Pally Iriase is the immediate past Deputy Whip of the House of Representatives. He was Deputy Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Chairman of Owan East Council and Secretary to the Edo State Government. In an interview with OSAGIE OTABOR, Iriase explains why his yet-to-be-completed constituency projects will not be abandoned.
What is your take on the political crisis in Edo State House of Assembly?
I am very happy as a proud member of the APC that God helped us to get it right this time around, in terms of inaugurating the National Assembly and putting round pegs in round holes. In Edo State, what happened is a shame. We are happy my party has 24 members in the House. I do not know what led to this shameful mess. Those who want to be partisan are likely to see nothing wrong. A lot of things are wrong, to the extent that 20 years after democracy, we are still exhibiting anti-democratic tendencies. The constitution is clear on how a house should be inaugurated. Do your dealings behind the scenes. Why should anybody on both sides have a set mind on what must happened. We have given independence to the state legislature. I am happy to be part of those that made it happen. The state lawmakers should be wary of trading off their independence to whosoever. If you ride on the back of the tiger, you will surely end in its stomach. I do not see any reason why your right as an elected member of the state assembly should be removed from you. Those who wanted to be Speaker should be able to talk to their members. Their colleagues should not be compelled to elect them. It is a shame. Edo State used to be known for better things. What is not right is not right. What is going on is wrong.
What’s your reaction to claims by some of your constituents that your projects did not meet their needs?
The fellow you meet in the market place will tell one thing and the leaders will give you another list of things they want. You look at it based on the scale of priority and the functionality of the project, the spread and the nature of the benefit. You pick and execute for that particular need of your constituency. There are those who want to put down what you are determined to do. That should not deter you. What is important is seeking the greatest good for the greatest number of people. I came into business of politics with a passion for satisfying the need of my people. I feel fulfilled, contented and a sense of gratitude to God for making me the tool of bringing happiness to the greater number of people. Many people have told me that it is unusual for a political personality who has opportunity to willingly say he is no more contesting. I did that because of that fulfillment. I felt I should leave the space for others to try to add more value.
What is next after House of Representatives?
There have been complaints of uncompleted constituency projects around the country. What will happen to the ones you attracted that are yet to be completed?
Every project I am associated with is meant for completion, just as they are meant to last a long time. I would not be fulfilled, if I did not know that there are enough financial provision and releases that will see those projects through. I think the tardiness of the agencies may have accounted for some of the projects that are yet to be completed. Those that are strictly constituency projects have the funds already released and preserved. In my restfulness, it is my responsibility to watch very closely and ensure the funds don’t evaporate into thin air. My people are assured that every project nominated and has funds released to the tune of 70 per cent would be finished, because I did not bite more than I can chew. In nominating those projects, we ensure that 70 per cent release will be able to complete them.
How were you able to attract so much to Owan?
You have to go after your passion. It helped me to set goals and to achieve them. When I got to the National Assembly, I felt the core mandate of a legislator is to make laws, debate bills but I later found out that, in this clime, if you just debate laws at the assembly, you are on your own. I was redirected during the course of the electioneering campaigns. My thought process was remodeled. When you were campaigning you didn’t asked about landmark laws you will contribute to, you didn’t talk about motions you will contribute to. The question was how would you attract federal presence here? I swore to them I will do that. Getting there, I went about trying to attract projects. I had no resting period. As my aides will tell you, I was a very restless legislator. I was moving from one key ministry to another, to ensure my people got the best from the federal budget. I set out to give functional meaning to constituency projects. Apart from the ones that stood alone, that is the ones nominated and finished by me, I put more of my constituency allocation into baiting the Federal Government by ensuring that I put it as seed money in major projects. When they see it, they will slash it up, just like the two-star projects like the Afuze-Ikin Road. There is no way constituency money would have completed it. The other one is the ongoing earth dam. Instead of putting constituency money where you will be happy later, I put mine into such gigantic project, knowing that they are key priorities the Federal Government will be happy to have. As soon as scouts from the government came and saw it, they were amazed. As I met the ministers and talked to them, the projects were approved by Federal Executives Council.
What do you say about abandoned projects?
The perception about constituency projects is wrong. If you didn’t come here, you will not know what constituency projects can do. The general perception is that lawmakers are thieves. They just carry constituency in their pockets and go home. You have seen what constituency money can do. I once led a delegation to oversee budgetary performance. What we were bellyaching about, then, was the abysmal performance of the budget. Such performance seems to leave abandoned projects. The truth is that you might being going after a wild goose chase when probing constituency projects, because lawmakers only nominate, they don’t execute such projects. Besides, the amount is fixed and it is domiciled with the agencies, ministries and departments. Procurement is the duty of the ministries and agencies. It is the business of the executive. The money is not paid into lawmakers’ account. This is not to say there are no black legs.
Are you not worried that the Otuo General Hospital is yet to be opened after you attracted N200m projects to the place?
The Otuo General Hospital is yet to be functional. It is equipped to a standard that is above what you will find in other hospitals. It is a state government facility. The question of why the government has decided to do what it must do in order to commission the hospital is what I don’t have any idea about. I feel bad. I feel sad that people in this community and environs are dying needlessly. Even if the hospital is just a department alone, we are talking about 150,000 persons. We have good health facility, but it is not functional. There is total neglect of a good health facility.
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