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I sing, preach at crusades — Agbonayinma

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A member of the House of Representatives, from Egor, Ikpoba, Okha Federal Constituency of Edo State, Mr. Johnson Agbonayinma, speaks with JOHN AMEH on his life as a lawmaker

You look very fit. What is the secret?

It is God and not by my power. Sincerely, when I wake up in the morning, I always give thanks to God Almighty. At my age now (56 years), I have been advised not to eat certain food. So, I want to be physically fit and I do a lot of work. I walk a lot and sometimes, I go to the gym.

What do you normally eat?

In the past, I ate a lot of pounded yam, eba with egusi soup. I ate a lot of rice too. While growing up, rice was my best food. I eat them moderately now with a lot of fruits. I eat roasted plantain but not fried food. It is important because age is no longer on my side. Heaven helps those who help themselves.

That means you are off drinking and smoking?

I don’t smoke. I am an occasional drinker. It (drinking) is not a habit, but once in a while, I drink. In my happy mood, I sip something.

What do you normally go for?

I don’t want to do any marketing here, but I love stout. While growing up, I was told that stout is medicinal. So, I love it and I take Campari too. I sip a little bit of it.

Do you see yourself as a man of style in terms of dressing?

I must tell you that I love fashion. That is the truth. I always want to be different with my dressing. I don’t like wearing what others put on. I tell my tailor, this is my style, this is what I want. If I buy native cloth or ankara, I make it look special, so that people will ask me, “how did you make this?” One has to be creative. For example, my pockets always have a touch of red, because I love red. My favourite colours are brown, red, cream, white, but not black. I am already black.

Do you like foreign fabrics?

No, I am crazy about my own African designs, especially Nigerian designs. People often think that my clothes are imported but they are all made in Nigeria here. We have wonderful tailors in this country, whose products can compete favourably with the imported ones. I started wearing Nigerian-made designs from my days in the United States, where I lived for over 27 years.

Your colleagues in the House think you are stubborn.

Maybe, because of my orientation. You have to confront me with a superior argument for me to agree with your point. You have to first convince me on any issue before I can agree with you. I am not a ‘rubber stamp’ lawmaker. If you cannot convince me, why should I follow you? I am a humble person, but I don’t just accept the views of others if they fail to convince me. In the House, we learn from one another and I try to tell them the way things should be done. The problem is that they just believe that if one member is the senior or a ranking member, you should accept whatever they say. I don’t think so.

They complain that you bore them with the fact that you spent over 27 years in America and things must be done like in the US

Look, it is not about doing things the American way! It is good to embrace the ideals that have helped America to succeed. Almost 70-80 per cent of the content of our constitution is modelled after the American Constitution. If we are emulating America, let us do those things that shaped America. Let us consider Dubai as an example. Can we compare its level of development to what the country looked like about 15 to 20 years ago? Someone started the Dubai dream and they got to where they are today. It was America that helped Dubai to reach where it is today. With oil and other human resources that God gave us, what have we done with them? Is there power failure in America? Go there and see their health and education systems; their roads and so on. But, in Nigeria, our mentality is still to travel out for treatment if we have a headache. We must learn. I learnt a lot during my 27 years in America. What I say to them is, let us emulate the US. There is corruption in America too, but the Nigerian type of corruption is that of impunity!

What is your assessment of the National Assembly?

We have been trying our best. We are not where we ought to be, but we are progressing. The Speaker (Yakubu Dogara) has been able to carry everybody along, but we have to think about the people who elected us. That was why we were angry when people accused us of ‘padding’ the 2016 budget. As a legislator, I have the right to influence federal presence in my constituency and to determine the projects that should benefit my people. We are passing bills and motions but it is not our duty to implement them.

People say most of the bills and motions are not relevant to the welfare of Nigerians?

Honestly, any bill or motion brought to the floor must affect Nigerians one way or another. Bills that are very important to the lives of Nigerians always see the light of day. But, to implement the laws, depends on the executive. The judiciary will interpret the law if there is a conflict. If they are not implemented, how do you assess the relevance?

How do you relax?

I just meditate and pray. I love to sing. I love music. I play all kinds of music. I listen to many artistes. I write music myself and I produce artistes both in America and in Nigeria. I even waxed an album in 1988 and in 1992. I also love gospel music, singing and praising God.

What was the title of your album or the tracks?

“Jesus is one”; the other one is “Holy spirit.” Another one is “Pass the good news”; and there is the emotional one, “Jungle.” I was ordained a pastor many years ago, but people don’t know. When you watch some of my preaching and crusades, you will be amazed. My mentor was the late Archbishop Idahosa. I am a great drummer too.

Is it true that you face a lot of pressures from women?

Sometimes, it is so embarrassing. You look at the security camera in your office and you find someone you don’t know, sitting there. You ask, and they say the person wants to see you. They say she wants to talk to me alone. If am so busy, I send thm away. Sometimes, I let them in to hear them out. In Christianity, you never know when God will come. A particular lady came and cried that her mother died. I investigated her and confirmed that she told the truth. I offered assistance to her for the burial.

What about others?

Well, the truth is that the pressure here is too much. Because of poverty and unemployment, the youth will engage us one day. There are many graduates without jobs. I am praying that it does not go overboard where women will begin to lead robbery gangs. The hardship in Nigeria is too much. It not only affects women; men too find things difficult.

So, how do you handle all the pressures?

I handle them the way I am led by God. I won’t lie to you; it is not by my power. God gives me the revelation on how to act in deciding which way to God. But, I am not perfect.

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