Hon Enitan Badru Dolapo represents Lagos Island Federal constituency of Lagos State. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the lawmaker stated that, recession will soon end because there is light at the end of the tunnel as the federal government is putting things in place.
As a member of the committee on INEC, are you contented with the present state of INEC?
They have conducted some elections, and since then, they have been improving on every election. The best election they had was the one of Ondo State where the opposition did not complain. They only complained that they were not given enough time to campaign. They didn’t even bother to go to court or tribunal because they knew they were beaten squarely. The APC didn’t see it coming. APC had broken into three factions in the state yet the people on ground voted for who they wanted. Rivers State is a different kettle of fish entirely because everybody knows why. There is a lot of violence and rascality in that state. So Rivers’ case is different. The act that creates the commission creates offices for every zone and so, the commissioners are all representing their zones. You cannot take one from another state or zone and fix him in another one because the compositions are constitutional. So INEC is intact.
Does the state of the economy bother you?
Yes I am concerned and everybody should be worried but I also know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. There were some mistakes made at the beginning properly due to anxiety, a little bit of naivety and also they properly didn’t know that things were that bad. I think things are improving now, you can see the downward trend of the foreign exchange. I believe things will get better along the line.
What will it take to get Nigeria out of recession?
Number one, the government is doing the right thing at the moment, there is massive investment in agriculture and infrastructure. There is an adage in Yoruba where I come from that, ‘when hunger is out of poverty, then there is no poverty’. That you are able to feed two to three times a day means there is no poverty. Now, most of the income Nigerians make, they use it to feed themselves and do things in moderation. So the rest things are priorities now. There is also massive investment in infrastructure because once you invest so much in agriculture, you get a lot of people off the street into farming, who properly would be looking for white collar jobs, most of the graduates from the university. The best thing is for government to train them in agricultural and skill acquisition. It doesn’t have to be industrial, it can be ICT so they can in turn be employers of labour. We all have this impression that immediately you graduate, you must work in an office, it doesn’t need to be so. But if they are trained in skill acquisition, they will not have to wait for white collar jobs. With diversification of the economy, Nigerians are beginning to look inward. The time has come for government to start training the youths in skills acquisition so they can come out to start practicing their trade instead of waiting endlessly for white collar jobs. There is a guy in my constituency who is very good in designing clothes, he sows all my clothes. I patronise him.
APC made lots of promises to Nigerians, with almost two years into their tenure, do you think the party can fulfil these promises?
There were so many things that slowed down the implementation of these promises but this year, they have promised the school feeding program which has started in some states, they promised to deliver 350,000 jobs, they have promised stipends in projects like N-POWER and #5,000 which has taken off in some states. These things couldn’t be started soon because there was no data base or else these things should have taken off since last year.
But the party itself, APC seems to be divided, don’t you think this will affect the fortune of the party in the next election?
The APC may be divided but it cannot be compared with the crises in the PDP, they are almost at each other’s throats. We are practicing democracy, so there must be disagreement once In a while. You just have to try and manage it before it degenerates into something else. The APC will come together and manage their differences.
Will you support the agitation for a return to regionalism?
Everything works where and when you want it to work. Nothing works where you don’t want it to work. Britain has been practicing parliamentary system for decades and it is working for them. America has been practicing presidential system of government for decades and it is working for them. It’s all about the managers. Once you do what you are supposed to do, then you get it right. The only thing I can think about our situation is that, the presidential system is very expensive. We need to moderate or cut down cost. But moving from presidential to regional or parliamentary system is not the solution for our problems. We will still have the same problems we are having unless the people at the helm of affairs manage the country well.
Talking about moderation, some have suggested that Nigeria move to unicameral legislature to cut cost instead of the bicameral we are practicing. What do you think?
It is when you want things to work that they will work. But in a place where all people think about is money before anything else, nothing will work because even a honest person that gets to the top position and sees a system that is corrupt, will get carried away in the process and join them. So this government is fighting corruption and you can see that corruption is fighting back by trying to undermine the government and making sure that things don’t work. But once there is a firm stand and the three arms of government are united, the nation will begin to work on its own. We also have to strengthen all our institutions, so that, things will work normally.
Is it possible to end corruption in Nigeria?
What it will take is for the legislature, executive and judiciary to make up their mind to fight corruption together. Why is it that it is only the executive that is fighting corruption now? Anytime the executive tries to sanitise another arm of government, you hear screams of them trying to kill that section or muzzle them. But if all the arms of government will come together to fight corruption, it will end.
Do you believe that this administration is marginalising the south east as they are saying?
Every zone is being marginalised. Let me use Lagos as an example, if Lagos generates 45 percent of the general income that goes to the federal coffers and at the end of the day, you say we should share equally among the states, then it means they are being marginalised. The best thing is for every area to keep its resources and give the center a percentage. But even at that, some people will still complain of marginalisation.
Are you suggesting that the sharing of monthly federal allocation be abolished?
Let every state keep their resources and release a percentage to the center, that way nobody will complain of marginalisation. If the south south is allowed to use its resource from oil and remit a percentage to the federal government, you will still see the same crises we are having now. This is Nigeria. We will still have problem even if the states are getting their resources to manage. Some will start saying, it is our village that the oil is coming from and so, we must get the largest share. So, either way we go about it, Nigerians will still fight each other. The people are sick. The best thing is for us to get good managers for our resources.
Should Nigeria remain as one?
Absolutely. Nigeria is only Nigeria because of its population. It is a haven for any business. Even if you sell groundnut, you will make money. The moment you break the country, that advantage has gone and what accrues to you as one entity cannot accrue again because the investment you get will be nothing compared to what a whole country makes. With 180m people, you will be able to generate more than smaller countries get. Instead of our goods being imported through the few ports we have, once the country is broken, it will now be imported from other smaller countries and you will pay more charges before you import things you get freely now. So Nigeria has no choice but to remain as one. Now people pay zero tax for something, the moment the country is divided, you will now be paying tax on everything you import.
What will it take for this year’s budget to be different from last year’s?
I think this year budget is better than last year. Last year was the first whole budget for the new government, definitely you will get mistakes here and there. It is part of growing up. The last administration had 16years to make budget. But this year’s budget is different and Nigerians will benefit more than last year.
Coming back to you, can you say that being here has afforded you the opportunity to impact on your people?
I will impact their lives but now I have not been able to do so much because there are so many things that I want to do but there is a lot of politics still going on in the house, ‘you voted for this and did not vote for that one’, they may not say it, but it is obvious. So this is affecting those of us that are on the receiving side. I hope it will stop before the end of the session so that we can start delivering the dividends of democracy to our people.