No Longer Business As Usual In Yala LGA

•Tony Odey

•Barrister Tony Odey

Barrister Tony Odey, an aspirant for the chairmanship seat of the Yala Local Government Area of Cross River State, southsouth Nigeria, on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in this interview with EROMOSELE EBHOMELE, speaks on his cardinal programmes for the people when elected in the forthcoming election

•Barrister Tony Odey
•Barrister Tony Odey

Why did you decide to vie for the position of the chairman of Yala Local Government Area?

I will start by saying democracy is the ‘oxygen’ of development in accordance with the will of the people. Ultimate power belongs to the people who in turn elect people of their choice to hold same in trust for them.  When a group of people take a decision on behalf of the enlarged society without their approval, then the people are in trouble. The destiny of Yala Local Government Area should not be negotiated. The local government system is very important in the socio-economic development of the people, being the closest tier to them. Before offering myself to serve the good people of the area as chairman, I had gone round all the wards and discussed with a cross-section of the people to know the root causes of the hardship being faced by them. It is sad to note that Yala is the only local government where poverty has become so endemic that the people have no other alternative than to accept it as a way of life. This is not their wish and it should not be so. My desire is for us to join hands to transform Yala into a model local government area in Cross River State that others will emulate in Nigeria. Though the challenges are enormous, it is no longer going to be business as usual. We shall restore the dignity of Yala people. We shall press for the creation of more wards and additional local government areas. We shall work with progressive forces in and outside the state to actualise the creation of Ogoja State, God willing.

Don’t you see availability of funds as a major challenge to your ambition?

It is not a matter of lack of funds but of right placement of priorities and understanding the comparative needs of the people vis-à-vis the available funds. It does not matter whether I am from Yala, Ukelle, Yache, Gabu/Igede, Ezekwe or Okpudu. It is not even a matter of any particular religion. It is a matter of patriotism, attitude, philosophy and will power.  Above all, the cardinal philosophy of our great party, the All Progressives Congress, shall  be our guiding principle. I cannot claim monopoly of ideas or wisdom to solving the huge challenges confronting Yala people, but the destiny of the area is in our hands.

There is this serious voter apathy when it comes to council elections. How do you hope to muster the needed support?

We shall re-orientate the leadership and followership of the political forces in the area to keep them abreast of the realities on ground. Our greatest problem is distrust and lack of unity among political leaders, who ironically belong to the same political party.

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What are your cardinal goals for the Yala people?

I hope to create wealth by eradicating poverty through the radical provision of critical social infrastructure like motorable rural roads, encouragement of formation of cooperative societies, introduction of small scale factories and provision of boreholes. I also hope to engage in activities that can boost agriculture, education, health, sports, culture and tourism, and youth empowerment. I have plans for the establishment of an unemployment data bank or an employment opportunity desk equipped with internet facility to store records of unemployed youths and widows and to investigate vacancies in public and private organizations including military and paramilitary and non-governmental organisations. It is a known fact that agriculture is the mainstay of the economy of Yala people. Yala has capacity in the cultivation of oil palm, rice, yam, maize, cassava, honey, sesame seed, moringa, locust beans and a lot more. To ensure that our people get value for their labour, we shall coordinate their potentials, and regularly invite professionals to educate farmers on modern methods of farming. We shall liaise with federal and state agencies for interest free bank loans, and for them to provide chemicals like herbicides and fertilizers at subsidized rates. The local government will also partner with the state and federal governments to supply improved varieties of seedlings to farmers. We shall also partner with individuals and organizations who wish to invest in small scale agro-allied industries and also vigorously engage in planting of trees to check the menace of deforestation. Generally, the council under my leadership will encourage and support our people to establish poultry, rabbit, piggery and other livestock farming.

What are your plans for education in Yala?

Education is the bedrock of every society and it remains the basis of our daily activities. In recognition of this, the state and local governments have done a commendable work with the massive rehabilitation/renovation of primary and secondary schools in some wards across the state. We shall however improve on that, while also creating conducive teaching and learning atmosphere for schools in Yala. Yala students in tertiary institutions shall be entitled to annual bursary award, while those in law school, clinical students and post graduate students shall be given financial assistance to cover books in addition to the bursary. We will take issues of health very seriously. Experience has shown that our people, especially those in the hinterland, without good roads, suffer from avoidable health challenges at times resulting in death because they cannot get help on time. We will provide motorcycles for mobile health workers to visit villages on emergency calls. We will partner with relevant government agencies and organizations in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic which is still ravaging our people. We shall embark on aggressive rehabilitation of rural roads while building new ones to enable the people move their farm producce to markets at minimal cost. Specifically, we will rehabilitate streets and roads in Okpoma, Yahe, Yache, Wanikade, Wanokom, Igede and Okuku, while working on Ijiraga-Ebo Road, Mfuma, Ijokom, Benekaba roads. We will procure a rig for drilling of boreholes. At least one market per ward shall be upgraded and provided with sanitation facilities, water supply and toilet. We shall sufficiently work on the Okuku and Wanikade parks in the first 100 days in office. The council will introduce at least ten 18-seater buses to boost the Yala Line which for now is being operated by private persons. We shall purchase graders, rollers, tippers and a low boards for road construction. We will provide necessary infrastructure at the Itekpa Lake to make it a leading tourism site. The annual new yam festival will be properly planned and executed to serve as a forum to showcase our rich cultural heritage to tourists, fun seekers, holiday makers, and researchers.

How do you hope to empower the people of your area?

Most of our people are suffering because they lack capacity to excel in their chosen trade. We will therefore embark on the establishment of skill acquisition centres, equipped with modern training tools and gadgets and manned by qualified personnel in the two constituencies of the local government area. Occasionally, we will bring officials of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) to train our people on various trades. The people so trained will be given interest free loans to establish trades of their choice in order to be self-reliant. We will directly encourage small business people and artisans with financial grants to improve their businesses.

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