Hon. Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa is the new Speaker of Lagos House of Assembly. He was sworn in on Monday, June 8, 2015, as the Speaker of the 8th Legislative Session.
In this interview, he told ENCOMIUM Weekly his experience in two weeks that he became number three citizen of Lagos State.
He also said the issue of salaries and allowances of legislators whether at the national or state level is determined by Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), a body set up by the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria and more.
How will you describe your feeling on Monday (June 8, 2015), when you were to be sworn in as the Speaker of the 8th Lagos House of Assembly?
I will call it a mixed one. Although I had the pre-knowledge of what would happen on that day but you can never be too sure with politicians. It was a mixed feeling in the sense that one is happy that he was going to be the next Speaker of Lagos House of Assembly and the apprehension that it may not happen at the end of the day. I was, however, confident that whatever happened I will still be who I am. But we thank God that it eventually came to be.
Who was the first to congratulate you that day?
A lot of people were around on that day.
We mean on phone?
People have been calling even before that day. Few days before that day, people called to congratulate me.
On that day, while other members came to your table to sign their oath papers, you congratulated them and they bowed before you. But when it came to the turn of Hon. Adebayo Osinowo, a.k.a Pepper, it was you that bowed for him. Why?
(Laughs) I wouldn’t know how you noticed that. Hon. Pepper is three in one. He is not just an honourable member, he is a big brother to all of us. He is a party leader and ranking member as well. So, I have to accord him that respect. It does not matter whether I am the Speaker or not. It does not take away the Speakership from me. But one must do what is right.
We also observed that day that the former Speaker, Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji did not witness your swearing in as his successor, why?
The governor too did not witness my swearing in. I think they left early to catch their flight to Abuja for the inauguration of the National Assembly. That was probably why he couldn’t wait. But his wife was around throughout the ceremony and was in my office to congratulate me. I don’t think there is anything to that. I am sure it was because of the journey to Abuja.
But there was the rumour that he did not support your aspiration to become the Speaker?
I don’t know where people got such a story. We’ve always been friends and we will continue to be friends. We all supported him when he was the Speaker and I don’t expect anything less from him. So, I am not sure of what you are telling me now. I am sure we are still together.
How will you describe your experience in the last two weeks that you’ve been Speaker of Lagos House of Assembly?
The experience has been okay, there is not much to it except the fact that I now have additional responsibilities. Before, as an ordinary member, my responsibilities revolve around my legislative and oversight functions. But now, added to these two are my responsibility towards other members of the Assembly, the staff of the Assembly, my constituency and the party. So, now I am shouldering a heavy load.
Has being the Speaker changed your person in any way?
I don’t think so.
Are you saying you can still do some of the things you were doing before you became Speaker?
It depends on what you are talking about. I still go to parties. I don’t think that takes anything away from me. Two, I can’t abandon my friends because I am now Speaker. I have not seen anything really that has changed about me except of course, if you are talking about my freedom to move around. That has certainly reduced drastically. With the loads of work that I have now, my movement has been curtailed somehow. I have a whole lot of official assignments to attend. So, I can’t move around anyhow now. That is probably the only change you can see in me now.
What are you planning to do to make a difference from the last House of Assembly?
One, punctuality. We have scheduled our sitting for 10 a.m and it has remained 10 a.m. We have started that already. We are also planning to open constituency offices for all the 40 members. It will be equipped to taste and have people working there. People or constituents who visit the constituency office will surely meet someone there to attend to him or her.
Such constituency offices will also be supplied with journals of the House of Assembly so that people will be kept abreast of what we are doing in the House. You don’t have to come to the House (of Assembly) to know what we are doing.
We are going to do the Town Hall Meeting. We will make sure it is regular this time around. We will arrange it in such manner that it will be well packaged. We are also going to reach out to the corporate world, investors, manufacturers and so on. We want to banter ideas with them. We want them to give us ideas which can be useful to us and will also tell them what we are doing here. Such gathering will be bi-annual.
In the area of staff training, we will continue to do our best so that we will continue to improve our staff in the area of parliamentary activities. Without them we cannot achieve much because they are the engine room of the Assembly.
The remuneration of legislators, particularly those of the National Assembly has generated so much furor recently. Is it the same thing with the state Assemblies too? Are members allowances that much?
The remuneration of government workers generally is a constitutional matter. The legislators didn’t fix their remunerations themselves. It is the constitutional provision that set up RMAFC (Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission). That is the body that is charged with fixing the salaries and allowances of legislators, whether at the National Assembly or the state House of Assemblies.
If there is a problem, I think what needs to be done is to call the RMAFC to review the remunerations and allowances of all public office holders.
If RMAFC feels the allowances of all public office holders are too much, it can always review or remove it entirely.
I understand the feelings of our people. The situation of our economy calls for urgent action. Aside the allowances of public office holders, I think the running cost of all ministries and parastatals should be reduced to the barest minimum. Different departments in each ministry have running cost. Funds from such running costs could also be plunged back into the economy particularly in the areas of our capital expenditure.
Local businessmen and investors too should be encouraged. We have a whole lot of money in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). What are they doing with the money. Such money should be given to businessmen and investors with a little interest.
Yes, we can reduce the salaries and allowances of the legislators and all public office holders but we also need to do more than that before we can have substantial amount of money to plough back into the economy.