Says govt has to sit up, we can no longer travel with peace of mind
By Henry Umoru, Assistant Politics
Former Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Senator Biodun Olujimi, represented Ekiti South Senatorial District in the 8th Senate. Being a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Caucus at the beginning of the 8th Senate, she was the deputy minority whip and later Senate Minority Leader.
She was the only female among the principal officers of the immediate past Senate. Prior to her coming to the Senate, she was a special assistant to then-governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti and later elected as a member, House of Representatives.
As the 9th Senate took off, Olujimi could not resume and be inaugurated because she was not declared the winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, she went to the Tribunal and won. Only last week, the Court of Appeal sitting in Kaduna nullified the election of Spokesman of the Senate, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, her main opponent and ordered INEC to issue her certificate of return.
In this interview, Senator Olujimi speaks on burning national issues, the Court of Appeal verdict, and her agenda in the 9th Senate among others.
You have just been declared the winner of the Ekiti South Senatorial election by the Court of Appeal, affirming the decision of the Tribunal, what does the judgement mean to you?
I see the judiciary in a different light, I see the judiciary as the last bastion for anyone of us. I see the judiciary as the only entity that can assist us in this long quest for justice and fair play and I doff my hat for those Justices that sat on the Tribunal and on the Court of Appeal. They were really fearless and did a great job of looking at all the facts, putting them through the sieves and telling us the truth about the whole exercise.
What is your message to Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, the people of Ekiti South and the entire Ekiti People?
To Senator Adeyeye, he is my brother, friend, colleague, and ally. I know how it feels when you have been in a place and you are taken out, so I know how he feels. He is a very passionate person and he is very good at what he knows how to do.
But we all submitted to democracy and democratic tenets and when you are not convinced, you need to probe it further and get results. He should take the defeat as a sacrifice for our democracy and I hope that we can work together to deliver the goods to the people.
What is important is our commitment to our people and our zeal with which we want them to benefit from this great entity called Nigeria, he should not relent in that, he should join hands with me so that we can do our best for our people knowing full well that the future beckons and I wish him well as he moves on.
To the people of Ekiti South, I just want to thank them and say be yourselves, be good, I will not disappoint you. I have not been known to disappoint and I will not disappoint now. I will do my best to ensure that whatever they deserve gets to them.
As you are coming now into the 9th Senate, what exactly are you going to concentrate on that you could not accomplish in the 8th Senate?
In the 8th Senate, I did my best for my people but I found out that my best was not good enough so I am going to concentrate on giving them the dividends of democracy while we do Nigeria a good deal of putting in place good laws that will stand the test of time.
Of course the Gender Equality, GEO bill that we left undone, we will pick it up again and see how we can leave a legacy, a legacy of hope of 51% of the society, a legacy that will ensure that, that particular sector is properly taken care of and that there is a future for the girl-child and there will be no violence against them at any point.
Also, we will be able to look at all the laws, because of the Tribunal I was able to see our transportation sector in another light especially the railway system, we must be able to devise a system. It is not rocket science, it is something that is done elsewhere whereby everybody, VIP and the ordinary people can walk in, get a ticket, ride properly.
We need to sanitise the transport system, we need to ensure that people can move from point A to point B without the serious hassle and I believe this will be part of the things I will do. In education, I want to pursue my College of Education bill and once again because that is the bedrock of our development in my state. My state is a state where education is their main stain, so anything that would have to do with education, I will pursue it to a logical conclusion.
I will also look at some Agric laws; we need to be able to sustain ourselves where food is consumed, there has to be food security. Right now we are not doing a great job, we are doing well in certain sectors, but we have abandoned the other sectors.
In my place, it is traditionally a cocoa producing area but there is no cocoa any longer, there is no kola nut, all those cash crops that the people thrived on and through which they sent us to school are no longer available. We must bring them back and that is the only way the ordinary man can also put his hands in development.
In the area of health, we need to look at laws that can allow the poor to access basic health care. I am talking about important ones, we must look at NHIS, we must ensure that NHIS works, we must ensure that doctors are available to treat small ailments like malaria, common cold, those little ailments that constitute a major menace in our health sector, then we can now be able to move on and do bigger things.
But if you have malaria killing children and adults, then we are not yet where we should be and this is among other issues that will come up. I know that there must be a legislative agenda in the Senate, I will look at it and see where I can key in to be able to bring the best to the people of my constituency.
In the Senate you are the only PDP Senator from your state, what synergy are you going to put in place to ensure that you are on the same page with other senators, your governor and the state?
I am an Ekiti woman and I believe in that entity called Ekiti and I also believe that God gives power to whom He pleases. I am going to work with everybody to bring the dividends of democracy to the people of Ekiti, and that has nothing to do with party politics.
I will support whatever the government needs within the system so that my people can enjoy. It is not about me, it is about the people, it is about Ekiti. Maybe you don’t know, we are homogenous and there is this flow that nobody can break and so we are going to have to work together to ensure that we deliver. You won’t see a gap because I am a team player. We will work with the government to ensure that dividends of democracy get to the people.
How have you been watching the 9th Senate? What is your assessment so far of the Ahmad Lawan-led Senate?
Let the truth be told, I have concentrated on my issues, the Tribunal, putting my business back on track for any eventuality and so I have not been attentive. It is painful when you leave a place, a place that you love knowing full well that you should be there, but you are not there and you are fighting tooth and nail to get back, watching them gives you serious grief and so I decided until this was over, I will not go close and I have not but from yesterday (day of appeal court ruling) I started watching again.
How would you assess the present government especially when you look at it from the point of view of Mr President assenting to a bill outside the shores of Nigeria?
Well, it is a new trend and they say change is inevitable but I don’t know if that is the kind of change that we really require at this point in time.
I have not read through the bill, I don’t know how important it is except it is of such grave importance to warrant taking it there, Mr President would be back in no distant future, he should have come back and signed it into law. Except it was time-bound and it was so important that lives would be lost, I don’t think that bill deserves any such treatment.
For me what is most important now is the insecurity in this country. I am a road trucker, I travel by road because it is easier for me, I feel more confident on the road. Now you no longer can travel, you are so afraid to move from your home to the next point.
The other time someone was abducted at a supermarket. It has never been so bad. We need to be up and doing, this government needs to sit up where insecurity is concerned.
The security of lives and property is what is key to peace and for us to be able to achieve the set goals, we need to have peace and security but with what is on the ground that is elusive.
What is your take on the closure of the borders?
It is great pain and my only hope is that at the end of it all we would be able to achieve our goals. For me, I don’t know what the goals are. I understand that some ammunition and rice have been seized, but will that be tantamount to the loss that we will incur at that particular time and the treaties we will violate and the economic progress that will retrogress? Those are the questions on my mind.
But you see as I told you, I need to now bring myself at par with what is happening for me to be able to comment effectively. I need to know the goals, I need to know the vision of the people, who decided it, I need to know what we have been able to achieve and I need to know our forecast.
But right now, someone was talking about China closing its doors; yes China could afford to close its doors in those days, if China does that now that would be the end of China because China can only thrive on cross border, cross country businesses and enterprises. You cannot buy and at the same time sell everything that you want.
And then China was deliberate, they decided that they were going to develop their infrastructure and they did, but I cannot see us doing that, I just see us closing the borders because of rice. What is wrong in putting diligent people, in employing ICT to ensure that the borders are safe and only those things that we expect come in? There is nothing wrong in that.
In fact, for me, it shows that we were not capable of policing our borders because if we were, what should not come in will not come in. We travel abroad, we carry things abroad, I was stopped at the border and things were taken and thrown away in the bin, goods are destroyed when they don’t meet the standard and when they are expired they are thrown in the bin, they are even penalized for it. Why can’t we do that rather than shut down the doors and lock up the doors? The locking up shows that there is an amount or a level of incompetence among us which should not be.
The governorship election of Kogi and Bayelsa is coming, what is your message to INEC?
We have been watching INEC closely, the last elections were not the best. I read a report today whereby 14 House of Representative seats have been retrieved from one party, that is a sad commentary on the ability of INEC to hold a free and fair election, that should not happen in Kogi and Bayelsa elections.
They must showcase their skills for once because these are isolated elections; people must know when they lose elections that this election has been lost fairly and if that happens, we won’t have this long litigation where we are in court for months running helter-skelter, getting documents for some simple election; an election that you didn’t have to take a document for, you now go through litigation looking for this and that document.
If INEC can sit up, hold a free and fair election for people to see because a blind man can tell when he is working in the sun; we all know when an election has been 80% to 85% free and fair; that is all we are asking and that should be made to happen in Kogi and Bayelsa elections to be able to make us forget the ills of the last elections.
I believe that they have seen that something is very wrong and I hope that when we do an evaluation, we will be able to say INEC really did their best.