Senator Abiodun Olujimi representing Ekiti South is Deputy Minority Whip of the Senate. In this interview, the former Deputy Governor of Ekiti State bares her mind on the governorship election in Ekiti State and some burning national issues.
There is controversy over the rejection of $350 million World Bank loan for Kaduna State by the Senate. As a principal officer of the chamber, why was the request turned down?
If you listened to the argument brought by the senators from Kaduna, they said the money would not be properly utilised. We should not be taking loans just for the sake of it. Loans should be taken for genuine reasons and, in this particular case, the reason this loan should be taken are not there. If you have three senators from Kaduna, one presented it without saying a word and the two others were against it, what that implies is that the state did not really need the money because, if the state needed the funds, they would have called their senators, spoken to them no matter which political divide they were and the state government should be on the same page with legislators who are important to the passage of the loan request.
Some senators have argued that the election reorder bill was targeted at the president. What is your perspective?
How will you use a legislation to target one person? What about tomorrow? For those saying it is targeted at the president, I think it is the figment of their own imagination and unless they know something that we don’t know. If you will remember, that was the order for which elections were held in the past. It is nothing new. We are just following the old order. When we had that, people were not jumping ship anyhow because the minute the National Assembly elections were done; there was nothing else anyone who failed there could jump to. You couldn’t jump to go and become Assembly member, governor or President because those were sealed and we thought it will bring sanity back into the system whereby people won’t be jumping ship.
What you found is that the minute the president was elected because people believe it will be bandwagon, people were always willing to just start moving from one party to the other and they disrupted the entire political landscape. So, the new thinking was if we do it that way, it will put paid to jumping ship. Everybody will remain in his or her party and work for the election of the president. That way, it makes sense and the political parties will be stronger for it. So, what is wrong in it? Except those against it are saying the president cannot win if his election does not come first or other members of the party will not win if the president does not win. If that is what they are saying, then it will make sense. Other than that, it doesn’t make sense at all. And you couldn’t make a law to target one person, what about tomorrow?
What do you make of the interference of the judiciary in this election reordering issue?
For me, that was wrong because there is separation of powers. It is within the purview of the legislation to do certain things as enshrined in the constitution. The legislature was following that path and the judiciary should have maintained that also. It is still a Bill; it is not yet an Act. Until it becomes an Act, the judiciary has no say on it. But as lawmakers, you can’t stop us from going through the Bill. I believe the judiciary will still do justice and I believe the judgment will be done in such a way that the separation of powers will be recognised.
There are reports that about 65 senators have already appended their signatures to override the president’s veto. How true?
That is just hearsay. You know, they need to fly a kite for people to feel they are working. In that Senate, we are so united that getting that kind of number cannot be easy at all.
Why is the Senate shifting the passage of the budget to the end of May?
Most of the MDAs were laidback. They didn’t bring their budget for defence. And if you don’t defend it, how will the people in charge know what you are going to use the funds for? When this government was coming in, they were very high on ‘we are going to do zero budgeting’. It is difficult for you to fault zero budgeting but that’s the problem of electioneering. When you are campaigning you say lots of things and you get to the place and see that what you said is not realistic. They have seen that actually, it is tough to embark on zero budgeting because most of the MDAs don’t really have a clear vision of what they want to do.
So, the envelope system allows them to be able to in-between look at projects and be able to quickly get them done. So, there is no zero budgeting. When there is no zero budgeting, you must scrutinise everything that comes so that you don’t go and put money aside for something that will never be done and things that should be done will now be starved. So, that is the reason for the scrutiny. The MDAs just got laidback but in the last one week, I think about 50 of them came in because they were given a deadline and a timeframe. So, they have been rushing to come for budget defence.
What is the situation in Ekiti PDP? We understand Governor Ayo Fayose is trying to talk to you and others who are opposed to his nomination of his deputy as his successor. How true is that?
No, he has not spoken to any of us. He is still talking to his deputy. Up till now, he has not spoken to any of us. Yes, we had a meeting and the leaders of the party tried to broker a peace and they did well. But then, the governor went back and continued what he said he will not do. Up till now, nothing else has been said. So, we are still where we are.
What advice can you give to women who are shying away from politics?
Women must come in. if they don’t come in, they must not complain of marginalisation. It is not an easy road to travel but if you don’t come in and you complain, I find it very annoying because except you throw your hat into the ring and put your feet into this hot water, you really cannot do anything for your constituents or society. You can’t speak up and your voice cannot matter. Women must come in.
We are trying to fight for a space for them. We are trying to legislate for them to have a percentage where they can be sure that they can participate but it has been tough because the people who are fighting are also very few and marginalised. Look at the senate, just seven of us among 109. How can you fight for your gender if you don’t even have up to 20 senators? – Culled from Vanguard.