The lawmaker representing Kaduna South in the Senate, Senator Danjuma La’ah, talks to TOPE OMOGBOLAGUN about the National Assembly, Kaduna politics and others
In terms of your experience as the deputy minority whip, how has it gone?
Well, since I became the deputy minority whip, I have managed to follow the rules and regulations of the Senate. Of course, I was not surprised that my being the deputy manager was delayed due to some kind of fraction and friction, but I absorb it as it is and take it the way it comes. This is so because I took it into recognition as the only Peoples Democratic Party flag-bearer in 2015, when President Muhammadu Buhari began his first term in office.
I was the only PDP senator in the entire North-West; I withstood Buhari’s tsunami; and during the second term elections, I was also the only PDP senator until others started to defect to PDP.
They were supposed to give me a position that I deserved at the time, but I was denied.
However, I took it in good faith, and eventually, I got it without struggling for it. God knows best, and I took it in good faith.
It must have been tough for you then as the only opposition senator in your entire region. How were you able to surmount the challenge?
The challenge then was just being the only one standing when my colleagues were all moving to the All Progressive Congress at the time. I chose to stay because our people believe in the PDP and the way things are done there.
However, the tides have changed; people have started to think about elections differently. I can tell you that this election, people will vote for people based on character and not political party.
That is the reason why we have been rooting for Atiku Abubakar, hoping that, by God’s grace, people will give him that opportunity to make sure that he gets into the desired position.
Over time, he has understood all of the obstacles to ensure that he stands within the period of time in which he has understood all of the obstacles in the presidency as a vice president in 1999 and 2007.
So, it is not going to be new to him, and he is someone who carries everyone along.
While others were defecting back then, why didn’t you defect with them?
I didn’t see any reason for me to defect. I recall the president himself asking me why I didn’t want to rejoin the APC, and I told him that I was protecting and defending your prosperity in the PDP and that I would continue to do so.
You mentioned that people would vote based on character in the forthcoming 2023 election. Are you saying that voters are now wise and educated?
See, I think the voters have learnt much more than any other person because of what actually happened during this APC administration.
A lot happened in this administration, and Nigerians have seen the advantages and disadvantages of voting for APC as a party. Before now, people were just following and voting blindly.
Nigerians are regretting where they find themselves; people are suffering, and many can no longer afford three square meals. We are all feeling the effects of the situation; increased awareness has made people realise that they must face the task ahead of them squarely.
Now, nobody will be told that this is what should be done; we have all tasted and felt it, so now we will all just take the necessary action.
Are you scoring the Buhari-led administration poorly?
I am speaking my mind, and everybody has the right to say whatever they want to feel.
I am expressing my feelings over the issue, just like someone else can also do so. As long as politics exist, people will give a verdict on your performance.
I believe that people around Buhari were unable to execute his intentions. Buhari had the zeal, but he couldn’t get his followers to take charge and do what he wanted as a person.
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And that happened because there was no proper feedback or internal monitoring systems in place for him to check from time to time. Even those he trusted with responsibilities couldn’t even checkmate and ensure that things were properly done.
So you are not particularly blaming Buhari…
As a person, no, I don’t blame him. He has the people in mind, and even if he didn’t do it well up to 100 per cent, he should have at least strived to be at least 50 to 60 per cent.
But he was unable to get credit from people; rather, people have continued to accuse him; the problem was that he lost his sight. He was just at the top but unaware of the things at the bottom.
The opposition party in the Senate has been somewhat docile, refusing to even speak on issues affecting their respective parties. For instance, there was the accusation that some card-carrying members of the ruling party weren’t duly investigated until they were passed; another was the way the lawmakers chickened out on an impeachment notice.
You see, there are things Nigerians do, whether wisely or unwisely, in the present situation. One has to be a bit careful because killing in Nigeria is just like ABCD.
Nobody takes issues seriously in this country; as a member of the opposition party, if you stand up to raise an issue, you will barely get anyone to support you. You can only do such things to remain vibrant, but they will not take you anywhere. You’d only discover that you’d end up arguing and arguing and getting nowhere.
The people who know the truth will never allow you to reveal the truth because they will keep hiding the facts. So, in order to leave sleeping dogs alone, we simply stop pushing.
To tell you the truth, all the things that we are doing at the Senate or wherever are all eye services. As a member of the minority group, one would just keep shouting and fighting to speak for the people, but there is usually no cooperation.
A lot of people do not understand what the minority is all about, and for those who do, the leadership would deny you the opportunity to air your voice, particularly in times of crisis. They’d rather give it to someone who is docile and wouldn’t oppose them. Money is also a means through which they shut the mouth of the opposition; once they give you money, you cannot speak up against them; if you attempt to, they’d say, “But we have seen you.”
This 9th Senate is different from what I was used to; gone are the days when we see lawmakers speak up against issues. People were very active and would even speak up in dire situations. I miss those days when you’d see lawmakers throw chairs at each other because of the intensity of their arguments. Now that it’s no longer like that, we take it as it comes.
It seems as though the amended electoral acts sort of empowered governors to become lords, which affected some of your colleagues. You’re one of the few who weren’t affected; how were you able to achieve victory from your side?
My governor is an APC man, and as far as I am concerned, he tried up to two times but couldn’t succeed in ensuring that I didn’t come back to the senate. Being a governor doesn’t mean he has power over every Senate decision, and it all depends on your input and what you are able to deliver for your people.
There are some governors that do nothing for some senatorial districts. Some of them choose where to work for the citizens of that state; they go on a vendetta mission so that because they didn’t get votes from some parts of the state, they would completely ignore such areas as if they were not part of the state.
My zone is a PDP stronghold, and the governor is a member of the APC; he barely does projects in my zone, and if he wants to, he would do them in an area where the people are loyal to him and ignore the other parts.
As a very strong and dedicated member of the PDP, how do you think your party can resolve the crisis?
As far as the PDP is concerned, no one sees it as a problem. If you are a fool and you talk, those who listen to you won’t be fools.
We’ll look at how we can deliver the mandate to our principal, Atiku Abubakar, and his vice presidential candidate, Ifeanyi Okowa, who have been doing all they can and will continue to do so if given the opportunity.
You will be drawn to them if you have the opportunity to be in their company and hear them speak specifically about their manifestos. They have tried their best to make peace, but some people have just made up their minds to cause enmity where there is none.
Atiku has a proper understanding of Nigeria and knows what to do and what to fix to make the country work; we just want the people to give him the mandate to do the work.
Elections come and go. You meet characters with various feelings and activities, and throughout, everyone is attempting to express his feelings and intentions, but it is easy to assume that things have happened; they have, and they are gone, but let us see if we can secure and serve the nation to ensure that the things we are attempting to convey are ones that everyone can benefit from and understand how they can be applied. Not just anyhow; we know the truth and when and how it can be applied, as well as who can apply it.
So you feel like Atiku has better chances than other aspirants or contestants?
Among all of them, he is the only one to have tasted the presidency, including when he was the vice president. Despite being a vice, he was able to do so many things. However, he was also limited; I think this is the right time for him to do more and do it right.
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