Tinubu’s govt lacks good governance – Senator Kingibe

  • Wike working in isolation in FCT

Senator representing the Federal Capital Territory, Ireti Kingibe, in this interview with Dr Reuben Abati on Arise TV, addressed the faceoff with the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike, Women in Politics among other issues. OLUMIDE OLUSEGUN brings excerpts.

Since you won your election to become senator of the Federal Republic, one persistent complaint has been that you are sidelined and not allowed to represent your people. As recently as about a week ago, Senator Godswill Akpabio had to remind you that if you wanted to contribute to the budget for the FCT, you needed to go through the process by serving a motion on notice, and then raise objections but that for you to just complain that you have been sidelined, you didn’t follow the process. So why would anybody sideline you when you are representing the people who voted for you?

Well, Ruben, the truth is that I did go through the process but at this point, I think that since we are in the process of discussing and sorting it out, I would like us to leave that and go to how my constituency is being marginalised generally. FCT has the unique situation of having the president as the de facto governor of the federal capital territory. And he administers that territory through a minister, one Senator, and two House of Rep members. Also, all the members of the National Assembly, because they are the equivalent of the State Assembly for the federal capital territory, they are responsible for ensuring that the rights of the people of FCT are maintained just like any other State Assembly. So it’s not just that. But because I am the highest elected official in the FCT, everything that happens in the FCT, the people complain to me and expect me to go through whatever authorities I need to, to get it sorted out. A few days ago there was a fire in Abuja. It was me they told, this is what we need, this is what must be done, you must get the minister to do this A, B, C, D. In the past, that arrangement has always worked very well. But it has not been so seamless with the current minister of the federal capital territory. I am not sure why, but he has said that he does not, that I claim that I am the senator of FCT.

You claimed or you are?

That’s what he says. I am the senator. He said in interviews that I claimed I am the senator of the FCT and he is not obliged to deal with me. But I am saying that by sections 122 and 124 of the Evidence Act, he is bound by the judicial notice of the occupier of the seat of the senator of FCT. I am also saying that section 24 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria imbues on him a duty that is the Honorable Minister. But I’m not calling any names because anybody who is a minister is bound by those same laws and duties to abide by the Constitution, to respect all his ideals, institutions, and legitimate authorities. So, just the same way that some Nigerians would have voted for the president and some would not have, but as soon as he’s declared president, he becomes the president for everybody and nobody can pick and choose who they would rather be president. And therefore, the same applies to all offices, regardless of party or any other position.

Madam, the man you are talking about, his name is Nysome Wike, former governor of River State and is now minister of the FCT. He has responded to this issue that you have raised. He said you want him to be your friend and that he doesn’t want to be your friend. That is it by force. That you should leave him alone.

Please, what constitutes friendship between two people who have never met each other? I have never sat in the same room with the minister, except in a Senate committee. So, how does it arise? Why would I want to be the friend of somebody I do not know? The truth of the matter is that the minister refuses to speak or communicate in any way with the senator representing the federal capital territory. So, how are the wishes and the needs of the people to be communicated to him? Please tell me if you know a way.

He said he is a minister and he is doing his job. He has commissioned some roads, renamed some roads, he has built some projects in the place, he has appointed permanent secretaries, and he says he is concentrating on his work and he doesn’t want blackmail. He says you are blackmailing him.

To do what? To regard the needs of the people? The minister may be a great minister in a ministry that has no people. But the unique situation of the FCT minister is that apart from infrastructure and roads, he also has to take into consideration the needs of the people in that territory. That’s the difference between him and, say, the minister of works or any other ministry. The minister of FCT is almost acting as the governor for the president. So it’s not just being a regular minister. He says he commissioned roads. Yes, those roads were started by Mohamed Bello, and I commend him for finishing some of them. But also, just like the people took me on when those roads were commissioned, they said, madam, you people are celebrating roads in Maitama, Asokoro, and Central Business District. The bulk of the people do not live there. Show me the projects where the people live. That’s the difference. It’s almost like a governor telling you that he built some roads so he doesn’t care what the needs of the people are. They have needs. So it’s not good enough. The people are not impressed. I commend him because I see that some things are done. But at the end of the day, they don’t have water. That fire that happened in Karu could have been prevented if there was water. But I don’t know if you know, Abuja, any fire truck has to go all the way to Asokoro to get water, spray the fire, and then come back. Not to talk about the fact that there were no access roads into the market and a whole litany of issues. Who do you think is going to sort out those issues? The minister. But the people are going to tell the senator, not the minister. In the same way in security, the people scream senator, senator, senator. The senator says, minister, sort out in security. He says he does not have to speak to me, so I spoke to him on Channels. Just like a lot of the issues that I am going to bring up today, he will hear from my Arise.

Your complaint is not just about Wike. You have also been quoted as saying that you are excluded from most of the key decisions affecting the federal capital territory in the Senate. Do you think this is because you are from a minority party, labour party, or do you think it’s because you are a woman? Four of you, four women in the national assembly.

It is not because I’m a woman. In all fairness to the senate as a body, it’s not very difficult to exclude the women and they do not exclude us. We get involved in as many things as we would like to. And most of the time, yes, your party matters a little bit, but not seriously. If you want me to be honest, this boils down to the fact that the senate president is a personal friend of the honorable minister of the FCT, so when things that they think Senator Kingibe might object to are brought up, I am not quite sure. As I said, this is a topic I’d rather wait, since I plan on coming back to you in another week, to discuss it in detail. I was planning to have a general discussion with you today, but I am on several committees, not excluded from any of them. I am aware of every little detail that goes on in every other committee. Why is this committee special? You would think it would be the reverse because I am the senator representing that place, as most other senators are called on when things affect their constituency. So it’s something that needs to be sorted out privately in the Senate, and if it is not sorted out privately in the Senate, then we can discuss it publicly.

I get the point about the friendship between Akpabio and Wike, but there is also something about style and communication. If you as a senator from the Labour Party, on the floor of the senate behave like this, Obedients on social media, that could create a problem, because Wike has said, that you expect that he will report to you and that he as minister, he will not report to a senator.

No minister has ever reported to any senator. If you look back on, in fact, if you look back several years, most ministers and senators don’t even usually come from the same party, but they work in synergy. Synergy is the keyword. Reporting to anybody does not arise, and our proceedings in the National Assembly are recorded. Being cantankerous or disorganised is not my style. I think I have been quieter than I am because I was studying the senate and the dynamics of the place, so I doubt that it has to do with my style, but if it is, you can look at the senate proceedings and advise me, because they are all recorded.

You say key decisions affecting the FCT. What are your priorities that you think have not been addressed in the best interest of the federal capital territory?

Some of my interests are not specific to the Senate, but they are specific to the person administering, the honorable minister. But just like any state assembly, when a governor is not taking care of the rights and the needs of the people, the state assembly draws his attention to it and makes him do it. For one thing, in Abuja, there’s no water. And let me even just take the last budget that was passed, the supplementary budget. Let’s just deal with that little one. In that budget of 98, only 18 billion has anything to do with the people. 20 billion for renovating 20 schools. Everything else, we are building a road to EFCC, another one to DSS, and all those things. Please, with all due respect, those roads may need renovation. Maybe the road to the presidential wing all needs work. I am saying that for an impoverished nation, for a territory where insecurity is so high, a few days ago, I lived in Maitama. My guard, just walking down the street, was hacked. It just shows you the level of insecurity. We have so many issues and we don’t have the funds to do them. So in the bid to prioritise, I think that the needs of the people, that is the majority of the people, healthcare, education, security, and water. Water, as basic as water, we do not have. So I am not saying that those things we should do them, we can do them when we are more liquid, but we are not. Those are my issues. Some of these things, maybe the local government, like the markets I am complaining about, the local government needs to take care of it, but in previous, the Honorable Minister’s predecessors, would join hands with the National Assembly and tell the local government chairman, you have got to do this, you have got to do that. So him alone against the rest of us, he cannot, he will do them. But when everybody is working in silos, nothing, the people of my constituency suffer. That’s the truth.

Is it a problem that you are from the Labour Party? Because before you became the representative of the people of the FCT, there was Philip Aduda there. Now Aduda seems to be having a good relationship with Wike.

Philip Aduda is not the current sitting senator, so he doesn’t have to look out for the interests of the people. When there was a fire, they did not call Philip Aduda, even though it was his ward, they called me. So if Aduda has a good relationship with Wike, that is fine. It does not help the people of the Federal Capital Territory. I have to draw your attention to the that the last minister was APC. Philip Aduda was PDP and at the time, I was APC. And the minister worked well with Aduda. And we said to him, minister, what’s your problem? He said, no, madam. Not just me. All of us in APC. That’s sorry, for this place to work well, the minister has to work with the senator. So it doesn’t matter that he is not in our party, he is the senator representing this territory. And we accepted it as a good enough reason because he was. So, being in different parties, this is not the first time it has happened, it has happened with several senators in FCT because FCT has its unique way of voting.

I hope that the real matter is not about his friendship with the APC. I hope this is not about land allocation. And you are a civil engineer. I hope this is not about contracts because civil engineers, we know, they do contracts. I hope Wike will not come and say, madam wants land and engineering contracts.

Mr Abati, I will interrupt you here. I have been in FCT politics for the last 20 years, you can go and verify. No minister will come to you. I live in a house that I have lived in. I have owned the land since 1991. If you find any other federal allocation of land for me in the FCT, come and call me out on it. I am a firm believer that if everybody took one or two pieces of land, there would be enough for everybody. I am not interested in land. When the last minister was there, I was very instrumental. I worked with him in the beginning as the APC leader. When contracts were being given out, he asked, he’s there, you can verify with him. Where is madam’s own? He spoke to me. I said, oh, sorry, honorable minister, I am not a contractor, and that’s the truth. I am not. I am not a contractor. I am a professional. And if I wanted to land, I have lived in the FCT since when FCT was just all forest and bush, when there were only two houses on Osuma streets. I mean, I could have acquired a lot more land. So whenever honorable Minister Wike talks, you should verify. I want to be his friend. He should show you the indicators of friendship with somebody you have never spoken to one-on-one. I have only spoken to him across a long table in a committee meeting. So how does friendship come into our relationship?

You have been quoted as saying that bad governance brought you into the senatorial race to make a difference. You tried the first time, didn’t work but the second time, it worked. Do you think that there is good governance in Nigeria now?

Well, absolutely not.

Do you think the Tinubu administration is not doing well?

Excuse me? No, it isn’t. I have the utmost goodwill and respect for the president, and I know, there’s no doubt that he probably wanted to be president so he could make a difference but as things are right now, it does not augur well for his legacy. A president is only as good as his team. Any leader is only as good as their team. Even little me, I am constantly tweaking the people who work with me to get the maximum efficiency. So a team, no, I am sorry, it is not. The people are suffering. I feel that several things can be done, a Marshall Plan that can alleviate things for the moment, and I don’t see it being done. All of it is not his fault. It was a buildup to this point. But I also don’t see a credible Marshall Plan to solve the problems that we are now in. I only see it getting worse.

An ordinary person listening to you will say, well, you are a member of the Labour Party, and this is typical obedient talk.

Well, let’s put it this way. I turned 70 early this week, and I would think that my mindset would be a little bit different from the average obedient who are all young people. But that being said, we cannot look away from the fact that at least 70% of our population is under 40. So when decisions are being taken, you have to consider the fact that this is how young people feel. This is how they think. There are lots of things that my children do that I don’t quite understand, and I wouldn’t do it that way. It doesn’t change the fact that this is their time. And therefore, we need to listen to them. I am Labour, yes, because I think things need to change. I have been in PDP, I have been in APC, and I am an idealist. I am thinking that, okay, maybe there is somewhere where we can all go and change this country and make it the country we can be proud of. But notwithstanding, even when I was in APC, I still had the same beliefs that we can still do better. You all know I was an adamant Buharist. There was nothing I did not do because you also remember from my times on the Arise that I believed that Buhari was going to change this country. So I did everything, my strength, my money, everything to ensure that he got the time they called me in. He didn’t think he would get 25% in the FCT. He got 48% because we all mobilised for him. But he didn’t also do anything. And things are only getting progressively worse. We are fast getting to where I fear that we are pushing the people to the wall because now they are hungry. People can absorb everything. As a nation, we are resilient, we are complacent, and we can take things in our stride. But I don’t think we can take hunger in our stride. And that being said, certain things need to be done urgently, nationally.

We talk about women’s representation in politics. I think in the Senate now we have just about four women. And then generally, we don’t even have up to five percent if you take the entire National Assembly. And yet we have very well-educated public-spirited women like your good self and yet they can’t get into decision-making positions, except they are made coordinator of women’s affairs in the parties, or they are made minister of women affairs. What can we do ahead of 2027 to correct this situation?

I believe that Nigeria needs legislation for women’s inclusion. I know it works because in the parties, let me give you an example. When they asked for three delegates from each ward, they would just all come and bring male delegates. Immediately, the party said, three delegates from each ward, but one must be a woman. They all started to bring the women. I am not trying to say that we’re always law-abiding, but it would help if it was the law. Then it meant that then the onus would be on parties, governments, agencies, whatever, to look for competent women. Do you understand? And they are there. As I have said several times, if you look at countries that have more women in governance, they have shown that there’s a direct correlation between economic development and women in governance and policy and decision-making processes.

Based on what you just said, I have had this said again and again, that women do not support women in Nigeria. Every election day, it is mostly women who turn out to vote. But women folk will not support their kind. They will go and support the men. So what is being done to mobilise women?

The truth is that maybe that was so in the past, but the awareness and the thinking of women have changed somewhat. I know that I got a lot of support from women across the board, across parties, across everything, number one. Number two, myself and some other women are working on creating a database of women all across the country so we can use women voters as a lobby block because it is not enough to say, do something. You have to show me that, if I don’t do it, what will you do? Do you understand? And that would help. And the second thing is why women are not voting for women. How many women do you see on the ballot? That is also a problem. Even as proactive as I expected Labour Party to be, out of 109 tickets, maybe only two or three were female. So, and that is across the board. So unless women are on the ballot, you can’t say that they are not being voted for.

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