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By Remi Adefulu
Chairman, Lagos State caucus in the House of Representatives, Abayomi Ayeola, represents Ibeju-Lekki Federal Constituency.
He speaks on contemporary national issues, declaring that plots to upstage the All progressives Congress (APC) national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu in the South-West will fail.
What is your assessment of the 2017 budget estimate?
As usual, it raises hope; we hope the president will implement it to the letter in due course.
How do you juxtapose your statement with the fact that the 2016 budget may not be fully implemented?
It may not be fully implemented, but you cannot blame the president 100 percent when there are no funds. We all know that our revenue earnings went down. That is one of the factors. It’s not the making of the president. We are all aware that oil prices went down. The Niger Delta issue is also there. On the average, it is not that bad, except that Nigerians’ hope is very high. On our own part, when we were going round campaigning, we made many promises, not having full knowledge of the situation we were going to meet on the ground.
Nigerians are today crying about hunger, does this not put pressure on the president and the APC?
Nigerians are hungry. There is no doubt about that, but the issue is that there is no money. You can’t manufacture money just like that. The resources are not there. Also, look at the negative impact of the dollar on the naira. We import almost 90 per cent of what we use in Nigeria. We have to buy in dollars and look at the value of our currency to the dollar.
Don’t you think the problem has to do with the economic policy of this government?
I don’t agree. I won’t agree with that. No matter how beautiful your economic blue print is, if there is no money, you can’t succeed. The value of the naira keeps going down every day. The price of oil also went down. The Niger Delta issue negatively affected our projected revenue from oil.
The president has said Nigerians will begin to experience change this year; is this feasible?
It’s not a huge promise, but the government must tread with caution because we have not been able to deliver in the last 18 months. However, I align myself with the president that the change Nigerians are expecting will come this year. Oil price has gone up a bit. I heard the president when he said that government has resumed payment of ex-Niger Delta militants. Mind you, we were able to save some money last year and that will be put into the economy now.
How would you assess the relationship between the president and the National Assembly in view of the rejection of his bid for foreign loan and non confirmation of the EFCC boss?
The relationship is cordial. We don’t have issues with the president. These issues you raised should not be an issue at all. We are not there as rubberstamp. Whenever he brings a request, we have to look at it critically. We have to consider how it will affect Nigerians. We need to be careful on the issue of loans because if you are not careful, it may make you poorer.
In spite of the Senate objection to the ban on importation of vehicles, the policy has started, what does this suggest?
You know we are on recess, but I can assure that the matter will be revisited. If you watched our proceedings the day the matter came up on the floor, we in the House of Representatives were of the opinion that the ban should not take effect now. We believe it will make the cost of vehicles to go up. It will make so many people unemployed. Because of that, we told the executive to hold on. I am surprised that despite our suggestion, the presidency went on to implement it.
Don’t you think there is a seeming distrust among APC leaders in the build up to 2019?
We are still one, indivisible APC. We are all working toward getting more votes in 2019 than we had in 2015.
Is the emergence of some political gladiators in the South West to challenge Tinubu not a confirmation of this?
There is no challenge from anywhere. No challenge. None. You can’t come and force me out of my house. It’s not possible. Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu is up to the task.
Don’t you think the outcome of the Ondo election is a pointer to this effect?
Yes, there were differences of opinion; that was a situation where some leaders of the party felt there was foul play, hence they called for another primary election, but the national chairman said what we have had was okay. That ordinarily does not mean that the party is divided. The way I look at it may be different from the way you look at it. Eventually, we worked together and we won. Was it not APC that won in Ondo State? That could not have been an individual’s work. It was a collective effort. That we have different opinions does not mean anything.
Speaker Dogara recently accused governors of misusing the ministry of local governments in their states, do you agree?
May be he was referring to his own state. What we all agreed is that there should be elected council officials running local governments. That is what the constitution says. The state Houses of Assembly will determine the tenure of local governments in their respective states. Before one tenure expires, they must have conducted elections. The idea of caretaker committee is an aberration. A situation where a governor does not conduct local government election for eight years is against the law.
What is your view on the proposition by the Senate to set aside 20 per cent of the annual budget for constituency projects?
I do agree with it 100 per cent. Let me tell you, in my own federal constituency, Ibeju-Lekki, except for the projects I attracted to the constituency through constituency projects, there are no other projects. Let anybody challenge me on it. We have 360 members and 106 Senators. If they all have constituency projects, that means it will go round the country. How can you justify that ministers who do not represent anybody will have access to huge funds, influence projects to their areas at the expense of those who were voted for. At the end of the day, if care is not taken, the minister is more popular in his area than the member of the House of Reps or senator. If I were to suggest, they should make it 35 per cent, not 20 per cent. That is the fund that goes round the federal constituencies.
How then do you react to the outcry against constituency projects?
There is nobody kicking against constituency projects. The only thing they are kicking against is our pay. That is out of ignorance. A few days ago, a friend was here and I received an alert which indicated that I earn less than a million naira monthly, will they say I don’t need running cost? Is it how much I spend as a member of the House of Reps that an average Nigerian spends? I have a house here that I have to maintain. I have another in Abuja that I have to maintain. I have to go for constituency meetings and more importantly, many people in my constituency need one form of financial assistance or the other. What are we talking bout?
Your party will be two years in office in a matter of months, what are your projections?
My projection? Good governance. Like the president said, Nigerians should expect real change. Look at what has happened in Lagos State under Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. Let anybody come out to say he has not seen anything in Lagos. Gradually, it will extend all over APC states. Over 50 per cent of APC states are super. Mr. president has started paying N5,000 stipend to poor Nigerians. These are the things we are talking about