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I Am Not A Party Person, I Honour Invitations To Parties As A Matter Of Respect For Those Inviting Me-Hon. Wale Raji

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Hon. Wale Raji 3

Honourable Wale Raji is a member of the House of Representatives representing Epe Federal Constituency from Lagos. In this interview with www.theoctopusnews.com, he dwells on the crisis between herdsmen and farmers, his empowerment programmes, his contribution in the 8th Assembly, and why it is wrong to assume legislators only make laws that suit them.

Having spent more than a year in the House of Representatives, it is only natural to ask what you have given back to your people thus far, isn’t it?
You are not out of order because for any man who is elected to a post there should be accountability. However, asking me to tell you my achievements is like asking a student to access himself. I think that I would rather leave that to members of my constituency and also the major stakeholders to decide.  I am not in the best position to appraise my performance, but those of you watching me play are in a better position to decide. So, I will leave that to the stakeholders and my constituency to do justice to.

You know that if you don’t blow your trumpet no one will do it for you?
Well, I must say that since we came into office it has been challenging in the sense that we all know the story of the turbulence that greeted our inauguration in the course of electing the leadership of House of Representatives. We have gone past that, we immediately settled to our legislative business and to the glory of God since we came in I have used the opportunity of the legislative powers and privileges to move motions relevant to the development of my constituency and Lagos State and to the development and progress of Nigeria.

Can you be specific about these motions which you are talking about?
First and foremost, we moved a motion drawing the attention of the Federal Government to the state of electricity in my constituency which before 2015, had been in darkness for over 10 years. So, the motion was raised and was passed as a resolution which was forwarded to the relevant committee for further legislative actions. We also moved another motion on Aviation Safety in Nigeria to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Sosoliso Air crash in which we lost 60 young, brilliant, promising children, students of Loyola Jesuit. I used the occasion through that motion to request that the 10th of December every year should be declared as National Aviation Safety Day, a day set aside to access the state of Aviation infrastructure in the country.

One major development which a lot of people have frowned in the country is the issue of the herdsmen, what is the House of Representatives doing about
it?
In 2015, when the problem of herdsmen and farmers was becoming recurrent I moved a motion drawing the attention of the country to the clashes between the herdsmen and the farmers. This was shortly after the kidnap of Chief Olu Falae. The motion was to draw the attention of the country to the fact that if the issue was not tackled and appropriately so, it could lead to a national problem.

As one who moved such motion, what solution did you recommend?
By the grace of God I was the first person to make such a recommendation in the 8th assembly. Having moved the motions, we made recommendations that the system of nomadic nature of the cattle rearing method was outdated and that we should move with time by establishing cattle rearing settlements with grazing reserves and facilities for both human and animal health and even educational facilities for the children of the settlers.

What stage is this motion today?
Well, substantially, most of the recommendations and contribution by most people involved have been centred on grazing reserves. In that resolution, it was recommended that the cattle grazing settlement should be the responsibility of the state, but the Federal Government will support. This is as against what the Federal Government is trying to do now establishing for the state. And that is why we are having this resistance from certain quarters.


Kidnapping is now a major epidemic in the country, what is the House of Representatives doing to handle the situation?
I moved a motion under Matters of Urgent National Importance on the very day of the kidnap of the student and teachers of Government Model College, Igbonla, Lagos State. I moved a motion just two hours after that event calling on the Inspector General of Police to mobilise his men to ensure the release of the kidnapped pupils and their teachers and we thank God that they were released and reunited with their families.

How have your oversight functions been like?
We have gotten involved in various oversight functions through investigations and visitations and as we speak there is an ad-hoc committee that was setup by the House of Representatives to look into the menace of accidents involving petroleum tankers and trailers in the country. I am the chairman of that committee. We started that job late last month. We are going to have a public hearing to look into the causes of this problem and make appropriate recommendations to proffer solutions to this problem.  We will be looking at what really are the causes, could it be the design and state of the roads; could it be the design and state of the vehicles; and could it be human error? In all these, who do we hold responsible when these accidents do occur? And also compensation when such accidents do occur to the victims? As it is now, when such accidents occur, people get injured resulting in temporary or permanent disability, some even lose their lives, but nothing happens thereafter and we believe that such constitute huge loses to the economy and we must not just let it continue. This is one of the assignments of the committee. These are some of the things we will be looking into because we still have two other functions which we will be attending to later.

Let’s not talk about these functions vaguely, tell us about them.
Well, one is about the high interest rates being charged by banks which has made our industries uncompetitive, particularly the small and medium scale industries. Many of their foreign competitors who come into the country to do business get loans from their home countries at interest rates as low as five percent. How can you be competitive when you are competing with somebody who is getting loans at five percent and your bank is giving you loans in Nigeria for as high as 30 percent? So, ab initio, from the word go, you have been rendered uncompetitive. These are issues I think should be critically looked into. The other one is the need to carry out an assessment of the aviation industry in Nigeria right now because the two major international airports we have both in Abuja and Lagos; all you ever hear is poor visibility making it difficult for planes to land. This is because the navigational aides are faulty. At this age and time, we still rely on human vision to land aeroplanes. I think it is not good enough. When you visit the runway, the state of the infrastructure is nothing to write about.

There is an impression that members of House of Representatives and the Senate only make laws that benefit them as opposed to the masses, are you aware of this?
It is an unfortunate generalisation. The position has been misconstrued to be the general position of Senators and members of the House of Representatives. Members of the state Houses of Assembly and House of Representatives are people as well. They are amongst us and you expect that you have the good, the bad and the not so good amongst us. One will be running away from the truth if I say otherwise. However, I want to say that the present crop of members of the legislature that we have are good quality legislators; individuals with very rich pedigree. So, I don’t think it’s generally true; because I personally have just mentioned the motions that I have specifically moved and those that we are planning to table this year. And there are so many others of my colleagues that have made meaningful contributions; contributions that are relevant to the day-to-day lives of Nigerians.

It is common to hear Nigerians asking for good roads, shelter from their representatives in the Senate and House of Representatives, would you say this crop of legislators have delivered in this aspect too?
It is understandable if people expect the legislature to provide roads, infrastructure, embark on empowerment and what have you. However, the truth is that it is not the primary responsibility of a legislature. However, yes, the reality of our situation is that people expect you to do so much, not realising that the legislative arm of government is somehow the youngest among the three arms of government and the least developed. People do not really understand what the primary responsibility of a legislature is. However, we will get there. It is part of our development process. The executive arm of government has been as old as governance in Nigeria; the judiciary equally has been as old as governance in the country. It is only the legislative arm of government that is suspended when you have a military regime. And as a result, people are yet to have proper understanding of what the legislature is expected to do in a democracy. But we will get there. However, because of the environment in which we operate, we cannot operate outside our environment. We are part and parcel of the environment and the environment dictates the behaviour of any arm of government. So, we still go out of our way to fill the gap that exists in the executive arm of government meeting the need of the people. For instance, there is a high level of unemployment in the country. It requires that all hands must be on deck because we all have a part to play in the problem of unemployment. During the campaign, the presidential candidates visited the capitals of states and returned to their base, the governorship candidates did not go beyond the Local Government headquarters. It was we the legislature that visited the nooks and crannies of our constituencies, towns and villages. And we are the people that the electorate relate to. They have our phone numbers and can call us from time-to-time. It is only the legislature that they can call and say that I called the honourable and he did not pick my call. They don’t complain about the governor, they don’t complain about the president and ministers and as a result we feel their pains and as responsible and responsive representatives we have to go out of our way to provide succour for them. In doing that in the past one and half years we have provided youth empowerment which involved trainings on skill acquisition programmes within the last three months for selected members of my constituency. A total of 135 of them were trained for three months in various vocations ranging from Photography to Barbing, Shoemaking, Block Moulding, Tiling, Domestic Electrical installation and so many vocations. After the three months of training they were equipped with start-up equipment ranging from camera which is video and still camera, some of them with hair dressing equipment, barbing equipment, shoemaking equipment. Some of the Shoemakers, for instance, were given industrial sewing machines that could sew leather and some other hard materials. We did that and there were others that were already trained, but lacked basic equipment’s for the job, we also assisted some of them. We distributed over 60 sewing machines, we gave out about 15 industrial sewing machines, 15 professional camera. Another 15 video recorders were given out and to some who were not skilled we also empowered through Tricycles. We gave out about 20 tricycles to promote rural transportation. Some people were given Motor Cycles, about 11 people. We also gave so many other things. One thing that gives me joy is that there are many of these boys who had nothing, they were just there, but today their financial situation has improved drastically. In fact, in appearance you will see that changes have taken place in their lives. We have also taken advantage of the opportunity provided by our dynamic governor through the Employment Trust Fund. We assisted some of them to have access to the funds. As we speak, about 43 of them have been successful in their application for loan at an interest rate of five percent per annum. Many of them have been granted loans in different amounts. Some were given four hundred thousand, some two hundred thousand and others a hundred thousand. So, these are things that have taken place. We are also trying to assist the road transporters to acquire vehicles for their business. To do this, we have formed them into cooperatives along the two major unions the Road Transport Employers Association and the National.  We want to use about 25 of them as pilot to see how successful the scheme can be. We are doing a similar thing with the Tricycle; we are starting with about 25 or 50 to see how successful it can be. The idea is to make sure these people can earn a decent income and survive well.

On a lighter note, how do you relax?
I am a very homely person, I like to spend a lot of time with my family even though politics has denied them a lot the pleasure of having me around most of the time. I also enjoy the pleasure of my people, sitting down with them and interacting with them.

Do you get excited when you attend parties?
I am not a party person, but I honour invitations to a party as a matter of respect for those inviting me. But most times I prefer informal interaction with my people. I also take time to read to widen my knowledge particularly on political issues and lately on legislative matters.


There is a saying that a man must have a preference out of drinking, smoking or womanising, which is yours?
None. I don’t drink, smoke or womanise.

But they say you can’t do without all three?
You can. At a stage in life when you excessively indulged in some of these things; maybe because you have been denied or you denied yourself some of these indulgences in younger age. Now, I focus more on what value, impact or legacy I can impart on the society. We are here now and whatever we do we are writing our history. Just like the various stages in my life. I was in the banking industry and each time I look at my achievements and impacts in the industry they are there, same for when I was in the Civil Service. Same thing now that I am in the legislature. I am more concerned about writing the history of my legislative business in Nigeria. What will history say about my time?

 

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