Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, is representing Nasarawa Central Senatorial District. He tells LEKE BAIYEWU about his life as a 71-year-old lawmaker
For how long have you been in the National Assembly?
I am a second-term senator. I joined the Senate in 2011. I contested again in 2015 and got re-elected. During my first tenure, I served as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals and now I am serving as Chairman of the Senate Committee o Agriculture.
How would you describe your experience in the National Assembly?
I had never really been a legislator in the simplest term but I had the opportunity to serve in national political and constitutional programmes in the past. In terms of routinely being a legislator, as a calling, this is my first experience. I was chairman of one of the Category A boards of the Federal Government, which is under the Executive. Then, I was a Minister of State for Works between 1994 and 1998; and Governor of Nasarawa State between 1999 and 2007. I served as Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the ‘original’ Peoples Democratic Party.
What are the major differences you have experienced between Executive and Legislature?
There are certain things you do in the executive that may not be acceptable to the legislature and vice versa. You will always find a way through dialogue and consensus building. Unlike when you become a legislator, the kind of ‘power’ that you have as a chief executive of a state or a nation makes every buck to stop on your table. Whatever happens in government, whether it is in the legislature or in the judiciary, they are happening under your watch as the chief executive of the state or nation.
Before you crossed from the executive to legislature, did you have any perception about the National Assembly that has changed since you became a member?
Honestly, I had a fair understanding of the functions of the two arms of government. I was not in any point having any dilemma whatsoever on the two. I did not experience any shock from crossing from the executive to the legislature. The only thing is that it is now a new responsibility; it is a new world, so to say. The buck, this time, does not stop on my table. Nobody will say ‘this is happening under your watch’ as they would do when I was in the executive. I don’t implement the budget; all I do (now) is to oversee the implementation of the budget. I don’t award contracts of any size. All I do is to oversee contracts and see whether they have been awarded properly and whether due process has been followed.
How would you describe the workload as a member of the National Assembly compared to being governor of a state?
I do believe that every senator works hard. You have to do research. You have to be up and doing on the floor of the chamber. The problem we have is that the parliament is the first estate of the realm. In the so-called developed economies of the world – America, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada and the likes – as a senator, you will have a horde of assistants. I don’t think I will have less than 18, each of them specialising in different aspects and subjects of governance. The idea is that once a bill comes, either I initiate it or anybody else initiates it, I make adequate preparations to be able to partake in the discussions on it on the floor of the chamber. Here, I have one, maybe two; and it was when I chose to split the office of one that I now have two. And often, they are not specialists; none of them is specialised in any aspect of what I am supposed to do. If anything comes on health, my special assistant does not know anything about health to make me contribute on the floor of the chamber. If you are talking about defence, he does not know anything about defence for him to make any contribution in terms of preparing me. And I can be into any subject matter for legislation. The material we have here is not good enough. So, if a senator says the workload is heavy, I believe so.
But it is not for one to start telling the world that one works hard. That is what I bargained for and that is what I do, in the Nigerian context. I do know that we are working in very trying conditions. For instance, with the state of transportation and communication, if I want to go for an oversight function in Ibadan now, how do I do it? I will drive my car or go by air. If you take a senator in America, he or she does not have to. You can be in your house and take part in a debate. You can be in London and still take part in a debate. A senator from America can do that but you cannot do it here. You have to be physically present.
The perception the Nigerian public has is that the National Assembly is well funded so much that you can have everything you need to do your job. Why then are you painting a different picture?
I will give you an example. In October 1975, on my honour, you can investigate it, my account was worth millions way back. I could afford at that time to ride in a Mercedes 280SEL. I had a Volvo 244GL. I had a Peugeot (car) for errands within my house and the market. I had an Opel Record car that my wife would use when she had visitors – that was in October 1975. And I have gone from one kind of calling to another before I came to the Senate. Now, to let me have a car – a Prado Jeep – it was a subject of debates in Nigeria. Because I want to serve this country, I must go down even as a ‘little’ person to use some other cars.
While they want me to do this, go and see what a director in any ministry in the state, not even the Federal Government level has; go and see what they ride. Has the desire to serve become a kind of crime or obstacle for a politician to be punished for? You should not have the pleasure of work? You should not have the conducive ambience for the discharge of your responsibilities? Must you degrade yourself to show a false picture of being a humble man? Go around the world and find out if there is one house – one, single house – that belongs to me or my wife or my son or a company that I may be interested in. There is none anywhere in the world. Bring it and I will resign from the Senate on that day. Take the statistics of houses in Abuja – the big moles and the castles in choice areas of Abuja – and see who owns them. It is either ownership by proxy or primary direct ownership. Who is deceiving who?
I want to serve my country; I want to make sacrifices but I must not give a picture of being a poor man. I have worked not to be a poor man. I went to school and God has blessed me to be what I am. Let me have some enjoyment of what God has given me. I don’t have to pretend to appease anybody who is more corrupt that you can ever imagine. We are doing so much; we expect so much and we are given little. People will say sacrifice. Yes, but very soon – and I want you to note this – Nigerians will be called to come and serve the public and they will say ‘no, thank you. I don’t want it.’ This is because to serve the public is like signing a warrant to ruin your name and integrity, and everything you have worked. I am now 71 years old. I cannot afford that.
At 71, you are still working as a senator. How do you cope?
I am at ease with what I am doing. I have time for myself and my family and the work. When I get up in the morning and after saying my prayers, I shower and have my breakfast. I may have visitors who come to my house and I will attend to them. By 10 am, as much as I can, except something is holding me up somewhere, I am in the Senate and I will stay here until about 2pm. If I have a committee work, I will stay beyond 2pm. If I don’t have any, I will attend to visitors in my office. Thereafter, I will leave. If there is no pressing engagement, I try to be in bed for at least one hour. This may be from 5pm and last until about 7 pm. I will get up and say my prayers. If I don’t have any engagements, I go to bed after that.
How do you unwind?
I just came back from recess and I had the opportunity to unwind. I travel. I swim sometimes. I go to the cinema. I watch football matches. That is how I relax. I travel as a tourist and go to historical sites to see what is there. For instance, I was in China during the recess and I went to a place where they believe that people who live there have longevity more than others living elsewhere because the ambience in that particular area is good for life. The air is fresh; their food is fresh and their menu is such that it gives your body the necessary nutrients that it requires. It regenerates the essential part of you.
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