NAMDAS: Not Fair To Accuse Us Of Disloyalty To APC
As the National Assembly, especially the House of Representatives, settles down for serious legislative business after 49 days of rancour occasioned by leadership jostling, Abdulrazak Sa’ad Namdas, Deputy Chairman, Ad-hoc Committee on Media and Publicity in the House, during a chat with MOHAMMED ABUBAKAR in Abuja, denies that the face-off was designed to frustrate the new government.
How would you react to insinuations that you were rebellious against your own party? That is not the correct assessment of the situation. On the contrary, we have been vindicated as the people who really love our party.
This is because, if you look at why the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) failed, you will notice that they collapsed when they refused to allow the people to decide who represents them.
They became power drunk and were sitting in Abuja and allowing elections that should have ordinarily taken place in their constituencies to be moved to Abuja. I can cite to you many examples.
But that of my state, Adamawa, would suffice here. Both the primaries for the governorship and National Assembly elections took place in Abuja, at the old parade ground. People were using pens to write names and forward to states as their representatives.
This accounted for why the people rebelled against them because the people lost confidence in the party, its processes and procedures. APC leaders, we must admit, really worked hard to bring the party to this level and because they are also human, we knew they could also make mistakes.
We knew that they could fall into where the PDP found itself and this could cost us our seats tomorrow. This was why we felt that ab initio, the right thing they started should be continued. That is not my understanding of disloyalty at all.
We were just trying to remind our leaders of the oath we took; that it is now time to implement the oath. Let me ask: what is the anti-party thing people are talking about? In politics, anti- party activities are among some of the most serious offences that can be committed.
I canvassed and voted for a candidate who is an APC member who emerged as the Speaker and did same thing for the emergence of a Deputy Speaker who is also an APC member.
I think (that) rather than being vilified, we should be commended for strengthening the party, by insisting that the right thing had to be done. Your critics are worried that you people took Nigerians for a 49-day jolly ride, only to turn around and do what you vowed not to.
How do you react to that? Firstly, let me say, right away, that the role our President played helped in resolving the problem because some of us had not been happy with the party leaders.
They wrote a letter to the Speaker indicating names they wished to have as principal officers in the House, and we felt that we were not being carried along.
We are members of the House of Representatives and members of the caucus of our party. There is nothing wrong for our party to have consulted, first, with us on the issue. But we were not consulted.
Suddenly, we saw names. These leaders would work with us and we felt that we should, at least, have had something to say on how our leaders emerged. So, we were not very comfortable.
That was why you saw what happened. When the party continued to say, ‘this is the position of the party’, most of us are founding members of the APC and we felt that was not the way to do things.
For you to say that a particular decision is that of the party, it has to, first, go the national caucus of the party. They will go to the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, which will discuss and adopt the names.
Once this is done, it will still go to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party for ratification. And once these processes are complied with, we will then accept the decision as being of the party.
But we are aware on good authority that NWC of our party did not sit officially to take the decision on those names. The only NEC meeting that this party had was a few weeks ago, which our Speaker, the Deputy Speaker, and three members of the House of Representatives from each zones were part of.
And at that meeting, this issue was not tabled. That means, technically speaking, this was not a party position. So, we felt we should be carried along.
After all, this party made us proud by ensuring that during our primaries, it was an open contest; every thing was done transparently. Those who won knew they worked for it and those who lost accepted the results happily, which even accounted for why we had reduction in the number of post election litigations.
We felt that kind of transparency we started with should continue because that was the basis of the change that is currently sweeping across the country. When we saw that the party was deviating, we resisted.
But, thank God, because the President, being a very seasoned administrator, used good words to appeal to us, pleading with us to resolve the issues amicably.
He assured that the party must consult with us. Now, if a leader talks in that kind of tone, which is not dictatorial, used very civil words as he did, you will find it difficult, as a follower, to continue with the hardline posture.
That was the only time, so far, that the President pleaded with us. As far as I’m concerned, the first time I met with the President was during our induction and he never asked us any favour.
It would not have been fair for us to remain adamant. This paved the way for the meeting between our leaders, here, and the party leaders. What you now see was a product of the consultation that took place thereafter.
No one can, therefore, say Mr. Xyz brought me in. Related to this is the fear that your last minute compromise could whittle down your ability to remain independent. Let me correct this impression, here.
This is not a compromise. Let me take you back to how our Speaker emerged. The party had invited us to a meeting and when we got there, we were told that part of the agenda of the meeting was a straw election to be conducted among the aspirants for the post of Speaker.
Suddenly, we smelt a rat in that decision and said it was not the best way. This is because we felt that for you to conduct such an election, we needed to be given enough notice, and nobody did that.
So, we could not agree with that decision. But our leaders insisted, which prompted most of us to walk out on the arrangement. It was not as if we disobeyed them, rather, we felt that the right thing should be done.
Even if we were to hold such election, there should be enough notice to enable people mobilise their supporters to that kind of meetings. Hon. Dogara, on the basis of this, stood his ground.
As you know, even Section 50 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, says leaders of the National Assembly should emerge through an election conducted by the lawmakers among themselves on the floor of the National Assembly.
We told our party that the election would be between Hon. Dogara and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila who are both members of the APC. So, there was no point for any straw election, as they are equal members of the party.
If we got to the floor, whoever among them emerged is APC. The party refused to listen to us. We, therefore, did it our own way. For those of us, who believed in the leadership of Hon. Dogara, we campaigned for him, and he won.
Our party leaders later understood why we had to do what we did and agreed with us. I want Nigerians to continue to have confidence in the National Assembly. No matter how you want to fight things, there are times you have to sit down and think about these issues.
We have done this also to avoid people thinking that we are always out to foment trouble, to heat up the system. When there are things to do through understanding, we will do so in the larger interest of our country.
After all, it is said that a good leader is the one who knows when to attack and when to retreat. Going by the current arrangement, it is obvious that the South Eastern section of the country has been shortchanged in all of this.
What do you think the party can do to correct this? Well, you see, I want to let you know that we are not happy with the development and no one will like any section of the country to be shortchanged.
But let me assure you that the party is fully aware and would take responsibility. Our President has a listening ear. He said it from the onset that he is for everybody and yet for nobody.
Besides the National Assembly leadership, there are many opportunities. The good thing about it is that this is just the beginning. In the National Assembly, the office of the Speaker has a lot of programmes.
We have some committees where we can ensure that those not yet taken care of now are taken care of. We are quite aware of the need for balancing.
Some times, as human beings, we may not be very perfect but when we achieve about 60 per cent, we should be commended. Nigerians are worried that after two months, your party is still struggling to find its bearing.
When will the people begin to reap the fruits of the change you promised? Well, like our President said, recently, the party is moving with caution, so as to avoid falling into the same mistakes as the PDP.
The President is also doing all he can to straighten things out before taking off fully. You know, when you are trying to work out something that will yield positive results, people may only focus on tangible things, the ones they can easily see and verify, but they also do not know what goes on behind the scene.
You may see things that are tangible to the human eye, but unless you are told what is going into those things you see, the tendency is that you may not be patient enough.
As you will recall, when the President was sworn in, he unveiled his three-pronged agenda: tackling insecurity; jobs creation or if you like unemployment, especially among the youth; plan to fight corruption.
He started by going to neighbouring countries to create the necessary synergy to effectively tackle the issues of Boko Haram. This took him to Chad, Niger, G7 nations, and he crowned it with his recent visit to the United States of America.
Just last week up to the weekend, he was in Cameroon and Benin Republic. These were all achieved within two months! People have seen and are beginning to appreciate his efforts in that direction.
The very transparent election we had in Nigeria has opened doors for the country in the international community. Today, nobody can undermine Nigeria.
President Obama himself cited Nigeria as a good example of a nation that is growing her democracy and urged other African leaders to emulate her, even as he charged them to avoid the temptation to sit tight.
Now, a lot of investment and investors are flowing into Nigeria. The President has done very well so far. I will, therefore, plead with Nigerians to give him time.
To govern a country of about 170 million people properly, you really need to sit down and have a proper plan. Like it is commonly said, “those who fail to plan, plan to fail”.
We have come a long way; so a little patience will do us a lot of good. It is because people are always expecting magic to happen in the first 100 days of assumption of office that leaders make mistakes.
Because the leaders want to impress the people, they rush and do projects that people can see. But after some few months, you will see that such projects begin to crack. The President has packaged himself very well and we will soon begin to see the results.
Even, here, in the National Assembly, we will support the President to achieve his desired objectives. I think that Nigerians want to be like those in front of the traffic. Because they are always in a hurry, they break traffic rules.
You said you would support the President in fighting corruption. How would you do this? Nigerians have perceived lawmakers as those who pursue their rights and perquisites and peoples who care less about others? Firstly, this was the main reason some of us believed in and supported the leadership of Hon. Dogara as Speaker of the eighth House of Representatives.
He has conveyed his legislative agenda, and part of this contains how to tackle corruption in Nigeria. Right now, we are still discussing the programme, and this is expected to be on for the next two weeks.
He also wants to introduce sectorial debates that would dwell on every section of the economy, agriculture, education, the economy, health sector etc. This will help us focus of blocking all leakages in the economy.
This would go a long way to help us tackle corruption in Nigeria. More things are ongoing and they will be unveiled soon. We have a problem of perception when it comes to the issues of the National Assembly.
I heard people saying that we have a N9bn wardrobe allowance. No matter how we try to explain, some people will not listen because they have already made up their minds.
But we will plead with the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission to publish the take home pay of every public officer, including Ministers, Governors Perm Secs. Local Govt. Chairmen etc., and you will see that what the lawmakers get is nothing compared to others.
We are members of the House of Representatives and members of the caucus of our party. There is nothing wrong for our party to have consulted, first, with us on the issue. But we were not consulted. Suddenly, we saw names. These leaders would work with us and we felt that we should, at least, have had something to say on how our leaders emerged. So, we were not very comfortable. That was why you saw what happened. When the party continued to say, ‘this is the position of the party’, most of us are founding members of the APC and we felt that was not the way to do things
I have a professor who is with us now in the National Assembly and he openly told us that he has regretted jumping from his ivory tower plum job to take up a new role as legislator. This is because there is no difference between what he was earning then and now.
When these things are published, the truth will be revealed. Only recently, the President, his Vice and some state governors announced 50 per cent reduction in their pay.
How soon would Nigerians see similar gestures from members of the National Assembly? Let me remind you of something that you perhaps know already, even the National Assembly budget has been slashed from N150bn to N120bn.
This means that N30bn is off already. That is also a cut. This money services both the Senate and House of Representatives. The erroneous belief over the years has been that this money is shared among the lawmakers and they now crucify the lawmakers on the basis of these figures.
This is not so. Inside the National Assembly, you have the bureaucrats or civil servants, National Assembly management and all of that. They draw their salaries from this same budgetary allocation. Every legislator has five aides.
My senior legislative aide is on level 16 while that of a Senator is on grade level 17. They all draw their salaries from this budget. In the entire executive arm of government, only two persons are elected, and that is the President and his Vice.
You do not even get to see the President and the Vice President. But in the legislative arm, we are 469, both in the Senate and House of Representatives and each of us i accountable to his or her constituency, on daily basis.
I do not have a policeman that blocks people that come to see me. I do not need a control unit to call my line. You will get it direct. These are the issues. We all have constituencies that we maintain and my people will walk to the place with all their complaints and problems for me to solve.
The moment you are elected as a lawmaker, people will shift all their problems to you and you cannot run away from them because you will need to go back and seek their votes again.
What we do as legislators, I can tell you that even ministers don’t do them. You see, I am not just here to defend us because some people have made up their minds about who we are, but we will continue to do our best.
How many people can reach Mr. President? Not even me as a legislator can reach my President easily, but the poor woman in my village can pick her phone and call me direct and I am under obligation to attend to her if I still want to remain relevant in my constituency.