The 29th of May 2017 made it 18 years of uninterrupted Democratic Governance in Nigeria. These 18 years of civil administration has thrown up a lot of issues relating to quality of leadership and Representation of the people. In this interview Anchored by Festus Fifen, Hon. Joan Amaechi Mrakpor Member Representing Aniocha/ Oshimili Federal Constituency of Delta State in the House of Representatives Talks about these issue, the 18 years of civil rule, 2 years of the APC Administration and The Anti Corruption Fight. Excepts…….
This is about 18 years of interrupted democracy how would you rate the experience,are we making progress?
Hon. Mrakpor: Yes we are, we are indeed moving, but I would say here that for the 16 years of the people’s Democratic Party, we moved faster than what we are doing now. The 2 years of the present government Talking about the momentum, the speed is not encouraging because if you have a 4 year administration and for 2 years you are not able to score 40% then it’s not a pass mark.
Can you identify or pinpoint anything that is responsible for this slow movement in terms of delivery of dividends of democracy?
Hon. Mrakpor: things are not just slow, I would say that things are not just well with the country. Yes as a Christian I can confess that it is well because of the hope we have in the Almighty God to make it better. But looking at the realities on ground I think the administration appears to me like they lack a direction. We started up seeing every person as spokesperson of the administration. People were speaking from the villa some were speaking from the Party, people were speaking from the streets others speaking from the leadership of the party. it was a whole lot of confusion and that confusion continued and you can still perceive the confusion till this moment even after two years in office.
Then aside that I did not vote for President Buhari but I had these feelings judging from what I saw in the mid 80s when he came around then as a military head of state I had these feelings that things were going to be better especially in the area of security. I thought that being a stern man he would be able to put the security situation in Nigeria in a higher pedestal, which was not even as bad as it is now, I thought he would be able to properly regulate it.
Take the issue of gunmen who we call cattle rearers; it is unfortunate that the life of a cattle is worth more than the life of an average Nigerian.
In my place and indeed so many other places women can not go to the farm, they are not just abused, they are killed. A woman goes to the farm to harvest food for her family and the next thing is that she is raped by gun carrying supposedly cattle rearing persons and the government is not doing anything about it. The state governors are tied to the neck, the police commands are almost being suffocated because the federal government does not want to come out and declare a stand on the issue. Cattle rearing is a private business just like cassava farming is a private business, just like tailoring is a private business. It still baffles Nigerians why this business is worth the life of Nigerians.
As leaders we travel overseas and we see how animals are reared outside this country. My mother was a poultry farmer we didn’t have our chicken strolling into the sitting room of our neighbours they were caged somewhere. It still baffles me and indeed Nigerians why the federal government cannot make a policy Statement concerning the issue of cattle rearing; for cattle owners to have their cattles in a place, a ranch as it is in other climes. Even if they like they can give it any name they feel like and take proper care of their cattle instead of having a situation where the cattle go inter state. It should be at the point of sales just like tomatoes, garri and other commodities which only moves during sales not moving from one point to the other to cause sorrow in the lives of people.
Hon. Mrakpor: well the best way to rate a man is by what the man has said, the APC government came in, they had so many promises of everything they were going to do for Nigerians. You know as much as I do that not 10 % of that has been done. I don’t know how many graduates are being paid, I don’t know the hundreds or thousands of new police officers that have been employed,I don’t know how our lives have improved, I know that the power situation is now worse than it was before 2015, I think everyone can point out their promise to Nigerians before 2015, so looking at what it is if you want to pick up your pen and begin to tick like every Nigerian would do I can’t say this is the one they have crossed the bar on so its not a fair deal at all. it is
not what Nigerians expected.
Honourable how would you react to the notion in some quarters that The APC led administration has taken us backward in terms of democratic governance? Don you share in that sentiment too?
Hon. Mrakpor: I was once tempted to think that we had subtly returned to military rule, because democracy is when I am allowed the freedom of fair hearing. Democracy is when I am allowed free movement, democracy is when I am allowed privacy of my home amongst other things that democracy guarantee. For me no man in Nigeria presently whether rich or poor, whether in the private sector or in the public sector is sure that they can go to sleep with their two eyes closed. You could be bombarded for the wrong reasons, you could have some men bombard you in your bedroom with your wife or husband and when they are done turning the house upside down they take a second look at you and say sorry you are not the one we are looking for. It’s gone that bad. It’s gone so bad that the media would have to be careful what they say otherwise you can be removed from your beat for saying the wrong things in quote. It’s gone so bad that there is no free movement because of insecurity which is not suppose to be there in the first place. Insecurity of not doing the right thing, insecurity of not taking the right step. Why? I would ask and I am very sure that some of us know the reasons.
So I don’t think this is the democracy that the PDP government did work for, for the past 16 years. During the 16 years of PDP we did have democracy that’s why we could have people match on the streets criticising the government of the day. You dare not do that today except you want to take a risk and that’s not democracy. So I think indeed we have been taking back to the Era before 1999 by the present administration.
How would you be reacting to insinuations that the National Assembly has failed in her role of checkmating the Executive arm of government?
Hon. Mrakpor: I don’t share in that thought, I don’t think there is any national burning issue that has not being discussed on the floor of the house, issues of gunmen in the name of cattle rearers is almost on a weekly bases and at the end we came to the conclusion that the Executive should do the needful. Remember ours is to make laws, it is the executive that implements these laws. We have enabling laws, we have constantly moved motions as a form of reminder and some of these motions are suppose to be for immediate and urgent response, we have done all that, we can’t implement because the law does not allow us to do that. But for making laws and drawing the attention of Nigerians and th executive to what the people say is wrong, we have always done that. It it’s not in our place to implement.
How would you rate the anti corruption war of this administration?
Hon. Mrakpor: (laughs) Anti corruption? Well I will agree with the government that we have a big problem with corruption, but I will totally and still totally disagree with the mode of operation. Civil servants are corrupt, men and women of God in quote whether Moslem or Christian are corrupt, politicians are corrupt; you do not single out a man to prosecute for corruption based on some hidden agenda, you do not use corruption war or seemingly corruption fight to intimidate an opponent. For me what we have presently is intimidation of opponent not corruption fight. When you are ready to rid Nigeria of Corruption Nigerians will stand by you, because Nigerians will see indeed that you are fighting corruption.
When you move into the military, into the paramilitary, when you move into unions, when you move into the civil service, when you move into the National Assembly, into churches, mosque and other religious establishments and your corruption fight is genuine , Nigerians will clap for you because they know when it’s genuine. There are people who use the name of either God or Allah to perpetrate evil, Nigerians know them and they need a voice, they need the government to do something, when you move into the lives of ministers about how contracts are awarded and executed if they are actually executed. Corruption fighting is not when you know someone wants to return to power maybe to the National Assembly in 2019 and you are sure one Mr. Joseph will be a problem and you say I will look for how to get Mr. Joseph off the way that’s not fighting corruption, that’s abuse of office and that’s what we have now rather than corruption fight.
As a lawmaker before you were elected you made some electoral promises to your constituents before the election. Two years into the National Assembly have you been Able to deliver on these promises?
Hon. Mrakpor: partly yes but no to an extent, I give you a typical example, I represent Aniocha / Oshimilli Federal constituency of Delta state. Presently as I speak we are cut-off from Edo state, we have three roads into my Federal constituency if you have to travel to Abuja. The Asaba -Ngbolu – Illah Road is completely cut-off, the Asaba-Udumuje- Ewohimi -Uromi Road is cut-off. The Agbor Uromi Road is very bad, while campaigning the roads were still very motor-able then. I had promised them that there was going to be proper resurfacing, roads are supposed to be resurfaced even outside the country sometimes when you are driving you see a warning that this part of the road is being resurfaced take the other side. So I had promised them that the slow movements on these roads that something was going to be done about it. Though I have done my beat as a legislator, I have brought the issue up for discuss, but as we speak two years down the line, the roads have become gullies and it’s unfortunate so I feel embarrassed, I feel ashamed that 5, 8,20 kilometre road to my constituency cannot be tarred by the federal government and cannot be resurfaced or reconstructed. Recently I have been crying out for palliative measures in that regard; and when coming home, and I am in my Black Jeep even if government didn’t buy it for me (laughs) I am always very careful, when I get to that place I make sure I slow down like every other person and wind down my windows appealing and apologising to people that sorry I am hoping that something will still be done to make the situation better.
And I am embarrassed about that especially when women come to me weeping asking me to do something we are suppose to be harvesting our crops in the next one month but it’s all been eating up, another one will say oh my daughter who came from school and accompanied me to the farm was raped yesterday all these make me see myself as if I have failed.
On my personal side as a legislator here by the grace of God I have been able to bring in some bills that come through the second reading, in fact the bill on diaspora is waiting for senate concurrence which was sponsored by me, the bill on the elderly has gone through the second reading, the Bill on NYSC and Infrastructure so many of them, and I have also been able to draw attention to the issue of power in my constituency and well the house passed a resolution invited the people responsible, the issue of Kogi-Edo-Delta Road I was able to raise that too.
With my constituents by the grace of God I have been able to do proper empowerment, by that I mean I got the young women into learning a trade, I got them to learn baking, cake making and into fashion designing. I paid, I enrolled them, some of them went through 3 months and some 6 months they are through now and by the grace of God I am believing that I will be able to give them starter packs which could be in form of sewing machine and baking equipments, oven and all that, I ordered for oven and the contractor just delivered them, generators and all other things they need.
And talking about power situation to start these businesses, when Fashola was the governor of Lagos state I used to be one of his admirers but in this power sector position, I wish he never took that position because so many Nigerians are disappointed especially judging from what he had said then that he was going to turn it around in 6 months and it’s two years now we are all still waiting and are using power generating sets.
Then on Projects by the grace of God we have some projects going on in my constituency, there is a health centre for is Isele-Uku, there is a health centre for udumuje Ugboko, there is a bio-resource centre under Federal ministry of science and technology going on presently and there is a cassava processing factory among others so I will say I have done well for myself but judging by what I did in the state assembly my people expects more from me because they came out to support me for this office. When I contested the House of Representatives election I won the 42 wards I did not lose one ward that was because of the support of the people so I feel so bad at times that I am not able to do much as they expected but I am still Believing God that the remaining 2 years to the next election we will see how we get around it.
As a female Legislator in the 8th Assembly how has the environment been for you?
Hon. Mrakpor: The House of Representative is a family, with that number I will not say I know how the leadership manages to coordinate the place, with 360 members i thought it was going to be a war zone; but it’s not, we live like one Family, on the floor of the house, we don’t know who is APC and who is PDP that’s why when you have somebody from APC and he is having a programme and we are all there, for a PDP person we are all there too. But for the women it’s been tough, it’s very discouraging we are about 20 out of 360 you can imaging that percentage.
I also think the women should stand more for themselves, power is not giving, power is taken, no man will wake up and say Janet come take my sit and be this or that because you are a woman it’s not possible. You have to develop the courage to take power, if you desire it you need to develop the courage to go for it, unfortunately , most women are scared, at times when I give lectures I hear women say oh Honourable but they say they use to shoot people, poison people and even do Africa Magic , I laugh when I here these things, I told someone for example that when Ebola came some nurses died, that was a threat to their profession and outside Ebola some of them also die of Aids because they attended to someone that has it. Teachers can be beaten up by cult students it’s a threat to their profession so why are we singling out politics as the only one women are scared of, the truth is there is nothing to be scared of, it just about making up your mind, I think women should be bold to make up their mind that yes I want to contest for this office and again I hear some of them talk about money; but I tell you the truth it’s not about money. First it’s about you being able to tell yourself I think I can make it. When you start you don’t need to set out 10 million; when I went into the house of Assembly in 2007 I didn’t have N500,000 of my own and so many of the men precisely about 8 of them that I defeated called me then a noise maker. They were calling me noise maker and I was moving. Making the noise, I was letting everybody see that I can do the Job and the rest is history today so I think women should brace up. The more women we have in decision making stages the better it is for the country because for women we have so many things to consider and look into so I think this fear of the Unknown we should just drop it somewhere and come onboard.
Will you consider running again for this position in 2019?
Hon. Mrakpor: God willing yes
What will you be telling those that think you are eyeing the senatorial Seat for your District?
Hon. Mrakpor: well in politics people are free to talk, I do know that by the grace of God I am qualified for any position I can print posters for the president of this country come 2019, I am very well qualified and I have the female population to back me up but the thing is, is that what God wants? I take my life one day at a time. By his Grace the distinguish senator Peter Nwabochi representing my senatorial district in the Nigeria Senate is doing well and I think the people will want him back. For me I think I am doing well, if it pleases God I would want to do another term in the House of Representatives. So I am not gunning to displace anybody.
With the number of years you have been in Politics any regret so far?
Hon. Mrakpor: yes I have regrets, Nigerians are still hungry, though I know hunger is everywhere in the world but the case of Nigeria is different, most Nigerians are hungry and with what God has blessed us with which is our natural resources, we shouldn’t be that hungry. God has blessed us but the greatest challenge we have is in the Area of leadership, in the area of people who do not know how to sow back. Seating on this seat (points to her Official seat) as a law maker, there are a lot of benefits that comes with the office; it now becomes an abomination when I try to convert everything to myself aside the benefits that come with the office. Naturally and constitutionally, the office comes with his own benefit but you shouldn’t be so greedy to converting everything that would make your constituents happy yourself.
If we are not converting, everyone in the National Assembly right now is representing somebody, if we do the right thing, it means that the level of poverty will reduce, if a civil servant does the right thing the level of poverty will reduce. So I believe that if God decides to bless us with good leadership in any form Nigeria will be better for it. So I have my regrets that we have not been able to make much difference as much as we should do, the military came it was terrible and when democracy came in 1999 yes it’s better than what it was with the military but we can still do better.
How do you cope as a wife, a mother, a lawmaker a preacher and a role model to so many people?
Hon. Mrakpor: I think it’s just the grace of God because most times I look back and I say wow how are my able to do this. I am still able to do visiting days to those in the boarding house, am still able to play my role as a wife, a mother and I am still able to play my role as the representative of the people. I just came in from Delta and I still played all my parts as a law maker and I am still close to the grassroots. Then my number one assignment which is the call of God upon my life God is faithful. As an evangelist am still able to keep my programmes. I am on NTA Abuja, NTA Asaba, Delta Broadcasting services and I am into school evangelism so I think it is His Grace. The grace of God is sufficient.
How do you relax?
God has blessed me, once I lie on my bed, I put my head on the pillow I sleep off. I don’t need to look for or beg for sleep and with that, I get relaxed when I wake up the next morning. But when you are doing what makes you happy I see it a s form of relaxation. Everything I do makes me happy, motherhood is a great Joy to me both my biological children and so many children around me. Then preaching the sermon is great privilege that God has found me worthy to be able to do that assignment. I see all of these as a way of relaxing