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Restructuring proponents should allay fears of those opposed to it

By Rotimi Agboluaje, Ibadan
02 March 2020   |   3:46 am
The federal lawmaker representing Oyo South Senatorial District, Dr. Kola Balogun, has urged proponents of restructuring to engage those who are opposed to the concept

The federal lawmaker representing Oyo South Senatorial District, Dr. Kola Balogun, has urged proponents of restructuring to engage those who are opposed to the concept. He made the assertion after the Senate constituted the 56-man Constitutional Review Committee.

While speaking with The Guardian in Ibadan, the senator who is the Vice Chairman of Senate Committee on Youths and Sports Development and former commissioner in Oyo State, also pointed out that community policing would help address the insecurity bedeviling the country.

In the face of the winners-take-all election at the local government level and the call for the electoral umpire to conduct local governments’ election vis-a-vis the constitutional amendment, Senator Balogun said all issues that should move the country forward would be discussed. The lawmaker noted that if the current arrangement of conducting local government elections could not give the desired result, there was nothing wrong with looking to the national electoral body for salvation.

According to Senator Balogun, “On the Constitutional Review Committee, I am sure all issues will be discussed. Which one may get the nod I may not be able to tell you now. But I suspect very strongly that all issues affecting our lives in this country will be discussed. Constitutional amendment is a continuous process. This won’t be the last one. We’ll continue to tinker with our constitution. America can still wake up some day and tinker with their constitution. So, it is a lifelong process.

“On local government election, if the present arrangement is seen not to be giving us the desired result, whether it is local or federal, what we are looking for is a free, fair and credible election. Whoever can give it to us, let’s have it. The problem with us is that we still lack the necessary democratic temperament. I’m looking forward to a Nigeria where you can go out there and campaign to the people based on issues and look forward to an electorate that will vote for such candidate based issues and on what he has planned and what they think about him. Not about how much money he can give them”.

The PDP senator also commented on a statement credited to Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, who said the National Assembly should be held responsible for not restructuring the country and not the All Progressives Congress (APC), saying restructuring is an agenda in the constitutional review. The federal lawmaker, therefore, urged the proponents of restructuring to dialogue with those who do not believe in it.

Balogun said: “What the governor may be saying is that it is the responsibility of the National Assembly to tinker with the constitution. At the end of the day, the buck stops on the table of the National Assembly. And that’s why we’ve taken up the challenge at the National Assembly because the committee has been constituted and it will work on it. He’s right that it is the responsibility of the National Assembly.

“Restructuring is an agenda. I know some people who will push for it. I also know some people will oppose it. But let’s see the kind of consensus that can be built. It depends on how hard the proponents of restructuring can work. Don’t forget that the constitutional amendment doesn’t stop at the National Assembly alone. It has to go to the state level. Even the public will have a say. So, let’s see the kind of dialogue and discussion we can come up with. What we should do is to begin to understand regional perspectives. Nothing really bad about restructuring; those who have issues with restructuring, the proponents should try to explain to them and get them to key into it and alley their fears.

“To me, restructuring is not a bad idea. There is nothing wrong with restructuring. We are asking for true federalism. See what we have in America. America is a prosperous nation because of true federalism. Countries of Europe, all of them have true federalism. Generally, we have to start in one place and we’ll get there one day”.

Senator Balogun, who also spoke on some steps he had taken to ensure governance in the country brings succour to his constituents, said he had sponsored a plethora of bills and moved and supported a deluge of motions. He pointed out that community policing is the way to address insecurity in the country for which he said he has been at the forefront of sponsoring bills and motions that would help tackle the challenge. The senator emphasised that he had taken some steps before the arrival of Amotekun’s idea came on, adding that the Amotekun concept is in line with his thinking, hence he wholeheartedly supported the idea and declared himself an Amotekun Senator.

The Oyo South lawmaker said:” I believe in community policing. All crimes are local. I started working on community policing even before the Ametokun philosophy. I’d worked on that and it has passed first reading. My thinking is that if we have community police whose personnel will be trained by Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, which will be supported by local governments and Vigilante groups in different communities. Landlord associations will come together and put some resources together to buy flashlights and the likes. 

“So for me, we’re going to have security council at the local government council level because the primary goal of any government at any level is first and foremost to provide security for lives and property. If that is what they can do for the people, it is something. So very soon, it (Bill) will come up for second reading. We will take it to the public and then it will come for third reading. Hopefully, it will be passed. Just some weeks ago, we invited the Inspector General of Police to the Senate to brief us on the community policing he himself has been talking about.

“So, we will see how we can work together. Though my own concept is a little bit different from his own concept. But the most important thing is that if we could get the bill passed which I know we can do, we will have community policing. Let Civil Defence train them. Let governors fund it. But local governments will also work with community leaders, the traditional rulers, landlord associations. These set of people know the terrain; they know themselves and the people. The personnel of such an outfit will also be hired from the communities. That is up coming up. 

“I’m Amotekun Senator, because if you watch my contribution on the floor of the Senate, I cited an example of a woman that came from the U.S. for a visit. The wife, husband, two daughters were going back from Akure to Lagos; somewhere area Ile-Ife, they got kidnapped. The wife was raped in the presence of her husband. The young girl was raped in presence of her parents. The youngest one was asking what was going on here. So strange!

“Remember that the daughter of our father, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, got killed. Our respected and respectable elder statesman, Chief Olu Falae, got kidnapped and made to walk several kilometres at his age. Those were the ones that were reported. We also hear almost on a daily basis. We also have it so bad in some other areas. Go to the East; go to the West. It is commendable that governors of Southwest came together, in their own wisdom, to provide security for the lives and property of the people.

“Before Amotekun philosophy was thrown up, I was already working on community policing. So, when Amotekun came up, which is in tandem with my thinking, though on a regional level, why not see myself as Amotekun Senator? I was in the U.S. recently. I addressed town hall meetings in Dallas with some professionals, doctors, and engineers who are doing well over there. They told me that the very day they heard about Amotekun as a security outfit they became so excited and happy. Then they are looking forward to the day they would come to Nigeria for the holidays. Those who said Amotekun is a ploy to secede – we can’t secede from a country like Nigeria with that kind of outfit.
“In any case, if the Yoruba are going to secede, is it by an outfit like Amotekun? In a case, if the country is functioning, if there is economic prosperity, if there is infrastructural development, if we invest in our education and healthcare, if people are happy, nobody will secede in a country that is working. Already individually, Nigerians are seceding from this country. When you have someone who is leaving a country and even going into an impossible place like Libya when they know they may not come back. It is that bad! We also have Nigerians in the Diaspora who have vowed not to come back to the country. The lady I just talked about said when he got to the U.S. after rehabilitation, that she would not come back.

“The government must wake up to tackle the insecurity across the country. Let’s, as a government, do the needful. Invest in infrastructure, power, roads, and railway transportation. Let’s make people happy. Let’s make the country inviting foreign investors, even for local investors. No investor will put his money where he would lose his money. So, I’m Amotekun Senator, because I really believe in the concept. Not for any reason other than to use it to protect and secure the lives and property of the people in the zone. So, I’m Amotekun Senator.”

“ I’m also working on a bill to see how we can strengthen our judiciary. If we must strengthen our democracy, the judiciary is also key. We have to have a truly independent judiciary. We have to have a truly independent electoral commission. As it is now, our judiciary is not independent. Once you are not financially independent, you can’t be truly independent. We are working on that bill. I’m trying to get stakeholders’ opinions. Some judges have given me perspectives on it, talking to a SAN (Senior Advocate of Nigeria). Once we can do that, then we start from there. So, I also supported some people’s motions and bills on what to do to strengthen our primary healthcare.

“I tried as much as possible to push something into the 2020 budget. You expect three things from your legislators: You expect them to make laws in the interest of Nigeria. You expect them to attract as much as a possible federal presence to your district and then, of course, oversight functions.

‘’So, in oversight functions as a member of nine  Committees, Vice-Chairman, Youth, and Sports, a couple of days ago I was in Lagos as a member of Power Committee. We met the NERC(Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission) to tell us the justification for the tariff increase they are talking about. We invited stakeholders to meetings on the increase in tariff. We spoke to our minds at that meeting.

“As a result of the security situation, we, Senate Committee on Army, are going to Borno and Zamfara States. So, we will like to go on fact-finding. I’ve been trying to do my best to justify my mandate. If you recall my peculiar election, when you know that I don’t have a choice than to use this position to serve God Almighty first and foremost and to serve humanity. To defeat a sitting Governor by his grace and at the same time, the same election, the same day I defeated a sitting Senator. It’s not a tea party.

“I can’t thank my people and God enough for this mandate that they gave to me freely and want to let them know that I will not disappoint them.  I will ensure that I do things that will justify the mandate and to use this opportunity to serve God Almighty first and foremost and humanity.

Reiterating the support of the South-West Caucus of the Senate to the South-West security outfit,  Amotekun, Senator Balogun, said:” I’ve not seen any South-West Senators that told me or said he was not in support of Amotekun either publicly or privately. We all have our families here and whose family can’t be kidnapped? When family members are kidnapped, they will call you to raise funds for ransom. Nobody wants to spend his money on ransom”.