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Fresh Lawmakers Don’t Have Opportunities To Attract Big Projects To Constituencies

Fresh Lawmakers Don't Have Opportunities To Attract Big Projects To Constituencies

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Fresh Lawmakers Don’t Have Opportunities To Attract Big Projects To Constituencies

Jesse Okey-Joe Onuakalusi is representing Oshodi-Isolo II constituency in the 10th National Assembly. He speaks with NASSNEWS about his career, politics and activities in the 10th National Assembly

 

NASSNEWS: Happy Birthday Sir. I wish you God’s blessings and endless protection.

 

HONOURABLE JESSE ONUAKALUSI: Thank you.

 

NASSNEWS: Do you reflect on your life before venturing into politics? And if you do, do you like it now or before politics?

 

HONOURABLE JESSE ONUAKALUSI: Well, man is a political animal. What makes you a political animal is your ability to influence the people around you and your family. If you are a politician, you have to navigate your way, to convince your wife and children about the actions you’re taking if you want to have peace in the family. Therefore, by extension, Nigeria is a big political space which in line with the democratic setting, people will be elected to represent others, and this is a departure from the military regime. The National Assembly is the fulcrum of our democracy, because without the National Assembly, democracy is not complete. The essence is that it is a larger representation of the people, where people come from various constituencies and in Nigeria, we have about 360 constituencies, and 109 senatorial districts.

 

NASSNEWS: Are people currently better off with the democracy we are practising at the moment?

 

HONOURABLE JESSE ONUAKALUSI; The political spectrum in Nigeria has not brought much desired result in the sense that we have not got to where we all have a free and fair election, we have not got to where votes would automatically count. We’ve not got to where the electronic mechanisms are not manipulated. So you must say that it is still a journey, it is still a process. I know that the 10th Assembly came with a multifaceted interest. It is the first time we are having people from eight political parties being elected to represent various interests and philosophy. So it gives us a larger spectrum to discuss Nigeria. So I must say that the 10th assembly has a representative of Nigeria in all form, because we have the progressives, the conservatives, and moralists in various political platform. Having come here, some of us that are new are just trying to learn the ropes. This is because where I’m coming from, we come into a system and learn the ropes, we learn to adapt, we’re doing our best to catch up and understand this. I must, however, say that the dividend or democracy has not been reflected on the people’s side but the good thing is that we have a speaker that is large hearted, a speaker that is a true Nigerian, with naturalistic instincts. So you find out that many of times, some of us have challenges and we can run to him and he gives you a listening ear and we are able to attempt or try to solve one or two challenges in our area of representation and the area of committee engagement. I must say that going forward, yesterday was my birthday but I don’t think there’s anything to celebrate. Because few days to that day, we had many Nigerian officers murdered in cold blood and two days ago, we had that people were kidnapped in Kaduna. So when you look at it, I don’t think anybody in Nigeria has anything to celebrate. What are you celebrating? Are you celebrating the flow of blood in Nigeria? There is nothing to celebrate, it’s t just that celebrating birthdays have become a ritual, just to thank God for being alive. I don’t think there’s any person in government that should celebrate in Nigeria because 70 per cent of Nigerians are going through hardship, there’s hardly a family that can put three square meal on their table so what are we celebrating when majority of Nigerians are in pain. So I don’t see it as any celebration, it is just to remember the day I was born.

 

NASSNEWS: Sir, you have mentioned that you are not really a fan of birthdays so this brings me to my next question. If you had enough time on your hands, how would you like to celebrate your birthday?

 

HONOURABLE JESSE ONUAKALUSI: Well, naturally, what I do if I’m in Lagos is that I normally go to the beach, spend my evening there and reflect on my journey so far, what I intend to do, what have I been able to accomplish? Have I been able to set my family priorities right? I must say that I was exposed to books earlier, and there’s a book that my father gave me when I finished secondary school. It is titled, “How To Get What You Want” , written by an American author. With this, i began to see that there are three stages of planning: having a long term plan, a midterm plan, and a short term plan. So when this transversed my mind, I began to set my short term plan, my long term plan, my mid term plan, and ask myself which one have I accomplished? When I looked at them, I think I have not accomplished major things because when we were growing up, because of my background, we had very bogus ambition, where everybody looks forward to transversing the earth, being known, doing certain great things. So, when I look back, I don’t think I have been able to accomplish most of my targets, especially impacting the lives of people. In my little space, I’ve done the little within my financial means but I feel that if I have a great opportunities, the welfare of people around me should be uppermost. In any event all over the world, every government is measured on how it treats the less privileged. That’s why you see in the United States, they have food packages for the less privileged. In the United Kingdom, we have people that take vouchers, they go to grocery stores and take vouchers every day, every week, and every government all over the world are measured by how they treat the less privileged and we have not got there. This is because the welfarist system in Nigeria has not graduated into a system where people will be captured based on their financial position and attended to, we have been having mixed arrangements in the area of attending to less privilege, because there’s no proper data in Nigeria. We cannot plan without data. There must be a holistic data system in Nigeria, which will be able to capture every variable, every photo of Nigerians, and we do not have it, we need the essentials that will be able to give an accurate number of Nigerians in their different levels. So these are areas that were lacking. I think that 2024 has a budget for population and census. And I strongly believe that those in charge of it will be able to do appropriate census figures, so as to be able to know our data. We cannot plan without data. So we shouldn’t be wasting our time saying we are planning, we don’t know the number of people that we are planning for. So that is in the budget and so if the 2024 census can give us a holistic database of Nigerians and their demography and their age brackets, we would be able to plan and plan for the future of Nigeria so that’s one of the challenges that this present government under President Tinubu has to put in perspective, and they should ensure that we have an accurate census. With that, Nigerians can plan but presently, we cannot plan without data. If we ask them what everyone is doing is estimation, and no nation plans with estimation. So you must be able to get our data, get our numerical strength, to get our census right. So that is one of the challenges we have. I think the 10th Assembly under the leadership of Dr. Tajudeen Abbas did make provision for that in the 2024 budget, and I happen to be a member of the population committee that did a presentation recently.

 

NASSNEWS: If you could advise the President on any matter, what would it be? And what would you say to him?

 

HONOURABLE JESSE ONUAKALUSI: I am not in the executive, I belong to a different arm of government. My major work is to represent my people in the area of lawmaking and oversight function, yes, by section 88-89 of the 1999 constitution, we have oversight function of all the ministries and the likes but I am not in the best position to advise the President in this because they are special advisers, but one thing is certain, in every decision, in every action, let us put Nigeria first, that is the only way out of it. If we put Nigeria first, you see beyond the clouded personal interest, and that would enable us to make a headway in Nigeria.

 

NASSNEWS: Are there projects you currently have in mind for your constituency? If any, can you give us an insight?

 

HONOURABLE JESSE ONUAKALUSI: We’re interested in youth empowerment, we are interested in women empowerment, we’re interested in schools, we’re interested in football. Presently, we have done talent hunt for the 2024 Valentine’s Day, where we’ll be able to identify young men who have exceptional talent, perhaps to assist them in identifying their potentials. We’re interested in providing the basic things because most of the constituency projects have to be appropriated, and some of us who are new, didn’t have the opportunities of getting major projects, in our votes. Subsequently, we’ll do our best to lobby to get more projects. We came here with high hopes and there’s a lot of expectations and expectations that people demand. We find out there’s a lot of demand on our site. I don’t have a budget, but I receive calls every day for me to pay for this, pay for that. If I receive 200 calls a day, 185 comes with account numbers. That is truly the level of poverty we have in Nigeria. I don’t have the means to shoulder such responsibilities. Nigerians have not distinguished between legislative and executive. the legislators don’t have budget for any project, the legislators are not empowered to do jobs, we only make laws. We represent and speak for our people and carry out oversight functions. I don’t have a budget but the demand I’m getting from my constituents demonstrates that we are meant to do this. The question is, do we have a budget? We don’t have that budget. Many times, our constituency projects are very meagre. I came from a constituency in Oshodi Local Government of about 2.6 million people and having two constituencies, I came from a larger one. My own constituency is over 1.8 million people. Therefore a lot of expectation, even people are now clamouring that I should be able to do roads. Do I have the budget for it? No, I don’t have the budget. What we do is that we lobby to see that these things are targeted to our constituents and we’ll do our best to make sure that we represent our people well, we do our best in the area of bills and law. We’ll do our best to ensure that we leave our mark in this place.

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