Undoubtedly, one of the core elements that gave popularity and mass participation in governance to the Adams Oshiomhole led administration in Edo State, is his regularly held Town Hall Meeting. It was this simple and uncommon style of reaching back to the people six months after that earned Hon. Emmanuel Agbaje, member representing Akoko-Edo South Constituency in Edo State House of Assembly some hefty uncommon honour and accolades by an array of Royal Fathers.
I have never, in recent history, witnessed such an unprecedented showering of praises, soothing and flattering words on anybody in Akoko-Edo until last weekend, I was humbled when no less than 5 traditional rulers poured encomiums on Hon. Agbaje for deeming it fit to call for a Town Hall Meeting half a dozen months after being inaugurated into the sixth Assembly.
Leading the assorted High-powered delegation of the royal fathers was the Otaru of Igarra, His Royal Highness, Oba E.A. Saiki and in his team were His Royal Highness, Olososo of Ososo, Oba Anselm Obaitan, the Onose of Ekpedo, the Odafe of Akuku, Oba Lawani Daudu, Ogiawa 0f Atte, Oba John Ishuru Daudu. Witnessing the event which held at the Council Hall, Igarra, one begins to wonder if he was the first elected Member of Parliament in the local government area, as Agbaje witnessed a resounding approval, and unquantifiable loyalty from a massive cult-like followers.
Agbaje represents five wards which makes up Akoko-Edo South constituency and the traditional rulers were fully present, signifying an endorsement from that quarter while ward chairmen present were led by the local government party chairman, Mr. Jeffry Obasanmi.
The Town Hall Meeting also attracted great and eminent Akoko-Edo men and women, politicians of no mean repute and a huge crowd of youths adorned with smiles and joy, and danced to the admiration of the guests with trumpet blaring.
The fanfare soon melted away and the business of the day resumed with the presentation of a speech and interactive session kicked started by Hon. Agbaje.
In his speech, Hon. Agbaje said, “It is with deep sense of appreciation to God and to you, the good people of Akoko-Edo South constituency, that I have the honour to render an account of my stewardship in the last 6 months. I feel obliged to do so because you all have the right to know. It is also in line with our commitment to open, accountable and participatory representation.
“You will recall that during my campaigns, I pledged that we would have regular Town hall Meeting to explain to the people, what we are doing as legislators and to get feedback from our communities on the impact of governance and identify areas for communal engagement.
“I had pledged that our constituency will no longer be docile and that we will henceforth demand for our fair share and position, in terms of development and empowerment. I had also pledged to ensure openness, prudency and accountability in the management of whatever we shall be entitled to, especially as it has to do with constituency projects.
“I wish to state that I stand by my pledge and by God’s grace, I promised to keep my campaign promises to my people. However, I consider it an obligation as well to let you know the challenges confronting us and our determined efforts. This is important so as to bridge the gap between expectations and realizations.
“We are all witnesses to the economic woes now bedeviling our dear country. The situation knows no exception. Governance at all levels have been seriously affected and in some cases almost brought to its knees, hence it has become increasingly difficult for governments to make good its promises and obligations to our people.
“Irrespective of this untoward situation, we must look forward with hope and this is more so, as the All Progressive Congress (APC) led Federal Government is working assiduously to reposition and stabilize the economy. I am confident that these efforts would change the situation for the better”.
My modest stewardship
“Within the period under review as a new legislator, I have moved two Motions on the floor of the House and have also contributed positively to other Motions and Bills which I am convinced are in the interest of my people. I became the first to move a Motion that got to a resolution of the House in this Sixth Assembly of Edo State.
“With the support of my colleagues, I moved a motion of urgent public importance on the BEDC impunity which resulted in the power outage experienced in Igarra community and environs. We got justice.
“I have shown concern to our people’s welfare in all ramifications as much as my resources could permit. In line with my determination to pursue youth empowerment, I have made efforts to making sure that we maximize the opportunities that opened up to us by supporting our students in various schools of higher learning, galvanizing our qualified youth to be recruited in the Nigerian army by handling the logistics for their enrolment, purchase of JAMB registration forms to be given to 10 students per ward and presently consulting on the forthcoming police recruitment.
“Going forward, I have initiated two bills waiting to be presented on the floor of the House. As soon as the necessary procedures is completed, I will present the bill for which I am convinced will add value to our communities and for political pre-emptive reasons, I will update you on the Bills at the appropriate time. I will strive to drive all other empowerment plans I have articulated as soon as resources are available.
“Permit me to say that the 2015 constituency projects is being handled by my predecessor, Hon. Dele Oloruntoba. I want to express hope and confidence that the projects are on-going and that they will be well executed.
“The 2016 budget has been presented already; it is going through the process of possible review. I want to assure you that I and my colleague from the North constituency have been putting heads together to making sure we have our fair inputs which we will pursue vigorously. Subsequently however, I hope that we will take advantage of this kind of town hall meetings to articulate our needs in order of priority and set them as our common agenda and targets. This will guide us to project our collective interest.
“We recognize the place of peace in the development of Edo state and Akoko-Edo local government in particular hence, I have been mediating and encouraging our people to hold each other in unity as not much can be achieved in a rancorous and hostile socio-political environment. Therefore, I want to use this opportunity to tell all our people to show love for one another and to realize that, so long we have found ourselves geographically, culturally and traditionally linked, we must live, work and eat together.
“We have been able to achieve good inter-person relationship and working harmony in this Sixth Assembly of Edo state. The legislature is a very important arm of government, as such, I will not shy away from asking questions on anything that affects the interest of those who have given me the mandate to represent them.
“My leaders and my people, permit me to restate that I rededicate myself and to state that I do not know it all, I will need your continued support, prayers and goodwill. I should be very amenable to your sound ideas and constructive criticisms.
“Finally, let me also use this opportunity to challenge our youths and women to be more industrious and engage in meaningful activities. I encourage you to take advantage and key into government programmes at all levels that are aimed at empowerment and capacity building”, Hon. Agbaje explained.
According to the Otaru of Igarra, “initially, we, the traditional rulers thought this outing was a political one but we soon discovered it was for our development as Akoko-Edo people because what affects constituency One affects constituency Two.
“We congratulate you because this is the very first time we are having a briefing like this. This is very, very good. Continue and God will guide you in the right direction.
“The traditional rulers are aware of all happenings in Akoko-Edo and how to solve them. We shall continue to pray for him so that we can lead us to promise land. He has started very well, if he continues like this, the House of Assembly will be a starting point.
“This local government have been marginalized for so long. We all must stand up to this challenge and may God help us by showing you the way to lead us. It is well with you”, he prayed.
The interactive session, however, brought to fore, the enormous challenges confronting the area such as incessant kidnappings, organized armed robberies, dilapidated roads cross the local government area, absence of banking infrastructures and facilities as the people now travel as far as Auchi, and Ikare for such transactions.