Our pains, gains, plans – Outgoing Speaker, lawmakers recount experiences

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By Mumini Abdulkareem

In this concluding part of the special interview with outgoing members of the Kwara State House of Assembly, the legislatives relived with nostalgia  memorable times in the House, reflected on their experiences both good and bad. They speak on their pains and gain as well as their future plans. Excerpts:

I had the best experience of my life – Hon Muhammed Abolaji Amasa: Having served in the military for 28 years as a personnel in the Nigerian Airforce, I can say that this is one of the best experiences so far for me. In the military you dish out orders, but here you have to work as a team to achieve results. What I enjoyed most was the way we cooperate and work together as a team. Everyday is a challenge for me at the House and as a Muslim, I thank God that I contributed my own quota. What I have learnt within this little time in politics, I cannot get even in the University if I had pursued a PhD because this is practical. I have learnt a lot from my 23 colleagues and staff of the legislature. I have learnt that you have to study people’s mood before making any comment about them to save one from doing the right thing at the wrong time, which can have real consequence. My next move belongs to God, given my age as at today, having served the nation at the highest level, I believe I have spent the youthful part of my life serving this country. I want to take things as it comes. My advice is for the incoming lawmakers to know that there is strength in unity and they should make themselves accessible. Since 2008 that I came back from my tour of service, I have not slept a day in Ilorin; I come down here from my village, Ogele daily in line with my promise to the people before election. If I had the opportunity of coming back, the issue of financial autonomy would have been paramount, but I am happy that I was part of those that fought for it in Kwara.

It’s a fabulous experience – Hon Aisha Abodunrin Ibrahim: I have had a fabulous experience and sincerely happy with the kind of Speaker we have, who led us with his rich experience as a former National Assembly member. With this and the input of other members, we were able to have far reaching bills and motions that impacted greatly on the people of our constituency. The day I presented my bill on the Protection and Privilege of people with Disability was one of my happiest days as I contributed to the development of the state. I don’t have any regret, those around have really cooperated and assisted in all regards. I was a civil servant before I became an honourable member, but now, I am going into business and will be visiting my daughter abroad more often. Although I have been in politics for long, it was mostly on the executive side, being a legislator has added a lot to my life and one can face the public and talk. It has improved my confidence. To my constituency, they should extend the kind of cooperation they gave me to the incoming member for the development of the community. Then for opposition party, I would advice they stop the hate speech against the PDP and its members. Now that they have won, they should face the issue of governance. They have the opportunity of winning the election without any crisis, the PDP and our leader kept silent because we believe the society belongs to us and they should also extend the same hands of friendship. The governor and lawmakers-elect should see Kwara as a treasure and deliver good governance.

Politics has become career for me – Hon Adamu Usman: Before my stint here, I was an accountant working as a public servant and looking at the difference, my calling now is a call to serve my people and I think I have been doing my best to ensure that they are happy with me. It has been quite challenging and we have continued to learn. With the experience of the Speaker who gave us the impetus to move on, we were good to go. Hon Zakari Mohammed has been of great assistance. I don’t think I will regret any moment being a legislature owing to the challenges from one’s background. Initially, my profession was about figures but it now has to do with language. Each time I present my bill, was a happy moment for me especially when it scaled through like the urban and regional planning bill which has been coming to the House since 1999, it was during my time that it became law. That day was a turning point for me. What I will regret most is not being part of those that will be making the laws that have direct impact on people’s lives, the initiative that I have and encouragement that I give people to make sure that our environment changes for good even as a first timer. But we will be proud if those people that are coming will be able to build on that. I am happy with what I have and with the respect and honour that have been added to me (for being a lawmaker). For people to see me worthy as someone who can represent them is enough for me to be happy and appreciative. I am a business oriented person, I will return to that and will also not leave politics which is now a career for me.

The executive failed us – Hon Ishiaku Aliu Adams: The 8th assembly was fortunate to have a very good Speaker in Ali Ahmad. We have been able to move a lot of bills and motions that have to do with the electorate, which has positively impacted the populace. It is, however, unfortunate that whatever resolution is passed at the floor of the House is not 100% implemented by the executive. The political will to implement our motions and resolutions has not always been there and it is the executive that has failed in doing the right thing. That singular act has been my only regret. There has never been dull moment. My colleagues express themselves intelligently and with passion for our people. There is a limit to how far we can go. Ours is just to pass Laws and we did, but the executive seriously disappointed the legislature. My highest point in the House was in 2016 when the budget proposal for that year was brought to the House. At that time, President Buhari harped on the need for diversification of the economy through agriculture and we have every resource in Kwara State to go into farming which majority of us practised.  I saw it as a turning point for Kwara if we key into it. But, that year the state government brought in a budget of just 345 million naira from the Ministry of Agriculture, a proposal that was not even enough to run the ministry for 12 months. At the floor of the House with the cooperation of my colleagues, we were able to increase it to 7 billion naira and that was my highest moment in the House because my argument was embraced by my colleagues and I felt very happy then. Regrettably l missed opportunity of meeting one quarter of my target. I had wanted a situation that I will be remembered for grading rural roads, sinking of boreholes and empowering our rural farmers; but unfortunately, such couldn’t happen. On my future plan, I have been a farmer and will go back to my farm. My message for the incoming lawmakers, is that the task ahead is enormous and I want them to have the interest of the people at heart and to efficiently discharge their duties and push the executive to do what is right for the State. Politicians should be guided by simple fact of life which is to be good always. The masses are becoming very conscious and are very sensitive about the performance of elected representatives.

Politics has changed my personality – Hon Victoria Bunmi Afolayan: My first day at the plenary, I saw myself as being honoured by God and felt grateful to God that I am counted among those that would be representing my people. Coming to the House was a different ball game entirely for me. As a civil servant, I am the quiet type and I mind my business but coming into politics and representing my people has changed a lot of things about my person. I had to come out of my cocoon. Although, I am a first timer, I am a fast learner which has accounted for how I approached my assignment. I would say it’s a privilege working with such an experience person like Hon Ali Ahmad who knows his onions and has wealth of knowledge. I will be taking away the love and unity that existed among members and this is not because we are majorly of the same party. It’s not as if we don’t have our differences, we disagree but the rate at which we come back again is wonderful. When I came, one would think they would discriminate against me but they welcome me as one of them and supported me all the way. The way people were coming to me before I got the ticket and the enormity of the job, I felt I will be overwhelmed by their requests, I was afraid and wanted to throw in the towel at a point. Now, if given another opportunity, I will definitely want to be a lawmaker because I have been able to grasp all what it takes. You will see that I don’t have a bill to my credit yet except a motion on health. I found the process of representation very interesting carrying one’s people along and representing them. After voluntarily retiring from active political service, I will to go into private business. I don’t have any regret, I thank Almighty God, Senate President, Speaker Ali Ahmad, the people of Oke-Ero, and everybody in this House who supported me to replace my late husband. The day I sat on his seat, it got me thinking. I remember the day they were being sworn in, I was at the gallery and signalling to him that he was sleeping, I beeped his phone to get his attention to lift up his head, all these memories rushed back at me and to think that I am replacing him after a year after that incident brought a lot of memories. All that he laid his hands to do before his demise, I made sure that I completed the ones I could. During my campaign I learnt about a particular girl who was an orphan on his scholarship and I took it up. To my constituency, I might not have met all their expectations but I know I have done my bit to the best of my ability and knowledge and I will advise them to cooperate with the incoming government to redress the marginalisation of my Local Government in terms of project and human development. To the incoming lawmaker from my place, we might not be from the party, but he should not shy away from coming forward to ask me anything because no matter how little my experience is now, I am more experienced than him and he should not see me as enemy but feel free to come forward for any possible assistance to move the constituency forward.

I’m going back to classroom – Hon Adebayo Babatunde Muhammed: From the little time I spent here, I have been able to acquire knowledge. As a professional teacher, I learn everyday. It is not an easy task, people do not come here to make money as it is erroneously believed. If you are not brave enough and intelligent, you can’t be here. As chairman of the education committee, I was the one that introduced the biometrics that weeded out ghost workers, to the state government and the issue of SUBEB and other tertiary institutions in the state especially as it has to do with subventions and backlogs. When I was moved to chair the committee on Public Commission, out of the 165 cases that we received, we have been able to solve about 95 and we resolved the issue amicably for the affected parties in cases that had to do with contractors, issue of land encroachment especially by the government against the masses. When you are doing that, you acquire more knowledge. The caliber of this House will be very hard to get given the fact that some of us are retired teachers, retired civil servants among others. I have no regret except that the autonomy we fought for will not be implemented during our time, but our names will go down in history as those who fought for it.  On my next move, I am going back to the classroom as a professional teacher in any of our universities and when politics comes around we politick again.
On why I am fondly called Baba Wura, I have a daughter called Wura. On the red cap concept, it is not a cult. In any society, you must have groups that will try to put things straight and in this regards, fighting for the success of the House and that is what it is all about. It is not that we are using it to witch-hunt anybody but to demand for our right and anytime you see us wear red caps to the floor, you know we want to demand for something and we have to fight for the people that brought us here because we have to return to them. I will remind the incoming lawmakers that the House is not a central bank but where you makes laws that you cannot even implement.

Parliament work is 24/7 job – Hon Hassan Oyeleke: The assignment here is in three folds and you have to be close to the people to know their problem and how to solve it. Some of the problems are within one’s purview like school and hospital bills. Others need government interventions like provision of roads, electricity and other infrastructure and you bring it to the plenary and pursue it thereafter with relevant authorities while others are beyond powers of the state like the repair of Offa/Oyun waterworks which needs the intervention of the Federal Government and other international agencies. Then the second function of a parliamentarian include repealing, amending and making laws and one has to be conversant with the existing laws and then look at how to translate the problem into law like during the menace of cultism which we translated to law and amended the existing one to give a minimum of ten years jail to cultists which was initially very porous. Then the third is that House of Assembly is one of general issue and not that of a particular party or state government. So, you have to be a vanguard irrespective of your party; you can come to the House with complaints and we solve it like during the clamour for the reduction of Kwara Poly school tuition fees. Now, to perform these functions effectively, lawmakers aside from being close to the people need self-development; read wide and attend seminars and fellowships so that when you are assessing the budget, it will not be garbage in garbage out and you have to be sound and conversant with global trend. Lastly, you have to speak with your conscience always. On my pains, insufficient fund from the executive hampered many things one would have used the position to do like some motions on infrastructure and some policies that were resolved at the plenary but were not implemented. Also, I would have loved to expand my scholarship for indigent students beyond the 500 that is captured now in my community up to 1000. The joy is that I have been able to perform within the limit of my resources and I did not derail and we were able to bring some projects like roads, school rehabilitation and others. I have no regrets.  For the would be parliamentarians, they should know this is not a place to make money but to represent their people and they have to make themselves available always, hold meeting with them always in the constituency. Don’t rely on doing things through officialdom always, go outside your office and privileges to seek for thing for your people. Parliament is an office work that goes beyond 24 hours. People should not judge lawmakers based on the number of the roads he brought but on the contributions at the plenary. We are parliamentarians and have to make laws; we can’t do more than making pronouncement.

I’m happy with my contribution to education – Hon AbdulRahman Jimoh Akanni: Well, the experience is great and life here is interesting. I have acquired a lot of legislative knowledge. Before coming here I use to think members just come to play, but I have discovered that to be a good legislator requires more than just coming here and going away. You have to do a lot of research to enable you to know more about the problems of your people. You need to put in a lot of pressure to be able to meet their requests. I have also discovered that coming here even as a lawyer does not make any difference, you have to come here and learn all over again irrespective of your previous experience. You can only relate your experience as a lawyer to constitutional issues. It’s a different ball game entirely and we have rules and guides that are entirely different from what is being taught in school. I have no regret serving my for four years here as a legislator. One of my highest points was input on education as the chairman House committee on Education, I had the opportunity to influence so many things. In Kwara State University for instance, a lot of courses were introduced without considering the funding window to accredit them and so many of its graduands graduated without opportunity to service or access to their certificate. I was able to champion the course, invited the VC and fought him to standstill. If not because of fund, they would have accredited all the courses because many were done last year. I felt happy and relieved that I was able to touch the life of the students. In College of Education, Lafiagi, their last accreditation was ten years ago, it was the input of the committee that enabled government to release some fund to accredit courses. On the school of midwifery in Ilorin, government accepted all our requests, but unfortunately it was getting towards the end of the tenure and they couldn’t get the cash backing. We invited all the stakeholders to come and explain why the school that was established in 1933 was allowed to die during their time. I was so happy to touch lives in the education sector. Most of us never knew that we could force the executive to do certain things until towards the end of our tenure especially on the accreditation of courses because if you have a budget that has been passed and you failed to implement, it is criminal offence and the House can call and fight the executive. On what next, I have never left buying and selling, which I was into before I got here and I will go back and start my politicking too all over again.
Those in PDP that are defecting now should be patient. Those who have now won the election in APC endured throughout the period we held sway. People suffered and endured to wait for their time, we should also wait for ours. After some few months now and swearing in of the new government, people will begin to see areas where we are good and where they are bad. So we can regroup again to form a formidable opposition rather than defecting.

I sponsored the first private member bill, as first timer – Hon Ahmed Ibn Muhammed: It has been a very interesting place but difficult as well. I used to think that you just come and sit down and go home but what I have seen four years down the line has been very intensive and more or less like another school. You need to engage in continuous reading to be able to debate on motions which is the feelings and happenings of events in your constituency. So, when you prepare the motion, you need to prepare well because questions will be thrown at you from those that have wide experience in the course of service to their communities. Though, it was difficult initially, but along the line when I realised that I need to prepare well before coming, it became very easy. I prepare three or four days ahead of any motion I want to present; checking details, looking at the prayers and learn from ranking lawmakers and others including permanent secretaries. Now, people even come to me to learn how to draft motions. My low point was the day I was to present a report and it was rejected. It pained me but since that day, I became determined that such will not repeat itself again. My happiest day was when I sponsored the first private member bill on Community Health Insurance Scheme which was initially operating in 11 Local Governments and the Speaker said I made him proud as a first timer, which paved way for about six others.  What I will miss most is the coordination of the leadership and cordial working relationship I had with other members. I have never seen such supportive membership and it has gone beyond House membership as we now visit ourselves in our constituencies and homes. Also, I will miss the committed staff of this House and the press who have really covered our activities and made people to understand what is going on and compare how it was before and now. But above all, I will miss late Hon Musa Afolayan who was my seat mate and was later replaced by his wife who is committed lawmaker. One cannot be perfect, but it is good to leave the House on a high note because who knows, my second time could be devoid of these achievements. On my next move, I want to engage in business and I have always had interest in teaching as a trained teacher and may go back to the class room on a part-time basis if I have the time, to impact knowledge on the young ones. I should also be able to create more time for my farm this time around and also go into consultancy work. I have just been approached by some people from Netherlands in this regards. To our youth, the election has come and gone and those who lost should not see it as a winner takes all but should carry everybody along and reconcile with those who lost election. very soon, we will also be counting days for them. so they should be committed and shun all forms of violence and see their leaders as leaders.

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