The Majority Leader of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Sanai Agunbiade, like most Nigerians, is not happy with the leadership crisis that has almost halted activities at the National Assembly. He speaks with EROMOSELE EBHOMELE and other journalists about this and more in this interview.
Q: How would you describe the current crisis at the National Assembly?
I want to observe that in the present day Nigeria, there is no room for independent candidacy, and whosoever is occupying any political office is occupying it on the platform of his or her political party and that pre-supposes that every individual who is a political office holder, is expected to be a loyal member of that political party on which platform he contested and there is this saying in politics that the party is supreme. The moment you join a party, you have submitted your supremacy to that political party just like individuals submit their supremacy to the country as citizens of that country, which is why the nation can decide the fate of everybody. That does not mean that Nigerians cannot change the path of Nigeria, party members can change the cause of the party, but it must be a consensus; it must not be one person riding on his horse of ambition, trampling on what the party has achieved over the years. It is a high level of party indiscipline and it is political treachery for an individual to have a secret pact with members of an opposition party with a view to ascending to a political office. No matter what pact a member of a party has with a member of an opposition, it cannot be in the interest of the party, which he belongs. There would be some undercurrent. That is what we have seen; a situation, where Senator Ike Ekweremadu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would become the Deputy Senate President, such a powerful office, is a kind of compromise. A person who is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) must have compromised to assist such a person from the opposition party to get to an office where he shouldn’t have got to. On that note, I feel that no matter how you look at it, a party should have influence, discipline and control over its members, if you don’t like the party, you should leave that party. But for someone to be in Party A to negotiate with Party B to shortchange Party A, how can we describe such a person? How can we describe such politics?
Q: But this seems like a replay of 2011 when the opposition helped Aminu Tambuwal of then PDP to become Speaker. What do you think about this?
The fact that something happened before does not mean that if it happens to somebody, we should not be critical about it. Every party has its own composition; every party has its own agenda, structure, manifestos and philosophy. No two cases are the same; every case has its own merit. This is a party that clamours for change, went to Nigerians and preached to them that we need change and that it is quite different from Party B. Whosoever says that the party should have no say about whosoever would represent it when naturally before you go for senate presidency, you have an opportunity to contest for the mock election under the party and you did not? Nobody’s name was written on the ballot paper, it was the name of the party that was there; a lot of people voted for the party though the integrity of the candidates also counts. So, we are saying if you have come a long way on the platform of a party and the party now says there is a little problem, you have to stay with the party to solve the problem; it is not by going into another party, enter into an unholy alliance with that party, the same party we are trying to remove, the party we have condemned for not having the interest of Nigerians at heart, you have an unholy alliance with them and you now have an unholy synergy. So, no matter what you do, it cannot favour your party, you’re an adulterated person; partly APC, partly PDP. Your party would say one thing, you would not want to hurt those who brought you to power. How does the manifesto of the party play out on you? How do you implement the agenda of the party? Every party comes to control power; the way forward is for everybody, who is in APC to look inward to the party machinery and party structure, there must be political discipline. You cannot say because your father offends you, then you throw stones at him.
Q: Do you look forward to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara quitting office?
The solution is not in quitting their offices, but you must be remorseful, you must be able to honestly show remorse. If you don’t accept that what you have done is wrong, you are still entangled with the party, you are showing that you are no longer a member of the party that brought you to power. You cannot claim to still be a member of the party that brought you to power if you are not loyal to that party. There is mutual distrust and this brings about suspicion. The first thing is for those who have accepted Yakubu Dogara and Bukola Saraki to be genuinely remorseful about working against the directive of the party, colluding with the opposition as a way of coming to power and doing some things that have put the party in disrepute. It is a new party, if they are genuinely remorseful, then they can sit with the party leadership to fashion a way out; every problem has a solution. But solution can only come when there is consensus and it must be between those, who brought this problem and the party leaders. The way for them is to be remorseful upon which they can now meet with the party leaders to fashion a way out. There will always be solution to every problem, but you can only fashion out the solution if there is consensus. When the two parties in the crisis are pulling the string, then there would be no solution.
Q: Do you see the leadership of the APC as being part of the crisis because they ought to have zoned the positions?
I am not one of the national leaders of the party, so I cannot say this is what they ought to have done or ought not to have done. All I know is that some people have been doing some things against the party and some people have benefited from the management of that party from the primary to the general elections. Now that the interests of some people have been affected, they now say the party does not know how to do it again. I want to believe that whatever happens within a party, the constitution of the party stands as a way of finding solution to it. You don’t go outside your house to resolve your family affair in another family. Nobody is infallible, mistakes are bound to come and nobody is perfect. So no matter what happens, your family is your family. A woman that fights her husband and goes to another family to report her husband cannot say she is still loyal to that husband. You manage your affairs within the four walls of your house. Is it good for a man to use a ladder to attain a level and throw away the ladder and use another method to attain another level when you know that you still need that ladder? It is a matter of integrity and we must not put ambition above integrity.
Q: How do we forestall a repetition of this?
I know that with what has happened, everybody must have learnt one lesson or the other; it is not an offence to make mistakes and it is not unexpected that we make mistakes. What is not expected or unpardonable is for the same mistakes to keep repeating itself. I am sure we have learnt from all of these and I am sure the leadership of the party is on top of it. With the credibility of the party leaders that we have, such a thing would not repeat itself. I am sure that APC would emerge stronger, more united, and more purposeful.
Q: Don’t you think all these are happening because APC is a party of strange bedfellows?
A lot of factors are responsible. We may not be at the centre of the real action. We may not be able to sufficiently ascribe factors to it, but when things happen, a lot of things would be said. If the same set of people could come together and defeat an incumbent President of the nation and that the strange bedfellows were able to do this, and this did not manifest in the general elections, but it is happening during this kind of election…The strange bedfellows joined together and chased away an incumbent President and that involves several millions of people, but now that we have 109 senators, and 365 members of the House of Representatives, we cannot forget our beginnings, we cannot forget how we came into being. If that did not militate against our drive of occupying Aso Rock, how is it militating against our getting to the senate presidency and the speakership of the House of Reps? What did we do then in the general elections that we cannot do in this miniature election? I just believe that the issue of ego comes in, issue of ambition comes and issue of indiscipline comes in.
Q: There have been several robbery incidents in Ikorodu. What do you think is the solution?
On the robbery incidents in Ikorodu, there are security challenges all over the world. Somebody killed an American President, does that mean the United States of America does not have adequate security? The attack of September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Centre in the U.S does not mean the country does not have adequate security. No matter the level of your security, some people are working to undermine your security. Like I told some people, it appears it was the same people that came to Ijede that went to Ipakodo. They came through the waterways and left through the waterways. I said that they know that it is not safe to come by land because the Lagos State Government has made such venture unprofitable through the roads because we have enough security gadgets on the roads. In every place, you have the armoured personnel vehicles and the security men are well equipped to do what the Federal Government ought to have done. They did not see the road as veritable medium through which they could navigate. They have now opened our eyes to the fact that we have a lot to do through the waterways. So the attention of the government will now be shifted towards securing the waterways as it has now become the avenue for men of the underworld to launch attacks against the people. The way we have done the land, the government would do the same thing on the waterways. Security is not what you discuss in public; we will continue to overhaul our security system
Q: As the Majority Leader of the 8th Assembly, what do we expect from the Assembly?
In the next four years, the House of Assembly led by the Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, who is very determined to make a positive difference and has been carrying everybody along and has given everybody sense of belonging, would do its best for the people. Immediately we were inaugurated, we went on a programme and it was meant to design an agenda for the House of Assembly. It was attended by some leaders of the House, management of the Assembly led by the clerk, the House of Assembly Service Commission led by the Chairman and some of its commissioners. We interacted and brainstormed on the agenda. I cannot speak on it now until the Speaker talks on it; he is the only person that can speak on it.
Q: What challenges have you faced on choosing the House committees and their members?
There has been no challenge on that; the committee is the mirror through which the House of Assembly is viewed; it is the image reflection of the House of Assembly, it would be round pegs in round holes. So, your capability, personality, the product of your psychoanalysis would come into play as it would be done by the Selection Committee as led by the Speaker of the House.
Q: You contested the speakership position and you later stepped down to be the Majority Leader. Were you forced to step down from the race?
Whatever happened from the time individuals showed interest in one position or the other should have been forgotten by anybody who aspired. All I can say now is that I am the Majority Leader and that other principal officers of the House have been chosen. The whole process that culminated in the emergence of the principal officers is a pleasant and healthy competition. It is natural for people to come out for any office, but one person at a time must occupy a particular office. What you get after a venture is what God wants you to get and at the end of my tenure as the Majority Leader, I want to be remembered as a person who dedicates his person and everything he is endowed with to improve on what my predecessor, Dr. Ajibayo Adeyeye, achieved as a gentleman.
Q: You recently had an religious event. What was it about?
My programme was more on the side of religion as a Muslim and a representative of the people. It is more of giving back to the society, when you look at what was involved and the crowd that came together, almost 2,000 people coming together and having to provide food and fruits and other things that went into it, you would see that it is for the people. It is also fulfilling Islamic injunction that says that during Ramadan, whoever feels God has blessed him to be able to provide food and materials with which others can break their fast should endeavour to do that. And if I do it, you do it and others do it, those who don’t have something to break their fast would not have the problem of doing so because they would be going from one place to the other to break their fast. Quran also enjoins us to come together and share the word of God as delivered by an astute Islamic scholar, Dr. Abdulateef Abdulakeem, the Chief Imam of the Lagos State House of Assembly mosque. The theme of the lecture is the ‘Strength of Faith in Man.’ I am a beneficiary of faith in everything I am doing and I know that to the level I have benefited from faith, many people can benefit from it.