Alhaji Yunusa Ayinla Folohunsho was a member of the Federal House of Representatives in the Second Republic and governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2011 general elections in Kwara State. In this interview with our Regional Editor North Central, ABDULLAHI OLESIN, he concludes that the nation’s former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme has the best credentials to become the next chairman of PDP’s Board of Trustees. He also spoke on other key national issues. Excerpts:
Can you give an appraisal of the 7th National Assembly?
Yes, I think the two chambers that compose the National Assembly are really pulling their weight and coming up to the expectations of the populace. Their performances in the recent times have shown that they are ready to give Nigerians the best in order to ensure that the gap between the haves and have-nots is narrowed to the barest minimum.
Also, if we have to talk of the membership in the National assembly, you would agree with me that Nigerians are blessed with quality materials that have also earned themselves seats in either the Senate or House of Representatives.
For example, two former governors in Kwara State in person of Alhaji Mohammed Sha’aba Lafiagi and Dr. Bukola Saraki are there at the Senate. Also, we have former governors of Gombe, Yobe and Zamfara States, Alhaji Mohammed Danjuma Goje, Alhaji Bukar Abba Ibrahim and Alhaji Ahmad Sanni Yerima respectively and a host of others who have been contributing immensely to the improvements that we have been seeing in the legislative arm of government in recent times.
However, let me say that the legislative arm needed to be up and doing in discharging its functions in the area of giving assent to the budget proposals. It is not the function of the assembly to increase the amount on the budget proposals submitted to it by the executive council.
The executive arm is the organ to do the spending and I believe that it is the one to determine on much it would need to run its government successfully.
All I expected from the legislative arm is to probe into the budget proposals and cut it down after which the executive would then defend it and this would then determine whether the amount should remain or should be shifted.
Better still, the executive should endeavour to submit budget proposals to them latest by August of the year so as to have ample time to debate the documents thoroughly and if there is any need for the president to submit a supplementary budget so as to give Nigerians the best of its leadership styles. Implementation of the budget is better started very early in the year.
How would you describe the PDP convention that led to the emergence of the new leadership of the party?
The successes recorded in the last convention conducted by the PDP are one of the good things that have ever happened to the party. You would also agree with me that the emergence of Bamanga Tukur as the Chairman of the party was not a surprise to Nigerians and PDP stalwarts in the race. This was because Alhaji Tukur is an elderly person and an highly respected personality both home and abroad.
He has vast experience to lead the party because leading a party such as PDP is not too far from ruling a country. Apart from being the foundation member of the PDP, Bamanga Tukur has the connection both nationally and internationally to move the party to a more promising levels which I believe will definitely earn the party more states in the next election.
The new chairman of the PDP is somebody who has intimidating qualifications capable of making him perform even beyond the expectations of his admirers.
The emergence of former governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun state as the party’s Secretary and others is another blessing to the PDP. They are a team of capable hands whom I believe would also work assiduously towards the progress of the party at all levels.
I think PDP has gotten all it needs to continue to wax amidst its oppositions. As we all know that Dr. Alex Ekweme, a former Vice President under the Shehu Shagari-led government, may likely emerge as the PDP BoT chairman because he is vast with wide experience in both private and public sector of the nation’s economy.
He was a foundation member of the PDP as well as the pioneer Chairman, BoT of the party. He stands better chances than any other candidate that may be vying to occupy that position.
With Dr. Ekweme as the PDP BoT chairman, the party would be lucky to have placed a round peg in a round hole.
President Jonathan said that he is yet to decide on his 2015 presidential ambition. What is your position on this?
Well, let me say that President Goodluck Jonathan has massive support of Nigerians and international community. You would also agree with me that he has only spent less than one year as a substantive President of Nigeria. It would therefore be too early to be asking him whether he would contest the 2015 election or not.
In fact, those people disturbing him on his 2015 ambition are doing more harm to him than good, they better leave him alone to concentrate on fulfilling his electoral promises. They should allow him to focus more on his transformation agenda. I pray God to give him good health to enable him fulfill all his heart’s desires for the country.
I think they should be more concern about is success in the on-going term than 2015 which is yet to be seen. If you talk about the security lapses in the country, I am of the opinion that Jonathan is not to be held responsible for the challenges. Security of the country is everybody’s business; let us all stand up to our duties as good citizens by supporting government at all levels in campaigning against terrorism because it is everybody’s concern.
The issue of Boko Haram which has become a major challenge for Nigerians both home and abroad was institutionalized by some set of people. They also know those people who are perpetrating this evil deeds and they should also curb it if they feel the unity of this country is more paramount than their personal interests.
I spent most of my youthful age in the village where everybody is a policeman. We know when a stranger comes into the village and report adequately to the appropriate authorities so that actions would be quickly taken on the mission of such individual where it may affect the entire community negatively.
Why can’t we imbibe such tradition and see how to compliment government’s efforts at the local government, state and federal levels of administration so that the nation can become more sanitized and better for everyone to live without rancour. So, let us continue to pray for the unity of this country rather than running after shadows that may not likely do us any good.
What is your advice for the government on how to move the nation forward?
Agriculture has sustained some past governments in Nigeria. Therefore, why can’t the present government also work towards that direction so as to get larger percentage of its citizens engaged in the occupation which will also generate more wealth for the economy? Let us all remember the period of groundnut pyramids in the Northern Nigeria; cocoa and rubber exports in the Southwest of Nigeria and a host of other cash crops we have all benefited from before the discovery of oil.
Let me say with all sense of authority that agriculture can absorb larger percentage of the unemployed population in the country. When I say agriculture, I am not particular about farming alone. I am also talking about fisheries, horticulture and other branches in the sector.
Since we have graduates in the field who are usually turned out in our various
universities annually, why can’t government make the profession more attractive to them so that they would not be struggling to find jobs in banks and other multinational companies?
Government can support such projects by providing loans to the people who are willing and ready to venture into agriculture as a profession. Establishment of agricultural settlements such as in the period of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and also making available seedlings to farmers at subsidized rate so as to serve as an encouragement to their courage can make a difference.
What is your assessment of the Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed-led government in Kwara State?
I believe very well that you are also aware of my political ambition to become the governor of this state in the last general election. I withdrew from participating in the primary because of the zoning principle introduced by the party leadership in order to ensure equality among the various citizens who made up the party in the state.
The principle was generally adopted for the first time in Kwara State. This was done in order to enable other senatorial districts produce a candidate for election because other local government areas in the state have been deprived of ruling the state for a very time and if they keep on contesting with any candidate whosoever from the mainstream of the state, which is Kwara Central, they may likely not get it done on time.
It would be recalled that Kwara Central Senatorial District has produced two governors who have governed the state for a period of 12 years consecutively in person of the late Governor Mohammed Lawal of the Defunct All Peoples Party, APP now ANPP, and Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki under the platform of the PDP.