Honourable Emmanuel Agbaje, has identified the unhealthy rivalry and desire to dominate, among the various communities within the area as a major cog in the wheel of progress of the Local Government Area.
Agbaje, who represents Akoko-Edo Constituency 2 at the Edo State House of Assembly, made the remark while responding to questions after presenting his scorecard in a virtual meeting hosted by a foremost pressure group of the area, Akoko-Edo Forum (AEF).
He was responding to a member of the Forum Mr. Edi Lawani who suggested that all the political elites from the area should form a caucus to advance the causes of the area in order to avoid divided tongues which had been counter-productive in times past.
He emphasized the need to downplay the diversity of the various communities and forge a common front particularly among the political elites to fight for the development of the area while stressing that the unhealthy rivalry among the communities was a huge obstacle on the path to progress and development. He recalled that it is this same attitude that made the LGA lose out when there was a golden opportunity to create new local government areas which would have fast-tracked the development of the area.
Earlier, the honourable member shared his successes and challenges in office as the representative of Akoko-Edo 2 Constituency made up of Wards 1,2,8,9 and 10. He stated that the performance of any legislator depended on the Governor’s, political will and generosity.
Some of his achievements include single-handedly providing a 500-KvA transformer in the LGA, construction of boreholes, payment of school and exam fees for many students
Others are, the establishment of a women empowerment programme (revolving loan) which he said was bungled, sponsorship of the treatment of many people with health challenges, collaboration with SUBEB to rehabilitate, and in some cases build classroom blocks in several schools..
“Much as I cannot say that I have an impressive scorecard, I have done my best in the circumstance,”Agbaje said.
While clarifying that the primary responsibility of a legislator is not to execute projects but to make laws for the good governance of the people, he admitted that most ordinary Nigerians lack this understanding and the needs of the people as well as the infrastructure gaps were so huge that no responsible leader can ignore them. He also recounted painfully how the current government abolished Constituency Project in 2016 and how the House has fought to have it restored to no avail thus far.
“But of course there is a programme called Constituency Project. That programme was created as a kind of bridge between the constitutional responsibility of a legislator and the expectation of our people. When the people vote for their representatives, all their expectation centres around what you can do for the community, local government area or locality. Our people are not yet where they get to understand that there is something called Separation of Powers.”
“I have done my best even where government support has not been forthcoming”
“When I was sworn in in 2015, Igarra and environs was in darkness for upwards of 6 months. We all know the economic impact of this on our people and for me it was a big issue. Upon the inauguration of that assembly, I was able to move a motion, infact I became the first to move a motion in the House calling for the restoration of power to Akoko-Edo. A few days later power was restored. For me it was a breakthrough.”
“I did the little I could do for women empowerment but it did not produce the kind of results one expected,”Agbaje said.
Still talking about challenges, Hon Agbaje stated that he had submitted some project proposals several times to the House for inclusion in the budget but has not been lucky to scale through. These include Ojirami to Egbigere, Igarra Township Roads, among others. To make matters worse the Obaseki administration abolished the Constituency Projects programme which would have guaranteed some projsets for each constituency annually.
“In 2015 when we were sworn in it was under the (Oshiomhole Admnistration) we were lucky to have the first year constituency project approved. Incidentally in 2016, barely a year the government changed and the new government unfortunately abolished Constituency Project”.
Dr. Obaitan, the state Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, an indigene of Ososo in Akoko-Edo Local Government Area, corroborated the submissions made by the Honourable Member.
Obaitan emphasised that Akoko-Edo will continue to suffer neglect, until they are able to produce the Governor of the state. He therefore challenged members to begin to think seriously in this direction.
“If you do not take anything away from here, go away with this one message: until Akoko-Edo produces the governor of Edo State, we will just be talking and taking gambles”, Obaitan declared.
Hon Agbaje aligned with the Commissioner’s declaration reiterating that the Governor of the state is the man with the knife and the yam and he decides what to do and where to do it.
Answering members’ questions, Hon Agbaje acknowledged that until the current electricity distribution system is rejigged and electricity meters provided, the local government will continue to suffer the poor BEDC services because the debt status of the LGA in the books of the service provider is huge even though questionable.
He had earlier explained that going by the constitutional provisions it is near impossible to create new local government areas in this dispensation.
On the poor health services in the area Agbaje explained that most of the health workers posted to rural areas like ours hardly stay because of issues of lack of power, insecurity etc . He also admitted that there were some limiting bureaucratic bottlenecks which was hampering service delivery buttressing the point with his personal experience when he set out to renovate the Atte Health Centre. He however promised to use his membership of the House Committee on Health to good cause by stepping up efforts to pressure the relevant ministries into doing the right thing.
He confirmed that he had a functional constituency office for six straight years until recently when the landlord of the premises requested for termination of the tenancy.
He insisted that he does see any need to defect to the ruling party in the state not only on grounds of personal principles but also because of the dashed hopes due to failed promises by the government as well as the fact that such a decision will have to be inspired by his constituents. He added that he and by extension his constituency, had not lost anything as such by being in opposition but was doing quite well comparatively.
The Select Committee on behalf of the Forum thanked him for making himself available for the meeting and for the openness in his response to issues.
The Committee decried the laid back posture of many members of the Forum who hardly contributed whether in ideas or resources citing the low turnout even at the Forum’s meetings and used the opportunity to announce a N25,000 (twenty-five thousand naira only) annual membership fee to be paid by everyone who is interested in continuing with the Forum.