Hon. Israel Ajibola Famurewa, an Engineer represents Atakumosa East West Federal Constituency of the State of Osun in this chat with Gabriel Okoro spoke extensively on his Senatorial ambition in Osun East and the several constituency projects he executed during his two terms as a member of the House of Representatives, excerpts.
Your constituency has four local government areas how were you able to cope during previous Elections?
It’s not easy representing a very wide federal constituency like mine, I have about 4 local governments and 42 wards. And even if you are talking about it now, you can say 4 local governments and 4 LCDAs, because LCDAs have been created out of the local govt structure then we have two urban and two rural. The two rural are so wide in landscape that you cannot even cover it in a day.
If you decide to move round a ward, for example in a place like Atakumosa East, moving round a ward will take you like 3,4, to 5 hours because of the terrain. So it’s not easy representing these people and in some places you have about 34, 35 communities representing just one ward.
In Atakumosa East for example, we have about 400 communities making just one local government. And for you to make your impact felt in all these communities won’t be easy at all. But we thank God for what we’ve been able to do within the little time and the little resources available to us. What we try to do is to prioritise and make sure we spread the projects across the local governments – knowing fully well that we canot touch evey community at the same time, but at least if we can touch a particular community in a zone or region, the others will definitely know that yes, this guy is doing something here and that their own turn will also come.
But the main challenge we face and have been facing is the limited access to funds. Here we have meager resources to use compared to other constituencies of one local government, two local governments. So the major constraint is funding as we have a lot of projects that we intend to put in place for our people, but we have limited resources to actually execute most of these projects.
Que: For close to 7 years that you’ve been in the House, you’ve never chaired any committee, and from the list I’m seeing, you’ve been able to attract so many federal projects to your constituency that even some committee chairmen haven’t done half of what you’ve done. How was that possible for you?
Thank you very much. You know in the parliament, it depends on the way you carry yourself and the kind of network you have with your colleagues. And you know that lobbying is part of the game, so how you’re able to lobby your colleagues to toe your line of reasoning and to do something in your favour. And also the kind of one-on-one relationship and interactions that I have with people in the ministries and agencies also helped me in that area.
And when you talk about my senatorial ambition, definitely we will have a larger place to cover which means more responsibilities on our hands. At the same time, there will be more opportunities and more resources than what we have in the green chamber for now. And I also want to believe that there will be improvement in our budgeting system. At least, if enough funds are released according to the appropriation Act the problem would have been a bit better than it is now. So I want to believe that there will be improvement as we move on in the democratic process. I know it won’t be easy but the God that has helped us thus far will continue to be on our side. Because as we speak, people from other constituencies are yearning to have me represent them in the senate so that they can also also benefit what my constituents are currently benefiting.
Question: You said people on the other side are clamouring for you to come. Peradventure you get there and become a chairman which you are not in the house, should they expect more from you in terms of quality and effective representation?
You see, for them to be clamouring for my candidature, definitely, they believe that if eventually I become their senator they will benefit more. And I want to trust my God that he won’t fail me, he won’t let me down. And by the grace of God even going to the senate, my 8 years in the house will place me on a good pedestal as I’m no longer a novice in legislative business. I know where to go, when and how to get there. So I want to assure them that they will even get more than their expectation.
Que: So what you’re saying is that going to the senate will be an added advantage to your people?
Definitely yes! It’s going to be an added advantage to my people.
Que: How were you able to outdo other interests and opponents to emerge candidate for the senatorial seat?
Thank you very much. Really, before the coalition with the Social Democratic Party, SDP, in our party the APC, I think we were about 5 aspirants. The incumbent senator, there’s one gentleman from the north, another person from Ife axis and my humble self – the four of us. Now after coalition, there was an arrangement between the party leadership at federal level with a leader in the SDP camp. But unfortunately and fortunately, our party leadership at the state level wasn’t part of this arrangement. And looking at the history of this senatorial district in last 20 years of this dispensation, the Ife axis has been occupying this seat for almost 16 years now while Ijesha land did only four years. That was when Senator Akinfeyinwa was there between 1999 and 2003. And looking at the district, in Ijesha axis, we have 6 local govts while Ife has four local govts. So our people have been clamouring that it’s time for the senatorial seat to come to Ijesha land. So by virtue of that understanding within my party, all other aspirants from Ife axis had their aspirations curtailed leaving the battle squarely on the lap of Ijesha land. And coming to Ijesha itself, they actually needed somebody with pedigree of institutional memory which makes me more suitable. So that gave me an advantage over other aspirants in the sense that I’ve been in the national assembly for almost 8 years.
On the other hand, the issue regarding the arrangement between the SDP chieftain, Senator Iyiola Omisore and our party national leadership, we’ve been able to settle that one as well. That issue has been resolved. But on the whole, my experience in the parliament gave me edge over others from our side.
Que: Electioneering campaigns have begun in earnest, what would be your message to the people as you go out to canvass for their votes?
My message to the people all along has been that I want to represent them, and I want to represent them well. And I also want them to have much hope that better days are ahead in the life of this senatorial district if they cast their votes for the APC which flag I’m flying in the senatorial race. So they should see this statement as an assurance of quality representation in all its ramifications.