Olusola Adeyeye, a professor and senator representing Osun State, is the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education and member of the INEC Committee. He speaks on corruption among the political class and its implications for democracy.
Defections in the House of Reps is not as constraint as that of the Senate, why is this so?
I don’t know. But I think the presiding officer in the Senate has a different view point from the presiding officer in the House of Reps. And this difference in view point has resulted in diametrically
opposed management style on the issue of defection.
Do you think the Senate leadership has managed the process to the satisfaction of senators?
Well, if you speak with those who belong to the ruling party, they will say the Senate leadership has managed it very well. If you speak with those of us from the opposition, we will say the Senate
leadership has not managed it very well. For one thing, there have been innumerable instances in the history of our democratic experience since 1999 where people have been allowed to defect
without the kind of hoopla that we have right now.
The senate president said he was following the rules of the senate
Unfortunately, the standing order and the rules of the senate, in my opinion is flawed in some of its provisions, where for instance, on every issue, the ruling of the presiding officer is final. It has
given room for what I consider as an abuse of the process. Only yesterday, I was trying to raise a very important issue on the matter of the nomination of Mr Adesiyan from Osun state. I had four
issues I was going to raise. But while still making my preliminary remarks, the president of the senate caught me short and I was totally helpless.
Do you think the process of screening ministerial nominees by the senate is a thorough exercise?
The process quite frankly, is laughable. In a serious legislature, you ask serious questions; questions that would let the nominees know that the senators are aware of their privileges and
responsibility to ensure that and the country are well served to bring capable people into cabinet. But every time they bring a candidate, even before you ask a question, you get shouts of ‘take a
bow’ as if we’re all there to represent partisan interests. We demean ourselves by such indecorous actions. I would plead with these people to try and watch senate hearing in the US and hear
senators interrogating members of their own party. There’s nothing wrong saying a word or two positively in favour of a candidate you believe in. But when in doing so, you then attempt to prevent
others from asking their own questions, then you shortchanged the system. And in fairness to the senate president on this matter, he has on numerous occasions, overruled those who tried to
prevent questions from being asked. But to a large extent in my opinion, the process is laughable.
Why is it so? Does it have to do with the fact that they are nominees of the ruling party or is it that the senators themselves lack depth?
I think it has to do with the fact that every senator has two loyalties. First there is a loyalty to the country and the constitution. I don’t think that all of us are loyal to the country. But there is also a
loyalty to the party. But sometimes people allow loyalty to the party to become so overriding that you begin to wonder whether they realize that loyalty to country comes first.
When you first came to the National Assembly, you granted TELL an interview where you said the tendency towards corruption was very high among your colleagues.
Having settled down for a while now, do you think anything has changed?
I made that statement when I was in the House of Reps. Look, the whole of Nigeria is a basket of corruption. It’s not just in the National Assembly; it’s in the judiciary, the executive. The benefit of
holding political office in Nigeria are too obscene; too reckless that I would wish we go back to the era of operation low profile where no public official could ride a car that is bigger or better than
a Peugeot 504. When [Olusegun] Obasanjo first became head of state, he rode a 504. When Shehu Shagari came to office, he rode a 504. But we have now taken the path of prodigality, which has
tended to fuel corruption. Judges now ride some of the most elegant cars you can find around, just as senators and ministers do at the cost of programmes that can transform the economic
wellbeing of the people.
I think the system we’re running right now is not sustainable; sooner or later it may reach a point where we may have a bloody revolution. I hope it doesn’t get to that point. But anybody who has
his ears open and his eyes wide open would see the anger in the land, and would know that sooner or later this anger may rise to a combustion point. I pray that God would give our leaders the
wisdom to find a way to curb on-going prodigal ways before they consume all of us.
We have to put an end to this prodigality or sooner or later they would put an end to us.
The legislature is seen as a symbol of democracy and they are seen as honourable men and women. From your interaction with Nigerian legislators, would you say most of your colleagues are truly honourable and distinguished?
When you talk to individual senators or Reps, honestly you’re impressed at their candour, their sense of patriotism and their integrity and sense of responsibility. There is no question about that.
When I read the comments of some critics, sometimes I just shake my head because some of the most brilliant human beings I have ever met, I have met within the chambers of the National
Assembly. But unfortunately these are good people who are caught in the web of a bad system. For example, when you talk to David Mark, he appears very honourable and patriotic. He talks with
maturity and has had enormous experience in the public service. Yet on two or three occasions, in my opinion, you have seen David Mark make big blunders all because of partisan interest. That to
me is regrettable. I see that as the tragedy of a good man who is caught in the web of a bad system.
If I may ask, what are some of these blunders?
Let me give you two recent examples. One was when senator Adetunbi from Ekiti North made a motion of urgent national importance on a large sum of money allegedly missing from the national
treasury. He allowed the senator to voice a desire to table the motion. Ordinarily, by rule 42 of the standing orders of the senate, he should have deferred that motion for a full debate for the
following day. Unfortunately, without any debate in the chamber, he simply referred it to the committee. That was the first time in the history of national assembly that such had taken place. The
danger of that of course is that first; it is an abnegation of the rule of the senate. Second it has now become precedence for him and for presidents of the senate. I tried to point his attention to it
hoping that he would be humble enough to reverse himself, but he ruled me out of order. The second example was on the matter of nomination when he advised me to wait until confirmation
process before I state my objection. But he never allowed me voice it even on the floor of the senate.
Your party recently alleged that some legislators who moved back to PDP from APC were induced to do so by the leadership of the PDP. Do you believe your party?
Nothing is impossible in Nigeria. But I have not seen the evidence of people being induced. Those who are planning to defect from the PDP to the APC; I am absolutely convinced no one has
induced them. What money does APC have to offer Bukola Saraki or Danjuma Goje? I think Lai Mohammed was referring to what is happening in the House of Reps. But I am not familiar with
happenings there. However, the way we do things in Nigeria, I will not be surprised, but since I don’t have any proof, I am not free to confirm it.
What are the implications of this gale of defection for good governance and for democracy in the country?
Actually it is healthy for democracy. I have given you instances in other country where the opposition coalesced, that’s what we need to do in Nigeria.