Hon. Ifaluyi Isibor represented Egor/Ikpoba Okha Federal Constituency of Edo State in the House of Representatives between 2007-2011. He is now the representative Edo State in the Federal Character Commission. In this interview, he relives his experience in the National Assembly, saying Moneybags should not be accepted in Nigerian politics. Excerpts:
Tell us about your days prior to your involvement in politics
Right from 1998 when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was formed I was one of its first set of members in Edo State. When Chief Lucky Igbinedion became the governor of the state, as a hydrogeologist, I was one of the technocrats he appointed to man government post. I was one of the members of the state Urban Water Board. I was in charge of the technical committee that went round to assess all the water facilities both functional and nonfunctional in the entire state. And I produced a working book that assessed all the faulty components and did the costing. I gave it to the water board to help them in providing water for the generality of the people. But funny enough that board was dissolved twice and each time I was called back. I became the constant star in the group. There was a time I contested for the House of Representatives and I won. That kick started my political life.
What gave you that push to contest the House of Representatives election?
My background as a consultant on water to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was really helpful in this regards. In fact, that time all the water structures in Edo State were designed by two of us – me and one other man who is now late. We had a lot of projects which we were putting together based on the demand of the NDDC. So, I went to the House of Representatives with a lot of knowledge. Before then, after my graduation from the university in 1978, I did my youth service at the National Steel Council which later metamorphosed to steel raw material exploration agency for the iron and steel industry. We virtually did the exploration of all the raw materials requested for the steel industry that was to commence in Ajaokuta. The iron ore exploration was done in Okene area in Itakpe and Ajabanoko. We did the coal exploration in Obi, Lafia. We did the limestone exploration in Calabar. We did the clay exploration in Abeokuta. I have gone round the length and breadth of this country on issues of solid minerals. Going to the House of Representatives was to give me a broader outlook and see how we could bring this experience to bear on the workability of the solid minerals. It was so exciting at the solid minerals committee of the House of which I was a member. The Chairman of the committee then was always so excited to have me in the meeting because I was like a consultant. In some instances when I am not around, the committee meeting would not hold because it would be as if the expert was not around. During our vacation period in the university then we always go to the oil rigs to see what is going on there. My course was like a broad based platform from which one can assess the vital properties which belong to Nigeria. Right from then there was agitation for enhancement of solid minerals. But unfortunately you have so many wrong people doing the business. You have impostors positioning themselves as if they are genuine people whereas the real professionals are ignored. They are not encouraged. Those are some of the problems that are working against the survival of solid minerals in this country. Even up till today my colleagues who are still in the National Assembly still call on me for advice.
You spent a term at the House of Representatives and people till date still commend you for your zeal to impact on the lives of your constituents. What was you selling point?
That’s a very clear question. Honestly, you don’t give what you don’t have. Before I joined the political train I had worked with an indigenous construction company in Benin, Paulosa Nigeria Ltd. I joined the company in 1986 as Assistant General Manager and I left in 1994 as Vice-President, Engineering. That gave me another opportunity to see a lot of rural areas. We were mainly working on water. We could see how terrible it is to distribute water to our people. We live in the rain belt but unfortunately no water was harnessed for the people. Most of the contract we got then was for rural water exploration and distribution for the people. That gave me a very clear knowledge of what our people want. At any point in time if you tell me any part of this country I will tell you their needs. Added to that when I got to the House of Representatives I was doing a lot of consultation. For example, when I come back to Benin then I will call the General Manager of PHCN (Power Holding Company) then I would ask him about the things he needed even if they were not in my constituency. This led to the installation of a big sub station in Egor area. The advantage I had over my colleagues was that been a consultant I was at home with the problems of our people. Some of my colleagues kept saying that what I did in four years as a reps man they could not do it in 12 years. My advice is that those going into any political office should forget about self-aggrandisement. Another thing is that most of the projects I did I followed them up with my time and money. When we were getting constituency projects people said we were getting money at will. This is not true. What most of us do is to find out who is issuing a contract and who is doing it. For example, when the presidency has awarded a contract I will go and find out the the contractors in my constituency. I will get their phone numbers, I will call them and tell my staff to be on their trail; to find out any difficulty they are having. For example, they arrive in a community and the first thing the people would say is “come and give us some money.” Somebody has come to give you a school and you are telling them to give you money, Rather, you have to welcome and entertain them. In that case, I will intervene and broker peace between them. I didn’t know most of the contractors but I was dealing with their agents. I want the projects to be in my constituency not minding whoever is handling them. Like in the community where I live, the man who built the school there is from Ilorin (Kwara State). I don’t know him but I saw his agents and I worked with them. I told my community Enogie that we just have to work with them. We don’t need to embarrass them, rather we should encourage them. Get the youths and some local content people take part in it by clearing the bushes, digging the soil and helping them in moulding blocks. Some of my colleagues weren’t doing this. When it is time to commission the projects I will invite medial men to come and witness it so that it can be assessed and reported by them. What I was doing was to ensure my people get the best within the short time that I was representing them.
Now that you are the representative of Edo state in the Federal Character Commission, how has the experience been?
When I was in the House of Representatives I was in charge of two local government areas (Egor and Ikpoba Okha) but now as the state representative in the Federal Character Commission the whole state, made up of 18 local government areas, is my constitiency. This is a promotion from whatever angle you look at it. Just like we had the position of Presidential Liaison Officer (PLO) during the second republic my position now could be likened to the then PLO. Then as a lawmaker there were a lot of people who came to meet me at home for several reasons and I gave a standing order to my security men not to lock anyone out. Even when I am sleeping my guests were giving free access to my home. The traffic now has gone down drastically. Till date, I am one of the most accessible politicians around.
So, what is your next move politically?
I am still acrive in politics though I have not been too keen to seek elective position. In this era where a lot of individuals are clamouring to be governor I would have loved that a search party is set up to assess the different aspirants to know their suitability. The idea of a moneybags printing posters and doling out money to people to get their support should be discouraged.