The member representing Yewa South/Ipokia Federal Constituency of Ogun State in the House of Representatives, Hon. Kolawole Lawal has said there is currently no sincerity from cross-section of Nigerians concerning zoning of the office of the President.
He insisted that the zoning of office of the President cannot be achieved at the party level but at a legal level with law enforcing movement of the office across the zones.
Speaking at the February edition of the monthly programme organized by the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Abuja chapter, with the theme: “2023 and the zoning question”, Lawal however advised that the issue of zoning should be shelved ahead of the 2023 General Elections, insisting that the issue of zoning will not give Nigeria the desired results as a country.
Lawal argued that the issue of zoning is not a constitutional matter and that Nigerians across political divide have not been sincere with it so far, adding that if Nigerians had been sincere with it, there is a particular reference in the Constitution that would have clearly taken care of it.
He further stressed that since Nigerians are not sincere with the issue of zoning and that it is not well backed by law, it would be difficult to enforce.
He said: “What I have always said on zoning is that we have zoning at the convention, its like it is almost becoming a tradition. But it is not a constitutional matter; either in the 1999 constitution amended or the active constitution.
“If there is sincerity in the issue of zoning, nobody would come out today from the Northern part of Nigeria to say they want to contest the 2023 presidential election of Nigeria. Even the PDP that started it, I am not sure it is in their constitution. If it is required in their constitution, like today now, Atiku will not be waiting to contest. In fact, yesterday he was in Ogun State, where he said he was going to come out soon.
“That is why I said there is no sincerity with the issue of zoning, and it is not on solid foundation, and therefore, not sacrosanct, even by those who say that they are practicing it.
“For instance, if you ask any PDP person today, they will say: “there is no issue of zoning, we want somebody that is competent, which is true, a competent person that can take Nigeria out of the woods, and there is no issue of zoning. That is why I said, yes, there is zoning but it is not documented, it is not something that can be proudly fought for.
“I have said it clearly that there is a particular reference in the Constitution that clearly took care of zoning. That is federal character principle. That is why it is established in the Constitution in Section 153(1C). Also for equitability and fair distribution of resources, we have Section 14(3), Section 147(3), Section 171(5), those should have taken care of issues surrounding equitable and fair distribution of resources and political appointments.
“But, because we have not implemented the issues around federal character very well, that is why people are still talking about revolution, that is why people are still talking about zoning.
“I have said it severally that in this country, we have enough laws that if well implemented, Nigeria will be better off. We do not need new laws; we can be doing some amendments but we have all the laws that we need. But because of bad or poor implementation, that is why we are having agitation all over the place.
“The Federal Character Commission is established to look at the issues around the fact that everybody must be represented in all that we do. There would not be problems with the issue of zoning if we are we observing the federal character principle.
“Normally, there should be a level playing ground for everybody so that we can have good candidates that can take Nigeria to where we want it to be. Somebody that is strong enough to handle Nigeria the way it should be handled.
“But because of the issue of zoning, I am not saying that when you have zoning you will not have people like that, but when you have a level playing ground, you will have what we can call best. We are not saying zoning will not provide that, but if we have a larger horizon, we should be able to get something better. That is why I have said zoning for me will not give us what we desire as a country”.
He however said if Nigerians are truly sincere on the issue of power shift and zoning , the South East ordinarily should have the privilege of producing the president of Nigeria come 2023.
“As a person who believes in equity and fairness, I support zoning, and then, if you want to look at zoning merit, as a Yoruba man from the South West, if power shifts to the South, I will okay it. However, zoning itself is not what we can say can be done right.
“Presidency should have gone to South East. Why? South West has tasted power twice. Because I will say MKO won election. MKO won election and it was annulled, and that is why we had Obasanjo. I should have said it is the turn of the South East but as a Yoruba man, I will say it should return to the South West.
“However, on merit, it should go to the South East. South West would take it, but because we have had it, I think South East should have been the best. This is my opinion. It is not the opinion of any party. This is not the opinion of the House. South South has had it. South West has had it, but South East has not had it. That is the only area in the South that is yet to have it. If we are looking at it on merit, it should be South East. But I am sure as a Yoruba man, it should go to the South West,” Lawal said.
The member representing Yewa South/Ipokia Federal Constituency of Ogun State also charged Nigerians youths to take the bull by the horn and not wait for the older generation to voluntarily relinquish power.
When asked on the need for Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Yemi Osinbajo to drop their ambitions to give the youths a chance, Lawal said: “I am for the youths. I am a youth myself. They should give room to the younger ones but these are political gurus that are eminently qualified to contest for presidency.
“They have the wherewithal, they have whatever it is that is required to contest. But, if the youths want to be part of it, it is a competition. They can compete, the youths should come out en masse and compete with them. Everybody have been talking about the youths, the youths should put themselves together and compete and then be their flag bearer”.
Addressing the issue of constituency projects, Lawal said: “There is nothing like constituency allowance. Constituency projects monies do not get into the pockets of a legislators or members. Constituency project itself, the money is not given to the member.
“Based on what you discuss with your stakeholders in your constituency, at the beginning of the year before the budget cycle, you will list out what you want the government to do in your constituency as constituency projects. It is called Zonal Intervention Project (ZIP).
“When you put that in the budget and the budget is passed, the fund for that project is released to the agency that you have domiciled the project in. When the project is domiciled there, when they release the fund to them, they do all the tendering process. You do not have ay input, except in some cases, some members recommend contractors. They are not obliged to use contractors nominated by members.
“We have even said that should not happen again in the House because it is conflict of interest. We have advised against that. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the MDA to ensure that the project is done.
“For instance, I am not an engineer, so I cannot know when a project has met the BoQ. They do not give us the Bill of Quantity. We do not see the Bill of Quantity. We do not know what they have agreed with the contractors. The contractor just come to my constituency, I will show him the site where he will put the project or in the case of empowerment programme, I let them know where they will put the items, and I will let them know if they have completed the project.
“In my own opinion, I am not an engineer, and I cannot guarantee whether it is structural okay or not. But I will tell them when they have completed the project. They now come direct to visit the project themselves, most times. After doing that, they now sign off, and they pay it. I do not know the member’s issue comes in as if it is the member that is responsible. In the past, I will say that maybe something that is illicit is happening. But as a member of the National Assembly, and Chairman of Ethics and Privileges, we have monitored, our members have made sure that what they should do, they are doing it.
“We had a motion in the floor where we requested the ICPC to give us the evidence of how they say that N10 billion projects were not executed. They were very magnanimous enough to bring the documents to me. When I reviewed the documents, I realised that most of the projects were duplicated by them, and we let them know that most of the things they said there were not correct. It is occurred in the previous Assembly, not the current Assembly. What we are doing currently is okay.
“If it is done judiciously, it is okay the way it is now, because it allows all parts of the country to be impacted positively in project development. Especially in this ninth assembly, if you look at all members now, we have projects in all of our constituencies. It is a good thing for the country and it is a good thing for the constituency”.
On the issue of life pension for principal officers of the National Assembly, Lawal said: “If I start telling you here, it means you want to know what my vote will look like, and my vote will come tomorrow, not today. So, do not let me vote here. I want to vote at the national chambers. If I tell you whether it is right or wrong now, it means that I am voting. So, I cannot answer that question here.
“On the issue of constitutional review, it has a timeline. It has a roadmap. It has a way it is designed to happen. I am sure it will happen. If we have our voting tomorrow, it gets to the State Houses of Assembly, I am sure it will beat deadline for it to come back for it tube useful to the elections. I think it will be useful for the 2023 electoral process.
“On the insurgence at the border, yes, we are a border community, and our borders have been closed for many years and they have not been reopened just because of the insurgency. But the period running, there are no areas where there is insurgency around there. We have not had any issue of banditry or people coming from the other country to come and terrorise us in our area.
“On my committee; it cannot be a graveyard. No! It depends on who is chairing a committee. My committee cannot be a graveyard because the person that is there has his own brain, has his own sense, has his own ways of doing things. We have had many chairmen of ethics and privileges that have probably that have done things the way they are not supposed to have been done. In our own case, we have not seen anything like that. Matters are referred to us, we treat those matters on their merits. But, the challenge we have in that committee is the constitution or the judiciary are people trying to use the judiciary to probably circumvent whatever it is we are doing.
“If a matter is referred to you now, and want to suspend the member, it is possible that a member go to court and the court will say we do not have the right. Although we can do whatever we want to do as House, and the Privilege Act 2004 has given us that right that whatever we do within that House, no court can stop us from doing it. So, sometimes, members will go to court and we always win”.