Our Lawmakers Have Performed Badly In Community Development ― Barr. Salami

Lawmakers Have Performed Badly

Barrister Ademola Salami is an Ibadan based legal practitioner and a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oyo State. In this interview with OYEDAPO OYEWOLE and FEYISAYO OLADIPO, he bares his mind on some salient national issues and his ambition for Federal House of Representatives seat in 2023.

Q: What was your growing up like?

Well, during our time as little children growing up in the village, getting to school and getting facilities that will enable us to have eventful learning was so difficult. I could remember vividly that during my time there was no electricity at all, so we were not exposed to the television set. All the programmes that our colleagues, our peers were watching and relating to today, we did not have such an opportunity. Even when we were in school, having access to good water to drink was a difficult task because I remember that we used to drink from pools of water that had even been stepped on by a herd of cattle.

Glory be to almighty God, we are here today and we can relate to the past difficult times. Though, governments and individuals have been trying to alleviate and bring to an end all the suffering that we passed through, to the extent that we do not wish our children of today to pass through or experience such in their lifetime.

Q: As a legal practitioner, why venture into politics?

I would not want to say specifically that I am a politician because really when people are mentioning politicians, most of the time they refer to them as people that are not serious; people that are not honest; that are insincere and are responsible for the hues that we are passing through in the country. But definitely, some people will still have to make good what others have spoiled. So, if you are not there, you cannot ask how they share or how they manage your affairs. So you too have to participate in the act of governance to make sure that you contribute your quota to the progress and development of our people.

Now, as a politician, so to say, I will say the insincerity on the part of our leaders that is making it virtually impossible for people that are not that financially buoyant to get into power where they will be able to uplift the conditions of our people and some kind of political mixarrangement that is making it possible for people who are though richer but with little or no interest of people at heart. It is this type of people that are getting into the system and making the system poorer every day.

So, the challenges are how to remove money politics from our system so that more people with good hearts can participate. I know that I am not that rich and everything that we have been trying to do, we are doing it with our limited resources. So these are challenges and for most of us that don’t like going to beg people for things, it is this saying that the person that is used to begging God will not beg man. So when you want to do things, you don’t look on people’s faces to achieve what you look to God for, and bear in mind the little opportunity given to you by God in terms of finance.

So if we are going to talk of the necessary know-how, the intelligence, the academic background, yes, but financial difficulties that have been the bane of political development in Nigeria – money politics- it is the major problem that is not only affecting myself but numerous people with good intentions but when there are no resources to push yourself forward unlike a developed nation where masses do contribute money for political activities to enable their loved ones, the trusted and tested hands to get to power. But here in Nigeria, you have to bring your resources to people because poverty is there that our people are suffering from.

So we don’t have a choice but to spend out of the little that we have to uplift their standards. So that has been the bane of our political progress.

Q: The APC is embroiled in crisis in virtually all the states including Oyo. What do you think is the way out because the 2023 election is fast approaching?

Well, it is a very serious concern that the ruling party is not getting its house together, and the opposition is trying to capitalise on the discordance that is ongoing within the party to discredit us. The reason for all these problems is the unfathomable desire of a few of our leaders to hijack the party for their gain, so it would appear that the interest of the nation is no longer paramount among the party stalwarts. The progressives are known for perseverance, they are known for doing things in such a way that will bring peace and amity. But here we are, we are having progressives that behave like conservatives; that don’t have the interest of their party at heart. Of course, the supremacy of the party system is one thing that I think the current federal government under the banner of APC is trying to bring back, i.e. bringing back the power to the people at the grassroots.

I think if we can sustain that, all these problems which are just a mere stirring of dirty water., if you stir the dirty water, you see the dirt coming out, flying around but the moment you stop, the water will settle and you can even drink from it. So, all these problems are not insurmountable. We can always get over them if we can come together among ourselves and resolve our differences. No person can be an island, we just have to come together, try to bring together all our claims and see where we can make sacrifices so that we can harmonise our feelings, So with that, I think we should be able to get out of this dispute.

Q: Why the interest in the House of Representatives?

Well, service to my people I will say. And you know the primary purpose of the National Assembly is lawmaking, and myself being a legal practitioner and having gone through several acts of National Assembly, even the 1999 Constitution itself, I think I have a very serious contribution to make to propagate and to promote Nigeria as a nation and as an entity which God has blessed but which we have mismanaged by ourselves up to this levels. I say ourselves because I have also been voting at elections in the last 30 years or so. I will say that since I have been voting, I have participated, directly and indirectly in whatever has happened in Nigeria. The only thing to do is how to remove the sufferings of our people, uplift their standards of living and then provide amenities.

Like I said earlier, I happened to come from a humble background where there was no electricity or television set, and we have so many of these people still there. To eat three square meals a day is something difficult, how do we get them out of these problems? How do we make sure that the university or polytechnic graduates are gainfully employed at the end of the day? I remember vividly that when you get to the United States, even a secondary school student somehow has something to do. So why can’t we get that kind of situation for our people here? An idle hand, they say, is the bed rest for devilish activities, if you don’t have anything to do, why won’t you engage in bad things. So how do we get our youths engaged is our major concern. How do we assist the country in diversifying economic sectors so that we can move Nigeria away from the unsustainable situations that we find ourselves in?

So as a member of the National Assembly, this and many more will be the project that I would love to project and of course develop our area. In my area, most of them are farmers, getting their farm produce from farm to urban centre is becoming difficult because of lack of good roads, potable water and electricity supply. If we want to prevent rural-urban drifts then we have to bring succour, a bit of comfort down to the villages so that people can at least move back and engage in agricultural practice not only in crop production, we can engage in animal rearing, some can engage in fish farming, some can engage in the breeding of cattle, pigs and so on. It is now becoming fearful for people to study agriculture in university because when you do that, we have insecurity too that is playing its role against agriculture and agricultural development, so how do we sustain bringing about peace in Nigeria?

So all these and many more are the programmes I have for my people. I would love to be living among them to feel what they are passing through, to experience it myself and of course, I have always been there. I did my primary and secondary school education in Iganna and I was there helping my father for like nine years before I gained admission to Ogun State University now Olabisi Onabanjo University and whenever we had a break, I returned to Iganna. So I have always lived my life in Iganna and now that I am in Ibadan, I don’t think there is any month that I won’t be in my town, so I have always seen what they are passing through and the best way to assist them is to participate in government.

Q: What would you want to do differently from others if you are elected?

Well, you see, there is no gain-saying the fact that the electorate is tired of participating in political activities, not because of any reason but because what we feel is that our elected leaders have not done well. If that is the feelings of everybody, how do we change the narrative? You should know where the shoe pinches and when you know where the shoe pinches, that is when you can mend that shoe. Most of our leaders, especially the lawmakers who are members of the House of Representatives, have not been doing well in the area of community development. There is this constituency project funds they collect which they channel into their pockets and then they will say they are doing empowerment programmes and start sharing generators, hairdressing equipment, motorcycles, freezers and so on. For a person who has no means of livelihood, no electricity, you gave that person hairdressing equipment, he or she is going to sell it. You said you want to assist somebody financially and you are giving that person Twenty or Twenty-Five Thousand Naira, so what is the economic worth of Twenty-Five Thousand Naira in the economy of Nigeria of today? This is not sustainable. What I think we can do is to make sure that what the community wants is what is given to them. Every community knows where erosion is disturbing them so if I live in Iganna, I can only know what we need there and not in Iwere-Ile, Ilaji, Ilasa or Ilero because I am not living in those places. All these funds that the federal government is making available for each representative will have to be channelled towards what the community needs. If it is road development, let’s face it if it is water; let’s face it so that whatever we have done this year, we don’t have to go back there in the next five, ten years. So, if we can sustain good roads for the villages for them to be able to connect themselves to other villages and transport their goods to the urban centre that would have ameliorated their problem.

Another area we need to work on is constitutional issues. My experience as a member of the Oyo State Judicial Service Commission has exposed so many aberrations in our constitution that are making people feel uncomfortable living together as well, So we need to work on it.

Q: Tell us what you have been able to do to give back to society?

As a lawyer, I have been assisting my community in the area of making sure that they did not suffer any form of injustice and unfair treatment and uplifting our younger ones. I have been some sort of encouragement for our younger ones to come up to emulate somebody with a humble background. I have been serving as a good example for them to emulate. I have been assisting some parents too in the area of financing the education of a few that we can assist in the community.

Q: As a stakeholder in the education sector, what do you think can be done to end the incessant ASUU-Federal Government imbroglio?

Well, I would love to see a situation where primary and secondary education will be free for the citizens of this country, tertiary education is costly, and the government alone cannot sustain it. If you look at the developed world, you will see that getting tertiary education in America for example, in the United Kingdom, Canada is more costly than in Nigeria. To train a medical doctor in Nigeria, by the time you spend about a million or so for the seven years programme, that amount will not be enough for the payment of tuition fee per year in any of those countries I mentioned
What this implies is that the government is subsidising tertiary education in Nigeria. If you look at the school fees being paid by most of our students, you will see that it is very cheap compared to what private universities are charging their students.

So, in as much as government is the largest contributor to education in the country, there is no way with the monolithic economy that we are having in Nigeria, except we diversify into other sectors like agriculture, mining other mineral resources, manufacturing sector and so on, until we can do that and minimise our importation and rely mostly on what we are producing, we won’t be able to sustain education and with this problem, as analysed, there is no how there won’t be clashes between academic staff union and the government.

Inflation is eroding the little salary they are getting and that calls for frequent increments but if government revenue is limited, how is the government going to accommodate frequent increments as being demanded by the academic union?

There is no way we can; the only thing we can do is to bring all these claims together from the academic unions and the government to sit down at a roundtable. We have to think of our future, we cannot afford to be wasting the future of our children. Most of our lecturers and professors had free education during their time but today, that is no longer possible and is no longer sustainable.

So we just have to make sure that we meet at a middle point where the government will be able to volunteer and the academic union will be able to sacrifice in the interest of the nation.

Q: What is your take on the performance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in the area of economic and security situations?

The protection of life and security is the primary purpose of every good government, but unfortunately, as we speak, the security challenges in the country are making a mess of whatever progress or development the present administration is achieving. Put insecurity aside, this government ought to be the best in Nigeria, because I will be 53 on my next birthday, but unfortunately, I only had the opportunity of riding the train just last year, through the brand new rail line this administration constructed from Lagos to Ibadan. So anytime I am travelling to the North or the East now I will ride the train to Lagos and take my flight to wherever I am going, so it saves my time from all these hassles of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. So any time I take this train, if I have to count the number of passengers, more than three thousand at a go and we are saying the economy is bad.

In a bad economy, people don’t have the opportunity to move and look at most of the air travel that I have been making, the aircraft are filled to the brim, people are moving from one place to the other. Yes, we may not be where we are expected to be, but this government is achieving more even in terms of economy. The government has been trying to diversify, so many people have been engaging in agriculture and in the next five, six, seven years when the several millions of palm trees planted by farmers in Oke Ogun, Iseyin grow to full maturity we will realise what the Buhari administration has contributed to the economy of Nigeria. I know we are trying to stop the importation of rice too, through the proliferation of rice, we have so many states engaging and cooperating in the area of agriculture to ensure that we stop the importation of rice, then we can sustain our local production and even export too later.

Now in the area of oil and gas, I can see that we are having a private refinery, even though it is unfortunate that government could not sustain our four refineries, thus leading to the importation of refined products in the country and this is making the price of fuel somewhat exorbitant and citizens are clamouring for reduction, I think by the time this private refinery start working then, our importation will drop. So once we don’t rely much on dollars again our economy too will start to come up. There are so many other areas; I think industrial entities are coming into the country now. So if we can surmount this challenge of insecurity, I think Nigeria will be a good hotbed for companies to invest in.

Q: What is your New Year message for the people?

Well, the only thing I will say is that everybody should cut his/her cloth according to the number of yards they have, so if you can make agbada, make agbada for yourself and enjoy and if it is only Buba and Sokoto that you will be able to sustain, you should not do more than what you can afford. We should remember that if we outdo ourselves, we will still come back to lament, so we should take it easy.

Then we should avoid going to places that we know are not so secure so as not to fall victim to insecurity. I pray that as we all witness the New Year in good health so shall we witness the end of it with our loved ones.

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