17 February 2013

Nigeria: Constitution Amendment May End States/Councils Joint Account - Rep Entonu


Ademu Ochepo Entonu is a member of the House of Representatives representing Agatu-Apa Federal Constituency of Benue State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview, he spoke on a many of issues, including the debate over State-Council Joint Accounts, his views on the concept of 'godfatherism' and plans for his Constituency. Excerpts:

Real Estate business is a lucrative venture in Nigeria. Why did you leave that business to join the murky waters of politics?

The business did not give me the proper platform to be close to my people and therefore did not give me the opportunity to contribute in positive ways to the socio-economic well-being of the people. Those who know the terrain will agree with me that the constituency which I now represent at the House of Representatives is one of the least developed areas not only in Benue State, but in the entire country. In fact, before I came to this office, Agatu Local Government Area which is part of my Constituency was the only one in Nigeria which had no electricity even at its headquarters, Obagaji. At the height of the rainy season, the entire area was always cut off from the rest of the state. However, I am happy to say that things are now changing for the better.

What was your experience during the primaries?

The PDP primaries which I participated in and won overwhelmingly, indicated clearly to me that the entire people were yearning to have a representative who would be close to them, listen to them and help solve some of their basic problems.

Fortunately for me, before the primary election, I was able to execute a number of projects within the constituency and I guess, this contributed immensely to my profile as a caring person and this also greatly enhanced my reputation and endeared me to the people's hearts. It was indeed a moment of joy for me, even though there were machinations, horse-trading and campaigns of calumny as expected. Most members of my party especially at the highest level also endorsed my candidacy to whom I remain grateful.

In Nigeria, there is this talk of god-fatherism in politics. Who is your godfather in politics?

I personally believe that many people have misconstrued this concept. In politics, just like any other establishment, you just don't jump into the fray and believe you know all the nuances. For example, in engineering business, you have pupil engineers, in law you have those who come fresh from the law schools under studying the experienced ones in the bar. Even in your own job, journalism, I guess you have a hierarchy of seasoned journalists who must edit reports before they are eventually published. On the other hand, when an older politician wishes to push his own agenda rather than that of the larger number of the people, this should be resisted, and you can see that already happening. To answer your question in a few words, I believe that people should be elected based on their antecedents and the strength of their character.

Before the primary, you were known to have started the construction of roads in parts of your constituency, but it appears you have either slowed down or stopped completely. What is the situation?

What I started during the campaign was just a tip of the iceberg. After the election, the synergy between my office, that of the President of the Senate, David Mark, and the state government has made the execution of projects to be implemented through the budget. People should please exercise a little patience as they will soon see the physical manifestation of this effort.

What are the problems of your constituency and how do you intend to tackle them?

Like in many other parts of Nigeria, the problems are infrastructural development - access roads, water, electricity, education, health and sanitation etc. But in my constituency, if we are able to provide rural electricity, potable water that will ease the problem of women going long distances in search of water which is rarely available, provide accessible maternity and child health care centres, we are on a good course. Indeed, there is now a Health Centre at Okpagabi which is now fully operational.

Many of your supporters and admirers are concerned that they have not heard much of your participation at the National Assembly. Can you explain?

I think I would prefer to do some work now and talk later. This does not mean, however, that I have not been participating in quality debates on the floor of the House. Many people believe that they can best serve their people by showing their faces on television while they hardly visit their constituencies. This is not my style. For example, I have just returned from my constituency on the invitation of all the chiefs in Agatu Local Government of my constituency during which we discussed how best to move the area forward especially as the rainy season will soon begin. I believe that is the way things should be done.

In that case, what have your major achievements since your assumption of office been?

My achievements and contributions towards the socio-economic upliftment of my people are too many to be mentioned in an interview of this nature. But permit me to mention a few which include the provision of 500KVA transformers and electrification of Oshugbudu in Agatu Local Government, two 500KVA transformer and electrification of Enungba, Ogbangede, Enicha, provision of 500KVA transformers and electrification of Ogwule and those of Obagaji - Okokolo, Oshigbudu - Oweto, whose contract has just been awarded and the provision of Health Centre at Ogwumogbo.

Similar electrification projects are also on-going in Apa Local Government area in Ojantele, Ofuoke, Auke, Angwa - Camp, Iga Okpanya, Oji ward, Adija in Ugbokpo ward, construction of Oji bridge and Ogbangede bridge and the construction of 51 boreholes across the two local governments.

In fact, my vision is that before the end of my first tenure, all the notable villages in my constituency would have electricity which I believe will help create jobs for the people.

Most Nigerians believe that state governments are abusing the state - local government Joint Account. What is your personal view?

This is a constitutional issue which I believe will be addressed through the amendment procedures which are now in progress. I think there will soon be a solution to the issue.

How do you rate the performance of the Benue State government since Gabriel Suswan assumed office?

I am not the spokesperson of the governor, Gabriel Suswan. But I am positive that the governor has done his best within the limits of the resources available to his government. Remember that Benue State gets one of the least allocations from the federation account and since the governor assumed office, not a single staff has been retrenched from work. Instead, he has promoted staff three times and has implemented the minimum wage in the state to the extent that Benue State government staff are taking salary which is almost at par with their counterparts at the federal level.

Above all, there is peace in the State which must be ranked as one of his major achievements.

Apa State, how hopeful are you?

Everybody in the current Benue State and indeed most Nigerians believe that if any State is to be created, it is Apa State because of the peculiar circumstances the two ethnic groups - the Tivs and the Idomas have found themselves in. This will remove the protracted frictions that have existed between the two ethnic nationalities for years.

In addition, the creation of Apa State will also give concrete realities to the yearnings and aspirations of a people determined to take their own destiny in their hands. It is further a manifestation of the realization of self-determination as enshrined in the United Nation's Charter on Human Rights.

Please, can you give us a brief history of your life?

I graduated from the University of Jos with a B. Sc degree in Building in 1989. After my graduation and the mandatory one year NYSC service in 1990 - 91, I worked briefly with the FCDA, Abuja as a project engineer between 1993 and 1998 after which I voluntarily resigned to set up a Real Estate business until I joined active politics in 2007.

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