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Giving leadership of 10th NASS to Christian is part of healing process –Luke, member, House of Rep

Outgoing Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary, Onofiok Luke, speaks on the kind of leadership the 10th Assembly should have. In this interview monitored by David Lawani on Channels TV Political Paradigm, Luke, a former Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, speaks of his stewardship, among other issues

How do you feel knowing that you are not returning to the House of Representatives?


I thank God Almighty and I give accolades to my colleagues. I feel fulfilled in the sense that I set my goals for the future and I do timelines to them. I told myself I was coming to do just a term in the National Assembly from 2019 to 2023, and then set out to become the Chief Executive of my state. However, I could not make it to the governorship of my state, but I am happy and excited. I think it is an opportunity for me to get into private life; get to my legal practice and be able to see things from a private man’s perspective; the common man’s perspective and then see how I can offer some intervention. I am being called upon but for me, I feel fulfilled by going to private life.

In your view, what are the factors that played out that made you lose the governorship ticket of your party?

I see everything that played out in every man’s life as the will of God. For me, that is what drives me. I did what I had to do. I did consultations in the 31 local government councils, I consulted the traditional rulers. I consulted the governor, consulted the party leaders and I was in good standing. But somewhere along the line, because of the legislation we had in the National Assembly whether inadvertently, we legislated 33 delegates of the party which were what some of us were building our consultations on, who were to be electorates at the primaries. It was the ad-hoc delegates that were going to vote, and you don’t have a single contribution on who emerges as ad-hoc delegates. So, the first thing I did was not to partake in the process. I said I was not going to participate because how do you go to a primary when you don’t know the emergence of the delegates? Yes, after then there was an offer to go to the Labour Party, but I don’t do things without sitting down to reflect or just by the spur of the moment. I don’t play politics of emotions or anger. I think through political decisions and then leave them at the feet of God. Take it to Him in prayers. I did that and for whatsoever thing you are going to contest or vie for, it is the people who are going to make you. So I had a team. I went back to say, advise me, what do I do? And my team told me that throughout the campaigns for consultations, you were quite clear that even if you don’t win the primary, you are not going to leave the party. So, it is going to make rubbish of your brand if you recant and immediately decided to get the ticket of another party. I come from the same local government areas as the governor-elect, and our paramount ruler is the King of Ibibios. He is also the Chairman state Council of Chiefs. I must give it to the governor-elect, he tried to meet with me. He scheduled meetings in Lagos, Uyo, and Abuja, they spoke to me and asked to see the need to support him. At least for the sake of the local authority. After then the paramount ruler sent for me, and they asked me not to go to another party. He asked me to support the candidacy of Umo Eno. At that point, I owed a high regard for the traditional installation, I revered them. I don’t expect that my paramount ruler, his eminence, S.D Etuk, so, I had to accede to their plea. Again, my mother plays a very big role in whatsoever I do in life. She came to me and said God has been faithful to you all these years and anytime you emerge as the candidate of the party everybody will rally around you in the same PDP. I do not want you to go to another party. I want you to support the candidate of the party who has emerged. Many young people in my state were not happy because they feel I could go to the Labour Party. I now understand the political dynamics of my state. And then again like I said before, politics should not be played with emotions. It should be politics out of deep conviction. You don’t just wake up in a day and out of anger you take a position, there are certainly going to be regrets in the future.

When you talk about the politics of conviction, what is your conviction?

My conviction was primordial. When I was contesting to be a governor, I was not just contesting as governor. I felt my local government council has contributed to the success of successive administrations since 1999. We played prominent roles in the success of Obong Victor Attah, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and the government of the current administration of Udom Emmanuel. So, I felt, it is an opportunity for our local government to take that shot and be in the driver’s seat- that was the first conviction. The second conviction was that I had a relationship with Pastor Umo Eno before his active involvement in politics.

What would be the right way to go about healing the country, I recall clearly that you had in one of your interviews said that a lot of people went to the went into the elections hurt and came out of it still hurt?

For me, we are divided along religious lines. The first healing process as we go into the leadership process of the 10th National Assembly, is to give every segment of this country whether because of religion or ethnicity, a sense of belonging- that is the beginning. For instance, by the grace of God, we had a Muslim-Muslim ticket where they both emerged as President and Vice President, so, it is trite and right that a person of the Christian faith should be given the number three position in the 10th Assembly- that is part of the healing process. The other healing process is that people like General Yakubu Gowon, Sultan of Sokoto, the King of Ibibio, and other eggheads should come together and begin a conscious and intentional tour of this country so that they can meet with citizens to speak about peace because a whole lot of people are hurt. Some farmers are hurt because they cannot go back to their farmlands to farm. Some persons in the Middle Belt are hurt because of incessant killings. Some people in Southern Kaduna are hurt. Some people in Zamfara are hurt because of killings by bandits. So, the healing process is beyond politics. It has to cut across the entire strata of the Nigerian economy. The businessman is hurt because of enormous taxation, which tends to harm their businesses. So, it should be a total healing process.

The APC has zoned the Senate Presidency to the South-South and they have settled for Senator Godswill Akpabio, where the South-East is also clamouring for the position, what do you think about the unfolding scenario?

Rarely does every part of this country have a right to seek a sense of inclusion. They (South-East) want to have a sense of belonging. We (South-South) have also clamoured for a sense of belonging in this country over time. The South-East as it as it is has a right to advocate for certain positions in government. But, for me, I also have the right as somebody from South-South that a South-South man should be given that opportunity. However, all that we need is leadership as we go forward from

May 29 to begin to look at these issues and address them. There is no way two regions in the Southern part of Nigeria can occupy one seat. It has to be one, and so the region that takes it whether it is South-South that takes which I’m clamouring for, then South-East has to be given some level of involvement in the government by one position or the other. I’m a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a proud one at that.

There is a lot of lobbying taking place now for the speakership of the House, what informed your choice in 2019?

I took a decision, I think on the 6th of May 2019, and I do not regret that decision. I took the decision when we finished a meeting adopting Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila as the Speaker. The then director-general of his campaign, Abdul Mumuni, said Speaker Akwa Ibom you are going to address the press. That was the very first time I addressed the press on behalf of the House on the public endorsement of Gbajabiamila as the Speaker. And then what formed my conviction to take that position was that I have followed the National Assembly politics over time. I followed the antecedent; I followed the legislative acumen and then of Gbajabiamila. I followed his activities as a Majority Leader of the House and then coming and then falling from the tradition from elsewhere. Like I followed the politics of the politics of Nancy Pelosi of the US when the Democrats were not in the majority. The ruling and when they took power, she became the majority leader.

It is almost easy to say that they need not lobby you for that because they already knew and understood who you were. How much of it did you make of the whole process?

I understood where I was. Looking at the array of aspirants and why. Apart from that, we had a commonwealth and a member of the Commonwealth Parliament Association. As the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, we went to Mauritius and then the Speaker of the House I mean, the right Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila was the leader of the Nigerian delegation. He spoke and made a presentation on behalf of Nigeria and there was a standing ovation. I told myself that he has made Nigeria proud. And so when I became a member-elect, I looked at myself and I said who would I want to preside over the House?

What would you tell those aspiring for leadership positions in the 10th NASS?

Let me say it here for those that, I have worked with because it is only one of the aspirants that I have not had the opportunity to work with, which is a new that is Jaji because he was in the 9th National Assembly. But for those that have worked with, from the Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon Ahmed Wase to the House Leader, Alhassan Doguwa, Aliu Betara, Tajudeen Abbas, and others, they have great credentials. I must tell you they have great, legislative credentials. Out of that, it is only one person that will occupy that seat. And whosoever God wills that would occupy that seat for the betterment of Nigerians and we’ll make for good legislation, a government that isn’t too bad amongst them. There is an individual with towering credentials, and that is Tajudeen Abbas. This is because I have worked with him in the committee on judiciary. He has the highest number of bills today. You need to be a good legislator before you can be a good presiding officer. And so in this case, he has been a good legislator by having the highest number of bills and having the highest number of bills assented to by Mr President. So, that puts him in a position as a good legislator, and then he is Liberal. You know what we need in the next legislature, especially in the House of Representatives because of the diverse nature of members. We need somebody again in the mode of Gbajabiamila. Why do I say so? So if anybody knew that they will fight the whole new members on the floor and so he while we were going about our legislative duties, he gave us opportunities to learn. For instance, I use this as an example every time I speak on this. The standing orders of the House make provision for only two matters of urgent public importance pay a density because he needed to accommodate the diverse nature of members, their leanings, and the insecurity challenges members had in their respective constituencies to take up to three or four or five minutes. So, that made for the social cohesion of the House, and we need a Speaker who is going to allow members to speak freely, not someone who is going to shout down at members. Someone who is going to carry everybody along with him. Whether from PDP, or APC, and at the same time a Speaker who will respect the ranking, but at the same time give opportunity to new members. For instance, by the grace of God with the magnanimity of Gbajabiamila, and the leadership of the House of Representatives, I sit today as a Chairman of the Judiciary Committee as a first as first-timer. And so we need a speaker who is going to be that liberal and I see that speaker in the person of Tajudeen Abbas.

What do you make out of the clamour by a group of minority lawmakers who are angling to produce the next Speak of the House?

I’ve been in legislative business for 12 years, it is not what people come out to say that happens at the back end. The leadership of the party has a great influence. By the time the leadership of the party decides to take that decision, no matter the structure that has been built, they will be conquered. The party most times comes to determine the leadership of the legislature and through lobby because they need the leadership of the legislative arm so that they will be able to pass their policies, especially their campaign promises, without resistance. But most importantly, it is good when those policies are to the benefit of the Nigerian populace. Where we have a challenge is probably when those policies tend to favour a few, it will be bad.

What must the National Assembly do to uphold its integrity?

What they must do to uphold its integrity is first, they have to keep their independence independent in the sense that they have to speak out when they need to speak out. I use an instance. Yes, Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila was a product of his party, but when matters came, he stood on the part of Nigeria. I want to use an instance during the EndSARS when it did not sit well with some leaders of the party at the national level, he took a stand and said I’m not going to sign off on this year’s budget except funds are included for the compensation to victims of police brutality. I was scared because, I was thinking they were going to come after him, but he said this is what Nigerians want. So, we need the leadership or whether it’s in the Senate or the House of Representatives to be on the side of Nigerians like Femi Gbajabiamila’s leadership did during the labour conflict.

What are your thoughts on the sentencing of your colleague, Ike Ekweremadu in London, despite the pleas by the ECOWAS Parliament which he once to led?

I am emotional answering that question. Emotional because of what is involved, the personality involved? And then the reason why he’s involved. The child health victim not that I will justify what he has done. Not that he went into committing a crime. I don’t know what has been the way because you hear different stories of the entire scenario but as it is, it is sad. The law in the UK has taken its course, and then we tried here to plead for mitigation of sentencing. The legislature has tried and eminent personalities in the country have tried their best. It is a sad commentary on our history, a fine-tested legislator, a professor of practice. It is sad.

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