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HomePoliticsQuality of representation in the National Assembly has been declining – Yusuf

Quality of representation in the National Assembly has been declining – Yusuf

‘Removal Of Subsidy On Petroleum Should Have Been Preceded By Subsidy On Health, Education’

Criticisms have continued to trail the policies and decisions of the Federal Government especially in the last one year in the areas of economy, education and healthcare. In this interview with AZIMAZI MOMOH JIMOH, a former member of the House of Representatives (2011- 2023), Tajudeen Yusuf, reviewed the issues emerging from the management of the nation’s  economy in the last one year and submitted that governance has been characterised by lack of coordination and planning. The former chairman of the Committee on Privatisation expressed concerns about the decline in the quality of representation in the National Assembly; a development he noted has affected the quality of governance in Nigeria. Excerpts:

How would you assess the country’s economy in the last one year? 
In the last one year, you can say you have one, two, three ministers who have shown character of presence. But there is one major policy somersault; it is a good thing to do but was not properly articulated and managed. It is subsidy removal. The mistake took away whatever gain they would have gotten. 
 
I’m not opposed to subsidy removal; I’m an economist. But there are processes to remove subsidies and there’s no country in the world that doesn’t subsidise at least a particular sector. But it is wrong to subsidise fuel because you enrich and empower the rich more and you impoverish the poor when you subsidise fuel. But you can take subsidies into education. 
 
A man on a salary of N30,000, whose transport from Nyanya to work used to be N100, subsidy removal would take it to like N150, N200 or N300. He should have a gain by saying the school fees of my child is being taken care of; he is aware that if he goes to hospital certain things are being taken care of. So, that’s how to remove subsidies on petroleum products. 
 
In economics, there’s something we call the ripple effect, bandwagon effect. These things are normal.  So, until we put these things into perspective, we will not get out of trouble. In our democracy, our policies must take into cognizance who we are as a people.
 
My solution would have been, President Tinubu, you know you are removing subsidies. I have a one-year plan. By December 2024, there won’t be subsidies. But before then, by April, there will be buses out. By so, so, so, there will be this or that; not that you take away fuel subsidy and you are now planning palliatives. It should have been in place.
 
Look at it; you took it out. The moment you took it out, look at what is happening. You are now struggling to manage it and what have you.
That’s why I say, I don’t know who counselled him (President Tinubu). I assume he is a thoroughly bred politician who should have had this plan on ground for subsidy. That’s why I would have said ‘oh Eldorado’; but unfortunately, it’s a lie if I ever say that.

As a former member of the National Assembly (NASS), how would you assess the quality of representation in the NASS compared to when you were there?
  The 10th Assembly to me has not been able to be what it should be because of the manner it came. And unfortunately too is the quality of men and women who are being recruited from Nigerian society. So, it’s a reflection of where we are as a people, our values. They didn’t come from Ghana; they are Nigerians. 
  So, the quality has been on the decline. Every year, those who are coming are ill equipped. And the expectation of Nigerians too, because they are misplaced, put pressure on them not to do the right thing. 
 
An average Nigerian, once you win an election, is about my wife gave birth yesterday, my children’s school fees and what have you. But when they are criticising they talk about the roads. But when they are engaging you, they talk about those things. 
 
So, they say the things that make people feel they want development but when they engage you, it’s about their personal benefit. And once you cannot throw that largesse you are not a good man.

 
So, the man who wants to do a good job must be in the good books of the executive so that he would have resources. That’s why you find a lot of good men lose elections and don’t come back.

There are those who believe that what the President is doing is just like somebody who planted some crops that require some time to grow and so we are yet to get to the time to harvest. Are you part of those who believe that the time to harvest is still ahead? 
  It is natural that there is seed time and harvest time. But if you do not till your ground well, don’t you know what is called stunted growth? Yield can be 30, 40, 60, 100 per cent. So what kind of yield?  Is the suffering going to be in the same measure with the result we are getting? I just analysed something for you now. 
 
There’s nowhere in the world that you have economic policies from the IMF and World Bank being adopted in total in an economy and it works. You have a responsibility to gather your own good eggs, analyse and domesticate them. I just analysed behavioural patterns. I told you about the interest rate. So, those who are saying that are trying to encourage themselves because discouragement can bring despondency and a lot of things. So it’s good for the polity to hear those kinds of things. But I don’t have high expectations. 
 
Look at dollar fluctuation; what have you done? It’s only in Nigeria that the dollar fluctuates. In a lot of places, even in the so-called Zimbabwe when its economy was crashing, you see how the dollar rate was sustained for one month.  But in Nigeria, 10 o’clock it’s one naira; by three o’clock, it’s another thing. It’s only in Nigeria. Go and check; there’s nowhere in the world they have those kinds of fluctuations.
How? 

  Simple! It’s only in Nigeria that some people do speculation on their businesses. They don’t go to transact anything. All they do is they buy dollar and keep to sell. It’s only in Nigeria.
 
, there are things that are common. It’s only in Nigeria that subsidy removal puts more money in the hands of governors. States that were taking four or five billion are now taking 11, 12, 13, 15 billion. And an average Nigerian is not looking at the state money; we are all focusing on the national. Nobody is questioning that. A lot of state governors buy dollar every month when they get their allocation to store wealth. That’s part of the challenge here. It’s only in Nigeria.
 
It’s only in Nigeria that the federating units will come to Abuja every month to share money. There’s no federation anywhere in the world where such is practiced. 
 
Canada is almost like us, multilingual, large, whatever; they have oil. There’s nowhere the central government allocates oil blocs in Canada. The regions allocate and pay tax to the centre. You are taxed according to what you are expected to have. 

 
But in Nigeria, we all gather here at the table to share revenue. So, how do you promote ingenuity? How do you make people think outside the box when they know they are getting a handout every month? 
  The Organised Labour is talking about minimum wage and what have you. Yeah, it’s good to have minimum wage, but in an ideal federation, you don’t have the same rate everywhere. 
 
You go to some areas of Canada; you are paid seven times more than the other side but you pay more tax. VAT, everything is higher in those areas. Housing is higher in those areas. The idea of a federation is that each component unit is at liberty to grow at its own pace and based on its capacity. So, we have unitary confederation. 

You are a former lawmaker. During your own time, when the Executive came up with inconsistent policies, the lawmakers used the instrumentality of lawmaking to correct them and do checks and balances. Do you think that this 10th Senate has helped the president to stabilise the economy? 
  When you take the oath of office, it’s not an allegiance to your party. It’s an allegiance to the nation when you swore an oath to that constitution.
 
So, not just the 10th Senate, but any parliament in the world that cedes a right of choice of leadership to the Executive will not be able to perform optimally. They are supposed to work together, the Parliament and the Executive, but there’s some degree of independence when your legitimacy as a leader comes from your members, when you know that you can come in as a Speaker or Senate President and go back as a normal member; because they are first among equals. But when what sustains you belongs to the other arm of government it can never. So, it didn’t start from the 10th Senate; it started from the 9th National Assembly.

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