Hon. Oguntola Mudasiru Toogun was a member of the House of Representatives for Iwo Federal Constituency from 1991 to 1992. Since the termination of that republic, Toogun had been involved in the politics of Osun State. A grassroots politician, he speaks on ascension of the ACN government in the state, the problems with the Nigerian lawmaking process and other issues. Excerpts:
OSDF: As a former lawmaker, how would you assess the quality of lawmaking in Nigeria now?
TOGUN: In actual fact, the quality of lawmaking in the country has improved; improved in the sense that, if we look at the number of years of our democratic process compared to that of the United States of America, I would say we have fared relatively well considering the number of years the military had ruled the country.
It will not also be completely right to say it is Uhuru yet for our legislative process. Things are actually changing in terms of the quality of our legislative representation. Gone is the era when it was business as usual, having said this, one will also want to advocate for qualitative representation from various constituencies and unlike the executive arm of government, there is no term limit. In the USA, you have legislators of over three decades; experience counts a lot in legislative processes; but here in Nigeria, it is not so. I would like to see the red and green chambers of the assembly filled with members who are vast in the act of law making, enough of situation where at every session, lawmakers will have to undergo the process of legislative procedure for close to two years, and having learn for two years and the third year he or she is settling down in the act of law making; election comes up the fourth year and the guy is not returned. The investment on his training in the act of legislative process will have gone down the drain. I would strongly advocate for the legislative arms of governments in Nigeria to allow for continuity in that arm of government in all tiers of our government, for the quality of law making, and laws would be able to rub shoulders with what is obtainable in the so called advanced countries.
OSDF: The Nigeria Federal system is believed to be problematic; don’t you think it is time the country rose to the task of reviewing our laws to create a perfect Federal system?
TOGUN: The question about true Federalism is one that had dragged for a very long time without a concrete solution. In all honesty, the laws must be reviewed to allow for a true federal system of government, a system where there is autonomy and independence. What we have now is not a true federalism, in a true Federal system of government; every constituent unit is independent and autonomous of one another. The state government must be independent and autonomous, what we have in Nigeria today to me is partial federal system of government, where states, let alone local governments are not independent, one can say without fault that the system is not right; it’s either you are cold or hot. What happened in Lagos state under the administration of the former governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, when additional Local Government Development Areas were created in Lagos State and the funds that legitimately belonged to the state were withheld by the Federal government for close to two years, was an aberration. The Federal government under a true Federal system of government which suggests that every unit is autonomous and independent would be overstepping its bound by wanting to be an authority over states. There is no doubt that the time is rife for the country to review our laws to create a perfect federal system of government as it’s the case in other Federalism.
OSDF:As a chieftain of the ACN, do you think your party has provided the Osun people sufficient difference from what the people witnessed under the PDP?
TOGUN: There is no way you are going to compare an aircraft with a car, comparing the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) inglorious administration with the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) is like that of a car and aircraft in terms of movement. It has never been heard of in the history of the country where in one sweep, twenty thousand (20,000) people are being employed at once, the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) which has a national outlook; started with about 5 thousand youth from various tertiary institutions across the country. The administration of ACN in Osun State, under the leadership of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola having come on board on the 27th of November, 2010 within its 100 days in office employed 20 thousand youths across the state under the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (O-YES). The governor, with the understanding that Osun state is agrarian, swept off dust of the feet of farmers in the state by disbursing loans of over N156 million to various farmers’ associations. The inauguration of the state’s new comprehensive environmental sanitation programme is another plus; the sanitation exercise was flagged off 23rd of June, 2011, with market sanitation exercise to ensure cleanliness of the entire state. Governor Aregbesola ensured that the programme was enforced to the letter in all 30 local government areas of the state.
Major rivers in the state were dredge at the cost of over 180 million to avert the disaster that befell the state under the last administration. The mid regional market that will make the state a hub of business activities is nearing completion. The O-REAP, O-TOUR among many other achievements in 10 months shows that you cannot compare a car with an aircraft.
OSDF: There had been allegations against the ACN government over delay in taking certain actions. For instance; the delay witnessed in the appointments of commissioners. How would you justify the delay?
TOGUN:I think by now people should stop asking this question, because the governor at different fora had explained the rationale behind the delay which even till date the opposition has not been able to fault. Beside the hostile disposition of the House of Assembly, the governor mentioned the economic condition of the state which was not encouraging, the state was busy working on how to refinance the burdensome loan the previous administration obtained; having commissioners and special advisers at that time will be adding to the burden of the financial state of Osun. Aregbesola was just being creative in his handling of the affairs of the state and I believe the commendations of all and sundry and not condemnations.