NASS leadership: APC’ll be careful this time —Rep-elect

Honourable Lawrence Babatunde Ayeni is the newly-elected member of the House of Representatives for Ijesa South Federal Constituency of Osun State. He speaks with MOSES ALAO on the issues surrounding the choice of leadership for the ninth National Assembly, the recent judgment on the Osun State governorship election and other issues.

YOU were a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, why did you choose to contest the House of Representatives in Osun State instead of Lagos?

It is true that I have served as a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly; I served for two terms. Apart from that, I have also once been elected as a councillor in one of the local governments in Lagos State. Now to answer your question on why I chose to contest the House of Representatives seat in Ijesa South Federal Constituency, the reason is not far-fetched; I am an indigene of Igbogi in ward three of Ilesa West Local Government of Osun State by birth. Even when I was about to leave Lagos State to come and contest in Osun, most of my political associates didn’t want me to leave Lagos.

Your party, the APC recently lost at the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, where the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was declared as the validly elected candidate. Though your party has appealed that judgment, do you have any hope?

Honestly, my simple answer is yes. I am very sure and I have confidence that Governor Gboyega Oyetola will win at the Court of Appeal. First, you will recall that the chairman of that Tribunal panel gave his ruling in favour of the APC and Governor Oyetola. After all, it was not only in Osun State that the INEC declared election inconclusive. It happened in Kogi State during the governorship election that produced Yahaya Bello of APC as the winner. During the just-concluded 2019 governorship election, elections in six states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Kano, Plateau, Benue and Sokoto stats were declared inconclusive. Even in Plateau State, it was APC that was leading before the poll was declared inconclusive. This is to show you that if really the INEC wanted to take side or the Federal Government wanted to use federal might, the PDP would not have won in Bauchi, Sokoto, Benue and Adamawa states. What I’m trying to say in essence is that the cancellation of the September 27, 2018 rerun governorship election by the Tribunal was wrong and I want to believe that the Appellate Court would set the judgment aside and affirm the victory of Governor Oyetola.

Recently, the National Working Committee of the APC decided on the choice of Senator Lawan from the North-East as the party’s preferred candidate for the position of Senate President when the 9th National Assembly is inaugurated in June, while it has also zoned other positions, with an eye on some individuals such as Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila. Don’t you foresee a repeat of what happened in 2015, when members moved against the APC on National Assembly leadership?

Our party will be very careful this time round not to allow the mistake of 2015 to repeat itself. What happened in 2015 was nothing but a civilian coup. That kind of coup, I want to believe, won’t happen this time round, because we want a kind of National Assembly that will work in line with the Next Level Agenda of the APC government under the leadership of President Buhari. And I can tell you that we are loyal party members who are ready and committed to impacting positively on the lives of Nigerians.

But don’t you see what you describe as loyalty as party men leading to the National Assembly producing a rubber-stamp kind of leadership? Some people have argued that lawmakers, as stipulated by the National Assembly Rules, should be allowed to choose their leaders.

That can never turn the 9th National Assembly members to rubber-stamp law-makers before the executive. Rather, it will only make our working relationship with the executive more cordial and perfect and this will in turn lead to good governance and economic development of the nation.

Now that you have been elected as a member of the House of Representatives, your people will have huge expectations, what plans do you have to ensure they are not disappointed?

As I said during my electioneering, my constituents should look forward to an excellent, qualitative and very active representation from me. Even before I was elected, I have been doing a lot of things for my people in Ijesa South Federal Constituency, which I hope to continue and to even do more as a federal lawmaker. For instance, I had what we called the L.B. Ayeni Foundation through which a lot of people have been benefiting since 2011. Many of the unemployed youths in the constituency have been trained on entrepreneurship skills and I have been providing them with vocational equipment to startup their own businesses. I have also tried a lot in the area of sports through the L.B. Ayeni Sport Competition, which I organise so as to discover in our youth their areas of potentials and encourage them in those areas. Now that I have been elected to represent the people in the lower chamber of the National Assembly, I promise not disappoint them and I will fulfill all my electioneering promises.

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