Task of re-engineering Nigeria challenging

Senator Tayo Alasoadura is representing Ondo Central Senatorial District at the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly and the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for the seat in this Saturday’s general elections.

He spoke in this interview with a team of Editors of The Hope on his achievements so far and what he intends to do more.

Excerpts:

What are your experiences and achievements in the last three and a half years as a  Senator at the National Assembly?

It has been very challenging being a Senator especially at this particular time when Nigeria is being re-engineered, when people who have been there before find it very difficult to understand and go with the mantra of change that my party campaigned with when we were soliciting for the votes of Nigerians.

Change in the essence of people knowing what to do and do their work without expecting return from the job they  have already been paid for, stamping out corruption as much as possible in high and low places and ensuring that the little revenue the country is making is utilised on original purpose of developing the people  and also ensuring our land develops, because it is only when you develop the people and the land that you can say development has come to a particular people.

Aside from that, you know that the National Assembly is a place where you have to do a lot of lobbyling. You should know how to lobby your ways, to know how  to carry your colleagues along and to know how to plead your case. If you don’t do that,  you may not be able to attract anything to your people. You know the Senate comprises 109 lawmakers from different states. But another very important aspect of it is that your colleagues must have a lot of respect for you. One thing that stood me in good stead is that when I was working with the late governor Agagu as his Commissioner for Finance, I was also the chairman of all the Commissioners for Finance in Nigeria and the chairman of all the Commissioners for Finance in the oil producing areas of the country.  Most of my colleagues are now in the National Assembly, so it is easy for me as their former chairman to ask them for anything and to get along with them. So that robust contact with people is very important.

Also, I found out that a lot of people don’t come to politics to serve, it is just what they can grab from there.  This is the fact of the case. You cannot imagine,  there are 58 committees in the Senate and we are 109 senators. That presupposes that number of committees people should serve should be about two but in order to enrich debates and come out with well reasoned resolutions,  more than two people are required in each committee, maybe five or six.

When we started, I was very visible in the Senate despite that I was a first timer but because of the connection that I have mentioned before,  I was given six committees and I had remained with those six till date. But I know of my colleagues who had five committees at the beginning but today are serving in ten committees and why? Because of sitting allowances. How can you function effectively in ten committees?  And the work of the National Assembly is through committee not that one you see everyday at the chamber at plenary sessions and debating issues, you may be there for a whole month without talking . Some people would come and sign and say they have to rush to other committee’s meeting. They get there too and sign and rush to another, how can they be effective? They just want to fill their pockets, that was what they were doing before.  It is not new and they are finding it difficult to stick to what this administration is trying to do.

Finally, what surprises me most is how people are jumping from one party to another. If you are unfortunate not to pick the ticket of your party, you have to move and go and contest somewhere else, life is not like that. Life is not a straight line, sometimes, it goes up, sometimes it comes down. You must be resilient and be able to wait for your turn.

I could remember serving as Commissioner under late Governor Agagu, we were booted out of government after six years and I waited until the opportunity for me to serve at the Senate came, that was about seven years after.  I contested for governor under PDP, I didn’t win. I waited until I found out that the way we set up PDP had been changed completely, it was now money, money, money to the detriment of the people, so I moved to ACN. And since I got to ACN,  I know that is my last bus stop because it was ACN that became APC. Tomorrow if you hear that I’m no more in APC, you should know that I have retired from politics.

Even as a worker, I worked in the same office for 33 years, I didn’t change office. Majority like 80 or 90 percent of my colleagues while we were studying accountancy, after passing a further stage of our exams, they would start looking for a greener pasture . But I remained in that office, starting as a messenger to Article Manager, to Manager,  to Partner and at the end, I became the Chairman Managing Partner of the organization before I retired.  So that is my nature. I want to be focused, I want to contribute my quota and I want to contribute my best because a rolling stone gathers no moss.

You have been going round campaigning, what is the feeling of your people on what you have done?

Well, I’m always reluctant to answer this type of question because you are the people out there. You are the one to feel the people’s pulse. Don’t let us deceive ourselves, people want to tell you what they think you would like to hear but when you do an individual survey, you can come out with something more concrete. I believe, knowing the empirical facts that my people are happy with the little I have been able to contribute. They see me as a very active lawmaker, they see me as not one who goes there to steal but, as someone who can fight for their rights. Like I fought for our railway to come through Akure to Benin rather going through Ore straight to Benin and so many other things I have been able to do for my people. I think and believe my people are happy with me.

Three of you are the political gladiators in the state jostling for the senatorial seat at the central, what are your chances?

With all humility, I will like to note that we are more than three contesting the Senate seat. I said it, it was in the newspapers that I will trash them because your work would speak for you.

Let’s take the former governor for example, what concrete work has he done in this senatorial district that would engender the people to vote for him? Is it building of markets? During Agagu’s era, that was given to the local governments?  Is it the unpaid seven months salaries, is it his destruction of Owena Motels and giving it to a South African company to build a mall where our patrimony is? Awolowo built Premier Hotel  in Ibadan over 50 years ago and it is still there till date. Are we saying there is no land elsewhere in Akure where Shoprite could build except the destruction of Owena Motels? Is it the building of one bus stop for  N80m each that will make the people vote for him? Is it the construction of roundabout right there at Fiwasaye for over N500m that would make the people vote for him? Is it his pocketing over N500m every month as security vote for eight years and leaving the electorate despondent , that would make people vote for him? Is it his jumping from one party to the other, very unstable attitude that will make people vote for him?  Is it that he has served for 22 years without break and not allowing any other person to do anything, that will make people vote for him?

As far as I’m concerned, Saturday will tell. I believe I’m head and toes above him.

Or my brother in Idanre who was once a Senator too, the only thing I see him flaunting all over the places is about the number of people he has employed, no other concrete achievement, nothing.  I believe that people would look at what you have been able to contribute and how you can also impact more positively on their lives in future. Not only that, Nigeria is a place where you are in opposition, especially at the federal level,  you would find it difficult to attract anything to your people. My being in APC assisted me to be able to approach Mr President, the Minister of Transportation and my colleague from Lagos,  senator Ashafa who is the chairman Senate committee on Land and Transport to ensure that the railway line that was not part of what they believe Akure should have before had been redirected to Akure.

Why are these allegations against former governor Mimiko just coming up now?

Is not allegation, it is what he did. Awon Yoruba ni Oba to je, ti Ilu dara, oruko re koni pare… There is history. When I was trying to run for governor, few years ago, I reeled out all these evils that he perpetrated on radio and television. The first thing he perpetrated was that he said late governor Agagu left a debt of N178b.  And I came out then to say how can someone leave a debt for a state when that government was not owing any salary, pension, bank, contractors?

And told the whole world that Agagu’s administration through me as his Commissioner for Finance left N41.3b and up till today, he has not been able to controvert it. So it is not just the election period, I have always cried about all these things at every opportunity that I had.

The Petroleum Industry Bill has been a very important bill people are looking forward to, what is the position now at the door of the Senate?

The position of the petroleum governance bill is, first of all it stayed for 14 years at the National Assembly before I came.  And I’m a very determined person and I love my country and I believe that whatever one can do to help his country will be a legacy for or against his name in the future.

For me, I decided that I was going to succeed where others couldn’t and I want to praise the Senate president although we are no longer in the same party, for his cooperation and confidence in me.  He gave me all the support that I needed and I was able to craft the bill, with the support of the members of my committee and ensured that the bill was eventually passed into law. We did it we also asked the House of Representatives to follow suit and they did. We did all the reconciliation that we needed to do and the bill was eventually rendered to Mr President for signature but he picked three items on the bill that he said he has objection to and by now, if not because of the political. Campaigns Senators in the last one and a half months  have been crisscrossing their senatorial districts, talking to their Mr President was referred to a special legal committee that was formed to look at it and ensure reconciliation with the president.

My only worry is that time is of essence because if we don’t conclude everything about the deal, by the time the president will be sworn in again on the 29th of May, we will have to start all over again in the ninth assembly.

So one of the first thing I’m going to do when we resume is to start looking for that bill, to find out how far the committee set up on it has gone and to ensure that within two weeks of our resumption, the bill is re-rendered  to Mr President after all the reconciliation is ensured to give his assent.

There seems to be tension in the land ahead of the Saturday polls, what is your advice to politicians, INEC and other stakeholders ?

I don’t see any tension. You see, lazy men usually blame their toes. PDP is crying today that they are going to rig election,  but they have forgotten that when APC  is all over Nigeria,  right from the ward to units with so many people campaigning for the party, almost 1000 voluntary organisations apart from the contestants themselves , campaigning, PDP were there complaining about one issue or the other.

You know nobody wants to be taken for granted anymore, people want you to tell them why they should do what you are asking them to do. It was in the time past that you could just held a rally, make noise and say you are waiting to win an election. I know what I have gone through in the last two months, visiting one community to the other and everyday,  the list is getting longer. The more I do, the more the request. Because when one community hears that I have been to a community, they would want me to come there and another would want me to come too and they always bring long list of demands.

Fortunately, I’m not a politicians that would just make mouth and not fulfill promises. If I cannot do anything, no matter how they push me, I would say I can’t do it. If it is only half out of 10 requests you bring that I can manage to do, I will tell you, no matter what you say thereafter, I won’t bulge because I believe in what my leader used to tell me that Iyi Omoluabi ni . Ka soro ka ba bee . Politics is not all about lying and I will be the last person to lie under the Sun for anything either politically or in our day to day activities. A man must have a character and must follow it to the latter.

The President Buhari campaign DG at the Ondo rally said that APC in the state should close rank to win the forthcoming elections, how far has the party leadership gone with this?

First of all, I don’t believe that there is any problem in our party as to cause division. The mission is to ensure massive votes for our president and as many as possible for all our legislators . There might be little disagreement here and there but the mission remained the same but where the mission is not the same, they may be danger. In Ondo APC, there is no danger.

For Senator Boroffice and I, we are friends, we were born the same year  but not the same month. Both of us will be 70 this year and I’m happy with him and I hope he’s happy with me too.

In concrete term, how many projects have you executed in your constituency?

 I cannot give you how many specifically, that is why I have it on my handbill that states almost all the projects because by the time this was done, I still kept on working.  Now I’m about finishing a bridge in Oba- Ile and so many other things I’m doing at the same time. Today (Monday) I’m going to Adebowale ward 1 in Akure South, when I was campaigning, they specifically begged and requested for so many things.  But the only thing I promised them was that I was going to assist in sinking a borehole because water is life. And if our people can have clean water to drink, their health will improve and our economy will also improve. So,  if their health is good, then they will be able to contribute towards the progress of the society. May be before the elections, I would still have done more than what we have on the handbill.

There seems to be lack of synergy between the National Assembly and the presidency what are the factor responsible for this?

Well, I will like to correct the fact that the National Assembly generally usually have frosty relationship with the executive during the David Mark era. It was during Obasanjo because he’s a dictator, he didn’t believe in anything democratic,  he was just lucky to have been invited to come and be president during a democratic era, reaping from the fruit of the labour of late Chief Abiola. That’s what brought him there. Everybody wanted the Yorubas to be president and if you remember, no other tribe… So that was the opportunity Obasanjo had.

But, even towards the end when he now knew that his third term palava failed, there were no fostering relationships anymore. When late Yar’Adua came, there were no such, Jonathan was there, none of such. But the one we have now is because there are ways people had known how to do things but President Buhari said no, that whatever you have to do, do it. If I don’t have money for tea or coffee, if you have water,  drink it and be satisfied with it. This is what Mr President is doing and he’s also a very thorough man. Some people think that he doesn’t know his left from his right but he’s very intelligent, thorough and very focussed.

One of the reasons why I love him is his love for this country, he could do anything once he knows that it is going to bring progress to the nation, he would stand by it.  So when we have a president like this and the other people who have been having it the easy way, easy money, easy everything now find out the they have to work for everything you get, it didn’t please them,

More so, I believe taking the Senate President to CCT for so long also added to the fostering relationships. It was after looking for everything in that case might have been discontinued and then relationships could be mended but it went on and on till it got to a stage where… Like the Yoruba would say,  aa kin to kootu de wa sore.

The Senate instituted a case against the suspension of Walter Onnoghen, are you privy to why the case was withdrawn?

Of course, it has to be withdrawn because majority of us believe that Onnoghen should be treated the way he is being treated. Corruption does not know big or small man. If I’m smaller than Onnoghen in stature of protocol, if I didn’t declare… My assets, I have to be treated same way.

When they (Senate) went to court, the law says before you can go, you must have a majority of senators up to two third to take the decision but we didn’t sit. Nobody did anything, the leadership just jumped up and went to court and we knew it would fail as we were already going to file a case those of us who did not agree with what they did about 57 of us which is more than half but they needed about 70 plus to make two third,  so they quickly ran back and we went court because it would have fallen flat on its face.

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