Hon. Bamidele Faparusi, a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti State, was a member of the 7th House of Representatives. In this interview with journalists in Ado-Ekiti, he expressed optimism that his party would do better in Ondo and Edo gubernatorial elections. He also spoke on other nationsl issues. YAQOUB POPOOLA captured his views. Excerpts:
A lot of criticisms has trailed the ongoing anti-graft war of President Muhammadu Buhari administration, especially by the opposition. How would you rate the performance of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in this crusade so far?
I am not surprised that some are trying to sabotage President Buhari’s efforts by saying that the EFCC has been selective and political. I am not surprised at all. Just take a look at the investigations of EFCC under the present Chairman, Ibrahim Magu. You will realise that the commission has been thorough in its job. It always tells the public its findings to prove that there is no witch-hunt.
The PDP ruled this country for 16 years. I believe just like every other reasonable Nigerians, they should be the one to be questioned and not APC that took over a year ago. President Buhari only checked the records of money earmarked to fight Boko Haram war and you can see the discovery. No PDP person has ever come up with allegations against any of the President Buhari’s appointees. Should he now arrest APC members arbitrarily without any cogent evidence just to prove that he is not selective or to balance the equation? The President has made it clear that he is not interested in jailing any Nigerian. He said people should refund money and people are refunding secretly and they are being let off the hook. The EFCC is given the mandate to investigate. Whoever is investigated and is not happy should go to court and that has been happening. But, that does not mean the APC members cannot be investigated. At the federal level, the party can start investigating itself after spending four years on saddle, but not now.
The coming governorship primary election in Ondo State has started to generate controversies already. As one of the aspirants in Ekiti State, what do you think must be done to check recurrence of crisis in the state?
We thank God that the party has a constitution and it is very clear and well stated that everything must be done in accordance to the law. So, whatever the party will do will not be what I or anybody prefers. It is what the constitution says. So, the best way to get the best and popular candidate is by following what the constitution says, which is, let there be fair play. The party should also not forget that zoning has come to stay in our political system, so they should consider it despite being enshrined in our constitution. Agreement can be reached that only aspirants from Ekiti South Senatorial District should contest. If this is acceptable, I believe it will help to stem the tide of crises in our party and brighten our chances of reclaiming Ekiti from the PDP. But, we have to gauge the mood of the people, because their will must prevail at all times.
Are you optimistic that your party can win the governorship election in spite of the crisis that created factions among the members?
I am very hopeful that we can win. Just take a look at the PDP government of Governor Ayodele Fayose in Ekiti. The party has done very badly and woefully in all sectors. The entire sectors have been paralysed by Fayose’s inability to think out of the box to develop the economy the way his predecessor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, did. But, we thank God for the success of the reconciliation being midwifed by the National Deputy Chairman, Chief Segun Oni. I am one of those who believe that we need unity to be able to win in 2018. But, the woeful performance of the PDP government has made the task very easy. Again, the people of Ekiti have been able to know the difference between APC and PDP, which is very clear. Going by their harrowing experience now, they will prefer APC in the next election. But, for them to have confidence in us, we must have primary election devoid of crisis for us to win.
The former Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, recently accused President Muhammadu Buhari of killing the economy? How do you view the statement?
This must be a political statement considering the personality that made it. He was part of the PDP government that killed the economy. It is unfortunate that Lamido has forgotten so soon that he is answering charges on multi-billion naira fraud he allegedly perpetrated in his own state as a governor for eight years. So, his statement is not backed by facts. The economy started to nose dive before President Buhari came on board and what the government is doing is to salvage it. The economy has been bastardised by serious looting and corruption that characterised the Goodluck Jonathan administration. Jonathan’s government was only patching the economy before he left so that it would not affect his chances at the poll.
He refused to disclose to Nigerians the true position of the economy. The magnitude of corruption perpetrated under the regime goes a long way to show what the PDP represents. But, let me say this, Nigerians are lucky to have Buhari on board. If Jonathan had won that election, the economy would have by now shut down completely, because they would have continued with their looting spree. Apart from massive looting of the treasury by the PDP, another simple reason why things are like this is that before that elections, many of the foreign investors moved their investments out of Nigeria because of the tension that was generated by the campaigns. These investors believed that Nigeria would boil and they are yet to return. You can agree with me that it is always very easy to move out than to settle down in any business venture. I want to believe that Buhari’s plan to invest in infrastructure will gradually restore the economy and make it stronger. By the time the 2016 budget is implemented by 50 per cent, Nigerians will have cause to smile. As a leader, I want to commend Nigerians for their understanding in this trying period. Getting out of this economic problem requires the support of all Nigerians .
As a former federal lawmaker, do you support the provision of immunity clause for principal officers of the National Assembly?
Legislative immunity is nothing but an aberration. What they wanted to do is to create a monster out of the national assembly. I want to believe that the proponents did not know or gauge the feelings of Nigerians. I want to believe that it was a product of conspiracy against Nigerians. The essence of immunity is to avoid distractions for the president, Vice President, Governors and their deputies. The makers of the constitution never thought that wicked people could find their ways to these positions. Their thinking was that whoever that will occupy these seats will be men and women of integrity. But it is sad enough that we now have criminals as governors today. That is why people say the clause should be expunged. So, I am worried to see legislators now canvassing for immunity even when those already protected had abused it. It is like the members of the National assembly did not know the implication of their actions. The Senate President and the Speaker are just ‘Firsts among equals’. Are they now saying that these principal officers cannot be investigated or punished if they commit or flout the rules guiding the Assemblies?
They are only trying to create monsters that will be difficult to kill. I am one of those who believe that those with blemish should not aspire to be leaders. They should stay where they belong and stop creating unnecessary tension in the polity. Nigeria has a constitution and that constitution expressly states that the lawmakers cannot enjoy immunity. For anybody to plot to smuggle this into our legal book just for his own selfish end is not acceptable to Nigerians. We will resist this and I am confident that the bill will not scale through the hurdles. The people have rejected it and sovereignty lies with the people.
What is your advice to your former colleagues on this issue?
I want to say that the bill is ill intentioned and must be rejected by members of the federal legislature. It must not be allowed to scale through. They must throw it to the trash bin because the suspicion is already there that if passed into law, it would protect the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, from prosecution over alleged forgery of Senate Standing Rules and false declaration of assets at the Code of Conduct Bureau. Again, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, is facing serious allegation over padding of the 2016 budget. Are we now saying that if they are found culpable by investigation, they should not be prosecuted? So, this is a self-seeking bill and it should not be allowed to thrive. The masses of this country have suffered enough and I think the leaders should be ready to embrace selfless service to give hope that their sufferings will be alleviated.
Of recent, the EFCC froze the accounts of Governor Fayose because of his alleged involvement in Dasukigate. What is your take on this?
The allegation is still within the precinct of the court and no one can come out with his own judgment until the court adjudicates on the matter. But, I want to say that beyond the issue of alleged financial profligacy, Governor Fayose’s conduct has become a serious dent to the image of Ekiti State. Our image is as battered as a people to the extent that the next government will have to work very hard to redeem the image. However, the EFCC revelation had tried to show that Fayose can be corrupt. As we speak today, some of the citizens of the state found it difficult to identify with Ekiti. People outside the state are ashamed to boldly say they are Ekiti and it is sad. Fayose is not the real face of Ekiti because an average Ekiti man places high premium on integrity which has no relevance to Fayose as far as his conducts and deeds are concerned. I am very confident that a new government will emerge in 2018 from APC to redeem our image. The best way to achieve this is by our party to form credible alternative. We should be democratic enough to be able to offer credible alternative for our people who are yearning for change. We should forget about our parochial interests for now and work for the people of the state, whom I believe will rally round our party to win the next election if we are really serious as a party. So, I am particularly happy that the EFCC is beaming its searchlight on Fayose and we expect a thorough job in this regard.