It is a herculean task, getting a mandate to lead the Ondo State House of Assembly as the Speaker. Indeed, in this interview, Rt. Hon. Olamide Oladiji, representing Ondo East, the new Speaker speaks with THE HOPE Line Editors on the task ahead of the 10th Assembly towards making a difference in the State. Excerpts:
Congratulations sir on your election as the Speaker, Ondo State House of Assembly, what are your aspirations and goal for the House and the people of Ondo State?
As you are all aware, the fundamental function of a lawmaker is to make laws and l can assure you that in this 10th Assembly which I am the Speaker, we will enact people-oriented laws. We will engage other arms of government maturely. There will be synergy with the executive and the judiciary to move the state forward. Our oversight function will be effective to ensure checks and balances.
When you took over as the Speaker, what were the challenges you met on ground?
I cannot call them challenges; they are normal things when you are just taking over an office. It was on the issue of accommodation, which has been resolved. In terms of allocating offices, we have also done that, though I see it as a normal occurrence, that is why we extended our recess to 17th of this month so that we can put everything in order. Aside that, we don’t have major challenges.
The belief is that the legislative arm of government is more or less a rubber stamping institution. What are the steps you will take to make the 10th Assembly different?
This 10th Assembly will not be a rubber stamp in checkmating the executive. That doesn’t mean that we will do it in rancour but we will protect the interest of our people. Why people refer to the legislature as rubber stamp is because what those people expect is not what is happening in terms of rejecting executive bills which we don’t make public. If it is a bill that will benefit and transform the lives of our people, definitely we must support it. So there is no way the Assembly under my watch can be a rubber stamp. This is because the calibre of honourable members we have in the 10th Assembly are intelligent, mature and well learned.
You are a very successful businessman and Proprietor of Schools, what brought you into politics?
I ventured into politics because of the fact that l want to actually serve my people. Like in Lagos and Abuja, I have over 700 staff who work directly with me. l have a Polytechnic and chains of schools but I have interest in serving the people of my constituency and the state. I believe that the way l am performing in those states, I should do it in my own state as well. I didn’t target the position of the Speaker when I was coming, not that I am desperate but naturally to contribute my quota to the development of my state using my wealth of experience.
The local government is under the supervision of the legislature, why has it been difficult to have a virile local government as a true third tier of government?
We have a Standing Committee of Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs and they are under our watch and supervision. The issue of autonomy is a work in progress. The Executive Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen in the 18 Local Governments are doing well and the government is not owing them a dime. By August, the present administration at the local governments are winding down and another election will be conducted. The issue of autonomy is not peculiar to Ondo State alone, it is more or less a general issue and they are working on it. I want to say that the local governments are doing well. They have capital projects and l don’t think that the government tamper with their lGRs and we are putting them on their toes. I can assure you that we will continue to do the needful.
In the course of this interview, you assured that the assembly will not be a rubber stamp because it seems some people no longer have trust in government, what would you do differently in your capacity as the Speaker?
People have been hostile to the government as a result of poverty, youth unemployment, among others.
In some communities, if you introduce yourself as a politician, they will have no regard for you and this is as a result of the attitude of those who were managing the affairs of this nation. Some of them have embezzled money that their third generation cannot exhaust. That is why some of our people no longer have confidence in government. But for people like me, I am not after money because I have been in business for years and I have been making money. Not that I just want to build a new house now or buy a new car, these are the things I have gotten before now. I can manage leadership and I will ensure that whatever we are doing in the 10th Assembly are people oriented. The moment we have regard and respect for our people, then people’s orientation will change. By the special grace of God, we will not let our people down and we will not disappoint them for the confidence they reposed in us.
How is the Assembly tempering the tension in the State regarding coming election?
In terms of election, we will try our best but there is no way the House of Assembly can manage it because the House does not have any governmental power to tell anybody not to campaign. But we will use our office to ensure that there is decorum. Presently, I think about 18 have shown interest in becoming the number one citizen of the state and more are still coming, so the House of Assembly does not really have the governmental power to stop anybody but what we do tell our people is that while you are trying to campaign, try as much as possible not to smear other people’s image. God gives power, if God says yes, nobody can say no. We tell our honorable members that they are the governors of their own constituencies and to tell their people to shun rancour or tension so that at the end of the day, the peace we are enjoying in Ondo State can be sustained.
Why is it so difficult to curtail corruption in Nigeria?
You know the story between last month till now. The people that have been arrested over corruption allegations are those within the corridors of power. These are people that make laws and when this set of people soil their hands, it may be very difficult to get them. It is essential we change our orientation and this is best done through the media. There is no point in embezzling the money that even your third generation cannot finish spending. Like in the UK, if you have more than two cars, it is going to be a burden on you because by the time you look at what you are paying in terms of tax, you will not even think of acquiring cars but here, people acquire cars for luxury. It is until we change our orientation before we start getting things right and even those that embezzled money, there are some food they cannot even eat any longer. Some people have 10 Air conditioners in their rooms and offices but they cannot even switch them on because of health reasons. We all have to understand that by embezzling money, we are killing this country. It was recently reported that three Nigerians have N11trillion and I doubt if these three Nigerians have any business in Nigeria. Just last week, we borrowed $800 million, now imagine if these three Nigerians can invest in Nigerian economy, our children will be beneficiaries and the money will go round but acquiring money without investing it is just a way of killing the economy. We need the media to help in changing the orientation of our people.
In the House of Assembly, our own role is to checkmate and we will try as much as possible to protect the interest of our people but in terms of the economy in Nigeria, there is need for economic rebirth and the government to do a total overhauling so that our people can benefit dividends of democracy.
What are your projections for your constituency?
My constituency is now the whole 18 local governments in the State and not just only Ondo East I am representing. Some of the 18 local governments do not have good roads, and this is one of the areas I want to appreciate the Governor because if we succeeded in creating some Local Council Development Authorities (LCDAs), it will go a long way in assisting these rural areas and that is why we have been supporting him in that direction because if created, it will go a long way in mitigating hardship at the rural areas. They will have access to basic amenities. I also call on the media to make this a reality by being supportive of the executive.
I am optimistic that by the time we will be rounding up this 10th Assembly, we would have been able to achieve all our goals. ln the 9th Assembly, we did not have the opportunity of engaging our people. This time around, we are going to engage our people better. We will also advise the executive accordingly to ensure that our people get the best.
How do you intend to influence the education sector in Ondo State positively going by your success story in your private endeavour?
The ministries work hand in hand with the House of Assembly, the Ministry of Education for instance. I will ensure that there is human capacity development, especially in the area of training and re-training of teachers so that they can be giving our children the best. I will also work on improving revenue generation to the state coffers from the schools. We will try as much as possible to ensure that teachers are properly trained, not only civil servants to help in fastracking their capacity development and whenever there is a change in the scheme of work, they should be taken out for training so as to get updated. We will as well encourage healthy competitions among schools so as to bring healthy rivalry and improvement to the students. We will as well ensure that the schools effectively use the academic materials procured for them by the government so that our children can benefit maximally.