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When stakeholders parleyed on nation’s plight
Honourable Opeyemi Bamidele recently celebrated his 49th birthday anniversary with a lecture on ‘Legislating in Trouble Times’. Adewale Ajayi was there and brought the reports of the event.
WHILE the myriads of problems confronting the nation have created much fear and concern for Nigerians, the misfortune of the nation has become a topic of public discourse by many Nigerians who are concerned on finding a way round these problems. One of such Nigerians is the chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Budget and Research, Honourable Opeyemi Bamidele who dedicated the occasion of his birthday celebration to discuss issues affecting the country and proffer solutions to the numerous problems bedevilling it. This has been an annual ritual, and according to Bamidele, he considers the occasion as his modest way of lifting the country up, rather than use it as an occasion to wine, dine and make merry .
Speaking at the fifth annual lecture, which was to mark his 49th birthday, he noted that it gave him pleasure and accomplishment to see the occasion of his birthday celebration as an avenue to proffer solutions to Nigerian problems and fashion a way out of the problems, adding that it also afforded him the opportunity to give an account of his stewardship in the National Assembly in the last one year .
Speaking at the occasion, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), commended Bamidele for showing concern about the plight of the nation and that it was an indication that he had goodwill , adding that if men of goodwill like him are in abundance in the country, the nation would be a better place for all .
Chief Babalola, who chaired the occasion, noted that many of the problems facing the country were a direct result of the lopsidedness in the 1999 Constitution, and that was so because the constitution was the creation of the military without any input of the civil populace .
He stressed that the process of constitution making anywhere in the world was all-encompassing and particularly so in countries with diverse ethnic background like Nigeria. “The process of constitution making anywhere in the world is all encompassing. This is particularly more so in countries like ours such as the United States of America or Australia with diverse ethnic nationalities .”
Speaking on the topic “Legislating in Troubled Times; National Assembly and Challenges of Legislating for Good Governance in Nigeria “, Professor Kunle Ajayi, Head of the Department of Political Science, Ekiti State University, chided the National Assembly for shirking its responsibilities, adding that the arm of government had not done well in overcoming the nation’s hard times and improving the socio–economic conditions of the voters whom they were representing .
He added that the electorates should be blamed for the woes that befell them in terms of the leadership they get because they had the opportunity to choose leaders who could best represent their interest. ”We get poor leadership and bad representatives when we compromise and sell our conscience at the poll.”
Shedding more light on the shortcomings of the National Assembly, Chief Babalola stated that many of the problems afflicting the country today required far-reaching solutions which many in the National Assembly and even states Houses of Assembly might not be able to consider dispassionately. “They include reversion to the former regional structures, a reduction in the number of states, adoption of six zones for 36 states and adoption of parliamentary system of government; unicameral or bicameral system’’, he said .
He maintained that a way out of the constitutional logjam was to convene a national conference and discuss the term of living together as Nigerians. But he was disappointed that the greatest opposition to the convocation of that conference had been from the National Assembly. “Interestingly, the fiercest opposition to the idea of the conference or constituent assembly has come from the National Assembly. I use the adjective “fiercest “as opposed to “strongest “ in realisation of the fact that the opposition to an idea might be fierce whilst the ground of opposition itself might still be weak .
“The President of the Senate, David Mark has in particular been vocal in his opposition to the idea of the conference calling it the voice of vocal minority .” Chief Babalola stated. He hinted the audience that the call for a sovereign conference cut across all the geopolitical zones in the country, and that it was evident in the call made by the leaders and interest groups from those areas. He described the statement of the Senate President as pre-emptory .
The legal luminary urged members of the various legislative arms across the country to be objective in carrying out their duties and ensure they rise above partisan interest on issues or matters of legislation. They should, according to him, allow their conscience to guide them on matters affecting the nation such as the call for a new constitution and all problems affecting the security, law and order as well as the property and lives of Nigerians .
Chief Babalola, who took a swipe at the various probes carried out by the House of Representatives, wondered what had come out of the various reports emanating from such probes Making a case for the legislative arm of government, Honourable Moruf Fatai said too much pressure on the legislative arm of government by members of the public did hinder them from giving their optimal performance. He maintained that if they were not saddled with additional responsibilities like providing social amenities for the public, and they were allowed to face the legislative business solely, there would have been an impressible performance from them.
Chipping in his view, Oba Ademola Ajakaiye, the Oluyin of Iyin Ekiti, indicted the state assemblies for failing to live up to expectations in the discharge of their duties, stressing that in most cases, the state lawmakers have been pocketed by the executive arm of government. Citing an example, he said though it was admitted that some state governors were doing well in terms of service delivery, that should not hinder the legislative arm from probing and determining the cost of the contracts being executed. He maintained that state assemblies oversight function had never been put to test .
The celebrant, in his remarks, gave account of his stewardship and promised his constituents that he would not renege on the promises made on them when he was canvassing for their votes, part of which was that he would donate his salaries for the development and provision of the needs of members of his constituency. This, he said,has been doing by setting up advisory allocation committee managed by people of impeccable character and the committee was headed by Oba Ajakaiye.
In further demonstrating his commitment to fulfilling promises he made during campaigns, he distributed cheques worth N15.7 million to 331 people as endowment fund, while books were distributed to 62 secondary schools which made up the entire senatorial zone. He explained that he decided to reach out to the entire senatorial zone because his initial plan was to go to the Senate and he did promise to reach out to them if elected. He noted that even though he won the ticket of his party to go to the Senate, he was prevailed upon to step down for another candidate, adding that this would not deter him from making good his promise.
The event, though well attended by friends of Bamidele from across the nation, was devoid of a birthday cake. He said he decided not to cut a cake, as a way of mourning one of his mentors when he was a student at Obafemi Awolowo University, Mr Christopher Fajemifo, who died in an accident of recent.
Present on the occasion were former governor of the old Ondo State, Evangelist Bamidele Olomilua, Chief Tunde Awe, Biodun Akinfasaye, Dayo Akinlaja, Dr Sanya Awosan, Honourable Bimbo Daramola and Honourable Oye Ojo, among others.Share