A lawmaker representing Okitipupa/Irele Federal Constituency of Ondo State in the House of Representatives, Mike Omogbehin, tells PETER DADA why he thinks that recalling legislators by their constituents is unnecessary
Is it true that you’re under pressure to defect to the All Progressives Congress?
I am not under any pressure; I am a consistent member of the Peoples Democratic Party. When it was fashionable to leave the PDP for another party I did not. Most of the people leaving the PDP are the people seeking protection (under the ruling APC government).
How do you relate with other lawmakers from the states who are members of the APC in the House of Reps?
First and foremost, the House of Reps belongs to the Nigerian people. It doesn’t belong to any party. The sitting arrangement in the House is not by party affiliations. Issues are discussed based on national interest. Occasionally, those of us from Ondo State meet outside party influence to discuss the issues that affect our state. Unfortunately, the state government is not doing anything to make Ondo caucus have harmonised positions. I expect him (the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu) to have had an engagement in the state to discus common interest.
Do you think the governor is sidelining PDP lawmakers in the state?
I don’t know if he is doing that. What I am saying is that the state governor should live above party sentiments and meet with us to discuss issues that concern our state and to take a position on national issues.
What is your view on attempts by some constituents to recall lawmakers in the National Assembly?
It is a normal democratic process. My fear is that whatever we start in Nigeria, we (end up) abusing it. I hope that we don’t abuse the process of recalling lawmakers. I hope we won’t waste the little resources we have to develop our land on recalling lawmakers; because I consider it as an unnecessary process. If you want to change him why not wait for another election?
Are you saying recalling a legislator is a waste of time and resources?
No. What I said is that it is a normal democratic process. But I do not support a situation whereby the people would want to waste public funds on the process of recalling political opponents (under the guise that their lawmakers are not performing). Whatever we start in Nigeria, we abuse it.
Do you have plans to contest in 2019 parliamentary election?
I have made my first move and my people elected me to represent them. The decision whether to contest again or not should no longer be mine. It is the decision of my people. I am available if they call upon me again to serve. But I have to thank them for giving me this opportunity to serve them. If my first time is satisfactory to them and they want me to go for a second term, I think I am available.
Why did you join politics?
I come from a family that is politically inclined – my grandfather, even as a king was more of a political activist. He fought for the liberation of the entire Ikale people. My uncle, Akinfosile, was a former minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a member of parliament. Senator Boluwaji Kunlere is my first cousin. Also, I have a younger brother, who was a member of the House of Representatives and I have many other people who are my blood relations in different political positions. So, politics seems to flow in my blood. Apart from being a prince, as I was growing up I discovered that there was no way I could use my personal resources to meet the yearning of my people (other than entering the political arena). I believe whatever I want to give to my people I need to give them through good representation in the government of the day. That is vital so that they will get equitable distribution of what is due to them from the national cake. That was why I joined politics.
How do you juggle your legislative activities and family responsibilities?
I think I am a bit lucky. I appear young. I had my children at an early stage of my life. As I speak with you today, my youngest child is in the university – that will tell you I don’t have children that will tie me down. My wife is a professional in her own right. She is a busy person. However, from time to time, we schedule our time (as a family) to be together. When my children are on holidays – the ones that are abroad will come home and those who are in Nigeria will do the same too – we all sit down together as a family and have fun. Once we have had a good time together, everybody goes back to their base. So, that gives me the freedom to do whatever I want to do. But, be that as it may, I have always been cautious with the way I live my life.
How do you cope with life in Abuja, especially when it comes to dealing with women?
Let me tell you: the mistakes our people make is that they imagine our legislators fell down from heaven. Whatever attitude you see in some legislators is a reflection of what our society is. For example, in the House of Representatives, we have 360 people; meaning that all geopolitical zones of the country are well represented. Therefore, you should expect that we will come with different characters. If any member of the National Assembly is reckless, it simply means that some parts of the society are reckless. There is nothing new (about that). You cannot say they are reckless because they are politicians – no. There is no school where politicians are specially trained to be living a life of recklessness. But whatever attitude you see in anybody it is a reflection of the society that he represents. But as for me, I am disciplined person. I am somebody that has the fear of God in my heart. So, I am not reckless in the way I live my life in Abuja and I don’t womanise.
How do you unwind when you are not busy?
I read; I watch football and engage myself in a lot of intellectual argument with my colleagues in the National Assembly. Also, I have intellectual discussions with journalists and with people who are superior to me. I love intellectually stimulating conversations, especially if it is on national or international issues.
Do you think the country needs the restructuring that many people are clamouring for?
The word, ‘re,’ in the expression ‘restructuring, is very important. That presupposes that there is a structure on the ground before we began to say that the present structure is not favourable. So, we have to restructure it. We have to ask ourselves, what was or what is that structure? Is the structure pre-independence or post-independence? Prior to the current democratic dispensation that we are in, the country used to have three regions. We had the North, East and West. Unfortunately, the military men came and disbanded the regions and divided them into several states. This is what brought about the unitary system and the economic woes we are experiencing today. The resources of the states have now been taken over by the Federal Government. The country government at the centre are superintending over the federating units as if we are operating a unitary system.
The result is what we are battling with across the country: agitations by some regions to control their resources. Agitations set in, especially with the discovery of crude oil, while agriculture was abandoned. There is no money from groundnuts; there is no money from cocoa again. Everybody now rushes to benefit from the largesse of crude oil. So, the agitation began to rise from the owners of the oil. What was the structure? The structure that we had (initially) was simple federalism. It should not be the Federal Government that should be giving states handouts. It is the states that should be giving the Federal Governments handouts. It is an aberration for the government at the centre to be giving state governments – under a federal system – what belongs to them.
Again, the lack of proper restructuring of this country has denied Nigerians ownership of the country. I mean, as of today, Nigerians do not claim to own the country. They only claim to own their communities or regions because they believe the resources they own have been taken over by a few people. But if we restructure, the country’s development will be fast. To me, the call for the restructuring of the country is a good one.
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