The lawmaker representing the Kogi-West senatorial district and the chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Smart Adeyemi, talks to TOPE OMOGBOLAGUN about his new bill on the same-faith ticket, and the chances of the candidates of the three leading parties, APC, PDP and Labour Party in winning the 2023 presidential polls
What propelled the need to propose the bill that bans same-faith tickets?
As a serving senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I thank God and my nation for ensuring that there is peace, stability, and economic development in my country.
I owe it to God and all the people who elected me to be able to interpret events, proffer solutions, and avert crises that could generate terrible situations.
As a serving senator, I must be able to read the minds of the people; I must be able to interpret their actions, and I must be able to equally appreciate their norms and values. When norms and values are considered, laws must be able to ensure the peaceful coexistence of people, regardless of their percentage, tribe, or religion.
So, to answer your question, when Shettima was nominated as the running mate for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, it generated a lot of reactions for and against.
And in an area where you have had a very high level of unemployed people, where you have people who are frustrated because of the poor state of the economy, a good percentage of the unemployed have taken up religion, and they are fanatical about it. You try to avert situations that will lead to a breakdown of the law.
So, when Shettima was announced and I saw the reaction of the Christian Association of Nigeria, I was not against the observations or the issues they’d raised, but I also had a duty to speak out. And I have a history that makes it difficult for me not to tell you the truth and let you see things as I see them, regardless of how you see them or whether they affect my party, tribe, or religion. As long as my conscience is clear that what I’m saying is the solution, I say it loud and clear, without any fear of how anybody interprets it.
Now, when I saw the reaction, based on my experience of Nigeria, I had the privilege of having travelled around the 36 states of Nigeria, so, in essence, I am better positioned to speak on contemporary national issues that will ensure good governance, stability, peace, and peaceful coexistence in Nigeria.
So, when there are reactions like that, I have to start praying that I don’t want anything to happen to the peace and stability of Nigeria. I don’t have a second passport like some people. I don’t have bank accounts in any country; all my assets are in Nigeria.
Also, let me tell you this: No Nigerian can tell me one religion is better than the other because many Nigerians are ignorant of this country. I have travelled around this country. If there’s any religion that is bigger between the Christians and the Muslims, maybe you’ve been talking about four or five per cent because I know this country in and out.
So, when I saw the reaction, I felt the need to put the legislation in place. As good as Shettima is, people do not take it as a policy. Because when there is something that is construed to be an oversight, the first or the second, there is the likelihood that people might take it as a policy.
When some appointments appear to favour one religion, people become uneasy, and this must be addressed.
Do you think the same-faith ticket by the ruling party isn’t the right decision?
Shettima is adequately qualified to be the vice president of this country. He is very intelligent, humble, cerebral, has a large heart, and more importantly, he has a very rich track record. Shettima was a former governor of Borno State.
While he was there, he confronted insurgency. He had the bitter experience of managing Boko Haram at its inception.
So, Shettima is coming with the knowledge of how to enhance peace and stability in Nigeria and how to fight this insurgency.
Not only that, while he was governor of Borno, he transformed the educational sector of the state; he built modern schools, went further to invest in and expand the agricultural sector, and he improved the health sector of the state. When you get to Borno, you will have tangible evidence of this.
In essence, Shettima is someone who Nigerians will be proud of as the vice president. He’s highly articulate, highly courageous, and a straightforward person.
Shettima laid the foundation Zulum is building upon.
A lot of things have been said about him that were not true. Shettima is a fantastic person. I can tell you how highly cerebral he is. If you meet him, you’ll appreciate who he is. He’s a man who is given to reading, highly educated, and exposed.
I have known him since 2012. He is a very humble person, and I have no doubt that he is the right choice as Tinubu’s running mate.
Do you think APC has a better chance of winning the presidential election in spite of the same-faith candidates?
Okay, I speak based on the facts available to me. I speak of what I see. How do you assess an individual? You assess an individual, first and foremost, by his track record. You judge an individual by what he’s saying. Then you assess an individual based on what other people are saying about him, his followers, and their track record.
Also, the most effective fact for assessing the capability, the strength of character, intelligence, moral standards, and the social, emotional, moral, and social foundation of an individual can be best measured by his track record.
Whether he’s a man of honour and integrity, check what his track record was. Who was this man before? What has he seen before? What was his position on these issues? What has he done towards ensuring peace and stability in the country?
Those are the things that define a leader. A leader must be defined by his track record, and all these track records that are in Shettima, you would also see in Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
By all considerations and factors, Tinubu is eminently qualified to be the President of Nigeria. The Asiwaju’s track record speaks for him. What people say about him speaks for him. I have had interaction with the Asiwaju for the last 20 years. He is someone who doesn’t know you by your tribe or religion. He knows people by their character and by who they are. He is better described as a national leader, as a man who knows people by the conduct and character of individuals and can bring that together.
Asiwaju has a large heart. He is a giver, a man who believes in the peace and stability of this country. He was the only governor who first opened up appointment to non-Yorubas in his cabinet. He was the one who started appointing Igbos more than anyone else, and he was also the one who started appointing Hausas who were born in Lagos or who had lived there for a significant portion of their lives. He opened the door for them to be part and parcel of Lagos, who is a national leader.
Now, when you look at Lagos today, it is the envy of many governors. Lagos is the centre of excellence. Asiwaju made those things possible.
Asiwaju is the only governor today that has succeeded in picking successors on the basis of intelligence, the strength of character, knowledge, wisdom, and how visionary they are.
Asiwaju doesn’t base his support on mundane reasons or tribal sentiments. He actually doesn’t know you by your tribe or religion. He sees your character first and foremost, which is not so common. Many governors pick their family members and cousins as successors. In Lagos, Asiwaju established fine leadership structures.
The amendment isn’t to support Asiwaju and Shettima because of the APC; I’m supporting them because I know who they are. If they’re not people of integrity, if they’re not people who are visionaries, if they’re not people who have the heart to be statesmen for Nigeria, I would not support them.
I’m not going to campaign for every member of my party. I will support those of them that I know will deliver. I know Asiwaju and Shettima will deliver.
Now, if you ask me about the other aspirants, the question I will ask you is; who can better assess the PDP candidate than his former boss, the elder statesman, Olusegun Obasanjo? You heard what he said about Atiku, but I will not go into details.
For Obi, I would love for him to be in PDP as that would have made this election very interesting and given us a level-playing field.
But I am still looking for statesmen who will come out and tell us about Obi. He is a good guy, humble, and seems to have good intentions, but we cannot trace his track record. Peter Obi is good, but unfortunately, he’s like somebody who is a track and field man, someone who is actually fit to run but whose shoes are worn out. I haven’t seen people with national positions from the South-East come out to talk about Peter Obi. Why is that so?
When you look at the social media and especially the youths, they do not share this opinion; they believe they have all it takes to bring Peter Obi to power without external validation. Do you think that’s impossible?
I have my respect for the youth; they are more dynamic, more enterprising, and more knowledgeable. They are very concerned about the development, peace, and stability of the nation. But they shouldn’t forget that there are some of us who believe in everything they believe in. I have been on the frontier of moving a lot of things.
As early as 2007, I had moved for the death penalty as punishment for corruption.
So, Obi should appreciate that winning the presidential election is beyond the internet. He must identify and recognise the right approach to campaigns.
Nigerians cutting across the divides must equally appreciate the fact that when the presidential election comes around, you need the confidence of some opinion leaders to be with you.
And these leaders must cut across the country as it is today. I am not aware of any South East residents who have openly identified with Obi. We know Obi will get quite a number of votes from the Southeast but my advice to him is that he should not allow the South-East to become a minority zone in terms of votes.
Without a doubt, the Igbos are highly qualified and long overdue for Nigeria’s presidency but the emergence of an Igbo man as president must take on the same style and format as the emergence of other presidential candidates or presidents that have emerged in this democratic dispensation, and not look at it from the angle of his own style of politics.
Obi must realise that it takes more than internet campaigns to win the election; he must be in contact with opinion leaders, which is lacking in his campaign style. He is not attuned to the fact that some things he is ignoring are issues that Nigeria’s voters will take home.
I feel Obi has good intentions and good programmes but I don’t see him winning the election because he is not prepared to win the election. If he’s prepared to win, he must appreciate that you must be seen to carry everybody along, not just a segment of Nigerian society; you must have the network to reach every part of the country.
There are many states where the people don’t know that the Labour Party exists. The presidential election is not a talk show.
There was a time you broke down in tears while talking about insecurity on the Senate floor, can you recall your points and what was done to guard against what you were saying there?
Go and get all of my presentations, you’ll see that everything I predicted and warned against is happening today. I predicted that if we are not careful, a time will come when a dollar will be exchanged for N1,000. I have them on tape.
Also, I have suggested that government should set up diplomatic mechanisms with countries around the world or take a look at all Nigerians and their relations, including immediate family members of people who have held public positions, and that all money found in the foreign accounts of such people be repatriated. I hope they can muster the courage to do that.
Half of the money that left Nigeria’s shores should be returned. And this amounts to well over $200bn.