Tinubu has capacity to restore Nigeria’s federal structure – Egoh
Oghene Egoh is a non-indigene of Lagos who was elected to the House of Representatives to represent Amuwo-Odofin Federal Constituency in 2015 and 2019 for eight consecutive years. In this interview with OBIRE ONAKEMU, Egoh, who is a member of ECOWAS parliament representing Nigeria, spoke on the 2023 election, his performance in the House and the current administration of President Bola Tinubu.
What is your comment on the state of the nation after the 2023 general election?
The state of the nation is precarious. All patriots like us need to pray for the nation. Normally, when there is an election, there is always issues falling in from anywhere and the case of 2023 election is not too different. However, this one is a little different not because of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar or Peter Obi but because of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which promised everyone that results would be transmitted electronically. Unfortunately, when this election was done that promise was not kept. Before this 2023, elections were held in so many places and the results were transmitted electronically. It happened in Ekiti and the results were transmitted electronically. The same thing happened in Osun and Anambra states.
If you promised people that you are going to transmit results electronically and at the end of the day, you did not do it, the people will lose faith and confidence in you. That is what has happened. Today, there is a serious lost of faith in INEC, not in the political system but in INEC. Those who were said to have lost are saying it is not true that they lost it was because results were collated manually. Most of the political parties did not prepare for manual collation of results because INEC had told them that it was not the way it would be done and everybody believed INEC because there is a new electoral law.
You have just completed your second term in the House of Representatives under Amuwo Odofin Federal Constituency. What would you say you have achieved thus far?
So much that I have achieved. I moved over 70 bills and motions. A major one was that the railway line that terminated in Apapa, Lagos should be extended to the Tin Can Port and Kirikiri up to Ijegun. I moved that motion so that we can address, for once, all the problems that trailers and tankers are causing in Lagos.
If one should look at Mile 2 area up to Apapa, you look at the Satellite Town, the express up to Orile and to Oshodi, you will see that everywhere is filled with tankers. They have created so much traffic jam. The intention of that motion is for petrol and diesel to be moved through the railway. All over the world, railways are being used to move petrol. Only one railway can move about 100 trucks attached to it.
But in Nigeria, every truck has a head and a tanker that blocks everywhere. It would have been much better if railway line is put there. The problem we have in Lagos is being caused by the tank farms that are in the Satellite Town, Ijegun, Kirikiri and Apapa. The problem of vehicles blocking the road is caused by the tank farms.
Another thing is that goods are imported from Tin-Can Port that move outside Lagos. Once the railway is extended, you just put your goods on railway and move it away. The Federal Government plans to establish a railway line to the South South, from Lagos up to Port Harcourt and Calabar and then to Aba. There is another line that is also going to Kano, Abuja and Maiduguri. When all these are completed, all we do is just move our goods to railway. It will make the roads safer and last longer, save the nation money, stop repair of roads and save the nation huge money that we spend on these tankers and goods can be moved more safely at a cheaper price. That motion was approved by two-thirds members of the House.
When I pushed that Railway motion, the other lawmakers were very excited about it but it was late in the 9th Assembly so we couldn’t complete it. My aim was to come back to complete the motion, if it’s the only one I can do to free the whole of Amuwo-Odofin of tankers to Mile 2 and down to Apapa.
The next step l was taking was to see how it could come into the budget for them to do the feasibility study and push for the project to start. If it is done, everybody in Lagos would be able to move freely and all these roadblocks, traffic jams would not happen.
Besides, I moved motions on repair of old Ojo Road and Marwa Road.
Also, now you can get ‘Visa on arrival’ in the country. I was the one that made that bill to ensure that foreigners who are coming here for business can get visa on arrival. I noticed that Hong-Kong and a lot of other countries are very prosperous. They are creating jobs for their people; they have ‘visa on arrival’ initiative. When you get to the country, you apply at the airport or at the seaport. Tell them what you want to do and with that you get a visa for a short period to go in, do your business and go away. It is unlike what happened before that discourages business people from coming in. The Visa-on-Arrival that was signed by former President Muhammadu Buhari was my initiative.
I moved a lot of them but for lack of time, we cannot talk about all. It’s unfortunate that I’m not in the 10th Assembly but I’m happy that I have written my name in gold and what I have done is there for all to see. Even if I’m not there, I’m still trying to see what I can do to use my knowledge in the House to see that the motion that had been accepted on the railway is implemented. That is one of the things.
What are the factors against your aim of going to the House for a third term?
The only thing that made it impossible to achieve my aim of coming back is disobedience. The force of Obi- movement in my constituency was so strong; it was so strong that even if I had N1 billion and gave it to people in my constituency, they would not accept it. The Obedience-Movement was a very ferocious movement and everybody, including those who had supported and who voted for me, a lot of my party people in my constituency. Don’t forget that the biggest markets are in my constituency; the articles market is there; building materials is there; ‘Pathfinder’ that has over 200,000 shops; Balogun market that has 80,000 shops and other ones. We have millions of traders in my market, but it’s not just the traders. The situation was such that all the youths are for Obedient-Movement.
In the first post- match, when you get to FESTAC, my constituency, you will see thousands of people all marching for Obedience – Obi. The force was too much and there was no other person who would have been able to win other than Obi. Incidentally, Obi is my good friend, he is a man I respect and honour, but it is his movement that made it possible for me to give him support.
When the moment came, people became irrational. They didn’t bother about what has brought him up and how good we were representing them. Everybody was blindfolded with the move to put Obedient in, because they thought that they had seen the messiah and the messiah was Obi. Everybody did everything to make sure that Obi came in. That is where my faith is and I give glory to God that I still set a record of being the first non-indigene to have done it in Lagos. The Obedient support was a major cause and we give glory to God.
Do you still have the mind of contesting again under the same Amuwo-Odofin Federal Constituency come 2027?
I have not given it a thought. For now, I am enjoying my retirement. Luckily, I am representing Nigeria under ECOWAS. I am in ECOWAS Parliament. I thank former Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, for finding the quality in me and bringing me out to represent Nigeria under ECOWAS. I am an ECOWAS Parliamentarian and l will be there for a year more. We travel round West Africa where there are problems, including military takeover, to make sure that there is peace. We are working on things like electrification and the entire system; if a place has more electricity, we can give to other areas. We are working on economic issues and other issues that concern West Africa. It’s a job that is very tasking and very interesting and challenging. I am very happy that I’m representing Nigeria in that capacity.
Is there anything really federal about our present system of government?
No, there is none! Just recently, ex-president signed a lot of bills that we initiated in the House. I was among those who initiated them and they will make us to become more federal. Look at something like electricity. Now, every state can generate and distribute power even in the area where you have the Federal Government generating and distributing power. Now, every state, individuals, local governments or even religious bodies, once you have the resources, can do it.
With this law, I can see a lot of state governments, private companies planning to do it. You don’t need to apply to the Federal Government again. Coming from abroad and within Nigeria, people who have resources are going to generate power in many areas and distribute. There are a lot of areas where you have a lot of businesses that need this power, you can generate.
This is making it federal because in a federal system, every state takes care of itself and pays tax to the federal, but that hasn’t been done. Now, we have also amended the Railway Act. Every state can now have railway. Don’t forget that there was a time the government in the defunct Western Region wanted to have railways during Obasanjo’s regime and Obasanjo stopped it. I remember that Tinubu was very interested in this project and others. But they stopped it because then the state cannot have it. In 1999, I worked so closely with President Tinubu. He is a man that believes 100 per cent in the restructuring of this country. We are not in the same party but I believe that he is going to build this country to be more federal in nature. And it is better we do it; when will do that, it is better for the country since every area will be working competitively to attract investors.
There are things like Value-Added Tax (VAT) where you collected so much money from VAT and then, it is small amount of money we share with other states who are not bothering to collect VAT. Other states that are not attracting industries. They came to your place, you get VAT and they say share it with everybody. No. Every state should retain its VAT and just pay tax to the Federal Government. By the time it is done like that, every state will be struggling to have industries and commercial enterprises in their domains. Once that is done, I can assure you that we now have a true federation and everybody will be happy and contribute his own quota to the centre.
Today, in Nigeria’s politics, what do we really mean by structure?
Structures are the instruments establishing the party in every ward, every local government, state and at the federal level. To be candid, I must praise the Labour Party (LP) because it didn’t have all those structures that the old parties have. But what they have is enthusiasm: enthusiasm to win and change the nation for better.
We hope that after the election case at the tribunal, structures will now be brought in. If you have structures, it prevents rigging election against you.
I believe that my Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will bounce back and by God’s grace, we would be able to take the nation by storm and take over the presidency once more.
How would you end this interview?
I would conclude this interview by saying that I am proud to be a Lagosian. I am not an indigene of Lagos but I am very proud to be a Lagosian and I am happy that Lagos has given me an opportunity to express my political rights that has made me to create records in Lagos.
The people of Lagos are good. The Yoruba people are very good to me. There was never a time they discriminated against me. They work with me in the structure of the party; they work with me in the polling units and booths. A lot of them voted for me and of course, all cannot vote for me. B In my political career that spans over 20 years in Lagos State, I can say that I am happy that I have been given a chance to serve the nation and I will continue to do that.