Senator Smart Adeyemi, was a former president of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ before his entry into the political arena. Senator Adeyemi who represents Kogi West Senatorial District is also the vice-chairman of the Northern Senators Forum, NSF.
In this interview on the fringes of an empowerment programme for constituents, he talks about his people, his passions and his politics. Excerpts:
BY BOLUWAJI OBAHOPO
Does being a journalist put a burden on you in the political arena?
Of course it is a burden because people will always remind me to say ‘you are the people criticising’ and so I must make the difference. All that I am trying to do is to make the difference in the lives of the people and to justify the fact that I am coming from a background that criticize bad governance, which should be a strength to me.
I am always conscious of what the people will say about my representation on the floor of the National Assembly. I must strive to do beyond the ordinary, so that my colleagues in this profession can be proud of the fact that they have an ambassador at the National Assembly.
What is the content of the empowerment materials that you are giving out?
I came from the US with about seven container loads of medical equipment. There are twenty-two ambulances that I paid for, not donation. Each of them cost me over 450, 000 thousand Naira to clear it from the port. I never allowed them to be driven here, I hired trucks to carry them and I paid one hundred and eighty thousand Naira to get each of them here, each of them cost me fifteen thousand dollar, excluding the cost of freight.
I have all other kinds of medical equipment that I brought from overseas. I have spent over seven hundred Dollars on empowerment interventions.
Presently, I am constructing four cottage hospitals in place like Odo Iri where I am doing a thirty bed hospital. In Igbaruku, I demolished the cottage hospital there, which the Sardauna built in 1962.
I got there and I shed tears because that is still the only building that they call their hospital. I just demolish it. I am roofing the new building now as I am speaking to you. That is twenty five-bed hospital, in Igbagu, I am constructing a 15 bed hospital there. In Ogale, I am doing, a ten bed hospital there.
All these equipment are meant to be shared not only to these hospitals but also to other hospitals in the state. I have about four hundred hospital beds and mattresses. I have stretchers, wheel chairs, surgical equipment. It might interest you to note that I’m donating two of the ambulances to Central and East senatorial districts.
I am equally donating to the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital because this district used to be part of Old Kwara State. As I speak to you, we still have hundreds of thousands indigenes of Kogi West living in Kwara State. More importantly, my wife is from Kwara State, I also have substantial amount of business interests in Kwara State. So, we have to let them know that Kwara is home to us.
Do you have a governorship ambition?
No! All I am doing is to complement their (state government’s) efforts, there are other people who can do that (become governor). What I am doing now is to let the people see what you mean when you say that you are representing them.
Could this be the reason why some of your people are urging you to go back to the senate for the third time?
You see, as a Christian, I always believe in the saying that what happens tomorrow is in the hands of God.
If human or government power or machinery is what is required to win an election and is capable of stopping somebody, I should not have been a senator today but when I was fighting the former administration people asked if I could return to the senate and I said my second term was in the hands of God.
My take is to tell the people to allow me do this job well so that my conscience will be clear that I have served like Baba Awolowo served, like Ahmadu Belloe served. Those are the people I see as role models.
You have a lot of confidence in the Jonathan administration. Why?
Tell me the government that has ever ruled this country that has had the challenges of administration more than Goodluck. Tell me the government in Nigeria that has faced worse social disorder in any nation than Goodluck Jonathan.
Challenge of terrorism
There is no government in Nigeria that has had the burden and the pains of carrying the challenge of terrorism than Jonathan. The problem of terrorism is enough to collapse the economy. If we didn’t have the government of Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria would have broken up.
Why do you think Nigeria would have disintegrated?
Let me tell you, the humility and simplicity of Jonathan at the time of serious challenge that requires maybe to the thinking of some people that government should use force on Boko Haram, if you use might in a complex and diverse country like Nigeria, the consequences would have been worse. Government is not the way people see it.
The complexity and diversity of our nation with the burden of governance, I know it now more than before. When people talk, I keep quiet, because I am aware they don’t know the obstacles and hurdles, the consequences of comments and actions that could break up this country.
Jonathan came at a time in this country when God wanted him to preside over Nigeria. If you have had a president that people say action government, the situation today would have being worse.
But people say his responses are weak?
Last year (2013), we voted N935Billion for security, as at that time we had archaic, outdated security equipment. But today, the equipment available are far better, and that is why they are able to curtail the challenges emanating from terrorism. When you say the President is weak, you have forgotten that government is not by drastic action. Good governance is not through drastic action but putting in place the requirements that are needed to confront challenges of good governance.
Do you know why many of those who are ganging up today are ganging up? Everyone of them have personal reason not collective reason.
There are some that believe that Goodluck administration has affected their source of economic power. There are those who are nursing ambition to be president. There are those who feel that some people that are nursing ambition won’t get it, let them hang somewhere maybe they would be considered.
Let me tell you, we politicians know ourselves. I pity Nigerians because they don’t know those who are committed to their wellbeing. Is it those who tell you that we are progressives? Go and investigate them, they are putting the people in slavery. I don’t want to mention names because the time has not come for us to start throwing stones. When the time comes, we will mention names.
What is the reason for this gang-up against Jonathan by some elements in the North?
It is wrong to say gang-up by the North because there are many northerners who are in support of this government. I have said it that my brothers in the North should not concentrate on fighting for power because we have had power for 30 years. What should be the priority is how to liberate the North from poverty and oppression.
Go and tell the northern governors that if you have political power without economic power, the person that has economic power will ground you and collect it from you.
The Southwest didn’t fight with oil during June 12, they used Lagos port to paralyse Nigeria. Tell me what the North can use to paralyse Nigeria if we have cause to disagree with other parts of the country.
If the south-south people decide that they want to paralyse this country today, thirty minutes is enough. You will have fifty thousand naira in your pocket and won’t be able to buy petrol.
Let me tell you if you will report it like this to the Yoruba people; Awo nwo oju, Ogberi nwo inu awo….Awo mo wipe majele wa ninu awo sugbon Ogberi ko mo. The message from that is that people with different ideologies are pretending to each other but an intelligent man knows what is happening – man that can see beyond his nose.