Hon. Moshood Olanrewaju Oshun is the Chairman of the Lagos House of Assembly Committee on Public Account (State). In this interview, he reveals the factors that bring about the success of the 8th Assembly among others. Excerpt.
Q: As a third term honourable, what were the main issues you faced while coming in as a new member?
A: Well, being in a new environment, you know you are going to a strange land. Definitely, there will be new things. I can’t really pinpoint anything as being the most challenging cos what I did immediately after the election, I always made sure I was in the house during the proceedings to get acquainted with the way things were done. So, at the time were sworn in, I want to assume that I was ready for the task. Even at that, you still have to understand the fact that I was coming to a new place, I needed to learn the ropes. And I was ready to learn the ropes. So, for me, I think the first year was a learning call. I related with the people I met on the ground, the civil servants, former speaker. I was able to talk to people to know how things were done, what was expected of me. I think for me, it was a smooth sail because I was ready to open my mind for new things.
Q: Were you not intimidated by the people you met on the ground, being a time when some were already having their third term?
A: Like I said to you, for me, a philosopher said, the only thing we do from birth to death is education/learning. I don’t care if you have been here 6, 7 times. What was important to me during that time was what can I impact, what can I learn from you. Those were the things that were very important to me then. So, for me, I wasn’t looking at how many times you have been here; I wasn’t even looking at age. I respected everybody I met in the house because for me I believed I met you here. So, you must have something that I don’t have. So, either you were here 4 times, 10 times, it wasn’t really an issue for me. The most important was I was ready to open my mind and leant new things.
Q: Sir, as the current chairman of the House on Public Account, briefly share with us what your office entails?
A: Public Account is just to make sure that task payers money is judiciously spent. And the first step in that is for the Auditor General to go into all the MDAs and audit their accounts. And after that, the Auditor General will come up with his own reports. It is now left for us as a committee, and as a House, to look at that report. I don’t believe in the fact that because an Auditor General has done something, it should be sacrosanct. I don’t believe in that. What we have been able to do as a committee is to dig into the Auditor General’s report. And believe you me, you will begin to see so many things. We are all humans; so, the only person that is perfect is God. So, we believe that the Auditors, as humans, can make errors. And it has been very revealing.
Q: Your committee is the only one recognised by the constitution, why is this so?
A: Well, the constitution we use, I wasn’t there when it was made. But, either we like it or not, we have so many committees that are vibrant. But the only reason why the Public Account is so recognised, I think it is the only committee that can actually check the spending of the tax payers money. It is the only committee that cuts across all MDAs. Apart from appropriation, how that money we appropriate to them can’t be checked by other committees except ours. An Auditor too can ask them for a review, he can ask them for how they spent the money, but somebody must actually look into it this properly. For instance, we gave you money for pen, have you used to buy pen. Even if y ou used the money to buy pen, have you followed the procedure? It is not enough to say we have given you money to buy a set of cars. There is procurement law. Did you follow this? Was it advertised? Why did you shortlist the final contractor? All these things come to play and like I said, I was not one of those that made the law. So I can’t say when they decided that Public Committee should be in the constitution. But for us, as the Chairman of that committee, one thing that I realised is the fact that we need a very strong Public Account Committee to make sure that things are the way they should be.
Q: As the Chairman of the Public Account Committee, there will definitely be some challenges that you face being a very delicate committee. Do you mind sharing some of these challenges with us and how you are able to cope with them?
A: Well, what people call challenges, I don’t see them as such. I have a philosophy that nothing ventured, nothing gained. There is no way you are going to be chairman of House Committee on Public Account without being ready to face challenges. One thing that is very important is that you must be ready to say things the way you see them. As chairman of that committee, you are going to come in contact so many people, even relatives and friends. But you must be able to differentiate between family, relatives, friends and work. The task is an eye opener for me. I hear so many things like he is this, he is that; he is heartless. But the most important thing is that I do my job the way it should be done. Even people that felt that I was being too strict, too harsh on people late came to say, look you ve done a god job. And that is the goal for me.
Q: Sir, what was the motivating factor for you to join politics?
A: Well, I won’t say there are motivating factors because I was born into politics. When I was young, my father was the Ward Chairman under UPN. I was so close to him. I was usually with him during meetings in those days. I would sit down with him and watch how things were done. After that, I also have a brother who happened to contest for Lagos Mainland Local Government Chairmanship in 1987. As at then, Lagos Mainland covered the entire Surulere, Apapa, Orile Iganmu. He contested to be the chairman, but didn’t win. So, in 1989, he was part of those that were selected to go into constituent assembly. After that, he was the Chief Whip of the Assembly. So, really, I have been closed to politicians; I was brought up by politicians. In 1993, I contested to be Councillor. I got the ticket; I got the mandate. But that was when the Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida, decided to annul all the elections. And I travelled out of the country in 1994. So, when I came back in 1999, I wasn’t sure if democracy would work, so, I didn’t take part. But by the year 2001, I decided I was going to contest. So, I started my groundwork to contest for the House of Reps. But I had to step down for Bewaji. After that, I came back in 2007.
Q: As the Chairman of PAC, state, what is the relationship of your committee in monitoring the budget?
A: Well, like I explained to you, monitoring the budget, if you look at it very, we have some substantive committees of the House that monitor all the MDAs. But PAC does not have any ministry. What we usually do, as members of the house, we want to see how effective the budget is. But you must understand the fact that PAC committee is the only committee that cuts across all ministries. So, what I am saying in essence is that as PAC Chairman, I can go to Works inspecting the contract awarded there; same in Health and awarded in Education. I can investigate all the contracts just like we did with Adiyan water project, Eko Atlantic Project. These two projects were reported in the Auditor General reports, so we had to see what is happening there and to make sure that tax payers money is judiciously spent.
Q: What other committees have you chaired since you came into the Assembly?
A: In the 6th Assembly I was the Chairman House Committee on Transportation; in the 7th Assembly I was the Chairman House Committee on Chieftaincy, the legacy we left there I still wait to see who will surpass it as we made the Local Government Chairmen know that they are accountable to somebody. I was also member of other committees such as Education, Appropriation, Finance. So really in the last 9 years, I have moved across so many committees and I have gathered experience. But like you know, we’re still learning and will continue to learn.
Q: So far so good, the 8th Assembly has received accolades from people far and near. Sir what do you thing is the reason behind the achievements? What do you think is making this possible?
A: The first thing I want to tell you is that all honour goes to the Almighty Allah. We give it to the Almighty God. But more importantly, it is the leadership style of the Speaker. And I want to substantiate on that. I was here for 8 years with the last Speaker. And we got used to the system whereby we were, even as members, given instructions. The last Speaker will come to the Parliamentary and say we’re buying this for every member and it will be supplied tomorrow. In some cases, we were like we don’t want that; but the deed had been done. But the present Speaker will come to Parliamentary and say I think we should buy this; what do you think? And we will deliberate on it. That freedom brings out the best in everybody. I am not saying because the speaker says this, I might still criticise it just for fun. But at least I have the option to say my mind, tell people how I feel. So, any decision we take is a joint decision. It goes right we take the credit; if it takes wrong we take the blame. So, for me I think it is one thing that has helped this Assembly. The Speaker is human; and I am not saying he is perfect. In fact, I can bring one or two faults of his. But more importantly, his leadership style is unique. For me, I think it is the major thing that has moved this House forward.
In fairness to the last Speaker, I was close to him in the 6th Assembly. I can walk to him. I ve even change so many decisions. If I felt something was wrong, I would go to him and say look, Mr Speaker, this is what I think. And in fairness to him, he listens to me in the 6th Assembly because I was close to him. But he is someone that feels like: Hey listen I know what I’m doing. But the present Speaker, even when you’re talking to him and he is still arguing, he will still listen. For me, honestly, I give that credit to him. I contested to be the Speaker with him. So, really, I don’t have any reason to want to praise him. One thing about me is that I say it the way I see it. I don’t care whose ox is gored. But when someone is doing something right, let us all applaud that he is doing something right. He is doing so many things right. He is someone that cares about not just honourable members but also the staff. He has done one or two things that in my 8 years as honourable member had never been done.
Also, if you look at it, the number of Private Member Bill that we are considering or passed in the 8thAssembly has surpassed the previous Assemblies. That will tell you that there is something going right. Finally, we have a house that is to a very large extent united. In the history of this House, we have 8 PDP members. But believe you me, we don’t even see them as PDP. When we argue on the floor of this House, it is not on party lines. It is on philosophy, it is on principle, it is on integrity, it is on what we believe is good for Lagos. We forget about party lines. So, these are the things we need to look at, and these are the things that move the House forward. These are the things that other people see in us. Like your rightly said, the number of accolades we’ve received within and outside the country, I don’t think it is so in any other Assembly. In fact, another that happened today is the Ooni of Ife coming to the House; and that will be the first of its kind in the history of Nigeria as far as I know; I might be wrong. And that will tell you that there must be something right about this 8th Assembly.