Honourable Najim Salami was elected into the Osun State House of Assembly in Ejigbo state constituency during the April 14, 2007 election under the platform of Action Congress (AC) and he is one of the opposition lawmakers in the House.
He was the first lawmaker, whose election was confirmed by the Election Petitions Tribunal that sat in Osogbo, the state capital on the basis that his opponent who was challenging his election lacked locus standi to contest the said election. The petition against Najim’s election was returned for re-trial by the Court of Appeal after his opponent had approached the appellate court.
In this interview with OSUN DEFENDERman, KAZEEM MOHAMMED, Najim spoke on the challenges of lawmaking, as opposition legislators in the house and other sundry issues. Excerpt:-
Osfd: As an opposition lawmaker in the house, what are the challenges of lawmaking in Osun State?
Najim: There are so many challenges, most especially from the people outside, because as an opposition, people will want you to act like opposition and the people we are working with in the house will be looking at us as opposition. We are constraint because people see us as opposition and at times they open up and show you the real side of the issue. So, we are facing problems about that, but thank God that we are managing and coping on whatever the challenges we met on ground.
Osfd: Are you saying that the challenges you are facing affect your performances as lawmakers in the state?
Najim: No, because we as opposition lawmakers are up to the task, we know what we want, we know how to go about it and we have been doing it. So, we have set a target for ourselves and we will surely get there and we will achieve our lawmaking objectives, no matter what we face from the people we are working with in the house.
Osfd: Unlike what we are used to hear on media about the Ekiti State House of Assembly, where opposition members in the house always engage in hot arguments with the ruling partys’ legislators, something of such has not been happening in Osun State. How have you been able to caution yourselves in the house to ensure this?
Najim: It is true, we understand that there might be difference between the Ekiti State House of Assembly compared to Osun State’s in the sense that if you look at the numerical strength of the house, the political parties there have equal size. And even when you exclude the Speaker, especially on the resolution that requires simple majority, the AC in the Ekiti State house of assembly is more powerful than the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the house in terms of numerical strength; that will be twelve (12) against thirteen(13) excluding the Speaker, who will not be able to vote on the issues at hand. But in our own case, we are just eleven (11) against fifteen (15).
On issues that require simple majority, there is no way we can go about it, notwithstanding, we still make our own points known and clear to the people and even the House. What we do is that we make the ruling party caucus to know our point and arguments, and we argue constitutionally. If they are convinced, they normally toe our line and that is why there is no crisis. They bow to our superior arguments and sometimes we bow to their superior arguments. We always act based on superior arguments and not to be fighting and shouting on the issues that can make our dear state develop.
That is how we see it. You know that our own approach is quite different from that of Ekiti State. There are a lot of things we put into consideration like the fact that most of our people have been arrested, molested and we don’t like a situation whereby our people will be languishing in jail. What is our pride, if our people are in jail. So, it is better we argue it and toe the line that allow the superior arguments prevail and that is what we have been doing as opposition members in the house.
Osfd: How have you opposition lawmakers been able to put the state government on its toes?
Najim: There are a lot of things that have changed since our inception, and we have really assisted the government by putting everybody, including the state civil servants on their toes. If the people in government want to do anything today, they will look back and say the AC people are there in the house and they will be very careful. They will say “they will write petition against you, this and that”. So, what has not been happening, we introduced it to the system. We advised that the Ministries, Agencies and Parastatals must be ready to always give reports of their duties and they have been doing that. That has never happened before in the history of Osun State, and this tells everybody that it is not business as usual in the house and even with the state executivesl. They all know that there are some new hands that have brought new dimensions to the system and that is how we have been working.
For instance, recently, all the 30 Local Government chairmen in the states including the area office in Modakeke have been invited to the House of Assembly and asked to give account of what they have been doing in the office. With that exercise, a lot of things have been revealed and we have been correcting some of them; and they (chairmen) have been warned against future lapses that will necessarily attract sanction from the house.
That is how we have been putting everybody in government on his or her toes and that is how we have been working.
Osfd: You have just said that you corrected some of the chairmen. Are you saying that you discovered discrepancies in the activities of some of the chairmen?
Najim: It is not something we can call discrepancies but probably it may be due to inexperience ways of doing things. Most of them engage themselves in things that are not necessary but because they dont have required experience, they have to be cautioned in some areas at the committee level of the house.
Osfd: There have been rumours that your party (AC) is losing in most of the election cases at the Court of Appeal, especially when the retrial of your case was ordered. What can you say about this?
Najim: It is not like that, people should not be panic. Those people that are making the rumour do not know what is going on at the Court of Appeal on the cases.
For instance in my own case, the case has not been tried at all at any point in time. The matter was judged at the lower tribunal on locus standi’ of the petitioner then and the court ruled that she lacked locus standi to contest the election. In that case, the lawyer on their own side looked for a way out to seek redress at the upper court. That is the basis of Appeal Court rule that no case should be thrown out on technicalities and based on that fact, the court sent the case back to the tribunal for retrial and that is what we are doing now.
Osfd: What do you now expect from the retrial of the case?
Najim: We can not pre-empt the case already in the court of law. What I observe is that the new panel has a listening ear from what they have been doing, because they have been balancing the equation. They gave the petitioner the chance of putting her case across and they allow the respondents to say what they know about the claims of the petitioner. So, we can not pre-empt the court, but as far as I know, by the special grace of God, the panel will do what are expected of them; the rule of law has to come to play and when they critically looked at the evidences before the court, they will know that there is no case in that case.
Osfd: What do you have to say about the worry of the people over the delay in the hearing of the governorship tussle at the appellate court?
Najim: The delay is all over, not only in the case of Engineer Rauf Aregbesola, but also on other cases, it was after the month of September that the National Judicial Council (NJC) agreed to constitute appeal panels. These appeal panels are quite different, from the once handling the legislative matter but specially constituted. You know that Court of Appeal is just about two or three sitting on a particular case.
So, it is all over. For instance, look at the case of Edo State, where the court had ruled since all these days and nobody has heard anything not until recently when the appellate court began sitting on the matter, likewise on Ondo State. But very soon, before the end of the year the whole thing will be settled.
Osfd: Can you advice supporters of your party and people of Osun generally on this particular matter?
Najim: I want to say that people should be patient, we have been in this struggle since last year and it is just a matter of days ahead, for I know that it will not be as long any longer. So, they have to be calm and prayerful because it is only prayer that can lead one to victory and that is the philosophy we believe in. We are very sure that whenever the appeal would conclude its job on this case, ours is victory.
Osfd: How would you describe Aregbesola?
Najim: Aah! Aregbesola is somebody that I normally call the man, the politician that introduced the electronic politicking into Osun politics. He is somebody that you can call a ‘guru’ in every aspect. If you talk of science, Aregbesola is there, if you talk of art, he is there; he is somebody that is special in creation; he has the experience, the knowledge and other characteristics of a good leader. This suggests that if he rules Osun State, the people of Osun will not regret of having him as the man at the helm of affairs in our dear state of Living Spring.
Osfd: What should the people of Osun expect from you in the house?
Najim: People should realize that there is little we can do in terms of executing projects than to seek for such projects from the executive and for my own constituency, I will do the little I can, before my tenure ends.