Kehinde Olusegun Odeneye: I’m into Politics to Empower, Make People Happy

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Encounter

For a member of the House of Representatives, Kehinde Olusegun Odeneye, lawmaking is more than making laws. It is about lifting people out of the doldrums of poverty and infrastructural deficits. A chartered accountant with many years’ experience garnered from both private and public sectors, Odeneye has proved to be a grassroots politician connecting with his constituents through various empowerment programmes. The federal lawmaker tells Raheem Akingbolu what makes him tick, his future political dreams, the chances of APC in 2019 elections, and why his constituency wants him to represent them again

Do you think the National Assembly is relevant to our democratic process as critics say federal lawmakers have become a financial burden to Nigeria?

The relevance of the National Assembly cannot be over-emphasised. It is not uncommon for the House (of Representatives) to sit on Sundays if the need arises to find solutions to urgent national issues. Our mandate as lawmakers is to put the interest of the people first at all times. Apart from performing the constitutional role as a check on the Executive so that the interests of Nigerians are protected at all times. Lawmakers are the ambassadors of the people in Abuja. How many villages does President Muhammadu Buhari know? How many villages has the Minister for Works visited? How does he know that my community requires water, housing or road network? With the assistance and collaboration of the National Assembly members, we’ve been able to facilitate projects that ordinarily would not have seen the light of day. We have also fought for the cause of our constituents by presenting their petitions on the floor of the House. All the lawmakers are also involved in various forms of empowerment programmes in their constituencies which play complementary roles to Federal Government’s initiatives.

Since 1999 your constituency –the Ijebu federal constituency –had not re-elected a representative except you. What did you do to break that jinx?

Politics is about the people. It’s rooted in relationships. Therefore, your success depends largely on how well you connect with your people. Before coming into politics, I lived in my constituency among my people with my late paternal grandmother, from whom I acquired native wisdom that cannot be taught at any university in the world. This helped my politics a great deal. Besides, having stayed among my people for that long, I knew the needs of my constituents while seeking their mandate to represent them at the Federal House of Representatives. I knew what they yearn for. I understood their plights, and I saw their aspirations. It wasn’t difficult when I eventually got in to do what they require of me.

When I was campaigning, I made two things clear: one was to concentrate on human capital development through empowerment. The second was to use my position to facilitate community infrastructural development for my constituency. Upon my victory at the polls, I made it clear to everybody that I’m not just an APC party representative. I am representing every citizen of Ijebu Central Federal Constituency regardless of political affiliations and religious backgrounds. This is why my empowerment programmes cuts across any affiliations. All the people of Ijebu Central Federal Constituency are included, whether PDP, Labour Party, SDP, APC and even those who do not belong to any political party. As a result of this, I was re-elected into the Federal House. I have always believed that you can’t make laws for people that are hungry and angry. Yes, it is good to build schools, hospitals, and roads in your constituency. But in addition to these, the people needed to be empowered. There must be food on their table. There must be employment. When all these are achieved, one can now say as a politician that one is making a difference. I believe strongly that if you want to govern, you must have a balance of the two so the people are happy. When the people are empowered and happy, whatever infrastructural development that is provided will be appreciated and the people will have a sense of ownership and a duty to maintain it.

What are the specific empowerment projects you’ve executed?

My interventions are in many phases. But let me start with the phase that deals with economic empowerment of my people. As I speak, I have about 8,000 registered artisans with different skill sets enrolled under what I call ‘OK SAP’ –Skills Acquisition Programme. I’ve been doing skills empowerment programme since 2011. I have empowered over 3,000 people within Ijebu Central Federal Constituency in various fields of endeavour. It is for this and many other reasons that my people want me to seek a third term in the federal legislature. Perhaps, another thing working in my favour is that I run an inclusive programme –carrying everybody along. I have been able to facilitate a number of projects and influence government’s decisions at various levels for the benefit of my people. I’m not just talking about employment or empowerment but infrastructural projects that have been achieved through lobbying and consultation. I have facilitated construction of school buildings at Idomila/Idomowo Primary School, Molipa High School, Parako Community School, Igbile, a school in Idode community, Ogbogbo Baptist Grammar School (ongoing) and a school in Odogbolu town (ongoing). Some of the ongoing school buildings renovations are at Ijebu Ode Grammar school, Iloti Community School, schools in Okun Owa, Aiyepe, Ibefun and Isiwo all in my constituency.

I have water projects at Ogbogbo, Oke Eri, Oke Aje Market, Akio, Odomolasa (Ilese), and Obanta Market in Ijebu Ode. I also facilitated the building of a vocational centre at Itanrin, a 600-seater hall at Tai Solarin University of Education with 600 chairs and 110 computer systems. My projects cut across all levels of education in my constituency. At the Tai Solarin University of Education Ijebu Ode, I facilitated the construction of a lecture theatre with 600 chairs provided and gave 110 computers with Internet facilities. The lecture theatre is used as a JAMB CBT centre which is generating income for the school. Students in my constituency do not have to travel as far as Abeokuta to write JAMB. I have distributed writing materials to all public primary schools in Ijebu Central Federal Constituency. This is to support the Free Education programme of Governor Ibikunle Amosun. I have also facilitated several projects in primary and post primary education which I mentioned above.

There are also food processing and maternity health centres in Ogbogbo. It is also to my credit that construction of Odo Aye/Isaki road and solar street lights projects were facilitated at Ogbogbo/Erigo, Iworo, Abeokuta Road (Ijebu Ode), Atan, Odogbolu town, Army Barracks Ilese, Oke Aje Market, and Odosiwonade all in Ijebu Central Federal Constituency. I have also organised football competitions to discover talents from the constituency. Some of them have got into the Nigerian football league, earning a living and following their dreams. I thank God for my constituents’ understanding and support.

What informed your annual Praise Concert?

Ijebu Praise Concert was designed and organised to bring together all the people of Ijebu regardless of religious beliefs –Muslims, Christians, African traditional worshippers, non-believers, and everybody in a convivial and peaceful atmosphere. The concert preaches peaceful co-existence among my people. If you look around, it is not a usual occurrence anywhere to see Muslims, Christians, and people of different beliefs coming together to sing, dance and give praises to God. It has never happened in Ogun State and in many places across Nigeria. On that particular day December 1, 2017, we had Muslim artistes, Ahmad Alawiye, Iya N’Saudi, Alhaji Mutiu Akaso, and Christian artistes, Lanre Teriba, Bukola Sewele Jesu, Esther Igbekele, and so many others coming together to perform and lead the people in praise. At the first edition, we had approximately 6,000 people in attendance at Ijebu Ode Township Stadium. The people are already looking forward to the next edition later this year. Of course, we intend to make it a yearly homecoming event for the people of Ijebu. Beyond the social networking platform it provides, I also intend to incorporate an Ijebu Praise Concert Foundation where young and upcoming gospel artistes can come and showcase their talents and get support to move their crafts to the next level.

Why will you seek re-election into the House of Representatives? Why not the Senate?

Two things are important; one is my people. If they say I should represent them again, of course, I will. The second thing is that I believe I have not done enough. Some are saying with my achievements so far, I should go to the Senate. No, I am not interested in senatorial ticket. I still intend to remain a congressman. My constituency is my strength. My people are what keep me going. I’m close to the grass roots as a member of the Federal House of Representatives. If you look at Ogun State, after Hon. Dimeji Bankole’s stint as Speaker of the House of Representatives, there has not been anybody from Ogun State in the leadership position of the National Assembly. Why? It’s because of inconsistency. We change our representatives always. There is the need for consistency of purpose and mandate. This is how to grow in politics. Above all, like I have stated earlier, I have not done enough. I believe I can still do more for my constituents as a member of the Federal House of Representatives.

Do you think the APC will be successful in 2019 elections?

A lot of people have been saying all sorts. But if you come to Ogun State you will see that the infrastructural development in the state is second to none. Governor Ibikunle Amosun has taken infrastructural development of Ogun State to a greater height. Ogun State under his leadership has become the industrial hub of the South-West. The number of industries in Ogun State has increased exponentially and this has brought economic development to the state. With all these laudable achievements by the APC-led government of Ibikunle Amosun coupled with various empowerment programmes and support from other elected members at the national and state assemblies, I can tell you confidently that APC will remain in power beyond 2019 in the state.

Why did you go into politics?

I went into politics because I believe we cannot all continue to be armchair critics but must be ready to get our hands dirty (after all politics they say is a dirty game) and play the game. A lot of us, even when we have potentials, just sit down and criticise. We call politicians armed robbers and rogues. But these people are the ones deciding our fate and those of our unborn children. So, if we continue to leave our activities it in the hands of those we call rogues, who administer and govern based on the level of their understanding what do we expect? All of us who feel we are not concerned and are looking the other way will be affected at the end of the day. Now everybody is complaining of recession in Nigeria. Is it affecting politicians alone? No, we are all in it together.

I was once a lecturer. I taught ICAN students for 10 years as a chartered accountant. I’ve always wanted to be a chartered accountant because of my uncles, Chief Olaitan Oshinuga and Chief Olusegun Osinuga. The two of them through their lives of service and care for people inspired me a great deal. As a young man, I saw them as people with large hearts, who constantly give of their time and resources regardless of whom you are and where you come from. When I was thinking of a career path, I reckon if this is the way accountants are, then, I want to be a chartered accountant like my uncles. They are my role models and mentors.

Will you support any of your children to go into politics?

I would even push some of them to go into politics. It is a call to serve; a duty and responsibility.