`Five House of Representatives candidates for Eti Osa Federal Constituency, Lagos State, gathered at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, on Monday, February 4, 2019 to debate and show their constituents who best deserves to represent them at the 9th Assembly.
The candidates were Olubankole Wellington of the Modern Democratic Party (MDP), Ibrahim Obanikoro of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Omotesho Bakare of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Tessy Owolabi of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Ferdinand Adimefe of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN).
The debate, anchored by broadcast journalist, Kunle Falayi, and organised by MediaHub in conjunction with Pulse Nigeria and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Pidgin News Service, gave the candidates a platform to share their ideas with voters.
The debate kicked off with opening statements as Adimefe lamented about how Nigeria is mired deep in a crisis. The 34-year-old policy designer affirmed that it’s a moral responsibility for someone like him to get involved and serve the people more faithfully than what they’re currently getting.
Obanikoro declared that he’s the most experienced candidate for the seat and assured that he’s quite ready to fix problems about health, education, power and the environment, while Bakare said he’s the closest to the grassroots and most qualified to provide genuine representation.
Babajide Obanikoro of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at a debate for candidates contesting for the Eti-Osa constituency seat in the House of Representatives
Owolabi, who also noted that Lagos is in decline, said her passion for giving the next generation a proper future makes her the most suitable for the legislative seat.
On his own part, Wellington, an entertainer known more popularly by his stage name, Banky W, said his legacy as an advocate for youth participation in politics and philanthropy in education and health have prepared him for a role as pivotal as that of a legislative representative.
“I believe my life’s work will show that I have the intellectual capacity of a lawmaker, the heart of a philanthropist, the mouth of an activist and the media attention that comes with being an entertainer, and by the grace of God, I can combine all of these to be our best representative ever,” he assured to applause from the audience.
Olubankole Wellington (Banky W) of the Modern Democratic Party (MDP) at a debate for candidates contesting for the Eti-Osa constituency seat in the House of Representatives
With the influence of godfathers increasingly under the spotlight for being an undemocratic phenomenon plaguing Nigerian politics, it came as little surprise that most of the candidates distanced themselves from having one.
However, Obanikoro, who’s the son of Musiliu Obanikoro, a former Minister of State for Defence, said godfathers have an important role to play in the grand scheme of things and cannot be done away with.
“Whether you like it or not, what they have seen, the experience they have, no matter where you’re coming from, you can never buy it or have it.
“You need them to move forward, it’s a synergy, that’s where your ability to negotiate comes in. That you don’t need godfatherism, that’s a total lie,” he said.
On the contrary, Adimefe assured the audience that the only godfather he has is the “Nigerian constitution and the Nigerian people”, noting that he owes nobody else.
“We don’t need godfathers, we need mentors; people that can carry us on their shoulders. I don’t want a godfather that’ll make me a stool and climb on my head and truncate my ideas. I want a godfather that can become a catalyst for change and that’s the Nigerian people,” he said to a very rapturous audience.
Ferdinand Adimefe of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) at a debate for candidates contesting for the Eti-Osa constituency seat in the House of Representatives
Owolabi and Obanikoro considered flooding to be one of the most pressing problems facing the constituency and proposed to lobby for a special status for Lagos State in the National Assembly to fix drainage issues and prevent recurrence of what has become an annual disaster.
On his part, Wellington said accountability is one of the biggest problems in governance in Nigeria and promised to lead from the front to change the situation.
“Most of us don’t know who our representatives are, talk less of their salary and allowances and constituency allocations that they receive every year most of the time to enrich themselves,” he lamented.
He vowed to publish his salary and allowances as a legislator and be transparent in the spending of constituency allocations by consulting regularly with the people.
Adimefe said empowering people is the most immediate problem he would seek to combat if elected to the seat when constituents troop to the polls on February 16. He promised to dedicate 70% of the constituency’s allowance to a project, named Impact Centre, to train at least 500 people in soft skills every month.
“At the end of four years, we have about 20,000 self-employed people around in Eti-Osa that can create jobs,” he promised.
Omotesho Bakare of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at a debate for candidates contesting for the Eti-Osa constituency seat in the House of Representatives
Bakare strayed even further by identifying the two toll gates in the constituency as one of its biggest problems which he offered to solve by reviewing the payment plan at the toll gates through the initiation of a bill.
To curb the problem of unemployment, many of the candidates unveiled their plans to empower unemployed people in the constituency through skills acquisition and job referrals with companies established in the constituency.
The candidates also agreed that communication, negotiation and having empathy are important instruments to being a good legislator that can offer quality representation on behalf of constituents.
Wellington summed it up when he said, “I think that is what true representation is – somebody who can communicate ideas but also listen to the problems of the community and has the intellectual capacity to meet somewhere in the middle and get those problems solved.”
As the debate progressed, the candidates took questions from members of the audience and addressed issues ranging from quality of life in the constituency, helping the growth of its businesses, traffic congestion, housing, people living with disabilities and other issues.
One of the hair-raising moments during the debate happened when Obanikoro was asked by a member of the audience to defend himself against corruption allegations involving his father. In response, he absolved his father of any corrupt business and made a note to say they’re not the same.
Owolabi also got cheers from the crowd when she declared that female politicians don’t lie to the electorate like their male counterparts.
Tessy Owolabi of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) at a debate for candidates contesting for the Eti-Osa constituency seat in the House of Representatives
A member of the audience also appeared to anger Wellington when he asked him if he knew how many polling units are in the constituency.
“We have 295 polling units,” he replied, “you wasted your question, I was looking forward to something engaging” he concluded, visibly irritated.
In their closing statements, all the candidates appealed to the people of the constituency to recognise their zeal to represent them and consider them the best by voting for them at the polls which open in 10 days.
Osagie Alonge, the Editor-in-Chief of Pulse Africa, was delighted at the turn-out to the debate which he said created more room for engagement between the candidates and the electorate.
“It was well-informed and well-detailed,” he remarked about the performance of the candidates.
He also said that the debate represents efforts of Pulse Nigeria to direct attention towards local governance.
Adejuwon Soyinka, the editor of BBC Pidgin Service, said the conversations and engagement that took place during the debate should deepen the culture of communication in Nigeria’s elections.
“Hopefully, this kind of culture will catch on, not just in 2019 but subsequent election cycles,” he told Pulse.
He said the electorate should focus more on the quality of representation at the legislative arm of government where the directions of governance are often shaped.
The CEO of Media Room Hub, Azuka Ogujiuba, said organising the debate was borne out of a need to put other forms of governance under the spotlight amid a stream of other debates involving the executive arm.
One of the members of the audience that attended the debate, Grace, told Pulse that it helped her make up her mind about who to vote for at the polls.
“I was impressed with all five of them but one of them stood out, so I’ll vote for him,” the Eti-Osa resident said.
Tosin, another member of the audience, said the debate reassured her that Eti-Osa will get a good representative.
“Looking at what has happened today, I think it just opened my mind to certain things I didn’t know before,” she said.