As the nation celebrates it’s 63rd independence, Spokesman of the Senate and chairman Senate committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Yemi Adaramodu has said that lack of absolute Patriotism is responsible for the nation’s present economic and political woes.
In this interaction with Our Assistant Politics Editor, IGNATIUS OKOROCHA, Senator Adaramodu speaks on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s policies and plans by the 10th Senate to critically review the pitfalls that were inherent in the Electoral Act.
Nigeria is 63 years into her political independence. However, most Nigerians are of the view that there is not much on ground for the country to show and celebrate. What’s your take on this?
Well, in my own view, even though any person who is 63, either a man or a woman; even an association that is 63 years cannot be perfect, cannot be infallible. And I always like to celebrate the successes of a baby rather than the failures of a baby.
Yes, Nigeria is 63, and we have also done one or two things that we as patriotic citizens must be proud of. There are some gaps in some areas. Even in human life, we keep learning, we keep improving and we keep doing things to correct any kind of noticeable anomalies. So, for me, we are here today as Nigeria and Nigerians. I can say that gaining freedom is the greatest achievement that any human being can treasure.
If we were still under the imperialists, who were our colonial masters that time, we would know the value of freedom much better. We are not praying that we should lose our freedom because when you are free, you are able to think freely, you are able to do things freely. And when there are gaps, when you act freely, you can correct them and do what is necessary to ensure that there is no fall to pitfalls. Therefore, I can say, so far, so fair in Nigeria.
When we got independence 63 years ago, yes we had very lofty ideas and ideals of nationhood as enunciated by our fathers in the freedom fight to give Nigeria this kind of independent lee way. Yes, like the first Anthem; though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand. And you know when tongues and tribes differ, even in that brotherhood, there will be times discordant tunes meet.
When you have a goal that you are pursuing, whatever discordant tunes you have or profess will always meet at the point of agreement where you have result and value for our nationhood, so far we don’t join the chorus of those who are saying that we have not done this, we have not done that.
All other countries all over the world, have their own challenges: be it economy, be it security, be it socio-political. And the world is now a global village; we thank God that we are not experiencing natural disasters.
We thank God that we Nigerians value our nationhood; we value our independence and we value our freedom. The only thing we need to put in is that kind of sense of absolute patriotism, because I always say it, even if you japa, you will “japada” because where you have “japaed” to, they won’t see you as one of them. Whether you like it or not, you are second class. Then when you japada, you become the father of the whole nation by yourself. Also, what I want to say is that those of us who are alive today, we are thanking God for making Nigeria to be alive. And our prayer is that those of us who found ourselves in positions of leadership can reflect and look back at what was not done, and all of us are not saying that we have gotten to the el dorado.
What we should be saying is what do we do to attain a near egalitarian society?
I think that is what we should be concerned with now.
Do you mean that Nigerians should shut their mouth and keep suffering in silence?
We have freedom of speech but what I am saying is that we should not be condemning our nation. We should not look at leadership as a loathsome affair that we should leave for those who are not doing well in the society. I always say it that followership is what determines the quality of leadership. I mean the followership that is asking for accountability; followership that is asking questions, followership that will reward leadership by their actions and reactions. Like we all know, even in the social palace, everything in life is garbage in garbage out.
So, the follower will become the leader. The character you carry as a follower is the character you are going to exhibit when you become a leader. That is why I am recommending to Nigerians that as followers, let us take Nigeria as our own that we have to work for together and we have to pray for together, and ensure that we contribute our own quota in our own little way.
Our quota can be just to be a decent citizen; our own quota can be not to engage in cultism, our own quota can be not to engage in drug addiction; our own quota can be not to engage in corruption. Once I do that and you do your own, definitely we will have a sane society. If we do this, anybody who wants to go the other way will be alone. And if you want to act alone and there is no chorus behind you, definitely you are not likely to commit that type of crime against our nation.
So, I will on behalf of the Nigerian Senate, congratulate Nigerians for attaining 63 years of independence; congratulate Nigerians for being patriotic to hold the flags of that independence l love. We are still flying the flags and everywhere we go, all over the world and you say you are from Nigeria, especially in Africa, we are still the giant of Africa.
We still remain the biggest economic market in Africa. We still remain that sought after friend and bride of the Western world and even the Eastern world. In Africa, we still remain the voice that when it roars, other African countries will listen. We still remain that representative of Africa that the Western world and Eastern world will listen to.
So, when we have all those things, then we have some things to celebrate. We are not at the el dorado, yes; we have not reached the peak, yes, we are still struggling in some affairs, yes but I have always been saying it that by the time we get our leadership issues more correctly, definitely, the rest shall be added.
Nigerians have been passing through serious hardship since the advent of this administration. How can reprieve come and how soon?
The present leadership in Nigeria has started very well. They have taken the bulls by the horns. And you know that anybody that is taking the bulls by the horns, it is usually very stormy because the bulls will not like to be taken just like that.
Then, whoever that is taking the bulls by the horns must be very stoic; must be very strong, must be very determined and must be very intelligent, so as to know how to properly hold the bull so that it will not stamp on him for a kill. The steps taken by this government in three months are also commendable.
We have reiterated in the 10th National Assembly, especially the Senate, that we are going to cooperate with all the other arms of government: the Executive and the Judiciary. We are going to make laws that will enhance the living standards of Nigerians; laws that can bring us out of this economic morass and all the social apocalypse. That is what we have promised Nigerians and that is what we are pursuing. And by the grace of God, Nigeria will be greater, Nigeria will go up.
We will celebrate 73, celebrate 83, celebrate 93, celebrate 103 and we will continue to celebrate in Nigeria. And I know that from next year, our story is going to change for better. Our story will be a story of once upon a time, we had it rough and we are now having it fine. Like I said, with the cooperation of Nigerians and all of us, especially the youths, I know that Nigeria is heading for greatness.
You mentioned that leaders and the led must be patriotic. Does our present attitude reflect patriotism in practice. The present leadership in the Senate in which you are it’s spokesman, how do you ensure that patriotism is inculcated in the lives of lawmakers in particular and Nigerians in general?
Yes, let me take it from the reverse; Patriotism, what can the leaders do to ignite the fire and inculcate it in the citizenry? All of us need reorientation. First we need to know that we can only have one place of birth. Even if you have dual citizenship, you should know which one is superior to the other. There is no where you can rate the two citizenship equal. Each of us must confess our practice of patriotism by asking these pertinent questions.
Have we done well to our country? Have we projected our country well? Have I done my own part either as a leader or as a follower? We have to sincerely ask these questions. For example, you are a taxi driver, you are supposed to carry two passages but you are carrying six because you want to maximize profit. Again look at our attitude to observing the traffic lights. How many of our motorists obey the traffic regulations? Is it only the leaders? I think all of us have questions to answer on patriotism.
So, it is not only the leaders. Now all these characters that I have mentioned will one day graduate to be leaders. So, what kind of leaders are we expecting them to be or exhibit. So, we have to examine ourselves and ask questions from ourselves and provide answers to them. All of us need to be sincere to ourselves.
Secondly, going forward, the issue of schools, today those people that are running schools for instance, the most qualified teachers are in the public schools. Why would a teacher insist on taking his or her child to private school where they don’t have as qualified teachers as in the public schools? So, this is why I said, as leaders and followers we need to reorientate ourselves on the task of patriotism.
The question is why would you withdraw your child from a public school to a private school, does it mean that we don’t have qualified teachers in the public schools? This is not about the leadership alone because at times when the followers are very upright and they are asking for accountability, the leaders will sit tight. If you get to your constituency or you get to your State, you have not done anything and when it comes to election and you come with whatever and people say no, politicians will sit tight, but when politicians will tar roads and you say they have not tarred your stomach.
So, where are we going from here? Is it about leadership, so that is why I said all of us, we have questions to answer and once we answer those questions dispassionately, then Nigeria from the ideals and ideas of our founding fathers, that is to say we are still leaving with their ideals and ideas.
It is only then that we can identify our differences and agree that we are together.
We have experienced turbulence in the flight to a good distinction and we have never even when it was obvious that we would go down through a war, we got over it as if nothing happened. Unless you tell the story to some of our children today, they didn’t know. Unless some of us are using those stories as lies to gain advantages, nobody knew anymore. So, we are inter-religious. Before now we were so much united, glued together so much so that a Muslim can comfortably marry a Christian unless someone wants to use it as gimmick to gain advantage and surprisingly nobody will bother.
So, we believe that if nationhood will work, Nigerians will easily get over challenges and we have been getting over challenges easily and freely even when we thought that we have gotten to the limit that we can’t be dragged further, we still recovered and whatever hiccup either political or economic or social, like we might be experiencing today, we will get over it.
There are fears that Nigerians may have problems in subsequent elections in this country because of the weaknesses inherent or inflicted on the 2022 Electoral Act, which was the anchor for the 2023 general elections. Is the 10th Senate going to effect any major amendment on the document for future elections?
Well, a law is a living thing. It is not static and it is not an abstract. So, no law is absolute to amendment. So, anywhere we notice that there is bottleneck or that there is any problem, that one will be dealt with, but so far, the 2022 Electoral Act is a very great improvement over the previous Electoral Acts that we have been having.
For the first time, if you disrupt election anywhere, the votes will not count. They will redo it. For the first time, we have electronic device for accreditation because accreditation is the fulcrum of any election. When you get your accreditation well, that is when you can determine how many votes anybody can have. But it is easy for whoever to criticise that the framework of the laws and the statute under which he contested is not working well if he has lost an election. But it is unfortunate to speak with both sides of the mouth.
Somebody went to court and said, Shettima, you are not supposed to contest, you are not supposed to be the Vice President because you did not qualify. And the court said, look, you are a busybody; you cannot come up with that because that is not your party. Then the same person they took him to court too, and said you are not supposed to be a member of this party because you are supposed to be there 30 days before you are nominated, which is eminently there.
Then the same court said, you that are bringing this thing, you are an interloper because you are not a member of the party. Can you juxtapose the two and see the hypocrisy of some politicians. Is this the problem of Electoral Act? The answer is no; it is the problem of our character. In a ruling in Osun, they said look, if there is no BVAS report and no accreditation record, and that there was over voting and that you cannot bring it to court.
In another day, when it became Tinubu’s matter, they say bring your accreditation record. They said, if you cannot bring it heaven will fall. Is that the Electoral Act? It is our own act; imaginary act, selfish act. So, even if we do the best Electoral Act and our own act is not regulated, we will keep behaving that way, we will keep talking the way we talk and blame institutions, whereas we are the cause of our own problems.
So, for the first time, you cannot load ballot boxes anymore. For the first time, you cannot just go and pick ballot box and start running and write any figure you like. If you do that, you are on your own. Once BVAS is electronic, it is inside there; it is in the cloud, it is in the device. So, if that one cannot cover you, you are on your own.
So, if there is any problem anywhere in the Electoral Act and anybody or civil society brings it for amendment, the National Assembly will do justice to it. We have Committee on INEC and then the Ad-hoc Committee on the Constitution Review, headed by the Deputy President of the Senate. So, we will do justice.