Hon Orker Jev is representing Buruku federal constituency of Benue State and is the chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business in the House of Representatives. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, he explains why the Senate President must not come from the majority party, among other issues.
Why did you and some members leave the APC?
First, I wasn’t surprised that some members defected including myslef. I was elected on the platform of PDP in 2007 and by then PDP had been in power for nearly 10 years. The impunity was already being noticed but PDP had a way of resolving issues that was commendable. Anytime there is an act that is untoward, they will call the members in such a way that will make one feel safe and appreciated. It’s just that people started getting power drunk. It was that attitude that made people like me and others to leave the PDP. I hope that lessons would have been learnt by the PDP. APC was supposed to pick up from the inadequacies and excesses of the PDP. The APC came and many of us joined them and it was the first time an opposition was taking over power in Nigeria at the federal level. The excitement and expectations were there. I told people when we were campaigning that with Buhari as president, Nigeria will be a better place. That with the level of his experience, he will not allow Nigeria to derail. A picture of mine propped up recently on the social media of when Buhari won the elections. I shed tears of joy when he was sworn in. But less than a year after that, we started seeing different things. A lot of things that we thought will be corrected were not. It became business as usual. Two years later, the arrogance of power sets in. So, when you complained of things that were not done right and you want them corrected, you are labelled a looter. If you agree with the government, no matter your past and the things you have done, you become a saint. That label of being a looter was used to splash on people, who disagree with the government. Because of that arrogance in the government and the administration of the party, people started feeling that, that was no what they bargained for. We all made what is known as the APC. I know what we did in my little corner at Buruku so that APC will succeed. It’s not as if one man came and made it possible for APC to be in place. I know it was just a matter of time that the center will not hold. I think we have arrived at that now. Even though the APC will like to brag that they are not losing sleep over the defections, but I wish them luck.
Where did the APC miss it as a party because there were reports that Mr. President had tried to wade in to the crises?
I am not so sure about the president trying to resolve the matter. But we wrote a letter and submitted to the national secretariat of the party. We were told that Mr. President wanted to meet with the group. So we went to the national secretariat and they told us they were happy that we came with our grievances, which may act as a ginger to ensure that, things will be corrected. The next stage was the vice president who was supposed to see us and take us to the president. He saw us and heard our complaints but to the best of my knowledge, things were stagnated at that level. We heard from the media that the president was not prepared to meet with our group. Maybe they thought like the PDP, that, if we leave the party, that will be the end of our career until they saw the reality. I think they missed it right from the word go because they came on the platform of change. But the way it is, it looks like this change is worse than what we fought for.
Some have called on the current leadership of the National Assembly to resign over the gale of defections…
That is politics but I don’t think that will work.
But why will the Senate President and his deputy remained on their seats now that they are in a minority party?
If you look at the rules, there is no place it says you must be in the majority party to be a Speaker or the Senate President. What prevails is that you have to be in the majority party before you can be majority leader or chief whip. You have to belong to the minority party before you can be a minority leader or their deputies. Even if you are alone for example in the House like we have only one member from SDP, if the members by majority decides that he will be the Speaker, he will be the Speaker. You become a Speaker by virtue of majority votes. I want to assure you that, there are a lot of people in the Senate and the House of Reps, who have not crossed over but are Saraki and Dogara loyalists but because of their local politics, they will not cross over. The same thing is happening in the House, there are many APC members who will not put up their hands for the impeachment of the Speaker because they believe in his leadership.
Governor Ortom’s defection to the PDP has triggered a chain reactions with even an attempt to impeach him by eight members of the State Assembly. What is your take on this?
What is happening is that, some people are not happy that the governor has left the party. We also have internal collaborations, people who feel that without them, there should be no government in Benue state. They are collaborating with those external forces just to keep some privileges they have been enjoying at the center. Now that the governor has left the party, they are afraid that, a lot of these privileges they enjoy will be withdrawn. They feel their demigod position will no longer be there. They don’t care if you have dead bodies on the streets of Benue state. In so far as they will continue to enjoy their privileges, they will be happy. But I think that will be resisted by Benue people. We are in a democracy, not military dictatorship. If the people prefer this person to be their governor, then so be it.
The governor has also been accused of corruption and that he hasn’t done anything for the state. How true this is?
It is funny because a few weeks back, during the state congress of the APC, they adopted the governor as their sole candidate for the 2019 election. That was not too democratic but that was what they did. They adopted him and said he has performed brilliantly well. The same people are now saying he is corrupt. The man said, he is ready to be investigated because he has done no such thing. It’s funny that it is coming at a time he has left the party. This is just the character of Nigerian politics.
Are you going to seek re-election come 2019?
I was consulting with my people before we went on recess, but people will hear from me soon. Yes, my people want me to represent them at the Senate. I have been in the field doing that all this while. I hope to join a political party immediately I finished my consultations.