Eti Osa House Of Reps Debate: Litmus test for Not Too Young To Run Act
The Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos, was the place to be on Monday, February 4, as Media Room Hub in conjunction with BBC Pidgin and pulse Nigeria hosted House of Representatives candidates for Eti-Osa Federal constituency to a debate. The well-attended session was indeed a litmus test for the recently passed Not Too Young To Run Bill, as most of the candidates in the race are mostly young people.
The five candidates, who participated in the heated debate include Olubankole Wellington (Banky W), the candidate of the Modern Democratic Party (MDP), Ibrahim Obanikoro, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Tessy Owolabi, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Omotesho Tony Bakare, the candidate for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Ferdinand Ladi Adimefe, the candidate of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN).
Anchored by broadcast journalist Kunle Falayi, the debate created a platform for the candidates to speak to their constituents and Lagosians generally on their plans if elected and allow voters decide who best deserves to represent them at the 9th Assembly.
The session kicked off with opening remarks by the candidates, who took their turns to impress the audience; it was indeed a battle of wit. Adimefe, who took the first slot, 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.
On his part, 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. 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.
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.
While all other candidates frowned at the ‘godfatherism’ trend in Nigerian politics, Obanikoro, who announced his father Musliu Obanikoro as his godfather, maintained that elders of the party must be carried along in all political process. “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.
But Adimefe, who impressed the audience with his ideas and presentation, insists the constitution of Nigeria is the only godfather he has, saying, “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.
While 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 the problem, Wellington noted that lack of accountability on the side of politicians, is one of the biggest problems of governance in this part of the world, even as he pledged to publish his salary and constituency allowances if elected.
“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. 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.
One of the tesned moments of the debate was 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.
A member of the audience, who obviously wanted to test Wellington’s understanding of the political terrain in Eti-Osa asked him if he knew how many polling units are in the constituency. Of course, Banky, who appeared well prepared for the session answered, “We have 295 polling units.”
In all, it was a nice outing that has opened the candidates to voters to choose the best man for the job. But whoever wins the contest, based on the performance of the candidates at the debate, Eti-Osa Federal Constituency will surely be in safe hands. However, with the level of organisation and solid partnership that midwifed the session, guests are of the opinion that the debate should be expanded to accommodate those seeking election into the Senate and possibly governorship candidates in Lagos State.
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