Honourable Oguntola Toogun, an erstwhile House of Representatives member on the platform of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the aborted Third Republic. He was a former council member, University of Uyo, and now a chieftain of Osun State Action Congress (AC).
OSUN DEFENDER reporter, GOKE BUTIKA engaged him on some topical and contemporary issues; ranging from education to politics last week. It promises to keep you at the edge of your seat. Excerpt:
Toogun: It is a pity that we have found ourselves in this mess. It is a mess, because what my generation gained from the past qualitative education is no longer visible today. The import of this is that those who had the privilege of realizing their today from the working yesterday, have technically messed up tomorrow of the younger and unborn generations.
Let’s start from the elementary education and I will choose Osun as an example, for the sake of proximity. In Osun State, primary and secondary education are nothing to write home about, and it would not be funny to tell you that public school teachers are putting their wards in private schools.
Osdf: What about the classrooms being constructed by the lawmakers, as constituency projects?
Toogun: Let it be taken that, the standard of education is not limited to construction of empty classrooms. Of course, the initiative is not bad; but generally speaking, the education policy in the state is a lip-service and quite discouraging.
Osdf: So, you agree with Professor Niyi Osundare, who once said that universal has been taken off the university?
Toogun: The don perfectly spoke my mind. I knew the quality of universities during my days as a student of University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) and the state of things, when I was a council member of University of Uyo and I know the situation now. Yours truly, education in Nigeria is nothing to write home about as no Nigerian University is mentioned among 100 the best universities in the world nor among the first 50 in Africa. Is there any way to rate better than that.
Osdf: What is happening at the Court of Appeal?
Toogun: You see, Osun State Broadcasting Corporation (OSBC) and OSUNMAIL did not get their facts right, as touching the Local Government polls’ suit and our petitions at the Court of Appeal in Ibadan. I think the two media platforms overstepped their bounds by that misleading reports, and we have caused our lawyers to present the case before the judges, at least, to warn them against feeding the unsuspected members of the public with false information.
What happened at the last court session, about the petitions of Engineer Lasun Yusuff and others was that: there were interlocutory appeals that ought to have been consolidated before the substantive case was heard, which were not and the court directed that those interlocutory appeals be consolidated. So, when the respondent lawyers then demanded for cost over the process, the court granted it. No case was dismissed as insinuated.
On the Local Government Polls Appeal, the progress is commendable and we all appreciate the proceedings.
Osdf: Osun State House of Assembly Speaker, Honourable Adejare Bello spoke against “Winner takes all syndrome, but blamed the exclusion of opposition from forming government of unity, saying that a lot of bad politics have been played. What is your reaction on that?
Toogun: What does he mean by bad politics? I know that Mr Speaker is only playing with words, because he knows that our eleven lawmakers are passing through what he did not pass through as a Minority Leader. During the period of the former governor, Chief Bisi Akande, the tiny minority then were allowed to exist and heard. But now, the voice of opposition is muffled. Remember, our lawmakers were confronted with police harassment, detention and imprisonment, all on trumped-up charges.
If not for unity of these AC legislators, the governor, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the House leadership wanted to cow them. Now, we have eleven member, aside from Ekiti State, where there are 15-15’ lawmakers in the House, Osun is next and for someone to now say that our bad politics cost us our dues in government is unfortunate and nauseating.
Let it be known that as far as AC is concerned; we are not ready to share what rightly belongs to us with a thief.
Osdf: How true is it that the constituency project palaver is laced with bad politics?
Toogun: Let us get the fact of AC lawmakers right. They are not opposing constituency projects, but fund processing and that could be understood. It is very clear, what role is expected of lawmaker and sections 90 to 100 is very clear about it. The primary duty of the House is to make laws and over-see the execution of budgeted projects. So, if a member of State or National Assembly should now turn to a contractor, the case is questionable.
I align with the position of the AC lawmakers totally. Let there be a consolidated account, pay the whole of the constituency funds there and allow individual lawmaker to bring a contractor, who will do the job. This will go a long way in ensuring probity and accountability.
Meanwhile, this is the position of the National Assembly and we cannot start bending the laws for one excuse or the other.
Osdf: But Mr Speaker said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) picks no bone with the process. How about that?
Toogun: That is not the point, the point is the way the law should go. EFCC is not a law court and it cannot interprete the law. Ex-Chairman Ribadu was accused of loud-mouth, because he appeared interpreting the law and we know what happened to him now. I appreciate the fact that the 26 members were invited to Abuja office of the Commission; but we are still waiting for the reports of its (EFCC’s) investigation.
Osdf: As a former lawmaker, how do you rate Osun Assembly now?
Toogun: They (lawmakers) are not doing badly, but I am quite aware that people are still expecting more from them and I urge them (legislators) to drive the executive to work harder for the betterment of Osun State.