By Mike Ebonugwo
IT was a sharp but pleasant departure from the norm, especially based on common experience. Indeed, members of the Lagos State House of Assembly certainly took their constituents by surprise with an unprecedented constituency stakeholders meeting on Tuesday November 10, 2015.
And more remarkable is the fact that the reason for the meeting obviously appealed to the constituents, who turned up for the programme to witness the fulfillment of a promise made to them.
It would be recalled that the Speaker of the House, Mudashiru Obasa, had last June during his inaugural speech assured Lagosians that the Assembly would involve them in its activities, especially in having their inputs form part of the 2016 budget. So, the constituency stakeholders meeting was an ideal platform for the law makers to rub minds with the people and to listen with rapt attention as stakeholders across the 40 constituencies requested for schools, roads, hospitals, etc.
Maybe the massive publicity had something to do with it, the designated venues across the 40 states constituencies in the State, including halls, open spaces and car parks, were already jam-packed before the 10am take-off of the programme, in spite of the fact that it was a work day.
Indeed, Lagosians from Ikorodu, Epe, Lagos Island, Kosofe, Surulere, etc, trooped out to be counted, a development which inadvertently created traffic control challenges for officials.
This was particularly the case when Speaker Obasa met his people in Agege. Every available space was occupied, while security agents had a hectic time controlling the surging crowd.
The story was the same all over the state as people enthusiastically took their chances to ventilate their feelings. Of course, Obas, chiefs, various unions, traders, community development associations, CDAs, youths, market men and women were not left out; everyone had one thing or the other to say.
In his welcome address, Obasa told stakeholders the meeting was unique as it was first of its kind in the nation’s history, adding that the Lagos Assembly was the first to hold such a meeting simultaneously across all the constituencies under its jurisdiction. He said: “We are collaborating with our constituencies to ensure that the impact of government is felt at all levels and to reinvestigate rapid socio-economic projects, control of traffic, implementation of traffic laws, security and maintenance of Law and order”.
He added that the intention was to oil the wheel of the social contract which the Assembly has with the people, while arguing that the state House of Assembly was constitutionally empowered to make laws for the peace, order and the government of the state “by virtue of 1999 constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria” (as amended).
He also stressed that this could be better appreciated against the backdrop of the fact that the House of Assembly performs other functions, including representation oversight, checks and balances on the Executive and Judiciary and more.
A pleasant fallout of the event is Obasa’s disclosure that Agege would soon be the beneficiary of a flyover bridge at the Pen Cinema area of the constituency. This was immediately received with a resounding ovation as those in attendance applauded the happy news. This was obviously against the backdrop that a flyover at Pen Cinema would certainly alleviate the prevailing traffic confusion caused by riotous commercial activities in the place.
The scenario was similar on the Island as the Deputy Speaker, Wasiu Eshinlokun, told stakeholders that the House of Assembly was eager to know the desire of the people for onward transmission to the Executive for implementation.
The lawmaker was joined by the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu and All Progressives Congress, APC, leader, Prince Tajuden Olusi. Akiolu could not hide his joy as he commended the Lagos State House of Assembly for giving the people a voice through the initiative.
It was a sentiment shared by Olusi, a veteran politician and leader of the APC in the Lagos Central Senatorial District, who called for more of such rapport between the Assembly and the people.
At Lagos Mainland, the hall was almost filled to bursting point as Oladele Adekanye, aka Lado, engaged his constituents on their expectations. He also used the opportunity to commend Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for embarking on construction of over 100 roads across the State. For former Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, chief, Mr. Monday Ubani, the Lagos State House Assembly deserves kudos in view of the timeliness, concept and style of the stakeholders meeting. According to him: “ I want to commend the Lagos Assembly for holding this exercise. All we are asking for at UNILAG estate, Isheri Magodo is road construction and provision of street lights”.
Speaking on the exercise, a rights activist, Mr. Michael Okezie, said the Assembly has blazed the trail in participatory democracy. ‘’I want to commend the lawmakers for the initiative because most of the time, we don’t get to have this kind of opportunity to talk to our representatives.
That the lawmakers therefore decided to do this on their own shows a clear departure from our past experience. I therefore commend them and hope that other state legislatures will toe the same line for the benefit of the people.’’
As part of the event, spokesman of the Assembly, Tunde Braimoh who spoke at the Local Government Health Centre hall Mascara, Ketu was to give everybody present a form to fill in their expectations from government, with two senior staff members of the House of Assembly documenting the peoples’ requests.
It was also praise galore for Braimoh as the event was coming to an end with Oba of Ketu, Oba Isiaka Balogun; APC leader in Kosofe, Chief Stephen Oyedele; former chairman, Ikeja branch of the NBA, Mr Monday Ubani and market leaders leading the way.
The Lagos State House of Assembly was also commended for bringing about participatory democracy by networking with those who voted them into office. It was more or less the same experience in all the other constituencies across the state with eulogies flowing freely from those present in appreciation of this novel decision making process.
One of the participants had reason to specially commend Speaker Obasa for the initiative. “I want to commend the speaker and other members for this initiative. This is a very important exercise in view of its strategic importance to us all as a people,’’ he said.
In his response Obasa said: “As legislators of the State of Excellence, I want to assure Lagosians that we shall continue to do our best in the overall interest of this state at all times, and I am happy we have started”.