By: Ess Kay & Ibrahim Waidi
Nigeria is changing fast, some changes positive, others negative. This change being reported here is positive. It is about educated men gaining strength and enthusiasm for active roles in their constituencies’ politics. Sociologists talk of idea/structure, dynamics and Institutions corresponding to idea, processes and stabilized outcome. One Group of youths known as Better-Ibarapa-Initiative (BII) has generated the wonderful ideas about moving their constituency forward and set in motion Ibarapa candidates’ Debate as one of the processes to greatly move their constituency forward with hope to attain desirable and enduring outcome.
Since Nigeria’s independence in 1960, besides candidates and political parties campaigns, Ibarapa Federal Constituency has never had a public debate among her political candidates. Also, it was reliably learnt that when BII was planning Ibarapa Candidates’ Debate, they invited all parties fielding candidates in the forthcoming Nigeria’s general elections to the debate and so, the heroic youths from African Action Congress (AAC) – Hon. Olawale Oladokun, African Democratic Party (ADP) – Hon. Hon. Yemi Akinlabi, All Progressives Congress (APC) – Hon. Obafemi Ademola Ojo and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) – Hon. Adebayo Adepoju enthusiastically took the challenge and partook in the debate.
The four highly educated and credible candidates left the comfort of life to take the risks inherent in politics. Like the Roman gladiators, bold, confident, credible, vibrant and youthful, they stepped into the debating stage one by one, alphabetic of their political party names. These youths would have been cheered into the stage but for the “no applause, no cheering and no clapping” rules of the event.
Chairman Better-Ibarapa-Initiative (BII), Prince Akintayo Akinyemi’s flied the kite with his expression of his group’s perception of low quality of previous parliamentarians from Ibarapa as their reason to action to redress the situation, when he said; “Ibarapa constituents is long overdue for qualitative representation at the lower and upper chambers.”
The group which successfully made a calculated, yet bold foray into active political play on 2nd January, 2019 in preparation for February 2019 general elections soft pedaled when the same Chairman said; “…our gathering here is not for politics but to collectively ruminate on the development and way forward for bold and proper representation of our constituency.”
No sooner had Prince Akinyemi concluded his event opening speech that one of the moderators at the event Mr. ‘Kunle Balogun fired the BII group back to courage with a fiery quote of French Political Leader Charles de Gaul who said; Politics is too serious a matter to be left in the hands of Politicians alone.” The moderator charged both the politicians and the non-politician including BII; to engage in strategic collaboration towards ensuring that they attract development and economic transformation that members of the constituency actually yearn for.
Mr. Balogun further explained that; “what is happening now is an expression of anger, a regenerative anger, a constructive anger. He said people got this representation because they have distanced themselves from politics. The moderator praised the organizers that the debate will enable the constituency to have credible platform to engage those who are going to represent her constructively. He said “we need to interrogate their (candidates’) ideas; we need to find out what they have for us. “Enough of these political invincibility or elusiveness, how can we have a constituency like ours who have produced remarkable people and then development will be eluding us?” he lamented.
Notwithstanding, the good intention of BII was felt. The debate was not intended for mercantile benefit as some organizations would do. BII took the bull by the horn. Ibarapa North/Central State and Federal constituency owe BII lot of gratitude for the Ibarapa Candidates Debate event of 2nd January 2019 held at Adegoke Nursery/Primary school, Igboora, Ibarapa Central Local Government area of Oyo State.
It was a great day for 21st Century Nigerian Youths generally as the event marked a first step in the return of Nigerian youth to constructive efforts in political play as it was in the days of the Ist republic of youths political participants like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Tafawa Balewa, Dr. Nnamidi Azikwe, Herbart Macauly, Samule Ladoke Akintola, Adegoke Adelabu, Anthony Enahoro. A journey of a thousand miles, the Chineese would say, starts with the first step.
Mr. Balogun, a moderator, assured the audience of their impartiality, read rules to candidates and audience at the event. He warned candidates not to make false promises as unfulfilled promises will be recalled online in later years and could haunt the deceiver. Significantly, he did not talk of what happens to those candidates absent to make promise to the people. Co- moderator at the event was Mr. Dr. Dayo Ogundijo.
Meanwhile, no report was heard as to the reasons for the absence of African Democratic Congress (ADC) – Hon. Hussein Akinlabi, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – Hon. (Dr.) Saobana Ajibola Muraina and Social Democratic Party (SDP) – Hon. ‘Tunde Bello all of who were called unto the stage to participate in the crucial debate.
Mr. Balogun paid glowing tribute to Barrister ‘Seye Akinteye of blessed memory whom he described as the illustrious son of Ibarapa land who suggested the idea of the day’s event and the entire audience rose in prayers to the deceased’s honour.
The event had two sides, one was the debate for Federal House of Representatives and the other for State House of Assembly. The Federal House took the first stage.
Group photograph of candidates were taken to show that their contest should not be do or die affair. Ascending and descending alphabetic order of political party names were used to call candidates to respond to same questions, statements or comments. And so the opening statement of; “who you are and why you are in the race, why contesting” naturally went to AAC candidate – Hon Olawale Oladokun.
Hon. Oladokun AAC, enthusiastic, confident and patriotic with piercing voice that attracts listeners told the audience that he is interested in the development of Ibarapa community and constituency generally. And if one does not make a move, in politics, there is no way how the future will be secured for land he said. That is why he is contesting for the seat at the Federal House of Representatives.
Hon. Yemi Akinlabi of ADP exhibited travel exposure, loaded with facts but most times speech eaten by microphone. He gave five reasons called legislative agenda for wanting to represent the constituency. These included the need to provide one digit representation of the constituency, to redress refusal to grant autonomy to Local Government Councils and the refusal of the State Executive arm of Government to honour the judgment of the Oyo State High Court that granted new State constituency for Ibarapa North and Central constituency. He could not reveal his 4th and 5th reasons before he was timed out.
As for Hon. Obafemi Ademola Ojo APC, a tactician and political strategist, he greeted everyone in the house and told them with confidence that the purpose of his aspiration is basically for rural development because his constituency is basically rural. So, rural development is paramount to him, he said. Also, he promised to use his position if elected to source for educational facilities that impact on other developments. He repeated agriculture and rural development as very important for him to develop the agricultural base, rural infrastructures and to generate industries for further employment of youths besides agricultural employment.
Candidate Hon.(Dr.) Adebayo Adepoju ZLP introduced himself to the audience, told them he was contesting for the Federal House of Representatives position, Ibarapa N/C Federal constituency. young, pragmatic and refined he said the reason why he is contesting for this position is his great interest in Public Health and sanitation, female empowerment, enforcement of land reform, law and order, infrastructural development in his rural community, availability of credit to peasant and large scale farmers. These are things we need to provide for our people in order for them to be where they should be. He told the audience that he is just like them, born the same way they were born, not with the silver spoon, but he was taking every opportunity he had along his way and making use of it to get to where he is today. He assured that everybody in the audience is capable of doing the same thing if given the same opportunity that he had. He believed that these things are possible if he is elected to enable him network with other governmental organizations. He said it is feasible here because it has been done in other countries. Hon. Adepoju talked clearly and covered much within the given time given.
Indeed, by their dispositions and non-verbal response of the audience, all the four candidates that showed up for the debate about Federal House of Representatives contest asserted and earned high degree of credibility to themselves.
Other questions placed before the candidates were; what informed their personal choice of Party, Why AAC, ADC, APC or ZLP? Responses ranged from choice of a party free of godfathers who would prevent them freely implementing the dividends of their representations, to a party that has good structure to win not only their election but which would enable them have majority to support them at implementing their promises.
Also, considering the Legislative arm as one of the strategic arm of Government that is saddled with the responsibility of good government, peace and security, the moderator sought to know from each of the candidates what will be their roles as members representing Ibarapa Federal Constituency.
The moderator recalled that the Federal Government is trying that dividend of governance reach the grass root and that they are doing something called social investment, trader Money, conditional cash transfer, school feeding, N-Power and asked whether what the government is doing is enough or not. He further recalled that an organization recently said that Nigeria is the Headquarter of poverty and asked whether the candidates think that there is a different way that the government could do it such that if any of them was elected he would guide the government to include such new way. Candidates’ responses included the plan to look for laws that are related to rural development and the way these could be amended to suit their constituency, to press for use data for efficient distribution of financial support programs to various identified groups.
In order not to duplicate efforts, the moderator asked the candidate what new things they would do in order to facilitate good governance in Ibarapa North and Central Federal constituency? Also, to all contestants the moderator asked what type of bills they will sponsor. Certain candidates expressed desire to sponsor bill that every constituency that does not have a tertiary institution should be given opportunity to have one, bill that would facilitate provision of rural infrastructures including allocation of fertilizer to the constituency here and industrialization. Another talked of a bill that will criminalize the non-conduct of Local Government election within 4 months of a governor being sworn in and any violation of which should attract the Governor’s impeachment.
Besides what things will be done by the candidates, they were asked how they will get dividends of democracy to their people either in respect of availability of portable water supply, good roads, heath care, electricity, what should we do to get these dividends? The moderator said it is not sufficient to list them as things the honorable promise to give the people, it is important to know how they would people get them to the people.
At the end of the event, all the four candidates responded creditably to all the questions. By all indices, the BII organized event was successful. The event which was in partnership with both the National Democratic Institute, a Washington DC based non-profit organization and Enough is Enough Nigeria; was graced by the Chief Imam of Idofin, Deparment of State security for the Constituency, successful private Medical Practitioner – Dr. Abdul Rasak Tijani of Olugbon Medical Centre, Chief Imam of Pako, Prince Oloyede of Ayete, top retired public officers and other important dignitaries from within and outside the constituency.