COUNTDOWN TO 2019: Youth engagement my priority – OTJ

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In this interview with HEAD POLITICS, ABDULMUMINI ABDULKAREEM, the former Commissioner for Environment and Forestry, Otunba Taiwo Joseph speaks on his political ambition to run for the House of Representatives in the 2019 general election in Kwara State among other sundry issues. Excerpts.  

It is no longer news that you are aspiring for House of Representatives under the platform of PDP, how has the journey faired so far?

I join Kwara Politics in 2007 and what I noticed is that the way we play the game of politics here is different from other states. In the last desperation that I joined the party, I sort the clearance of the party leadership to contest for House of Representatives in my Federal constituency that consist Ekiti, Oke-Ero, Irepodun and Isin Local Government of Kwara State. As a green horn in the party, my impact was felt; this was why leadership of the party called me that I should follow party procedure and advised to step down. Then, some other parties were approaching me to join them but I made them realised that I have found love in the family that I belong. After we won the election, I was given a golden opportunity to serve in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. Immediately I resumed office, I ensured that I did my best to leave behind good legacies of honour and whatever opportunity that I had, I sure that there was a paradigm shift where what belongs to government goes to nobody.
However, whatever impact that I have made, it is left for people to access me now that another opportunity has brought itself to vie for the House of Rep I have sought the permission of the party leadership and the good people of my constituency.

Despite your short sojourn in Kwara politics, your name OTJ became popular among members of the public, what do you think is responsible for this popularity? 

Reason for this is simply because I have brought myself to the door step of the people. I am not one of those politicians that will come around only when it is the election time. I have gone to the nooks and crannies of my federal constituency and beyond to know their needs. I believe strongly that if you give to people, they give back to you, that is why anywhere I go, no matter how hard I try to disguise, people will still fish me out. I’m committed to serving my people.

You have so much good stories to tell for touching lives of you people in your constituency, now you are aspiring for National Assembly, can you share with us some of them… 

I have looked at my people’s need and have abreast myself with what the constitutional powers of what the House of Representative can do. Many among them are the law makings, correction of defect of our laws, power of investigation and oversight functions. I am not one of those that will pay a lip service to what is not within our powers. Section (81), (53) completely spelt out roles, in relation to infrastructural development, making laws that will benefit my people. It is not within my power to say I will build roads but I will seek the assistance of my colleagues in the House to support me having been abreast with what my people needs. I will present their need before the house and I will ensure it is carried along in the budget. What I like so much about Kwara state, when our leader, the Senate President was governor, he did so much and we all knew that he will end his tenure on a good note. This present governor, Dr. Abdulfatah Ahmed succeeded him. Governor Ahmed never abandoned any project he was handed over to complete. If I am given the opportunity to serve my people, by the grace of God I have a predecessor, Honourable Funke Adedoyin, she has done her part and for whatever project she couldn’t complete, I will make sure I complete it within the power of my office and afterwards, I will make sure I address the demands of one people especially our teaming youths.

Kwara politics make use of political zoning at times, is you candidature in line with that arrangement?

Zoning or no zoning, political party or no political party, I can confidently tell you that Kwara is at its best in terms of political arrangement. The institution is established, Kwara is a role model to many other states. I believe in our leadership led by the Senate President and the state governor under which I serve, I still look at him as my role model. If I have all these people to guide me, I believe I won’t derail.

What do you intend to prioritise if you are eventually elected?

Youth engagement will be given utmost concern, they are more than 60 percent of the challenges we have. If you engage them that are the largest percentage of our population, their problems are not half solved in that wise but more than 70 percent solved. My people demands and needs will never be violated. I am very close to my people; I eat whatever they eat, so I know what they need. If one doesn’t mingle with them, their needs will not be felt.

Can you share some of your major achievements as the commissioner?

I believe cleanliness is next to godliness that is while I had environment and health officers in all the local governments of the state, I ensured they were all on ground because I frequently pay them visit. One thing that almost became a thing of the past is monthly environmental sanitation programme. This programme is about having good orientation and what an individual’s tend to gain if he/she makes the environment clean. I embarked on public orientations to change the mindset of some people who believe in dumping refuse inside gutter whenever it is raining, they use to forget such act leads to flood, I can tell you without sounding immodest that I visited all the 16 local governments of the state when I was commissioner under that ministry. In addressing the issue of the flood prone areas, we have been guarded by the metrological agency; I have been to Baruten, Lafiagi and many other places that are flood prone. Also on the issue of deforestation, I know how I fought tirelessly to address it because I know what it entails having that trees grow up. The timber truck are not suppose to carry more than two to three timbers, but now you see those drivers carrying up to 21 logs. The tress is no longer there and gestation of trees is more than 20 years. Also, these are the tress that acts as wind breakers, the carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere, these are the trees that purifies it.

There have been cases of politicians forgetting their promises after they’ve secured peoples’ mandate, what will your own story be?

There is one policy I have imbibed which is the performance management process. This process at the beginning of the year, one will itemise what one intends to achieve for the current year, and then you do checks at intervals. There should also be a town hall meeting between the elected officer and the electorate just access the promises made. Feedback is very key in the development of the society. Even if a politician is unable to meet up with his promise, he must go back to the electorate to explain why.

What is your take on the declaration of the Senate President about the forthcoming election?

That is the best declaration that could come out from a leader for this moment because when you elect somebody that will represent you, that means you have accessed that person and you known him for who he is, this implies, the issue of imposition will not come in, that is a good step to take. Everybody is interested in what we need to deliver. What our leader said was very apt that nobody should drop his name and that the popular candidate is his candidate. It means individuals should go and sell his/herself.

Where do you expect Kwara to be in the next 20 years and what is your message to the electorate? 

To see Kwara progress rapidly and for the youth to be gainfully engage.

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