•Social media has made communication seamless
•‘It’ll be difficult to regulate social media’
Thirty-two years old Right Honourable Edwards Adebo Ogundoyin, Speaker of Oyo State House of Assembly, spoke with ROTIMI AGBOLUAJE in Ibadan on many issues, including the Open Rearing and Grazing Regulation Act 2019, his journey to the coveted office and the roadmap for the development of the state. The Agronomy graduate said it would be difficult for government to regulate social media. Excerpts:
The state’s House of Assembly passed Open Rearing and Grazing Regulation Act 2019 under your watch but some group claim it is against their interest. What is your reaction to this?
The truth is that we’ll always have issues like that especially when some people are aggrieved and I’m actually happy that they consider going to court to seek justice and that is what we encourage responsible people to do. I believe the case had been in the High Court once. I think it was Justice Wale Thomson at a time, who ruled against open grazing. It makes no sense that a farmer would have to fence his whole farmland to protect his crops against a tradition that is not practised in any part of Nigeria.
So, whether in the court, whether in the state, the legislators or the judiciary, there is no hiding place for destruction of property, especially when it will affect the economy of a certain area or region. But since then, I also read in the news that they have shelved their desire to go toe court and rather they would have to find a middle ground with the state government in moving forward.
As speaker, what efforts are you making to initiate bills that will ameliorate the suffering of your people?
Well, government works hand-in-hand, whether the legislature or the executive. But I’m very glad that the executive is working closely with the legislature to bring about changes in all local councils and development areas. I can’t be selfish and just focus on my own constituency as the Speaker. But also I have responsibilities to my constituency. I’m glad that the present administration has recognized Ibarapa as the food basket zone of the state. Recently, the governor just approved N7.6 billion agriculture funds that will be invested in Akofo and Eruwa farm settlements. Anywhere such fund is injected into, no matter the region, it shall be felt economically.
Apart from that, we are also working on bills that will also support Adeseun Ogundoyin Polytechnic. This is because the campus is in dire state. The last administration also showed us what its focus was, but I can tell you it was not on education. So, we’re trying to revive and boost the economic development of the region. So, whatever bill we pass in the state affects all regions, all local councils equally and fairly. So, I will not make a bill that will just favour only my own constituency but rather the whole Oyo State.
There have been calls for the lawmakers in the country to make legislative duty part-time rather than full time. What is your reaction to this?
Even as full time members, they can barely cover what they are supposed to cover. To be honest, the perception by the general public is, ‘what are the lawmakers doing?’ I also had that kind of perception before I got into office. I was of the same opinion and always wondered what they were doing, that they are just sitting down and talking three days in a week. But the legislative work that goes behind closed doors is immense and goes beyond what anybody can actually think of. I can assure you that ever since I got into office I haven’t had rest. Even when we went on recess, we were still in the office working. We were working on the re-aligning of the ministry, on confirmation of commissioners, on screening of commissioners, going through their curriculum vitae (CVs) to make sure that Oyo State has the best candidates for these positions.
Aside that the oversight function of our job is actually very immense. We’re talking about water corporation, ministries, all agencies, all the departments that we actually have to monitor and carry out oversight functions to make sure that all the tax payers’ money is being judicially or responsibly spent. Imagine the work that goes in to it. Even with full time, we don’t have enough time. So, the call for part time is just for people who don’t really know what the legislature is about.
What motivated you into politics?
To make a difference in my constituency; that was the first drive. Another thing is that the legacy of my father is not complete yet. I’ll like to add to that. They always say, “A good name is better than riches” and it comes from the Bible. I’ve seen the effect of the good name that he has in my life. From school to different places, it has got me out of tight situations and given me favour. No amount of money could’ve given me all those things that I got based on the good name that he had. So my own dream also is to build a good name for myself, for my children to move into the next generation.Also, the other reason is seeing people suffering, believing that I can make a difference and that the youths should be given a chance. I just put all of those together and decided to get into politics.
How would you describe your father who many knew to be a great philanthropist?
To be honest, it was one of the key factors why I joined politics. What he achieved over 28 years ago before he died in 1991 put me in a position whereby I have to continue the legacy. If not, who will continue the legacy? My brothers are engineers; my sisters are doctors; they are financial investors. Everybody is just doing their thing, but I felt like the contribution to our local council at home, to our area, to our town. It wasn’t complete yet; his vision isn’t complete yet. So, I thought my capacity in politics would drive more development to my region and play my own part in completing the legacy of my father.
We have the youngest commissioner in the state from your zone, Ibarapa. How is the area?
You know in Ibarapa; we are known for many great things. The largest amount of twins, I believe, is from Ibarapa zone as well. I mean, this is just one of the great feats that we are achieving which nobody evidently understands. Doing what I did is not just by my own power but by the support I got from our fathers in politics, my mentors and everybody came together to support it. I think I was being seen as a kind of poster boy for Not-Too-Young-Run which a lot of people around the country actually rode on. It was not my own doing. It is my desire that other young people get into politics so that they can inspire other young people as well. So as long as you inspire the first person, more and more young people will join politics so that when the elderly statesmen retire, we will be well equipped to take over from them.
As a beneficiary of Not-Too-Young-To-Rule Act, how do you see yourself as Speaker of the House of Assembly?
The legislature is a very unique arm of government, different from the executive and the judiciary. But the fact of the matter is that I didn’t get here by myself. I was put here by my colleagues who voted me in unanimously and for me to lead the state House of Assembly probably based on my experience from the 8th Assembly and also because of the way I conduct myself. But what I can assure you is that I have all the support I need. From the executive, the judiciary and even from the House itself, the staff, the honourable members; everybody supports this present administration. So, I’m in a good place. I feel that my performance, as the speaker, will also encourage more youth to join politics based on the encouragement that ‘if he can do it then we can do it, too’. My victory at the poll inspired other youths to pick up forms and now they are here in the House with us. And I know they’ll also do the same thing. They’ll inspire other youth. You know it’s like an avalanche and all it takes is for one person to do it and that is the dream.
There have been calls for a unicameral legislature in the National Assembly. Are you in support or do we continue with the bicameral legislature?
To be honest, maybe it’s easier for me to say it now as I’m in the State House of Assembly and not at the federal house. In the American system, they have the Congress and the Senate. So, it depends on how you look at it. In Nigeria, if you check the budget, we spend over 40 per cent on personnel or maybe 50 per cent. I’m just being conservative. So, if you are looking to cut down personnel in the legislative arm of government at the federal level, then we should look at it across board. We should do a full audit; definitely not in security but in the civil service. A lot of people have used political influence to do certain things, which do not have impact in government itself.
So we should not just focus on the legislative arm of government. We should focus on the federal ministries as well. Who are the civil servants there? What work are they doing? Do we really need them? We should re-arrange it. If we need more teachers, let’s cut down workers in the civil service. Just arrange everything in such a way that money is judiciously spent. The way I look at the economy, I am not an economist, I’m a farmer, an agronomist, but I believe that Nigeria or the world at large might be moving into recession. So less spending on consumption is better for us as a country.
Social media has made communication seamless. This is the platform mostly used by the youth but government wants to regulate. Is it the best way to go?
To be honest, I believe it’ll be very difficult for the Federal Government to regulate the use of social media. I believe we have freedom of speech; how much that is practised is left for the people in charge. It could also be a wake-up call for the youths. We have to realise that being on social media, voicing our opinion on social media cannot really be termed as activism. You are going to send a Tweet or send a message on Facebook, but then the next thing you do is sit down and watch your favourite show, probably Big Brother Naija or any other show; cross your legs and have your meal but that is not activism. If you want to make a difference, it’s not done in the house. You have to go out there. Let your voice be heard by the people that matter. Not just the people in power, but to their peers. You have to come together as the youth to make an effective change as our forefathers did during their time. So sitting at home and being hooked on social media, to me, is not really the best way to go about it.
What do you suggest we do to curb fake news?
How can you control that? Everybody has their own opinion. Tomorrow I can wear an identity card and claim to be a pressman working for Nigerian Tribune or Radio Nigeria. That would be impersonation. But to be honest, you can’t stop people’s opinion from coming out. The difference is that when a news article comes out, people don’t check for source. So, once you check for source, you’ll be able to differentiate whether it’s coming from a reputable source or coming as an opinion. Fake news is rampant because sometimes people take opinions as news, but news is actually the fact of what happens. So, if we can be trained to check for source like in other developed countries; they check the source. They respect source based on the work that they’ve done in the past. So, I believe that the simple and the best way to go about it is to train our people to check for the source of the news and the people that are actually spreading their own opinions as news.When the bill about the N7.9 billion was being deliberate on, it was reported that you overruled other members.
There is no way a successful Speaker can go against the voice of parliamentary members unless he’s looking to either get impeached or have low vote of confidence. On the issue of the overrule, we’ve taken steps and measures to make sure that nothing like that ever happens again in terms of media exposure. I can tell you here first that the Oyo State House of Assembly is putting in place measures to start live plenary sessions. With this people around the world can watch us live from wherever they are. Even after that, there will also be post-production on the plenary session where the video summarizes into five or ten minutes’ clip is put on YouTube, on Twitter, on Facebook and all social media platforms. That will now remove any form of insinuation about what really is happening in the house.
Like I said before, there is a difference between a prestigious media outlet and a personal opinion. Tomorrow, anybody can go online and write something about whatever he believes, and then what happens is that it is taken by the general public as the real news, whereas it’s not really real news. If you look at reporting from the conventional media houses and the respectable media organizations, you’ll see that the report is different. So personal view is different from the respectable media outlets. With the measures we are putting in place with the live plenary session, I believe it’s going to cancel any insinuation moving forward. When anybody hears the news like ‘Speaker overrules the House and passes bill’, they can always go and watch what happened. I believe that’s a one-stop solution for that issue.
Many believe that the House you preside over is a rubberstamp of the executive. What is your reaction to this?
Before we were voted in, we sat down with His Excellency Seye Makinde to develop a roadmap knowing full well that after we were chosen as candidates, we were the only option for him to actually trust and work with. We were all hoping that we would come into governance together. We came, and then we sat down together and we developed a roadmap for agriculture, health, and education, for most of these things we are trying to achieve. Now, after we got into the house, and it was time to activate most of these roadmaps and we then decide that well, because we don’t want to be seen as rubber stamp, we start going against our plan. It doesn’t make sense. If the plan is good for the state, why resist? Is it because of perception? That’s not why we are here. We are here to make a change. We are here to make a difference. Just because of perception? Whether I am a rubberstamp is none of my business, as long as we are making positive changes and impact.
Our governor is a good man. Well, if you don’t know, I’m telling you personally. I know where he is coming from; I know what he has done, what he has sacrificed to be in the position that he is now. Even after getting to that position, I know what he is sacrificing on a daily bases to make sure that the common man in Oyo State receives quality governance to make a difference in every life, in every citizen’s life within the state and because of that reason, it’s something we can admire.
I can praise the governor with full confidence, knowing full that he’s doing the best of his ability which is even surpassing his achievement in 100 days alone. He has surpassed what some governors have achieved in the last four to eight years.
To be honest, I believe that time will tell. We’ve only done about five months. I can guarantee you that in a year’s time you’ll see the direction in which the state is going. If I’m in the house and I’m fighting against that direction, they wouldn’t be talking about me being rubberstamp again. They’ll start throwing stones at me and cursing me. So, I’ll rather be part of greatness and contribute my own quota to move the state forward. Let’s work towards the greatness of Oyo State.