Dennis Idahosa: Steadily Climbing  the Political Ladder

Hon. Dennis Idahosa, the Chairman, House Committee on Healthcare Services is one of the youngest lawmakers in the House of Representatives, where he represents Ovia South-west/North-east Federal Constituency of Edo State. A   passionate, cerebral and compassionate politician, his foray into politics and the grace that came with it was far from being automatic. He had deployed some years in real estate in Canada before he was spotted by the then Edo State Governor, Senator Adams Oshiomhole. The rest is history. In a recent encounter with Funke Olaode, he delved into his political trajectory and how Oshiomhole’s trust and commitment to his people have pushed him thus far.

With a friendly gaze bearing a warm smile, this young politician, Dennis Idahosa in a recent encounter with this reporter at a highbrow hotel somewhere in Ikeja, Lagos, talks about his life and political trajectory.  Surrounded by his political allies from the House of Representatives, he offers a glimpse of hope to the topic under discussion. Prior to his foray into politics, he was into real estate in Canada where he migrated as a teenager for further education. Visionary and purposeful, he immersed himself in what North America would offer. True to himself, he carved a niche for himself and became successful. While his fortune in the foreign land didn’t attract much noise, it was his political journey that propped up his name several times as a young man. He became the youngest commissioner in Edo State under the then Governor, Adams Oshiomhole. Serving as commissioner for Investment, Public and Private Partnership. It is on record that he donated all his salaries to the people of Ovia South West Constituency while he was in office as Commissioner. As the CEO of Eagle Denco Company Limited with an interest in construction, mining and real estate, he also employed several youths.  His act of kindness constantly keeps his name on the lips of many who know him.

Representing Ovia South-West/North East Federal Constituency of Edo State in the  House of Representatives, his political exploits have roots in his passion for the job

“I left the shores of this country to Canada to further my education before the “japa syndrome. This was in 1998 immediately after secondary school. And I was doing an exhibition on real estate in Canada in 2012 when my path crossed with him. He asked me, ‘Are you a Benin man’? I said yes. ‘And you are doing so much abroad? Why can’t you come home and support us and also contribute your quota?’ And immediately he said that, I said okay, fine Sir, I will get back to you.  After our conversation, I did research on him and I noticed that he was a man that is trying to impact life and contribute to society. At that point, I put a call across to him that I was definitely going to come home. And when I came, he made me a commissioner, becoming the youngest commissioner in Edo State.”

A Yoruba adage that says ‘a child who washes his hand will dine with his elders’ is suitable for Hon. Idahosa. His loyalty aside, his track of excellence while serving under Oshiomhole paid off. When his tenure ended, Oshiomhole nominated him as the Federal Board member representing the South-south region in the Nigerian Great Wall under the Ministry of Environment, which gave him national experience and exposure.

Again, while serving as commissioner in Edo State, Hon. Idahosa did something uncommon in the history of the state. One hundred per cent of his salary was donated to widows.  This again opened a new vista in his political journey.

“When my tenure ended as a commissioner, the women in my community called me.  They contributed what they had, about N13,000, based on their level, that I should come and contest for the House of Representatives. I saw it and I was very, very moved. Before I got home, the leadership of my party went to meet my governor, and Oshiomhole agreed that for us to win that federal constituency, it should be the likes of Hon. Dennis Idahosa. I handed the ‘N13,000’ and some clothes the widows contributed to my ambition. And I was able to purchase the form and the rest was history. I was able to unseat the daughter of one of the richest men in my state.”

He gives more insight into his political foray.

“Yes, I first ran my election in 2019, I was just 38 years old. I was young.  I was one of those using that to campaign in my federal constituency and it actually helped me and I benefited from it. I am a young man, with modesty who commands a lot of respect in my community.  And considering my antecedents, the young and old adults believed in me. And in the first tenure within four years, I was able to attract a minimum of 100 projects to my federal constituency. That is why they trusted me to give me the second term.”

Hon. Idahosa studied sociology as a first degree in Canada and earned a master’s degree in Legislative Studies in Nigeria.  While in Canada, he had a brief stint in health and allied sectors. During his first tenure, he was chairman of the House Committee on Legislative Compliance, which gave him room to interface with all the agencies across Nigeria.

Commenting on the state of Nigeria’s health sector, he had this to say:  “Like I said earlier, considering my exposure in the 9th assembly as the Chairman House Committee on Compliance, I have actually interfaced with all the agencies and so these are familiar people to me. They are people that I have interacted with. Most of the challenges that we face in the health sector now, will be addressed. You should be mindful of the fact that I was once based in Canada and health is number one priority. We will ensure that most of our senior citizens, highly placed people will not be going overseas for medical treatment. We will fix our health sector so that we can reduce medical tourism.”

Although it seems the budget allocated for the health sector is still very low compared to other countries, he is leading talks on how to chart a way forward for the sector.

“That is one of the conversations that I will be having with the leadership of the house. I am going to have a very reasonable conversation with them, to let them see the reason why the budgetary provision for health should be higher in line with the World Health Standard.”

On his recent stakeholders’ engagement in Lagos themed: ‘Fortifying Nigeria’s Future: Towards Promoting Fortification Compliance and Workforce Nutrition,’ Hon. Idahosa said the importance of workforce nutrition cannot be overstated.

“A lot has been said. A healthy workforce will provide a healthy result that will bring development to the nation. On food fortification, I have been able to put a lot of things together, one of which is, in `1999, the law gave birth to NAFDAC. And in 2004, there was a little bit of amendment. But in the 9th assembly there was a comprehensive amendment that gave room to NAFDAC to delve into all these food fortifications and a lot of monitoring had to do with those manufacturers, but it wasn’t assented to by Mr. President. By the grace of God, in this 10th assembly, we are going to revisit it and we will ensure that it is passed and is assented to.”

Nigeria is currently losing its brain drain to the ‘japa syndrome’. The movement wasn’t popular in his younger days. But he has a different view. “I think if you want to visit abroad, you are free to do so in a legitimate way. And for those that just believe that the green pasture is only abroad, they will do whatever it takes to get there. And when you get there, you find out that you are a second-class citizen. And there are some good jobs that will not be exposed to you, that will not be given to you. Some professionals can go there and start their lives, I don’t have a problem with that but you cannot abandon your country. This is your country, you were born in Nigeria and you should be able to contribute back to your country. I would discourage some of those people who want to go there without purpose. This is your country and I believe that there is a reason why God gave you Nigeria, why you were given birth in this country. No foreigner will come to fix our country, it is we Nigerians that will be able to fix it.”

Hon. Dennis Idahosa was born into a well-cultured family from Iguobazuwa, Ovia South West Local Government Area. His comfortable background many would say helped him in his early life.

“Not really.  Actually, I think what really shaped my life at an early stage was my commitment to God. I lost my dad when I was six years old, and my mum took care of us, six of us. I am the last of the family. I came from a very humble beginning and God has been faithful. So I won’t say I came from a comfortable home but a humble home.”  

Hon. Idahosa is happily married and blessed with four children. His understanding spouse has enabled him to flourish.

As he got up to catch up with his flight, this reporter threw an unexpected question at him about his ambition to climb the political ladder.  “Yes” was his response. 

“In my state, there will be a gubernatorial election next year and I think I have gotten everything necessary to fight the battle and to further give opportunity to my state. And also to bring to bear what God has exposed me to both outside the country and within the national level to impact lives. I will get the ticket by the grace of God and I will be the winner,” he said with confidence.

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