One of the three Senators from Lagos State, Senator Olugbenga Bareehu Ashafa stands out as a quiet achiever, who has stayed away from the familiar attention-seeking approach to representation in the legislature. From a quiet lifestyle as a civil servant in Lagos State to the murky waters of national politics as a two-term senator, Ashafa comes across as a worthy example in effective representation, writes Olawale Olaleye
By the sheer stroke of personal decision, Senator Olugbenga Bareehu Ashafa, Lagos East, has refused to catch the bug of ostentatious representation that often typifies the style of most Nigerian lawmakers, who would rather pay more attention to media exposure than the content and quality of their representation.
Away from the craze for media events often tagged empowerment programmes or town hall jamboree, which have remained some of the avenues to reach out to the people, result has always been the profound desire of Senator Ashafa. And with a defining style, peculiar to his philosophy and upbringing, he has achieved more by choosing to be discreet and yet focused – a disposition that flashes more in terms of substance than mere rhetoric or photo-ops.
With the half of his second term in office gone, Ashafa can only look back in fulfillment as he winds down on this very mandate. His understanding of the demands of his office, not just as a lawmaker but what has come to be known today as ‘legislacutive’, meaning a lawmaker, who combines his roles with that of the executive and is delivering on both without either of the two suffering neglect. The coinage arose from the reality today that lawmakers have gone beyond just making laws; they also execute projects to the delight and excitement of their constituents.
Ashafa, interestingly, appears to have it all covered. His career as a successful civil servant in Lagos, where he made his name as a top notch player in the land ministry, is believed to have prepared him for his present task. Not only is he good at managing human resources, Ashafa is also reputed as having resounding human relations such that everyone, who has come across him often tells of his large heart and generosity.
Although politics was said to be the last thing on his mind, however, he took the call to service in 2011 with the poise of one determined to succeed with whatever life throws at him. Besides, he has never been associated with failure and thus, the challenge to represent the people of Lagos East, perhaps, the smallest of the Lagos senatorial districts, came more as honour for him.
And with six years already in the bag as a Senator, Ashafa’s mid-term report, which was released recently sums it all up in terms of effective and efficient representation with record-breaking achievements in practically all the boxes of expectations flung his way.
“Dear good people of Lagos East senatorial district”, he said as he presented his scorecard recently. “It is my humble privilege to present this mid-term stewardship report for my second term activities in the senate of the National Assembly,” adding that “the eighth senate is still work-in-progress. With two years left, I can assure you all that we are not resting on our oars in providing legislative guidance towards steering the ship of state to calmer waters after many years of sailing through the storms of corruption.”
What the statement above showed was that Ashafa was not oblivious of the prevalent resentment amongst the people over the seeming inability of the government of the day to live true to its billings, in terms of delivering change, which encapsulates the worries and dreams of the average Nigerian people. But he gave hope, not minding too that the people have not been particularly happy with the state. He was not going to digress.
“The purpose of this mid-term stewardship report is to provide a basis for an assessment of service delivery in the spirit of accountability and responsibility required of public servants at all levels of government. This report is a highly summarised account of my activities over the past two years as a second term senator from June 2015 till June 2017. I have taken the liberty of uploading a very detailed and comprehensive version on my website (www.gbengaashafa.com) for your further study,” he said.
In addition to chairing the Senate Committee on Land Transport, Ashafa is also an active member of the Senate Committees on Constitution Review, Water Resources, Establishment (Pension and public services), Foreign Affairs, Legislative Compliance and National Security & Intelligence. Thus, starting with bills and motions that were pushed to his credit, he saw to the passage of the Nigerian Railway bill, 2016, being the Senate Committee Chairman on Land Transport.
According to him, the new law represents a radical departure from the norm by effectively breaking down the railway sector into the Regulatory and Operations components in line with international best practices, thereby creating a level playing field for private and state sector participation. When implemented, it is forecast that the new law would attract the largest infrastructure developments in the Nigerian rail sector, attract foreign direct investments and ultimately translate to millions of Jobs.
In addition to co-sponsoring other bills, Ashafa recorded that he had directly sponsored six bills since June 2015. They are the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act Amendment Bill 2016; the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport Bill 2016; the City University of Technology Bill 2016; Sporting Tax Holiday Bill 2016; the Nigerian Postal Service Bill 2017; the Nigerian French Language Village Establishment Bill 2017 and a bill for the amendment of the National Sports Act, 2017.
Some of the bills he co-sponsored included a bill for an act to establish Lagos State Special Economic Assistance Programme By Senator Oluremi Tinubu; a bill for an act to amend The Prisons Act Cap P.29 By Senator Oluremi Tinubu; a bill for an to provide the Establishment of National Animal Identification and Management Bureau By Senator Abu Ibrahim; a bill for an act to amend the Electoral Act No 6 of 2010 as amended by Senator Monsurat Sumonu; a bill for an act to Repeal the Prison Act Cap. P29 of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and enact the Nigeria Prisons and Correctional Service, to make provisions for the administration of prisons in Nigeria as well as the Awaiting Trial Persons and for Related Purposes 2015 by Senator Shaaba Lafiagi.
Also, during engaging debates on issues of national importance, Ashafa said he had contributed meaningfully to such debates and motions put up for discussion by some of his colleagues. His contributions can be seen in such areas as a Motion on Fuel Tanker Tragedies on Nigeria Highways; Motion on Nigerians involvement in illicit Global Drug Trade and increase in Domestic Abuse by Nigerian Youths; Motion condemning the rising incidences of Jungle Justice in Nigeria; Motion on urgent need for the Nigerian police force and other security agencies to intervene in the increased rate of kidnapping in the Lagos East senatorial district and securing the waterways and Motion on the Outbreak of Meningitis: Urgent need to curb the spread and stop further deaths.
To his credit too were Motion on the Unity of Nigeria by Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan (Co-sponsor); Motion on the urgent need for the federal government to redeem Local Contractors Debts, by Senator Oluremi Tinubu (Co-sponsor) and Motion on the need to avoid imminent disruption of full academic activities and closure of Federal University of Maiduguri, due to rising insecurity occasioned by the spate of suicide bomb attacks by Senator Kaka (Co-sponsor).
On the welfare of his constituents, Ashafa said he had through his legislative office at the National Assembly and the constituency offices situated in all the local government areas within his senatorial district facilitated many town hall meetings, empowerment sessions for SME owners in Lagos East and the siting of capital-intensive projects targeted at empowering a minimum of 10,000 of his constituents in the East part of the state.
According to him, his actions were driven by a firm belief that one of the primary responsibilities of government was to implement economic policies that would lift millions of the people out of poverty, and to use the resources at its disposal to create safety nets for the poor and vulnerable in our society.
So far, as part of his contributions, Ashafa claimed to have donated to his people, 500 units of Sewing Machines, 100 units of Tricycles, 200 units of Grinding Machines, 20 units of Block Making Machine, 150 units of 1.2KVA Generators, 10 units of 6.5KVA Generators, 2 units of Transformers (already installed in Somolu and Epe) and an ongoing construction of an ICT Centre with the supply of computer systems at Oreyo Secondary School, Igbogbo, Ikorodu.
Other interventions, according to him, included the construction of solar boreholes in 7 locations (Somolu, Bariga, Ojota, Isheri-Magodo, Agbede-Ikorodu, Ketu, Ibeju-Lekki), Town Hall meetings at Kosofe, Ikorodu and Magodo, free medical outreaches across all the LGAs in Lagos East senatorial district in December, 2016, distribution of educational kits and back-to-school materials to more than 3000 pupils in Lagos East in December, 2016, awards of scholarships, financial assistance and medical assistance to constituents under the Gbenga Ashafa Trust Endowment (G.A.T.E).
He also donated security equipment to complement existing efforts at ensuring adequate security for two schools in Epe and Ikorodu and an agricultural entrepreneurship programme in conjunction with Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria for the first batch of (250) constituents of Lagos East and the subsequent distribution of seed funds to beneficiaries in February this year.
While the efforts towards the advancement of his people had earned him awards and accolades all over, Ashafa believes that nothing could be too much for the industrious and hardworking people of Lagos East, especially when so much more could be done.
“I am grateful for the support we have received from our dear constituents so far. For our constituents, who feel we haven’t addressed their concerns, we hear you and promise to do even better in the next half. I am equally aware that the myriad of socio-economic challenges facing the people in our local communities can best be tackled through the synchronised efforts of government at the federal, state and local levels.
“I recognise the efforts of all entrepreneurs and business owners, who are contributing in no small measure to building the kind of trickle-down economic growth we are witnessing in Lagos State. I also commend those in the NGO space and civil society, who continuously speak the truth to people in power and provide development opportunities for the less-privileged in their various communities. I wish to end by encouraging you all to continue to contribute your quota to nation building in what you do and wherever you find yourself,” he said.
Ashafa may not be your everyday politician, the fact that he has triumphed where many first-timers had failed when it comes to real politicking speaks much more to capacity and the ability to manage both human and material resources for collective good. He has shown, in unmistaken terms, that leadership is not esoteric as much as effective representation of the people in a critical arm of the government.
As he counts down to the rest of his mandate due to end in 2019, Ashafa is not oblivious of the compelling need to write his name, not just in gold but importantly, in the sand of time as one senator, whose era in the representation of his people was well carved out and delivered to the letters.