Alhaji Tajudeen Adeyemi Adefisoye is about the youngest and only Social Democratic Party, SDP, member-elect in the soon to be inaugurated 9th House of Representatives. In this interview, Small Alhaji, as Adefisoye is fondly called, speaks on the tussle for the next Speaker of the House, what he intends to achieve in the lower legislative chamber and other burning national issues.
You are the only SDP Rep-elect and likely the youngest member in the yet to be inaugurated 9th National Assembly. Does this place any burden on you?
Of course. The responsibility is enormous. People expect me to behave in certain ways. However, the truth is that I’m a role model now. I’m a symbol of every Nigerian youth who desires positive change in this country and aspires to be the driver of the expected change. I won on the platform of SDP that is assumed not to be popular and has no entrenched political structure like the APC, the PDP and other established political parties. Even though it is expected to be an alternative party in the nearest future.
My emergence serves as a beacon of hope to other young leaders that they can also win elections with determination, hard work and perseverance. My constituents believe in my capacity to deliver and that’s why they voted massively for me. As a matter of fact, my greatest burden right now is to ensure I don’t fail the trust and hope of my constituents and millions of Nigerian youths that I represent. I am determined to provide exemplary representation as well as distinctive leadership model for youths on how best to pilot their affairs. I must also confess that the expectation back home is high and I must not disappoint them.
What’s your position on the tussle for next Speaker of the House?
My stand is to be on the side of the people. My position is clear. I represent a new order, a new generation of leaders; so I wouldn’t support a rubber stamp Speaker. However, it is no longer news that I’m from the South-West and I have a moral obligation to my people back home to support one of us provided it is in tandem with my personal beliefs and philosophy of providing quality leadership. Meanwhile, in a broader sense, we all belong to one Nigeria and tribal sentiment shouldn’t be a major yardstick for decision-making. Patriotism should be key in the issue of the next Speaker of the House. To sum it up, therefore, the most qualified candidates, irrespective of where he or she may come from, will get my support and vote. However, you can be sure that any candidate that has the support of our circle of influence will definitely become the Speaker of the 9th House.
What do you intend to do different in the House to impact the lives of your constituents?
My plan is to reinvent the business of legislation with patriotic zeal. I hope to do many things differently. My emergence is unprecedented, so you can be sure that we will be different. I’m saying we, because I don’t speak for myself alone. I actually represent over one million people of Idanre/Ifedore federal constituency of Ondo State. I’m their voice and ear as far as the lower legislative chamber is concerned. So whatever I say is their decision and not mine. I implore Nigerians to watch out for Small Alhaji in the House as innovation will be brought to legislative business. We also intend to redefine legislation and come up with well thought out and carefully drafted bills and inventive programmes that will give Nigerians a new lease of life.
Youth unemployment is now an issue that deserves urgent national attention, how do you think this can be addressed?
The issue has already become a menace that must be addressed as soon as possible. Truth and reality of this matter is that we are all sitting on a keg of gun powder that could explode any time. As at today, the youths constitute not less than 60% of our overall population in this nation and I can say with an air of certainty that close to 70% of the youths are not gainfully employed. That said, a lot of things can be done to reduce youth unemployment through agriculture. We simply need to make it attractive and rewarding to the youths by going for complete mechanized farming and create effective marketing opportunities of produce within and outside of the country. Attention should also be focused on how to create jobs and wealth from the abundance of natural resources that are lying fallow in the country. For example, in Ondo State where I come from, we have large deposit of untapped bitumen, limestone, glass sand, forest reserves, cocoa and other resources that can create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The government needs to walk the talk of job creation. We need to act and act very fast.
What’s your expectation from President Buhari in his second term?
My expectation is not any different from that of my people back home and Nigerians at large. We expect the president to rise above blame game and accept responsibility. Election is over and propaganda has to stop. Now is the time to deliver dividends of democracy to our people. He should be more serious and decisive in the issue of insecurity. Nigerians expect improved economy and safety of their lives and properties going forward. International community should no longer see Nigeria as an unsafe nation; that’s not good for our image.
This unimpressive perception will also not allow Foreign Direct Investment into country. Investors must be encouraged to come into the country for the economy to thrive and create employment opportunities. The president is expected to place premium attention on security, just as improvement in power, good roads, health and education also form important expectations of the people in his second term. He has to work and work fast.