Time for stories in politics are over – Senator Wadada

Senator Aliyu Ahmed Wadada (SDP), representing Nasarawa West at the Senate, in this interview with AHMID LAWAL in Keffi, speaks on how NASS supports President Bola Tinubu to address the challenges confronting the nation, his representation at the Upper Chamber, his governorship aspiration and sundry issues. 

Nigeria is in a state of flux so to say, especially, since after the removal of fuel subsidy. What is the National Assembly, specifically, the Senate doing to mitigate the hardship being experienced by Nigerians?

The National Assembly, particularly, the Senate has been open and available to everything and anything that the President requires the it and not only what he requires but what is perceived, understood by the Senate to be of value addition to the citizenry. You saw how prompt we were screening and approving his ministerial nominees. You saw how prompt we were to pass the supplementary budget, as well as the 2024 appropriation bill passed into law. Although that came with some shortcomings from the entire National Assembly, it was all borne out of our desire to see that Nigeria crosses the hurdles before it. Coming from where we are coming from, there is no hiding the fact that the government of Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu met a messy polity, a messy economy or a messy polity in all ramifications. If you are confronted with such a situation, you must try to strike a balance. In some cases, if bending the rules will give the desired and the needed results, we go ahead to do it so long as the law is not broken. All his requests have been attended to by the Senate and in fact, the entire National Assembly. Talking for myself as a senator, I did not think and I still don’t think that we did all those as compromises, but to enable him stabilise. After stabilisation, then the real course of events will have to be adhered to. I am not saying we are off the rules, or the extant laws of the land. But I did say in one of my outings that whatever we see, whatever I see as a senator that will add either the needed or required value or will alleviate the sufferings of my constituents, and by extension, the citizenry, I will do it, we would do it regardless of the name they will choose to give us. The three arms of government are not there to be confrontational to one another, it’s supposed to be a mutual, cordial and respectful relationship for the betterment of the citizens. Permit me to say that really and truly, a whole lot have got to be done. Nigerians are really having a hard time. What is ideally supposed to be obtained or what obtains on a normal day, when the fiscal policy is tight, the monetary policy should be loose. So that whatever the citizenry loses as a result of the tightness of the fiscal policy, then they gain it. So when taxes, levies, royalties and what have you are high, then interest rates and exchange rates should all be low. But unfortunately, it’s not what obtains. But they have got to be the way they are in the interim. Otherwise this administration would not be able to fix a lot of things. You know, I know. So many things were wrong and are still wrong  but measures are being taken to better the situation.

Coming back to your representation at the senate in the past one year, how has the representation been?

I shouldn’t really speak for myself but Chinua Achebe of blessed memory said, a lizard that falls from an iroko tree if nobody praises it, it will praise itself.  I am a politician. This should be answered for and on my behalf by my constituents. But, first and foremost, I am not a seat warmer in the Senate. My voice is heard. Which is a very positive signal to representation. I chaired one of the most important committees, constitutionally mentioned, Public Accounts, and to my constituents so far, I have gotten employment for over 35 individuals from my constituency. I have sponsored three bills that have all passed, one has passed second reading and now awaiting public hearing on seeking to establish College of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences in Umaisha, Toto Local Government Area of Nasarawa state.  My other bill is seeking to amend the Audit Service Bill. Having been saddled with the responsibility of chairing the public accounts, I have seen certain things that the law should take care of. I have moved a motion on FCT. Recently, you witnessed my third empowerment programme. There are ongoing projects around the senatorial district, sinking boreholes, building classroom blocks. I have sponsored or paid for SSCE for students of less privileged parents about 770 of them. A whole lot, I don’t have the record. But I can walk with my head up, by the grace of God.

How did you arrive at organising such a gargantuan event like your third empowerment programme?

Representation is not for timid and myopic minded people. Particularly, representation as a legislator. Legislators, all over the world, are supposed to be dynamic and pragmatic, open, accessible and available. Then you walk the talk. What you have seen that day all came under constituency projects. Not up to 20 or 30 per cent of what you saw came from my pocket actually. Actually, to take care of logistics and what have you. But as constituency project.  How did I get them? That is where the contemporariness, dynamism and openness, availability and accessibility and walking the talk matter. These constituency projects, I was the first elected representative from Nasarawa state to produce a scorecard. I had my scorecard of 2003 to 2007 and 2007 to 2011. And in the scorecards, I separated projects attracted under constituency projects and projects that I sponsored from my pocket. Because you should be able to do one, two, three, four, five, things from your pocket as well because I am richer than what I was before going to the Senate. How am I richer? Richer not because I have money here and there, stashed in any bank.  No. I am richer because now much more people would listen to me. I have the authority to assert. Without compromising my honour and integrity, I should be able to use that authority for mutual and cordial relationships to attract what I can attract to and for my people. This is just the beginning. Meanwhile, there are so many things going on. So many things had happened, so many things are going on that are being sponsored by me, coming from my pocket. What you have seen was borne out of concern, because you really have to have the concern of the people at heart. From take-off, what are your motivations to want to represent the people? You want to represent the people so that you only make life better for yourself, your family members, your cronies? Or you want to represent the people to add value to the system, where value is needed or required? Or you are just in politics to just make a name? I am beyond all those, with due humility.  In fact, I am the only Wadada in Nigeria. If you hear any Wadada, it’s from my family. That’s one. That has made my name unique. In fact, the decision for me to contest election at the time I contested for the first time, was taken by my friends. I wasn’t even in the country. One of them is here. They sat down and said, come on, as a generation, people of the same generation, we have contributed enough, we have supported enough, one of us should. And at that time, they found me much more worthy not because I was better than every other person at that time but because the risk was going to be low. I was not working for government. I was a private sector person. They said, well to reduce the risk, let Wadada go. If he loses, he is not losing any job. But if any of us has to leave his job and then there is no certainty.  We have always shared what we could to the people. Our records are here. I am a native, a caring native. I have been in the centre of happenings around and about the development of my community. I was a social director twice of Keffi Students Union, when students’ unionism was students’ unionism. We started contributing our quota to the development of our community from there. Now that the space is getting much wider, the resources are much more, you can see where the programme was held – the polo ranch put up by me to bring development to my people, bring civilization to my people. I brought civilization to Nasarawa state by establishing that place. International tournaments hold there. I am doing this to open my community to the rest of the world. So, if your motivations are borne out of concerns for your people, why not. You will find a way to do it. More shall come by Allah’s grace.

You spoke about the establishment of a school of fishery in Umaisha. What is the motivation behind this?

The motivation is that there have been. I guess you guys know more than I do that there have been efforts by government before now and also this government to diversify our economy.  Diversifying the economy, the quick wins are in solid minerals and agriculture. Particularly agriculture.  And I realized that most of our farmers, or most citizens that are engaged in agricultural activities lack the required education for then to be able to fully turn around the fortunes of agriculture in Nigeria.  And you know, in every human endeavor, the first most important thing is education. Without education you would not be able to certainly have the best of whatever you are into regardless of the potentials your community, your society, your country, your state has in that sector. Having known that Umaisha possess all the potentials, most people don’t know that the Ogani Fishing Festival that used to hold years back in Umaisha was before Argungu Fishing Festival.  Ogani was started before Argungu Fishing Festival.  I feel if an institution like that is established, it would train our teeming citizens on fishery business.  Fish breeding, fish management, and fish business.  If that need level of education is given, there are small pockets of farmers within our communities that are into fishery but they do it in very archaic and yesteryears ways. But with the institution there, education, enlightenment, everything contemporarily around and about fishery and aquatic science would be known. And the water is there for practical engagements for the students. And employment would be provided. Socioeconomic well-being of the people would be improved. Knowledge of even the community. Quite a number of my colleagues must have heard Umaisha for the first time maybe, especially those that are not of Northern extraction. But now Umaisha is being put on the map of the senate. In a nutshell, what informed and still informs my sponsoring that bill is effective and purposeful representation.

Let’s come back to the home front.  You have not hesitated to make known your intentions to contest for the governorship election come 2027. Are you bothered that already, your shadow is casting fears in the minds of some politicians nursing similar ambition with you?

But I don’t know. There is nothing to be afraid of. It’s a contest. And there is no hanky-panky about mine.  I have said it by the grace of God I am going to run come 2027, all things being equal. Maybe they are afraid because it is Wadada. Some of them may be doing it for the first time. But you know I am not doing it for the first time. What you are doing for the first time, you are likely to be apprehensive.  But there is nothing to apprehensive or afraid about, nor to be dogmatic to the extent of. It’s a contest.  I am happy that the theme of my political activities, I mean the citizenry in Nigeria, I will go beyond my senatorial district, state in this case. I think the citizens are in synch now with the theme of my political activities.  You know what it is? Electorate enlightenment. That is the theme of my political activities.  Wherever I go on campaigns, 60, 70 percent of what I tell electorate is to educate and enlighten them. An enlightened person, particularly because greater percentage are illiterates, they are not educated but they can be enlightened.  How many of our rural dwellers who use mobile phones have gone to school? But enlightenment has made them to use it. We have seen clearly in the last election, that an average electorate in Nigeria is enlightened now. They know the difference between political parties and candidates.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been in the senate. I wouldn’t have been in the senate. We brought SDP in this state four months to the election. We have two senators, two members of House of Representatives and three state assembly members of SDP extraction.  Four months to the election. Because of what? Because the Northern zone felt, enjoyed and celebrated the representation of Senator Akwashiki in the 9th senate.  So, they didn’t have difficulty renewing his mandate. They were not looking at the party but looking at the person.  For me here, I represented my federal constituency at the House of Representatives the records are there. And it wasn’t that I kept distance from them.  Because I was not holding their mandate. No. The polo ranch I mentioned became fully operational after I left the House of Representatives.  I maintained my relationships, good or bad. We quarrel but the next hour we continue. When the times comes, it’s for us to go to the people and tell them why they should give, each and every one of us will tell the people why they should vote us, why they should vote Wadada. Because I have these records. And whatever you are going to say to the people should be visible, measurable and quantifiable.  The times of story are over in politics. You will be asked. I am not saying that there is anybody aspiring for this that has nothing to say. But the people will weigh what you have said, what she has said, what Wadada has said, what Timothy has said or what Adebayo says and then they make decisions.  And we are all in it together.  You get it, you get it. You don’t get it, put your pieces together and join the wagon.

You seem to be very close to the president who is in APC and you are in SDP. You led a powerful block here in SDP producing two senators, two House of Representatives members and three house of assembly members. Are you look at building the SDP to make it a formidable platform  that you can run for the governorship?

SDP has always been a formidable party. Don’t forget, of course my friend and brother, MKO Abiola contested under the PRP. That is the only political party that is older than SDP. SDP is older than PDP. SDP is older than, of course if it’s older than PDP, then APC is a grandchild. It has always been a formidable party. The President went to the senate under SDP.  The controversial June 12 was SDP.  SDP is there. We are in it. We will always do what we can to solidify SDP, without losing sight of dynamism of life. Yesterday was PDP for us. Whatever it is for us, today we are in SDP.  And we owe the SDP the responsibility to develop it beyond the level we got it. And like I told you, if I am running for the governorship of Nasarawa State, I don’t think people will be voting me because of my party. They will be voting me because I am Wadada. If it was the party, they wouldn’t have voted me in my senatorial district to represent because APC is much more visible and acceptable before the contest. But because the contest came and it is Wadada and other people that contested under the party. God blessed the movement and we are where we are.