Hon. Kehinde Oluwasegun Odeneye, a former lawmaker representing Ijebu Central Federal Constituency at the National Assembly, has great passion for creating a just society. He attended Ogbogbo Baptist Grammar School where he obtained the West African School Certificate in 1986. He then proceeded to the Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo Lagos where he studied Accountancy. He attended the Lagos State University, where he obtained his Masters in Finance in 2006. Prior to becoming a member of the House of Representatives where he served for eight years (2011-2019), he worked with Ericsson Nigeria Limited , Ernst & Young, Nigerian Bottling Company Plc and Olaitan Oshinuga & Co., Chartered Accountants. In the 2011 and 2015 general elections, he won in the elections to the House of Representatives. In line with this, he targeted to achieve good governance and better life for his constituents.
In this interview with The Issues Magazine, he speaks on contending issues in the polity. Excerpts:
- Why did you go into politics?
I went into politics because I believe we cannot all continue to be armchair critics, but must be ready to contribute my own quota to the development of my people and constituency. A lot of us, even when we have potentials, just sit down and criticise. We call politicians armed robbers and rogues, but these people are the ones deciding our fate and those of our unborn children. So, if we continue to leave our lives in the hands of those we call rogues, who administer and govern based on the level of their understanding, what do we expect? All of us who feel we are not concerned and are looking the other way will be affected at the end of the day. Now everybody is complaining of recession in Nigeria, is it affecting politicians alone? No, we are all in it together. When I joined politics, I realised that what most people expect is for politicians to come and give them money. I told them ‘I won’t give you money, but I would rather teach you how to fish instead of giving you fish’. This is why my legacy in human development through empowerment is second to none in the whole of Ogun State. We cannot continue to be giving fish to our constituents; we must teach them how to find their food. What I am saying is that we should empower them to the extent that they can live with or without hand-outs from politicians.
At the time I joined, I was not known politically, so I thought it wasn’t going to be easy but God made everything easy beyond my expectations. At the 2011 general elections, I defeated the incumbent to the surprise of most people in Ijebu Central Federal Constituency. After I had finished my first tenure, I decided to seek re-election in 2015 and won again making me to be the first-ever person to win election twice conservatively to the national assembly. This has never happened in the political history of Ijebu Central Federal Constituency and Ogun East Senatorial District as a whole. I was nicknamed KOSELERI of Ogun East Senatorial District. The Ogun East Senatorial district had never returned a Senator or House of Representative member before 2015. It has been a combination of ups and downs, especially for someone like me who was never in politics until 2009. I have always been in the private sector as a chartered accountant. At the initial stage, it was a bit challenging, but later on, it became much easier. One good thing about it is that, even when I was not in politics, I knew that when I get there, I will be able to add value. By the time I got elected, by God’s grace, it wasn’t too difficult for me to put things in practice because I understood the challenges. Now, I have become a GOOD POLITICIAN to the glory of God and the support of the people of Ijebu Central Federal Constituency.
- How would you rate the standard of education in Nigeria?
We all know that the standard of education in Nigeria has been falling. Yet, it is globally recognized as a key to success. For you to be able to distinguish the right from the left, you must attain a considerable level of education. Unfortunately, we are always having educational policies that are not sustainable. Every administration brings up his. This is seriously affecting our educational system. Therefore, governments at all levels are expected to pay serious attention to the standard of education because education is the gateway to the development of every society.
- What were your challenges as a legislator?
Before I was elected, I knew the needs and aspirations of my people because I lived with them. Unfortunately, many people do not know the difference between legislature and executive. Those in executive have a lot of opportunities, in terms of project execution, while lawmakers are basically involved in the task of making the laws. However, you cannot make laws for people who are angry. No matter how effective your laws are, when the people are hungry and angry, and don’t see future in the things you do, they care less about the laws that you make. Therefore, I believe that if you are making laws, you should also care for the people and that was the more reason I concentrated on empowering my constituents at every opportunity that came my way. This really helped me in managing my position as a lawmaker. I strongly believe in the empowerment of people and also doing things that will better lives. For people to agree to campaign and vote for a lawmaker, they must have convinced themselves that the lawmaker will not disappoint them. So, when he get eventually gets to office, he should not hesitate to add value to the lives of the constituents.
- Are there misconceptions about the National Assembly?
As I earlier said, many don’t know the difference between the legislature and the executive in terms of their responsibilities. Many still think that as soon as a politician is elected into the National Assembly, he collects money; and if he does, such money must be shared. That is the mindset of the people. There are so many rumours out there regarding what legislators receive. So it puts a lot of pressures on the lawmakers. On the other hand, a minister, for example, has a budget. Whether he goes home or not, it does not matter because he was not voted for. A minister does not report to anyone but the President who appointed him and as such, he doesn’t make any consultations with his constituents or people. A lot of people don’t even know the ministers because they are not voted for like the legislators. But for National Assembly members, people know you; you campaigned. You cannot hide, unlike members of the executive. Sometimes we use our allowances to satisfy the needs of the constituents.
- What steps were taken by the National Assembly to enhance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
SDGs are closely linked to budget. This is because, in achieving these goals, money has to be budgeted for, spent and accounted for at the end of the day. SDGs are targeted goals that are used in measuring development, not only in Nigeria, but globally. All countries are in agreement with the goals. These are specific goals that are meant to be achieved within a period of time and each government is enjoined to make funding available in achieving them. If such goals are not achieved by any government, it sends negative signals to the world. If the goals are met, on the other hand, it brings about development to a country and its people.
- What about the goal of achieving housing for all?
The government has responsibility to meet basic needs of the people, and housing is one of them. Successive governments have attempted to provide low-cost housing. It’s a good idea. We should never think that we will be able to groom people to be good citizens if they live under bridges. Housing is a major responsibility of governments at all levels.
- What were your areas of focus as a National Assembly member?
I actually focused on two major areas while in the national assembly; these are Capital Developments and Human Development. Capital developments are various community developmental projects such as health centres, school building and road constructions. These can be influenced in the national budget as a law maker. Human development is basically in form of empowerment programs. I have this belief that,we cannot be developing communities alone and leave the people. You cannot build roads for people that are hungry because dead bodies won’t walk on the roads. You can not provide water for people in need of employment opportunities. This means that every reasonable person and every reasonable government must give priority to capital development and human development. I did a lot of empowerments because I believe that when people develop, communities will definitely develop. During my period as legislator, I made sure the people were at the centre of my representation. For instance, I distributed several writing materials such as exercise books, pencils and pens to pupils of Ogbogbo Baptist Primary School, Ijebu North/East Local Government. I also distributed free NECO-GCE Forms, equipped block of three classrooms donated to Community Primary School, Idomowo Ijebu North-East Local Government. I also did solar electricity project for the people of Odosiwonade as well as donation of transformer at Irewon road, Ijebu-Ode and borehole project at Ilese-Ijebu. For my empowerment programmes, I gave out several motorcycles, sewing machines, vulcanising machines, hair dryers and tricycles to the people to ensure that they were productively engaged
Aside these, I also donated power generating set to the General Hospital, Atan Ijebu, the Itanrin community got transformer while a block of three classrooms was constructed at Molipa High School, Ijebu-Ode and equiped with modern chairs and tables. I also constructed Skill Acquisition Centre at Itanrin in Odogbolu Local Government, a Maternity Centre at Ijebu Ogbogbo, Ijebu North/East Local Government as well as a food processing centre at Ogbogbo too among others.
- What is the impact of Ogun State Technological HUB on residents ?
The current governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun is a visionary leader because he has combined human development and capital development together because the two must go side by side. He has brought programs that will develop the youths which include ICT through the creation of Ogun Technological Hub. This will help our teeming youth to develop themselves and rank side by side with youths in the developed economies. It will also create employment opportunities. Ogun Tech Hub will also assist government to run its businesses seamlessly. The benefits to be derived from the creation of the Ogun Tech Hub are numerous to be counted.
- How would you rate Governor Abiodun who is almost two years in office?
Prince Dapo Abiodun is not a typical politician because he does not talk too much. He has an agenda and he is taking every necessary steps to achieve the agenda which he christened ISEYA. He is never distracted by what the people in the opposition say about him. When we talk about social development, he has done a lot in the education and health sectors. He has also embarked on many meaningful road projects across Ogun State. We may not appreciate all that the government of Prince Dapo Abiodun is doing until the benefits start rolling in. PDA as he is fondly called is building a legacy that will last long. He is also working in ensuring that benefits of governance get to the people in the grassroots. We must know that there’s no way a governor of a state will be able to satisfy everybody in that state because of some limitations such as funding. However, Prince Dapo Abiodun has his vision set out unlike some other governors that do not have a clear vision of what they want to achieve. So, because he has his mindset on what he wants to give to the people of Ogun state, he is taking them one after the other. By the time he completes his first term (four years) as a governor, we will see that that there is a need for us to give him another term so as to complete all the good works he started. I am not saying this because I am a member of APC or because I am close to Prince Dapo Abiodun, if he has not done well, I will definitely say it that he has not done well but because I have been in government, I have been involved in government decision making processes, so I know what it takes to govern a state. That is why I will say Prince Dapo Abiodun is on the right track.
- Can you speak on Nigeria’s growth and leadership challenge?
There are people that are accidental representatives either as governors, lawmakers, local government chairmen or even board members of government corporations and others. Some are accidental in the sense that they have no clue about what they are supposed to do for the people. Some are just there to better their own lives. So, when you put people that do not have focus or do not have vision in the position of authority, what will you expect from such a leader? Unfortunately, there are a lot of people that have so much passion and vision and passionate about the development of our communities and vision at large but they are not given the opportunities to serve. That is why those that do not have vision have been striving in the political space. Some of the so-called leaders that we have in Nigeria today are those that do not live with the people while some do not even know what to offer to the people. For Nigeria to develop, we need visionary leaders and those people that are close to their people. We also need people that have ideas of what they want to offer to the people. If Nigeria is to move forward, we must all be ready to make sacrifices; elect visionary leaders in positions of authority. So, we must all put our hands together to move the nation forward. We must ensure that whoever we want to put in a particular position has the capacity and ability to be able to deliver. The person must know the people he or she wants to rule, he must know the things he has to offer, he must know the needs of the people. You cannot give water to people that need food and you cannot give food to people that need employment. So, it is only when you know the need of each class that you can know what to offer to them. We do not need people that will come and deceive us with 7 -point agenda, 8- point agenda or 10- point agenda because what you find out is that a lot of promises end at campaign.
- What, in your view, are the ways forward on ongoing economic recession, Covid-19 and the state of insecurity in Nigeria?
For insecurity, I’m in support of community policing. Why I said this is that Nigeria Police Force and other security outfits we presently have cannot provide enough security for Nigerians. When we have community policing, what happens is that strangers are easily identified when they enter a community because we know ourselves in the community. So, there is going to be a collaboration between the community and the security agencies and that is going to go a long way in resolving some of the security challenges that we have. Again, are we adequately funding the security agencies that we have? Are we questioning the security agencies if they are spending the money giving to them wisely enough? There are some people benefiting from the insecurity situation that we have in Nigeria. The question is how many people have been prosecuted? What we hear is that people are arrested or apprehended, but we don’t know when such people are prosecuted. There are some leaders that are in support of this people. When there is adequate security, there will be improved economic development. For the pandemic, government needs to enforce the use of face masks and other protocols. It is only when life is safe that such life can contribute meaningfully to the economic development of our nation. For our economy, it is unfortunate that because of the pandemic, we have to go into recession. If we look at the programs the federal government is trying to put in place, I have this believe that even when there is recession it is not a recession that will last for too long. Some of the programs and projects of the federal government are such projects that are going to last longer. There are so many things that the government is doing that are going to be beneficial in the nearest future. So, I have no fear that we will last too long in the economy recession that we are. I have the belief that our economy will bounce back.
- Politically, what are you up to in 2023?
Before I take any decision, I go to God first. In 2011 and 2015, it was God’s doing. So, for 2023, I am keeping my fingers crossed and waiting on God’s directives. But I am always available to serve my people. My message to our teeming youth is that sometimes ago we had “end sars” and they all came out to fight for their right. So, they should endeavour to come out enmass in 2023 to choose the desired leadership for this country. We do not just want shouting youths but we want visionary youths that know the kind of leadership that will move this country forward. Our youths must no longer fold their arms, our youths must not just be looking for opportunities of making money. They must also get involved in the politics of this country by ensuring that they participate actively in bringing the kind of leadership that we need in this country.