• Says His Antecedents, Performance Stand Him Shoulder High
• Assures Senate ‘ll Expedite Action on Passage of Proposed Federal University of Education, Isiokolo Bill
• Party No More Superior But Individual, He Says
• Condemns FG’s Policy Barring State from Intervening in Maintenance of Federal Roads
A few days before the start of political parties’ campaigns for the 2023 general election, the House of Representatives candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), for Delta Central Senatorial District, Hon. Bernard Rollands Igbakpa has said declared that he is shoulder high above candidates from all other political parties in the zone.
Igbakpa who spoke to our correspondent in an exclusive interview in his Sapele Country Home on Friday, last week said that his antecedent and performance in his first tenure in the National Assembly as well as in other political offices he has held at the state level, have placed him above every other candidate in the race, adding that this time, it is not about political party but about capacity, character and competence of the individual candidate.
He expressed confidence in himself, pointing out that, although he is running on the platform of a different party from the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP), the NNPP has become so popular among the populace in so short a time that it was introduced in the state.
He said: “Looking at the array of candidates from other political parties as it relates to the contest for the Ethiope Federal Constituency in the 2023 election, I stand shoulder high. The records are there. I think the constituents who have seen all the candidates at work at one time or the other should be able to do the assessment and give answers to this question.
“The present trend is no longer on the glorification of political parties per se. It is now on the capacity and competence of the individual and how much you were able to demonstrate in your previous assignment and antecedents.
“I’m quite confident that as I’m going into the election, I remain the nightmare of candidates of other political parties that are not prepared for the election, people that thought that it is a matter of ‘party is supreme’ and it will always be business as usual where, if you are successful at the primary, it becomes a party affair.
“Now it is no longer a party affair, it is your record that matters, it is your scorecard affair; it is your performance index that is at stake. I’m happy with the trend.
“It shows that we are growing and our democracy is evolving, people are now looking beyond the party and are focusing on individuals, what they have been able to do and what they are capable of doing. You must have a foundation of performance before you can convince the people that you can perform. And that is where I stand.”
On what would be his focus if he gets the mandate of the voters to go back to the National Assembly for a second term, Igbakpa harped on the consolidation of his past performance and the provision of food on the table for his constituents.
According to him, while he will continue with his community infrastructural programme, the emphasis will now be on projects that will put food on the table of the people.
He noted that he will empower people in Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, MSME, to enable them to fend for themselves and even provide employment for others.
“My focus is going to be on consolidation. There are quite a few pieces of legislation which I’m putting together. I’m praying that we should be able to get them through, get them assented to and introduce new ones.
“I’ll focus more on, apart from the community empowerment on infrastructure which we have been doing in this my first tenure, this time around we want to give a good percentage of our representation on trying to put food on the table of our people.
“The local empowerment don’t need too much really. Yes, you could construct one road in the locality with say, an N100 million which we have done severally in this my first tenure, but this time around I feel if I bring that same amount and put it in micro, small and medium scale enterprises, MSME, I will be able to empower well over 4,000 persons and that will put food on their tables and they may even provide employment for others.
“We are coming with various schemes; we are coming with the Fifth Ethiope Programme in which we are going to empower individuals with special skills and support those with small-scale businesses that are already on and they need some funds to grow and improve on them.
“We will support youths, especially those that are artisans. Today, we have in our database, about 6,000 youths who are artisans in various vocations who are going to benefit from our empowerment project which we are going to carry out even before the election, to touch them. Even after that, we are going to continue seriously. A very good percentage of my annual budgetary provision will now go to empowering individuals.
“So, we are now going to focus more on how to put food on the tables of individuals. We are going to resuscitate our ‘Willing Heart Programme’, which I did when I was a member of the Delta State House of Assembly. By the time we have some funds, we just package between N10,000 and N20,000 in envelopes and as we drive along the road wherever we come across some of these women petty traders, we stop by, greet them and present the enveloped cash to them to support their petty business. It is usually a surprise visit and it is for those who are actually ready.
“On my legislative business, I’ve learnt a lot and I’m now better. I’m much stronger in the House now and I know how to relate with those who matter. Other rookies coming behind will learn from me. So, you should expect a more vibrant representation from me.
“Our emphasis on the MSME Empowerment programme will also involve small-scale farmers and those who buy farm produce, process and add value to it and sell. We will look at all that. If you have a farm and it involves we getting a tractor to open up the place for you, we will do it for you”, he noted.
Igbakpa stressed on the need for a constitutional amendment to provide for independent candidature in the country’s electoral process, saying the time for party supremacy is gone.
According to him, the 2023 election will be remarkably different from the past, noting that the party is no longer supreme.
“Party is no longer supreme. When they tell you that the party is supreme, it is a way of gagging the populace. It is putting a chain on the wrist of the voters that they must vote for one particular party. The party is no longer supreme. It is just a scam. Let us go for a candidate that can perform.
“In the ongoing constitutional amendment, independent candidature was one area we voted on, but unfortunately, it didn’t pass through at the committee stage. If I get back to the National Assembly in 2023 by the grace of God, I will propose the independent candidature bill again because once there is provision for that the attitude and the method of party administration where they are always wanting to gag the people will stop. Then individuals who do not have a chance through the parties can choose to run on their own.
“But as of today, one must be sponsored by a political party. So, it is difficult for a lot of people because if the party executives do not like your face, they make sure you don’t win the party primary. As I’m today, if I had seen a such opportunity as independent candidature I would not run under any political party”, he opined.
The House of Reps member representing the good people of Ethiope Federal Constituency assured that his Bill for the Establishment of a Federal University in Isiokolo, headquarters of Ethiope East Local Government Area, which is already in the Senate will be passed by the upper chamber for the President’s Assent before the end of the 9th National Assembly.
“On the bill I sponsored for the establishment of Federal University of Education, Isiokolo, Ethiope East of Delta State, the House of Representatives has completed its work on it is now with the Senate. We are on it. I would be very happy if it comes out for assent before the end of the 9th National Assembly”, he said.
The vocal national lawmaker who got the ticket of the NNPP after losing the ticket of the PDP to former governor, Chief James Ibori’s daughter in the primary, chided the Federal government on its recent ban on state government from intervening in the maintenance of Federal roads which are in a bad state across the country.
He described the ban as a bad policy, stating that it is the citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria living in the states that make use of the federal roads.
According to him, the Federal Ministry responsible for the maintenance of federal roads always delay fixing the bad spots on the federal highways until they become impassable, adding that all they can do is monitor the states whenever they intervene to maintain the roads.
“The recent Federal government’s policy barring State government from Intervening in the maintenance of Federal roads is in bad faith. The roads pass through the states. Whenever they are bad it takes time for the Federal government to get around to maintaining them. It will not intervene until the roads become impassable.
“Take the issue of the Oghara Bridge which you just referred to. It became impassable. I had to raise alarms and continued to push the Federal Ministry Of Works/FERMA before it awarded the maintenance contract.
“Now the Warri-Benin busy road is bad again. I think it is a very wrong policy. But I also think the State governments cannot stop intervening in the maintenance of bad federal roads because it is Nigerians resident in those states that make use of the roads”, he concluded.