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Oloriegbe: Universal participation in elections allows better representation

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Dr. Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe is the Senator representing Kwara Central Senatorial District at the 9th Senate session of the National Assembly. He replaced the former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki who hails from the same Senatorial District as Oloriegbe. At present, Oloriegbe, a medical doctor turned  politician is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health. The Ilorin-born politician elected some one and a half years ago under the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) told reporters in Ilorin of the need to strengthen the nation’s health sector along the lines of strategic locations of hospitals and infectious diseases control centres. Besides, he spoke on other sundry issues especially on political developments in Kwara State after the exit of Saraki from the mainstream politicking. ODUN EDWARD was there.

What has been your role to your constituents as the Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in view of the status of your predecessor, Dr Bukola Saraki who served in a higher capacity as the President of the Senate?
The functions of legislators world wide are basically three; which are legislation, oversight and representation. In lieu of this, the assessment of any legislator should be based on his performance in these three areas. However, it should be noted that a legislator’s role and function is the most misunderstood in Nigeria particularly in Kwara Central Constituency where the legislator comes from. This can be attributed to a number of factors. Basically, the fact that many years of Nigeria’s post Independence has been under the military rule which makes the citizens to recognise and understand government from the executive roles and responsibilities as the Local Government Areas (LGAs), states and federal were under unelected executive functionaries.

Under democratic dispensation, majority of citizens do not understand the difference between an elected legislator and an elected executive position holder in terms of roles and functions.

Now to a leg of your question, in Kwara Central, the position of the Senator for the constituency in the last 40 years had been under the direct or indirect control of one family who dictated what happened to all office holders in government and determined all that happened in governance. Hence, the citizens were and still not able to differentiate between the roles and responsibilities of particular office holders. The situation was worst in the last eight years where the occupant of the senatorial seat was the ‘god father’ of all political office holders in the state and all things were done in his name and attributed to him. So, I hope my people will understand these situations very well and know the real functions and duties of a legislator. I used more of innuendos because there is no need for name or character assassination.

I had within this short period of time moved at least nine motions, sponsored six bills, co-sponsored 13 bills, contributed to over 10 debates on bills and motions by other Senators. Besides, during the period under review, I was able to facilitate job opportunities to my people, and influenced some landmark projects to my Constituency. The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic really stalled many of my programmes for them. But as a politician with passion for people, we rolled out some palliative measures for them during the lockdown, just as we provided them with some preventive measures against COVID-19, running into some millions of naira. By God’s grace, more of democratic dividends are still coming their ways.

You moved the first motion in the 9th Senate on July 2, 2019. What motivated the motion, christened, ‘The Need to Strengthen Security at the Nigerian Airport’?
The reason basically stemmed out of a great concern for adequate security at the nation’s airports particularly for Muslim faithful who  periodically travel to Saudi Arabia for Hajj and Lesser Hajj. The subject of the motion was also relevant to my people at home as majority of them are muslims who often engage in either religious or business undertakings outside Nigeria. The key background to the motion was the wrongful arrest and conviction of two Nigerian citizens for drug trafficking based on detection of hard drugs in their luggage. More investigations into the matter revealed that some unscrupulous persons at the airport planted the banned substances. The resultant effect of the motion was the strengthening of security at Nigeria International Airports and such sad incident has, in the recent times, reduced. Some of my other motions include the urgent need to make the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) work for Nigerians. This promptly led to the appointment of a new Executive Secretary for the NHIS and accelerated consideration of the NHIS reform bill sponsored by me. 

By God’s grace, I moved another motion for the urgent need to transfer back to the Federal Ministry of Health (FMO) the responsibility/authority to process all its procurement activities. The executive arm of government has returned the procurement functions back to the FMO. I  had within the last two years sponsored six bills among which are: The Mental Health and Substance Abuse Bill, 2019 (SB66) awaiting committee report; Psychiatric Hospital Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020 to establish Federal Psyhchiatry Hospital in Budo Egba, Kwara State (SB376) at First Reading and Federal College of Complementary and Alternative Medicine of Nigeria Bill, 2020 (SB394).

Your party, APC especially at the state level had been enmeshed in crisis since the end of the last general elections. It was rumoured in some quarters that there is no love lost between the state Governor and the Chairman of the party in the state.
Don’t you think the development could stifle democratic growth in the state if left unresolved?

The ‘tsunami’ like revolution that swept off the old political order in the state was unleashed without any visible arrow head, who could have served as the leader of the group. Instead, leaders of various groups fought the battle at their levels and with their own tactics. The method was a very good one because we were all fighting our common opposition at the same time from all fronts. But it had its own backlash effects at the end I must confess to you. As usual, each of these leaders started asserting his or her rights to everything concerning the party and governance. We saw the problem nevertheless as a family problem that was not unexpected. But the good news is that we have been able to resolve the crisis because we have no alternative than to come together as an entity. In Kwara APC today, many aggrieved persons have been assuaged and others too will soon see the party as the only way out of subjugation and exploitation.

What is your view on whether or not the nation should use Electoral College for its next Presidential Election in order to reduce costs of conducting elections in Nigeria?
As a student of Political Science, I believed that the history of Nigeria is awashed with numerous experimental political systems. In fact, there seems to have  been no system of governance that had not been tried in this country before now. I believe that what we are doing at present is still the very best we should stick to, considering our heterogeneous identities as a nation. Universal participation in elections gives more representation. We are not yet matured to going for Electoral College system.

In Nigeria, political god fatherism will not allow it to work. The desperate Presidential candidates could just walk up to these god fathers  and induce them monetarily to in turn influence their god sons at the National Assembly, if they are there, to vote along a particular way. This will drastically reduce people’s participation in governance and return us to the government of the few rich Nigerians. I will be on the side of the proponents of Universal Electoral College. What we need to do is to infuse more technological know-how into our Electoral system to reduce costs of conducting Elections in our country.


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