Saturday, 21 February 2015

I will fight to get water reticulated to Ohimini/Otukpo if elected- Chief Alache Ode

We had a conversation Chief  Alache Ode (OBE) the Flag bearer for the ACCORD in the  contest for the  seat in the House of Representatives in the Ohimini/Otukpo Federal Constituency.  We discussed a wide range of issues namely  her experience to run, her political ideology, her stand on education, on poverty alleviation, on corruption, on oversights, on constituency projects etc. Have a read to see for yourselves. 

Welcome madam and thank you for agreeing to do this here.

It is my pleasure to be here.

Please tell us as briefly as you can muster about yourself. Let us know what experience in your life you think prepared you for the job you are vying for?

I was born in 1959 at Teshie Ghana to Retired Colonel Ode from Edikwu and Grace Onma Aboh from Otada. I have held various public and private positions mostly in international development and the media. I have worked in about 35 countries mainly working for poor and disadvantaged communities. I was a member of ABU students’ parliament. I graduated in 1980 and had a masters degree from the University of Lagos in 1991

Are you from the famous Colonel Ode Family?

Yes, if you mean Colonel Christopher Ikwue Ode, El Dunia Hotels, first Nigerian to serve as a member of the first military tribunal in Trinidad and Tobago, 1971I also served in various capacity in NGOs, such as AFRUCA, speaking against Child Abuse, worked for CRARN organisation that exposed the issue of child witches in Nigeria.

Yes. The same

Then I’m from that family.

What experience do you particularly think prepared you for this endeavor?

I have been a member of the students’ parliament, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria-, have served as the voice of the voiceless in India with the Dalit Community which resulted in an anti discriminatory law being passed to protect them as untouchable. I have campaigned against stigmatization of HIV AIDs, developed courses for those working in development. I have engaged in advocacy for the Diaspora in development since 1994 leading to the WB research that brought Diaspora into limelight, etc. I have advocacy experience, development planning, monitoring and evaluation etc
I also have experience of politics in the UK, Liberal Democratic Party, contested for Councillor and failed. As a lecturer, I taught democracy from classical times to present and democratic government and politics. I was in the course team of Dr David Held political adviser to Tony Blair and developer of cosmopolitan democracy.

You were awarded the honor of the Officer of the British Empire by HRM Queen Elizabeth the second of England. Why?

I was given the honor mostly because of my work in about 25 countries which was voluntary. I spent time with about 25 Diaspora communities in the United Kingdom, planning and strategizing development projects in their countries. Thereafter I attracted a 3 million pounds (923,589,150.00 (Nine hundred and twenty three million, five hundred and eighty nine thousand, one hundred and fifty naira in today’s naira)) fund for them. I was recommended for the Officer of the Order of the British Empire at the same time with David Beckham.

What is your political ideology?

I’m a liberal democrat. I believe in a democracy, where the rights of the individual, minority are balanced with the rights of the majority. In Nigeria we practice democracy of the majorities. Liberal democracy option guarantees the rights of all. The majority may not necessarily always be right and can sometimes lead to tyranny of the majority.

Would you say you are fiscally liberal?

If you mean by fiscal liberal, the diversification of resources and the allocation of resources based on competitive market responses, then yes. However, I am not a die-hard capitalist. Financial flows will find their level in the market but government must operate a welfare system that cushions the effect of poverty and ensure that its citizens live above a certain poverty baseline

Are we right to say that You are a capitalist though not a die-hard one?

Capitalism at its most basic ensures competition, innovation and creation of private sector wealth. Government over regulation of the market sometimes does not augur well particularly in renter states like ours, dependent on oil revenue. However, I’m averse to ostentation and greed. Government intervention at the welfare state is important. However, I do not government over regulation that sometimes does not distinguish between the private and the public. I advocate a balance between capitalism and socialism; more like the UK social capitalism. I conclude this by saying categorically that I’m a social capitalist.

We have studied your manifesto very deeply and we find very compelling. However, we find it long on what you are going to do but short on how you are going to do it or how you would pay for your programmes. We are mostly going to dwell on the how and the money in this interview. We hope this is okay by you?

It is very Ok by me. As I have said in the manifesto I’m going to build on existing structures as well as collaborate. I cannot do it alone. I will be deceiving myself and others if I say I can raise all the money needed. I shall work with all legislators, ministers and governments for example constituency projects, I shall seek to collaborate with the House of Assembly members and the state government rather than a project that I want to lay claim on.

In your segment on legislation you made the omnibus claim that you are going to support existing legislation that promotes the right to qualitative and quantitative education for young people under the age of 18. What legislation do you have in mind? Why do you think it has not worked so far? How do you think you can tweak it to make it work? How would it be paid for in the face of dwindling oil prices?

The federal government has a policy of basic education for all but is it a reality? My position is to add value to that policy by defining what constitutes basic education. It would entails means tested Free books, desks, uniforms and means tested meals. I will also seek to take it to the secondary school level through legislation.

You do know that the Federal Government is hampered by the constitution as to what it can do on basic Education?

In terms of funding of access to education to secondary school, government, if they are sincere and less corrupt can do it. Our tax system needs to be improved so the wealthy pay more. Now we see bills for top men in government being paid for by government which should not be the case. The legislative house can move for constitution amendment.

Yes the National Assembly could and easily so if the provision is in the exclusive list but the provision for basic education is in the concurrent list which involves the state governments. Would you not then be faced with a headwind of opposition from the states and how would move to overcome this?

Our constitution like all others should be a living document and should respond to the needs of our time. All governments need the human resources to transform their states and so a well articulated argument and lobbying can be done. Governments should be convinced to prioritize and education is crucial for development. We cannot build hospitals, roads etc without the much needed manpower. That is why we spend billions on consultants because we fail to develop our human resource from scratch. Furthermore, if we get the support of state legislators who buy into the idea, then things may become easier. Unfortunately, our politics is about party and conflict. I’m all out for collaboration and mutual support. One of my missions is to visit all the legislators from Benue, both federal and state plus Councillors and chairmen. Also visit ministers and commissioners from Benue and start a group where our mutual interest is discussed.

You talked about taxing the rich more but wouldn’t that be a disincentive to much needed investments?

Tax systems all over the world is means tested. The private sector does not mind investing in a climate where the benefits of the tax are apparent. It happens in Europe and Americas. However, tax reliefs can be given in certain strategic areas such as agriculture, education, health etc.

What do you mean when you use the word ‘means tested’?

For school I give you an example. When I was in secondary school in Kaduna, our school fees was means tested. Nothing for poor from Kaduna, a bit for poor from outside Kaduna, more for workers from Kaduna and high for those of us not from Kaduna with working parents.

For taxes I mean Pay as You Earn taxation system which is already been practised in Nigeria. Yes, the rich should pay more because they earn more so that the system will be balanced. For now the rich have all the access to free goodies, good schools, the bills of ministers are paid even their entertainment. This is not right. The bulk of our revenue goes to servicing about 10 percent of the population. NOT RIGHT! In UK, ministers travel business class. In Nigeria they travel first class with their wives, children and friends. Why should government pay for wives and children who are not government officials? Such is the wastage that has deprived us of social investment in education, health and so on.
We agree with you totally that the burden on government is just too heavy. However this is where we struggle with your assertion. There are entrepreneurial rich. That is those who got rich by producing or doing something and there are those who are considered rich by reason of their participation in government. Do you think they should be given the same treatment? Are the entrepreneurial rich not already bearing the burden of all the rich?
The entrepreneurial rich will be taxed as per their income and their companies as per their profit. In Nigeria, entrepreneurial rich get away with small projects in their communities, worth little or nothing compared to their profit. Take the oil sector for example, owned by the rich who then create fake NGOs to divert their profit elsewhere. It should be government providing much needed infrastructure not the NGOs. NGOs should be focusing on advocacy not construction of schools, roads etc. In the Europe and Americas, have you heard of Google building a school for a community through its NGO?

How would taxing the rich more affect your Ohimini/Otukpo constituency positively?

Taxing the rich more will make more resources available in the federated account as federal government earnings to be shared with state governments. In the state, more tax on business will increase revenues. I must make it clear that budding businesses should be excluded from tax until they reach a certain level of financial buoyancy. Zeroing in on Otukpo and Ohimini, I acknowledge the poverty level of our people and would l like to push for more revenue allocation on the basis of need. Otukpo and Ohimini are both deprived of business, resources and enterprise. More revenue allocation to these two local government areas is a priority. So I shall push for allocation of resources from the federal to the state to include a percentage on need, which citizens will be made aware of so they can have greater expectations. In terms of constituency projects, priority will be given to business development opportunities in these two local government areas. As I said in my manifesto, there is the need for seed funding to encourage enterprise in shoe making for which I know Idoma youths are the best, in fashion designing, and so on not to talk of agriculture and others.

In the segment of your manifesto on controlling of funds you claim you would engage in strategic, rigorous and passionate campaign for recurrent expenditure to fall while capital expenditure increases so that about 5% of Nigerians are not expending 70%of Nigeria’s resources as salaries and allowances while the remaining 95% of Nigerians are being serviced through projects and programmes worth about 30% of the country’s annual budget. What sort of campaign are you talking about here?

The campaign started from Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, then CBN governor. He alerted the nation that recurrent expenditure far exceeds capital expenditure. Ngozi’s Okonjo Iweala also raised concern on the need to reduce recurrent expenditure to acceptable levels but for whatever reason the legislative house did not take up the matter primarily because there was mention of the legislature as part of the high cost of government. What this tells me is that personal interest was put over and above national interest. In governance be it of legislative, executive or judiciary, we should have long term futuristic view of things so our generation can be at best guaranteed. It will be an uphill task to initiate a bill which pegs recurrent expenditure but at least it will ginger public response and debate.

How would this affect the daily bread and butter of your constituents in Ohimini/Otukpo Federal Constituency?

Then government will be forced to cut down on recurrent expenditure such as bills for food in the presidency which amount to about 48 billion. It will then mean more money for projects for example which I can lobby for Otukpo and Ohimini like the reticulation of water in the dam so households can have access to water. The dam has been built but water has not been reticulated so there is no water in all of Otukpo and Ohimini. With water, businesses can flourish and the health of my constituency made better.

Which dam are you talking about?

I’m talking about the Otukpo Multi- Purpose Dam, the Akpegede Dam etc. I understand people will pay for the reticulated water because right now they spend so much more now buying unclean water.

It has been claimed that there would be a power component to the Dam? If this is true: how would you go about making sure that the hosting communities get power directly without relying on the national grid?

I happened to have been in charge of monitoring water dams throughout the country and most major dams had a hydro electric component to the projects. The plans for such dams were to provide electricity and water to the host community. That is why I said in my manifesto that local communities should be I involved in monitoring the outputs and outcome of projects. When I was involved in monitoring dams, we discovered that the major contractor was the chairman of the federal commission responsible for projects in the government. The contractor sublet the contract to cohorts who did nothing and we were being coerced to write a report for the contract to be awarded more money. If the community had been involved from day one this would not be the case. Remember when the farmers revolted against the Bakolori Dam in Sokoto under Shehu Shagari.

How do you intend to get the Otukpo community to be more involved in that project?

We have communities of key stakeholders who should be briefed regularly and should take responsibility for the project delivery because they live in those communities and can be held accountable. Government has decided to exclude them. I shall notify and brief them periodically. I shall notify them of the contract sum, the project details records will be distributed to them and the project timeline. I shall use my extension of democratic ideals mandate to call town hall meetings and get them to select their monitoring team from among themselves and then push for government to recognize them as key stakeholders. Before I left the National Planning, this recommendation of involving key stakeholders had been put forward and I know that a committee has been set up to look at the proposal. However, no one in the legislative house is looking at it because no bill has been initiated. Should the bill be passed, it will be mandatory to involve local communities such as those in Otukpo and Ohimini as well as civil society organisations.

In the oversight segment of your manifesto, you talked about pushing for the passage of the planning bill before the house. As a rookie do you think your voice would be heard? If there are attempt to mute your voice how would you go about making it heard as to get everyone’s attention on your drive for planning?

The continuity planning and project Bill has been in the legislative house for about 4 years but the planning commission had no Ghana must go bag to push it forward. I shall resuscitate the Bill because I don’t need the Ghana must go. We even lobbied Mulikat Akande who promised to push it but to date no show. Dr. Shamsuddeen hoped it would be one of his achievements but unfortunately he was unsuccessful. We even discussed the bill with Senator Gemade, the chairman, Senate Committee on Planning, no show because the bill had no champion. I hope to be its champion.

In what capacity did you lobby for its passage with the planning commission?

I was brought back from the UK as Technical Adviser on project Monitoring and evaluation for the federal government. A research commissioned showed over 11,000 abandoned projects at the federal level with much expended. As such I advised on project continuity and such was the genesis of the bill.

How many of those abandoned projects are in your constituency?

I cannot remember them off by heart as the document is with the planning commission. I produced the first ever national Monitoring and Evaluation report for government and since then I believe three others have been produced to the federal executive council. We were directed not to make public some of our findings.

By who?

The Federal Executive Council in 2010.

Let take you back a little. We have looked and your manifesto and it’s apparent you intend to stick to your primary assignment the legislative… it is laudable that you have your ideologies set right from the start. “You are a liberal Democrat, where the rights of the individual/ minority are balanced with the rights of the majority” You also intend to add value to policy of free basic education by means tested overtures. How do you test means/ income in the face of lack of proper birth and census records which in turn impacts on tax records/ evasion?

Things are changing. Nigeria now deduct tax at source from payment of contractors, Lagos state has a good tax system and even have records on residential and business premises. I hope soon we will realize the benefit of the birth and death register as a planning tool. Companies not declaring and paying tax are now being erased from the data base of the corporate affairs commission. Private companies must pay salary tax and even VAT is being paid. So the financial system is becoming more robust. During the rebasing of the economy, the National Bureau of Statistics began to collate data on businesses as well. Unfortunately only data from 6 states were gathered, one from each geopolitical zone. Niger represented north central not Benue. The northern states except Kano rejected the rebasing because part of the study will reveal contributions made by state to the national economy. Details of household and business surveys are available on the NBS website which is I think

You talked about sponsoring a Monitoring and Evaluation Bill which would focus on 5 key areas, relevance, cost effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability, outcome and impact of project and programmes on the people. What does this entails? Is this connected with your desire for community participation?

Yes it is connected to my desire for community participation partly. It is also borne out by the fact that there was no structure for Monitoring and Evaluating government projects till I established the national Monitoring and Evaluation office in the Planning Commission headed by Dr Zakari, a UN Agricultural expert. Prior to that it was mere project site visits. Now each Ministry must provide information on the relevance of the project, the cost versus its implementation, the timeline for completion, how sustainable, and what to expect in terms of what is visible and the impact on the people. As such projects can be properly monitored and evaluated and also planned based on need not the whim and caprices of politicians. We have trained ministry officials on this as well but of course there is some resistance especially the financial and timeline aspects. Budget allocation is also a problem due to the challenges between the Minister of Finance and the planning commission. Furthermore government’s inability to keep to plans and the issue of multiple plans such as Vision 202020, SURE-P, Transformation Agenda etc. If the planning bill and M and E bills are in place, it helps legislators to keep a tab on projects and I can then monitor projects in Ohimini and Otukpo and the resource allocation, timeline and see if such projects are impacting on people as proposed with the help of local communities and civil society. The M and E bill also creates jobs as it provides opportunities for M and E officers at federal and local levels. I tried to help establish same in Benue State so the projects at lower levels can be monitored but Governor Gabriel Torwua Suswam brought in a dietician to plan for Benue state, Dr Dorcas Ukpe. So I let go as it was not possible to work with her.

You seek to change policies and laws that will cut down recurrent expenditure, amidst making those who earn more to pay more taxes, you also intend to reduce the waste in public service spending if am correct with this inference. This will inherently be an attack on the status quo. A dream that we long for but we all wake up from to the harsh reality the Nigerian caseload…. What structures apart from the legislative arm of governance do you intend to harness to achieve this Utopian dream?

You are correct. There are certainly going to be resistance but if I take resistance to mean impossible then I have failed myself and my people. My role is to work with civil society and present a bill. Then they carry out the advocacy. I am not going into the house to maintain status quo otherwise, I have no moral right to campaign for election or change for the sake of change. There are centers of power that can be used for change, the legislative is one, civil society is two, local communities three and then the Great Media. Bills take a while to go through even in the USA; it took 25 years for the women’s right bill to be passed after hearing. If presenting a bill is one of my achievements, it is hoped that future generations of legislators will take it up. There are also social issues that can compel change. If we continue to have higher levels of recurrent expenditure against capital, social unrest and civil disorder will follow. Unless legislators and governments want to commit political hara-kiri or suicide then there will be a time that they will need to consider these all important issues. it’s like a wife spending more on new wrappers instead of school fees, food and rent. No matter how much she is loved by the husband, he will one day protest.

Your opponent, the incumbent, Honorable Ezekiel Awulu Adaji is known as a grassroots man. He is said to interact with his constituents directly. In your manifesto you talked about being a people-centric person, and ensuring an open door policy at your various constituency offices in Otukpo and Ohimini Local Government areas of Benue state. You also talked about meeting regularly with your constituents in order to get feedback on issues requiring federal, state or local attention. How do you hope to do it better than him?

Hon. Adaji grew up in this environment and so has had a longer interaction period with the grassroots. I give him that. Not wanting to sound like the usual cliché in the period that I have had with the people in my constituency, I have made great strides. My phone number is available to all. They can walk into my father’s house which serves as my constituency office. I have no security and they walk straight to my living room and even bedroom for the women. I eat with them and have no qualms, be they old, women, men or young. My Idoma has improved greatly and people are comfortable with me. My point is that everyone can be a grassroots person in terms of interaction but when it comes to promoting their rights and debating on issues that concern them, how relevant is mere grassroots links. One must be able to use those links to articulate and fight for the desire and rights of his or her people and that is where I come in. I have understanding of the people and knowledge and experience of advocacy, lobbying, legislative processes etc and can deliver. I have been known as a humble person but also a listener and an action woman. More grace to Adaji as a grassroots person but at the higher level of legislative performance of constituency projects there is certainly a gap that I wish to fill.

There is this accusation that you are at best an Aristocrat and at worst an elitist. What is your answer to these charges?

Wow! Where on earth did they get that from? In my years in international development, I’ve never worked with the rich. My focus has been disadvantaged people. Maybe because of my upbringing people perceive me as such but not in my style of living. Indeed I have been criticized so many times for living BELOW my means. I wear the cheapest of clothes; eat at the cheapest of places, drink pure water. How am I an aristocrat? Am I elitist because I tell the truth of what my functions as a legislator will be but narrowing down that constituency projects is where they can see implementation? I don’t lie to the electorate, even when I’m advised to do so, I prefer to fail than lie. How would I conduct this interview with you if I lied? Yes I cannot change or lie about the circumstances of my birth and upbringing but I can surely control how I live my life. The most important factor is God and his words remain supreme with me. In my interaction with the people they complain of lack of access to elected grass rooters. I’m different.

Would it be correct if infer that you were able to achieve so much in the UK because they had proper structures in place civil society, media, rule of law, et al would it be right to say you also had this ideological support and a feeling of being proud of a great country which you posses their nationality and as such you had this consciousness in you even as you worked in impoverish countries? Our Nigeria is different, morale is low, a feeling of one people one nation under God is no more, and we say proudly Nigeria in words but lack the evidence to back it up. They make bullocks of the right application of knowledge. How do you intend to overcome these challenges since our structures are still fledglings and in some cases nonexistent?

I was a Nigeria working overseas and the motivation to showcase Nigeria was greater than anything UK had to offer. I had to prove myself in the workplace as a black, as a Nigerian and as a woman which was more daunting than being in Nigeria as an “aristocrat”. Yes the structures were there and the legal backing against discrimination. It is such that helped and it is such I hope to bring to Nigeria so everyone regardless of religion, ethnicity, gender, social class etc can excel.

Let’s talk about unemployment. This monster has continued to ravage the youths of this country leading to varieties of societal vices. If you are elected as a law maker, what bill does you intend to sponsor to curb this menace?

Unemployment is a function of the economy and its management. You cannot legislate unemployment except through the indigenous action policy or through quota system from foreign investors. That is one way to enhance employment. On the other hand, there are ways to support small, micro and medium enterprises to grow and employ people in the private sector. Already government agencies like SMEDAN are in place to do so but have been performing woefully. SMEDAN needs to be reorganized to face the challenges of unemployment and to stop being political. The legislature has oversight functions and I could lobby with the house committee to put SMEDAN in order. At another level, I spoke of my idea to use constituency funds to support or provide seed funding for enterprise development in my constituency. The focus will not just be on production but the value chain in enterprise which includes packaging, marketing, and export opportunities. This will create unimaginable employment. The idea has been tested in Sierra Leone where I worked. We engaged local businesses in value chain retail and worked with the Fourah Bey University masters in business students to provide SMMEs with business guidance as part of their curriculum. We also worked with Rokel Bank to mentor and provide business loans to SMMEs. That is one idea. I shall also support legislation that encourages job and wealth creation. The private sector according to World Bank and SMMES are the drivers of development and so encouraging enterprise and entrepreneurship is very important. Government cannot employ everyone as the overheads will increase far above capital expenditure. Encouraging Diaspora investment is also another opportunity. People like you who wish to invest in Nigeria are unlikely to do so if they feel such investment will be misplaced. Articulating a one stop shop for the Idoma Diaspora to invest in Idoma land, in particular Otukpo and Ohimini will be an add on.

What have you in mind for other Idoma people who are not within your constituency?

I do not want to put the cart before the horse. Otukpo and Ohimini are my current constituency. Having said that, I am happy to say that Idoma from all over the zone are represented in Otukpo town and it is my plan to encourage inclusivity. On the other hand, if I’m being encouraged to go for a much bigger position, then, let’s wait for four years, after I have been tried and tested. On a more serious note, I shall collaborate with the representatives from all over the zone so we can Marshall out a zone C wide development agenda but that is if their representatives are willing to collaborate. I live at Sabon gari and those voting in my ward are mainly from Ogbadibo Local Government Are.

You have an impressive wealth of experience from an organised society (UK) and you have also worked in impoverished Nations too; but the Nigerian political environment murders good intentions and destroys good character “if you refuse to play ball “how do you intend to overcome this?

By going into accord party means I’ve refused to play ball. There have been cases of violence in recent times against those who refused to play ball and yes I’ve been afraid at times. But when I think that the objective of opposition is to intimidate and make people like me cower I become more resolute. I have only one life and it is GOD given. Who is man to lord over my life? I am focused and well intentioned and until the people say Nay, the sky is my limit. I am not afraid of trying and failing but I’m more afraid of not trying at all.

Corruption is a canker-worm eating away at the soul of our nation. It is bleeding our nation white and draining away our motivation to produce. Now people want something for nothing. Do you have any legislative plan to combat this?

I am not in the class of people who say stealing is not corruption. Corruption is a deeply rooted issue in Nigeria and not limited to the leaders. I found it so inherently nauseating in the civil service, the hotels I stayed in, in politics etc. There are legislation and agencies responsible for corruption; EFCC and stealing; ICPC. What is lacking is the penalty against such institutions where they fail to deliver. For the sake of the independence of such organisations, it is my plan to introduce a bill that will guarantee independent funding and appointment of CEOs to these organisations and to the judiciary. Currently the CEOs are appointed by the Executive and are hampered in the delivery of their service. The legislature can push for greater autonomy like in the case of the CBN governor. Implementation may remain a barrier as in the case of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and Salami but if increasingly the statute setting up these agencies are rightly worded in favor of autonomy and nomination of CEOs, the powers of the executive can be whittled down. Summarily, autonomy in service delivery and appointment of CEOs is one way forward.

Explain what you mean when you say the EFCC is responsible for cases of stealing? The impression Nigerians and your constituents have is that EFCC is responsible for corruption cases. They want to hear from you the true functions of the EFCC and how it could be strengthened?

EFCC is about Economic and financial crimes while ICPC is about corrupt practices.

When you say Economic and Financial crimes what do you mean in lay man’s terms?

Economic and financial crimes include 419, stealing from the coffers of government, banks etc while ICPC is about corruption in contracts, in civil service, etc. Strengthening EFCC means autonomy to investigate whoever is accused. With the CEO appointed by the Executive, directives are given on whom to investigate and when so also is the ICPC. Corruption includes payment to access jobs.

We have often said that the greatest problem of Nigeria is not even financial corruption but putting square pegs in round holes. What is most responsible for this is nepotism. Do you have any plan to combat this? If you do? Would that not go against the grain of your manifesto where you declared that you would fight to get people in your constituency appointed into positions?

No. It won’t goes against the stated aim in my manifesto. I was categorical in saying I will put my name to qualified people. However for the purposes of posterity, if I find my people more qualified, I shall challenge why they have not been short listed for position and why lesser qualified people have. Political consideration notwithstanding, we are all stakeholders in the project Nigeria and why should my people be marginalized on the basis of politics. The Federal Character Commission has not scrutinized appointments of CEOs of Agencies and departments which is a failing on their part. I wish I had the list of CEOS and you will understand what I mean. Idoma are qualified but how many are there? At the last count based on the Oronsaye report, there are about 700 agencies and Departments. Only in recent times have we seen the rise of Idoma people to the Fire Service Echelon.

You said you would be wary of using impeachment as a check on the executive. Under what specific ground could you be willing to append your signature to a notice?

Impeachment has been used as a political tool rather than a governance tool. Impeachable offences like the inability to maintain safety and security of my people as in the case of Agatu, The North East etc are classical examples. However, in politics, impeachment does not necessarily mean removal which is a failing of the presidential system. Clinton was impeached but not removed as president.

Are we correct if we say that your constituency projects would be concentrated on four areas namely, Agriculture, Qualitative Education, Qualitative Healthcare, and skills acquisition?

Yes you are correct. It is my realistic priorities action for four years.

Do you think you could exercise control over the disbursement of your constituency funds since they are going to be executed through MDA?

This is a good question. I once carried out a consultancy for a federal agency and this issue came up because the agency was in control of constituency funds. Some legislators threaten government agencies to release such monies for the constituency projects to their accounts or face the challenge of being put forward for merger or of being scrapped. This is unacceptable. On my part, I shall liaise with the government agency or ministry and ensure judicial and fiduciary use of the allocation. The M and E issue I raised earlier will ensure community ownership and monitoring of such projects. Releasing monies to my account is a crime. I shall work with the communities to identify the projects they feel are relevant to them on the basis of needs and community driven projects before submitting any proposal to the federal agency. Most constituency allocation is the source of corruption and abandonment.

Constituency projects tend to be restricted to mushroom classrooms in primary schools, boreholes, ICT centres and some other short term projects that have no sustainability. How are you going to ensure the sustainability of your projects? Would they be different in specie than what we have been seeing with our current legislators?

As a project development person, I am sometimes appalled at the level of projects that are not sustainable. There appears to be a copy cat syndrome in projects. Because Mr. A built a bore hole in a river bed area, I must build one in a rocky area. There is no feasibility or impact assessment study. Projects by their very nature must be well thought out. Why should I build a computer centre when there are no computer experts to man the place or no resources to pay the security man, no long term funding plans for electricity, and a computer centre that does not enhance the productivity of the community simply because everyone else is building a computer centre? There are ways to ensure sustainability of which one is community ownership after a thorough feasibility study. E.g. If a classroom block is needed, maybe because of environmental hazard or ratio of students to a teacher or distance from home to school, what is required is a plan that encourages the community to self levy in addition to a standing fund over a period of time from the project initiator. The duration of the project support standing fund can be reviewed over time till the project becomes self sustaining. I know the issue of self levy will be raised as a challenge but one of the studies I carried out on the Diaspora and relatives in urban centres reveals that the volume of financial flows to relatives in deprived areas from the Diaspora and urban areas is high. Remittances which are private funds are usually for school fees, new businesses, residential houses, etc but are usually utilized for the marrying of new wives and to fund lavish lifestyles. With sensitization and support, remittances can be used much more robustly and can support nominal contributions to education and health. Sometimes project duplicity is a problem, where legislators for their egos build similar projects alongside existing instead of improving on existing government or previous legislators’ projects. I’m not in politics for the name and to be territorial about projects that do not emanate from my personal funds.

We will like to know what your opinion is on the continued ban on same sex marriage, gay rights in Nigeria. Would you have voted differently? Do you support abortion rights and the right to die with dignity for people suffering from terminal illness? We understand these are not pressing issues at the moment but with foresight we can be aware of how you will be voting when such issues arise in the future.

This is a difficult question bordering on my personal belief and the need to balance the rights of individuals with the culture of the majority but I shall attempt to answer as honestly as I can. When the issue of women’s rights in the workplace was first raised, people argued on both divide. Mary Wollstonecraft said that government must involve itself in the private lives of women in order to provide an equitable playing ground for contribution. SE said government should provide crèches and time for women. Some argued that government had no business in the private lives of its citizen and that government should roll back. The debate is still on in welfarist states like the UK and form the bulk of campaigns such as access to housing, social security etc. The Nigerian offence to gay rights includes abnormal sexual practices. How many heterosexuals perform abnormal sexual practices with their wives? How many heterosexual men marry under aged girls, how many heterosexual men are indeed heterosexual instead of bisexual? Gays are visibly different and have been targeted for years by conservative communities. If I might ask a question, would it be better for a man to be openly gay or pretend and marry your daughter and have clandestine gay relations. How many of the legislators are secretly gay or bisexual. I would vote based on the result of a thorough study, biological proof and analysis rather than cultural sentiments. For now such study does not exist in Nigeria so I would have abstained. I support abortion – on the basis of medical grounds but not convenience. If a woman and/ or her child would die, if a child would be born EXTREMELY deformed with no hope of survival and if our society will throw such child away or kill them, perhaps abortion will be an option. This is really a difficult choice for me as SEVERELY disabled children live long in developed democracies but in Nigeria are not tolerated. Dying with dignity – the debate is still raging even in UK that I Know. Only Switzerland and one other country have agreed to death with dignity. I cannot speak for others but I cannot take my life. Will I vote for people to have a choice, I will weigh the options very carefully so people don’t kill their relatives for money. The private public debate is yet to be settled in the practice of democracy.

With this question the interview has come to an end. We thank you very much for participating in this grueling section. We will expect you another time. God bless you. We wish you luck in your contest.

Thank you all and God bless. One more thing you must not forget to vote for me, Alache Ode, for House of Representative in the Ohimini and Otukpo Federal Constituency.


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