No Going Back On South West Integration, Says Ekiti Speaker

September 6, 2012

ADEWALE OMIRIN, Speaker, Ekiti State House of Assembly, is the Vice Chairman, South West Conference of Speakers. In this interview with journalists in Ado-Ekiti, he speaks on the gains of South West integration agenda, ACN desire to win Ondo governorship poll and the party’s alliance talks with CPC. Our Correspondent YAOQUB POPOOLA was there. Excerpts;

There have been agitations from some quarters on the need for Sovereign National Conference, with members of the National Assembly dismissing the demand on account of the country having a democratic government. What is your view on the issue?

The fact remains that members of the National Assembly cannot write constitution. They can only amend. We cannot continue to be panel beating all the time. That is why some of us are feeling that we should sit down together and write our own constitution that is not going to be subjected to amendments every year. But members of the National Assembly are seeing it in a different way because I have heard some of them saying it is like usurping their job.  But I think we need it because we know they cannot write constitution. They can only amend because the constitution we are operating was fostered on us by the military and we have been amending and amending it.  So, I think the National Assembly got it wrong. These are two different things entirely. They are there to amend the constitution; they are there to make law or outright cancelation of any law. Those are the three functions the House of Assembly and the National Assembly can do. They make, amend or unmake.  Those are the three functions of the legislators as well as the over sight. They are not empowered to write constitution. It is only the constituent assembly that can do that and as long as we don’t have that, we would continue to panel beat this constitution.

There have been attempts by South West ACN governors for regional integration. As the Vice Chairman of the Conference of Speakers in the zone, how do you think your group could be of assistance to the project?

The regional integration agenda was masterminded by our governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and the inauguration meeting took place in Ado-Ekiti. Even the governor of Ondo, Olusegun Mimiko, was in attendance.  Regional integration is about improving the economy of the southwest, improving the standard of living of the south westerners by cooperation among the states. The role the legislators can play in this regional integration is just providing the enabling laws that can support what the governors are doing. Secondly, the legislators are closer to the grassroots. We were elected by different constituents; so we have a role of going home and letting the local people know what the south west is planning. In effect, we can mobilize our local people to support what the governors are doing from different states.  We held a meeting in Lagos with the technical committee on the southwest integration committee agenda about three weeks ago. These were some of the views we made known  to them; that we as speakers were ready to call a south west parliamentary conference where all speakers, all the legislators would come together and make laws that would back what the governors are saying. We also promised that we would go to our different constituencies and talk to our members to let them know the development agenda for the southwest.  The governors are looking at a situation where the oil will not come. If you look at it, since the south west started the regional integration we have been having regional summit springing up from different areas. Initially they thought it was a plan for secession but they have now seen that what we are planning is on how to develop our area.  We are looking at how you can move agricultural product from Ekiti to Lagos within two and half hours.  Lagos hasn’t got land for agriculture. They can come to Ekiti State and acquire land and produce food. These are some of the issues we are looking at; that states can partner themselves to develop south west.

What actually are you going to do to give it a legal backing?

We are planning the southwest parliamentary conference where all the speakers, all the assembly members in all the Houses of Assembly will come together and bring out a law that will support the southwest integration agenda.  The problems we are having is financial constraint and this one cuts across virtually all states now because, initially the budget for this year was based on $75 benchmark but the National Assembly reduced it to $72 and the governors have been paid with that $75. So they are deducting it. In Ekiti State, they have deducted N200 million with the last allocation. It is going to continue like that till the next four months. Because of this financial constraint, our plan to call this regional parliamentary conference will be a little beat delayed until the finances of the states improve.  But, I can assure you we would do that as soon as possible.

 

People have been advocating inclusion of this regional arrangement in the on-going constitution amendment. What is your take on this?

Anybody in the south west would support that, because ideally we don’t depend on oil or any region to develop our region.  You know when Awolowo was in charge of this place, we were always at the forefront of all development and we still believe we can replicate that with the kind of governors we have in the southwest.  Look at what Fayemi, is doing in Ekiti State; go to Osun State and see what Aregbesola is doing. So, anybody from the southwest, any right thinking man or woman from the southwest will support that this regional integration should be enshrined in the constitution. That will give us the legal backing to developed our own region without the federal government thinking some regions are planning to secede from the country.

How do you reconcile regional integration to agitation for state creation?

Agitation for states creation is not the same thing as regional integration. It is because of lack of development in some areas that some people are agitating for their own state. For example, when we were under Ondo State, Ekiti was under developed and we thought the only way we could have rapid development in Ekiti State was to have our own state. This is what is happening in other areas where they are looking for states. For example, in the South East, they are agitating for state because their feeling is that they have been short changed. Every region has six states but their region has five states. So they want one state to be created so that they are all at par. But regional integration is developing the region.  We want to develop the whole region – Ondo, Oyo, Ogun, etc including Delta. From history, you know that Delta and Edo are referred to as old Western Region. So, we are still thinking along that part. Though Delta may not go with us, Edo is likely. But Oshiomhole has not attended any of our meetings. What we are planning is taking Edo into consideration. One of the things we agreed at the last meeting was to make efforts to bring Ondo and Edo in. Ondo State is not with us because of the political situation but I am praying to God that after the election, we would have a change of guard from Ondo State.

Still on the regional integration; you said you are intending to bring Ondo State in.  Is it in terms of party or the person in government, given that the day it was launched, Ondo State governor was here as part of the governors that came for the inaugural meeting? 

Yes, we are trying to bring Ondo State in as a party member, not a person in government.  ACN is contesting election there and by the grace of God we are sure of winning that election.  As far as I am concerned, Mimiko is a colleague. He is a medical doctor like me; he is a brother. I have nothing against him.  There is no way a single state can stand out in the south west.  It cannot be an island in the south –west. We all believe, we should all be in a single party which we have been practicing all over the years and it has been helping the state. The few years we said we were in the mean stream, was a disaster to the south westerners.  In my mind and the minds of all the progressives in the south west, we would capture Ondo State and bring it in as ACN state.

You said a state cannot stand out alone in the south west. For years, Lagos State was the only ACN in the south west. So, how do you reconcile this statement and this regional integration if it is exclusively reserved for people from the same party? Don’t you think that it would tend to unitary system of government, which is against the tenets of democracy?

Like I said when we started, when this meeting was inaugurated, Governor Mimiko was in attendance and if we were thinking of only ACN states, he wouldn’t have been invited to that meeting but now we are in the political period and when it comes to politics no politician jokes with his party. No matter how friendly you are to anybody, the moment you are in opposing parties, when it is time for election, the aim of anybody is to win and that is why I am saying we are hoping to bring Ondo State in as ACN state. Mimiko can still be part of the regional integration. He can still be part like he has been but the aim and our prayer is that we are going to defeat his party. ACN is going to win the election in the state.

Why not make the regional integration agenda an institutional thing?

You see, we have been in politics for years now. Even before coming into politics some of us had seen what was happening in the south west.  We have gone into the mean stream twice and the two times we’ve burnt our fingers.  South Westerners are progressives and whatever they are doing, you find out that some of these developments we are having are under progressive governments in the region. Whatever you want to do in governance, if you back it with appropriate law, no governor will come back and change it but if you do it without the appropriate law in place, the next governor will come either abandon it or cancel it out rightly. That is why we are saying that this regional integration must be backed by appropriate laws. We are even supporting that it should be enshrined in the constitution, so that no governor will come tomorrow and say he wants to cancel it.  We believe it is for the good of everybody.  We are not driving away other party members. If they want to come in, they are completely free to come in; they are part of the westerners and whatever is happening in the western states will benefit their children and their families. So, there is no way we would want to exclude them.  Rather than the PDP and the other parties joining us now, they see something wrong with the regional integration.  What we are saying is that if this regional integration is established and is backed by appropriate laws, no governor would come and cancel it. If it is another party in government, they have to continue from where they met it.

There is this talk of alliance between your party and CPC. Can this alliance stand?

You may be wrong to think that this alliance cannot stand but I am very optimistic that this alliance will stand.  If you look at what is happening in the country, virtually everybody is fed up with what we are witnessing in the country. If you have had the opportunity of going outside to countries that are not even up to our size and see what is happening there, this alliance will work.  It is meant to correct so many things and put the country in the right direction.\S

Last modified: September 6, 2012

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