By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Senator Smart Adeyemi is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory, and was before his election to the Senate in 2007, a journalist and president of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ. Senator Adeyemi who represents Kogi West Senatorial District and had carved a niche for populist agitation in the Senate is nevertheless an arrowhead in the campaign to return President Goodluck Jonathan to office next year. In this telephone interview following the removal of four ministers from the cabinet, Senator Adeyemi addresses issues on the style and strategies of the president and affirms that Dr. Jonathan is an emerging political philosopher that would only be appreciated by fecund minds. He also addresses recent agitations by some senators to decamp in the Senate. Excerpts:
From your vantage position, why do you think the president made the recent changes to his cabinet?
Goodluck is a man who Nigerians would soon get to understand is not like any other politician. Goodluck is a very focused person and he tries as much as he can to avoid mistakes in the course of governance. These are things that some people misinterpret.
I don’t see him as a politician, I see Goodluck as a political philosopher that in the years to come, people will sit down and ask how he was able to not only keep Nigeria one at a very difficult time, but also how he was able to succeed in many areas where others have failed. Goodluck is a man with a large heart for everybody and he is keeping no bitterness with anybody or any group of people including his opponents and critics.
He is a man who believes in achieving his goals with utmost humility, with the fear of God and with all the necessary checks that are needed. For such people, it takes people who can look deeper beyond narrow interests and sentiments to be able to appreciate his own style of leadership.
Today there have been a lot of changes and if we have not gotten there, we can see that light at the end of the tunnel. If people still feel that nothing has been done, then it depends on the perspective from which you are looking at it. It is either you say that the cup is half filled or it is half empty.
But one thing I can tell you is that this president is determined to take Nigeria out of the economic depression, out of the high level of unemployment and to improve the power sector.
You spoke on the changes he made in his cabinet, why did it take him time to make the changes given the allegations against some of the ministers?
Well, I wouldn’t know the allegations you are talking about…
The former minister of aviation was indicted by the House Committee on Aviation
The president needed to put all his acts together and those changes might not necessarily have been because of this indictment. Don’t forget that until somebody is proven guilty by a competent court of law, that person is not guilty. As members of the National Assembly we have the responsibility to expose inadequacies, deficiencies and corruption. We do not have the power to prosecute. We do not have the power to pronounce guilt. So, I do not want to believe that the changes came as a result of the indictment of a single minister, rather, the president took his time to be able to navigate to the end of this administration by making sure that he is satisfied in all that he needs to effect changes.
That is why I said that a political philosopher will not work on what a section of the society is saying. He came into government with his own approach and a very unique ideology of getting things done without necessarily heating up the system, getting things done without necessarily putting chains on the necks of the people. Getting things done without necessarily being draconian more so as democracy is just emerging, democracy is just getting imbibed as a way of life by Nigerians, so if a leader will move forward the ideals of democracy, he must be able to come with a different ideology so that we can marry his own ideology with the tenets and ideals of democracy.
That is why I say that he is just a new political philosopher emerging in our own generation.
You will not tell me that things are not getting better, but I am not saying that we have gotten there, but I hold the strong view that this administration is on track and I hold this strong view based on the information available to me as a sitting senator that this government and Goodluck Jonathan means well for our country.
Goodluck Jonathan from what I know of him and my interaction with him, he is passionate about the wellbeing of Nigerians. Yes, we have overwhelming problems, but these overwhelming problems have not been able to derail the government to the point of helplessness, rather they have energised the government the more, they have repositioned the government and that explains the changes he is making now.
Like I do say, there is no president in the history of Nigeria that has been challenged like President Jonathan. Last year alone, almost a trillion naira went into providing facilities for security. Do you know what N1 trillion could have done for our nation?
So, for me, I know the challenges and obstacles the president is confronted with and we are just thanking God that with the prayers of our people, both Christians and Muslims, things are getting better for this nation…
What is getting better? Can you cite examples?
I am sure that you are aware first and foremost that we have had tremendous increase in Foreign Direct Investment into Nigeria. You will not dispute that. The greatest challenge is the power sector and I am sure that you will equally not dispute the fact that we have moved away from the terrible situation of power supply. I am not saying that we have gotten there, but we have moved away from we were.
Are you speaking from the situation in Abuja or what because people in other areas are lamenting?
I do know that in some areas that there have been improvements and not only in Abuja, and I am equally aware that recently, there was a drop in power generation due to some problems beyond them. And don’t forget that some of these things are caused by sabotage.
Would you say that the anti-corruption battle is firmer? Especially in the prosecution of Politically Exposed Persons, PEPs?
You know I am not in judiciary and when a case is in the courts it is for the judiciary to interpret, don’t push that to the executive. You have separation of powers. So it is the judiciary that you should ask the questions. It would be unfair to now criticse the executive on that because as a judge you are at liberty to interpret the law the way you know it…
So, what can you firmly say is getting better for the common man now?
Well, I will tell you this that. If you take a look at Nigeria today, you wouldn’t tell me that there have not been more openings for employment even though we still have a large army of the unemployed. But I do know that there are a lot of programmes in the pipeline that will address unemployment within the shortest possible time that this government is working on. I also do know that because of the investments that are coming in into Nigeria, people are being absorbed but we still have millions unemployed, but again we hope that when some of the projects of government come into reality, some of these people will be absorbed. But don’t forget too that some of the problems we are coping with are the same problems in every part of the world. Unemployment is not a problem limited to Nigeria.
It is everywhere in the world, people are coping with unemployment. We, once we get the power sector right which this government is more than able to achieve…because this is the first time that we have successfully carried out power reforms.
Let me equally tell you that the greatest asset of any nation is the people. When you manufacture, you can consume, but it is terrible when you cannot manufacture because you don’t have power. Now, it took a lot of courage on the part of Mr. President to drive home the power sector reforms. With the power sector reforms done now, give another few months, power will increase. Don’t forget that as at the last few weeks that government was still signing agreements with investors in the power sector. Ok.
So let us be optimistic, let us pray for our leaders, let us know that there is no leader that would want the people to suffer. Not Goodluck Jonathan that I know. This man is a man who feels for the people. I have sat down with him and I have heard him talk but these are not problems that you can resolve overnight. But the fact is that we are on track and the major problem confronting socio-economic development of our country is the power sector and despite all the obstacles and institutionalised corruption, he has been able to carry out a total reform of the power sector. Yes, we still have power shortages, but I don’t think that it is worse as it was before. If it is so, they would get it right because the reforms is to yield results.
So, I would really like you to know that this government is working, this government is focused, this government feels for the Nigerian people. We cannot be part of government and keep quiet and allow people to be dying.
We are equally getting the rail system back on track and once the rails are working, there would be less traffic on the highways and the roads will last longer.
Why is that PDP senators don’t want the 11 senators among them to defect to the APC?
Look it is a misconception to think that the Senate doesn’t want people to decamp. No, we are only saying that the convention of the Senate is that anybody that would come before the Senate on any issue must not have gone to seek judicial remedy. It is in our standing order and they know it. So, because this case is before a competent court of law, let us hear the judgment. If the case were not in court, nobody would have stopped anybody from decamping. It is a very simple thing.
Let me also tell you that in the Senate that partisan politics has no root. In the Senate it is the superior argument that carries the day on any issue. You must articulate your argument in such a manner that is superior to others that are presented for us to go with you.