progress of Nigeria. The common man on the street lives on less than one dollar a day. Now tell me how a person should survive in an oil country with less than N178 a day.
If you now compare Nigeria with the other developed countries even those not so developed, you will find out that we are very, very backward and indeed we are regressing. So for me, the quicker we have a change of baton from this PDP-led government to APC government the better for Nigeria.