… It’s time for senators to stop functioning as LGA chairmen – Adoji

By Clifford Ndujihe

Dr Victor Alewo Adoji, 51, ran for the Kogi East Senatorial seat on the platform of the African Democratic Congress, ADC, in 2019 and came third. Educated in Nigeria and abroad on various fields, the former banker, who left the Zenith Bank as head of corporate communication after two decades in the sector, in this interview, spoke on the state of the nation, the politics of Kogi, and why he is running for Kogi East senatorial seat on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, among others.

On why he did not win in 2019

In 2019, I didn’t get the ticket on the platform of the PDP, which is actually my preferred party. I had to go to another party, the ADC. It was a very successful outing but the typical Nigerian politics happened to me. I know that if I ran on the platform of the PDP at that time, it would have been a landslide victory because the PDP is a very entrenched party in Kogi East. It is actually a traditional party in Kogi East. I was not lucky to get the PDP ticket at that time but this time, I am running on the platform of the PDP, we are very hopeful of a successful outing.

In 2019, the All Progressives Congress, APC, came first, PDP came second, and I came third, within three months of bringing a new party to the platform.

If elected, what difference will you make?

What I will do differently is to ensure Kogi East produces a senator for the first time because all you have there are actually not senators. You have a senator, whose achievement is classrooms, renovating culverts, trying to seemingly revive moribund industries and all sorts. Those are typically the duties of local government chairman. You have senators, especially from my own side of the world, who function more in terms of constituency projects. The work of a Senator is to propose bills and make laws, move motions and then oversight and override the government and its agencies. For the first time in a very long time, I will be a senator, not a local government chairman under the garb of a senator.

Constituency projects form part of the dividends of democracy…

I have not said that I will not give cognizance to constituency projects, all I said is I will not upend the basic fundamental work of a senator for the work of a local government chairman. Come to think of it, the only reason there is so much focus on constituency projects is because either by omission or commission, people have usurped the work of the local government chairman. So, if we give genuine autonomy to the local governments, senators will focus on their primary responsibility. The work of a chairman is not the work of a senator and we must have a clear delineation between these two.

Why he is going to the Senate

So, my going to the Senate is because I have a good understanding of the workings of government and the knowledge that would fix our policies, our laws, and our systems. The parliament has an oversight, and override function over the executive so our burgeoning loans today people will leave the blame with the Buhari administration what about those who approved it?

If elected don’t you think being a fresh senator will affect your impact because of senior and ranking senators?

When we talk about ranking, we actually talk about personalities and the number of times you have been in the National Assembly. We should talk about ranking in terms of ideas. So, I will rank anybody higher than me whose ideas are superior to mine. The work of the Senate is to bring ideas that will basically move the country forward. If your idea is better than mine, then you have a better ranking not because you’ve been there for four, five, six, seven years.

Secondly, I am more than confident that my party, PDP, will be at the centre in 2023 because on a scale of 1-10, the APC has performed below 3, Nigerians are tired, Nigerians are sick, Nigerians are weary. To a large extent when they hear the name APC it gives them goose pimples and fever.

His advice to INEC, security agencies on 2023 polls

The 2023 elections stand on three legs. One is a referendum on whether we need to continue as a country. Second, it is a referendum on whether Nigerians can be independent in terms of the agencies – the INEC, the security and others. Third, we must make a decision that we must make progress.

INEC has no choice but to do the right thing. For the first time they should know that Nigerians own them. Professor Mahmood Yakubu has said his responsibility is to  Nigeria and to Nigerians. I hope he means it. Just like he is watching the process, Nigerians are watching him. To the security agencies, their allegiance, like they say most times is to the commander-in-chief so if they ask you to go and do something wrong, you will go ahead and do something wrong, but they should know that even the commander-in-chief, was actually put in place by some people. After all, Buhari has said go out there and vote the party you want and any person you want that he wants to stand as neutral. I hope he stands true to it.

On his assessment of governance in Nigeria and in Kogi State

The best way to assess governance, particularly in my state is to move from outcome to ownership. When you elect someone into a particular office there are expectations from that office. Are my people better today? Have they been better in both relative and absolute terms? What is happening to the state of infrastructure? What is happening to the state of deficit in my state: housing deficit, number of out-of-school children? All these have move southwards in Kogi State. So, I can say verifiably that governance has been below sub-optimal in Kogi State.

I read a report in Vanguard that we have about 133 million people living below the poverty line today in Nigeria. Now, when you look at the burgeoning debt, rate of inflation, rate of foreign currency exchange, what further assessment do you need? Forget about those high-sounding GDP figures, it is about how it directly impacts the common man, and if you look at that, this government has performed abysmally.

It is actually for them to understand the challenges in the first place. This is a government that seems to think our problems are revenue problems. Nigeria’s problem isn’t a revenue problem. $700 million dollars was returned from Abacha loot, what they said to us is that they have applied this money to those who are poor on the lower rung of the ladder, yet you have more people in poverty. It means that our problem isn’t a revenue problem.

Ours is an enterprise or innovation problem. Encourage people to be industrious, so that it is their industry that will now involve the capital that will possibly impact the economy.

It is about the wrong interpretation of the nuances in the economy. So they need to understand what the problems are.

Two, it should not matter whether you are Igbo, Igala, Hausa, Idoma or Yoruba, it should be more about your competence, I have never seen such a level of nepotism in the history of this country. It is not about who your brother or sister is. It is about can this person truly do the job?

So long as we continue to encourage foreign goods and services, money will never be retained here in the country. So when people talk about foreign direct investors coming to help us in the country, I will just give you a statistics that it is all bunkers. Of the 70 trillion dollars in management globally, only about 2 trillion dollar is involved in foreign direct investment, so most capital stays back home. Of the two trillion dollars we are talking about, out of the 196+ countries that we have, only 36 countries account for at least 73% of investment and most of them are OECD countries. So, Africa particularly is not even considered when it comes to some of these investments.

So, we need to revive our local economy, we need to look at our and our BoT, balance of payment, BoP and balance of trade, oT. What are you exporting? What are you giving to the country? We need to come back and think inwards.

We must, first and foremost, change our psychological, mental and sociological attitude because most of our economic problems are actually sociological and psychological problems. Through the instrumentality of the Ministry of Orientation, it’s time to let Nigerians know what the situation is; change in attitude will more than give us a necessary impact.

On insecurity

All that we have been addressing are actually the symptoms. In a country like Egypt, with a population of about 100 million a police force of about 500,000 but Nigeria with a population of about 212 million has a police force of less than 250,000 men. So also is the military. It means that we are not serious.

Then we should make sure our security agencies are professionals indeed. We must not treat the issues of banditry, and terrorism with kid gloves. There was a time you heard that some of those repentant “bandits” were being assimilated into the military. At what point do you regard someone as born-again bandit when you know that the reason they were bandits or terrorists in the first place is ideological mostly tied to religion? There are a lot of compromises. General Theophilus Danjuma, retd, said recently that there is collusion. For somebody who got to the highest level of the military to say that there is collusion, it is actually hard to ignore. We must find out the level of collusion.

Economic marginalization of the youths is a factor because an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Economic downturn is responsible for a large quantum of insecurity.

How Ninth National Assembly hurt war against insecurity

It’s more about what they have done, not what they have not done. What they have done is to put party above the nation. They have put party patriotism above national patriotism. If a president isn’t acting well, get him to act well because it’s their job -oversight and override.

I am old enough to have experienced the military era, and I know that whenever you have a military regime, you always have a judiciary. The actual thing missing is the parliament. So the bastion of democracy anywhere in the world is actually the parliament. Why am I going there? That is actually where laws are made, and what are laws? Laws are agreements between parties; on how we should be governed. So, if you get your laws right and you institutionalize them, you will get the country right.

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