Bamidele: 10th Senate will avoid repeat of Saraki episode
Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, who represents Ekiti Central Senatorial District at the National Assembly, was the Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary and Legal Matters in the Ninth Senate. The former Lagos Commissioner in this interview with
AYODELE AFOLABI speaks on the tussle for the leadership of the 10th Senate and other issues of national importance
Few days to the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly, the zoning of the principal officers by the APC is yet to be accepted by some lawmakers-elect. Are you not worried that the 2015 scenario might repeat itself?
I thank you for your interest in our matters and when I say ‘our matters’ it concerns me just as it concerns each and every one of you because it’s a national project. The 10th Senate to me humbly promises to be a much more organised National Assembly than people might imagine. Let me put it that way.
There is no doubt in the fact that the party has taken a decision and it’s a decision that cannot be said to have gone well with everybody or everyone involved. In every democracy, the minority will always have their say while the majority will have their way. As far as I am concerned, I believe that what is playing out is a situation where some interests that feel not being carried along in the decision made by the party are protesting, which is normal.
Protestation is an integral aspect of democracy itself. What the APC has done in zoning positions to different political zones is not an exclusive preserve of the party. It’s not anything unusual; it’s not anything unheard of. It is consistent with global best practice in advanced democracies around the world.
Back home in Nigeria, definitely even the minority parties will still do their zoning because principal offices also exist for minority parties. Out of the 10 principal positions, four of them will go to the minority; which is the minority leader, deputy minority leader, minority whip and deputy minority whip. As for me, the fact that our party has come up with a zoning formula and some people are not happy about it is still part of the game.
What is most important is the ability and sincerity of the leadership of the party and the President, as the leader of the party, to ensure proper dialogue among different stakeholders and negotiate where it is necessary to ensure that no geo-political zone is left behind and no strong or relevant stakeholder is left behind
The party is doing that. There have been a number of meetings and I know more meetings will still be held before the inauguration. The whole essence of this is to bring all stakeholders to a round table and to further review this situation and explain things to ourselves. Nobody is going to take chances when it comes to having the right leadership for the National Assembly. But it’s a process and I think the zoning itself, the protest and everything going on are all part of the process but we will arrive somewhere.
President Bola Tinubu is just a few days in the saddle but Nigerians are grumbling about the subsidy removal and the hike in the price of petrol. What is your take on this and how do you think the government can quickly address the pains Nigerians are passing through at the moment?
Well, I congratulate President Bola Ahmed Tinubu that this decision was taken ahead of his resumption of office. Tinubu as the new president did not take this decision. The Ninth Assembly, working with former president Muhammadu Buhari, had passed the 2023 budget, and in that budget, provisions were only made for oil or fuel subsidy until June 2023. In other words, whether Tinubu talked about it or not, in our budget, there would have been no money, not one naira to fund fuel subsidy beyond June 2023.
So, all that the president has done was to bring this issue to the fore by letting Nigerians know that not just that fuel subsidy will be removed, but also sincerely tell people that fuel subsidy is gone because that’s the truth. What is left for our president and his administration is to be able to show capacity, show a scientific understanding of what is to be done as the way forward. There must be some crucial approach to this.
Fuel subsidy was a scam. It was not in the interest of the masses of our country. It was not the people who were benefiting from this so-called fuel subsidy. It was just a cabal of oil marketers and big players in the oil and gas industry that were profiting from this whole thing. And these are the same people behind even some of these protests that are going on; they will fund these protests.
But you know, what is most important is that the government must be ready to descend from its Olympian height to the level of explaining things to the people so that they can understand. I know Nigerians will understand with this new administration if they are made to understand what is actually going on. I know the government is in the process of doing this.
There are all manners of engagement going on with the stakeholders, like the Nigeria Labour Congress, an organised labour circle. There are engagements with the civil society; there are engagements with the top echelon of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, the media, and all those who need to know so that we can all work together in letting Nigerians know that at the end of the day, all these artificial scarcity being created by oil marketers, all these attempts to take advantage of this development by making the pump price much higher than what we can afford, are things that will come down.
They are going down and by the law of velocity, whatever goes up must come down. And I think it’s a matter of a few days or weeks and the market will stabilise and Nigeria will be the better for it.
Finally, how will you access Governor Biodun Oyebanji’s administration using his six points agenda in the last 200 days?
I will say so far so good, he has demonstrated capacity in building consensus with different stakeholders.
He has demonstrated capacity in ensuring that he did not inherit the liability of the previous administration, either in terms of public perception or in terms of engagement with stakeholders across board in Ekiti. He has not only inherited the strength of the previous administrations, he has refused to inherit the negative vibes that people might have against them and I think all of these are coming together for him.
Personally, I’m impressed with what we have seen. He has shown that he understands what it takes to relate with the people as a leader. He has shown that he understands what it takes to govern even with the limited resources that are available, defining the priorities of the people, paying workers their salaries, ensuring that pensioners are not left to live in misery and also ensuring that minimally within what is available, the infrastructural development within the state does not stop. So for me, all of these can only go to show that he understands what it takes to govern and by the grace of God, we will give him all the support that he needs.