I am really at a loss about how to respond to the column of my friend, Femi Orebe on the 8th Senate. He correctly identified my exasperation with things as they are. But more than being exasperated, Orebe might never understand the magnitude of the harrowing sorrow I daily feel pertaining, in general, to the sordid affairs of my country and in particular to the nadir of disrepute to which the senate has been sunk.
So discouraged have I been of late that by last week, I had begun to see myself as a colossal failure in my foray into Nigerian politics. I had seriously considered going back to Ilesa Grammar School, my alma mater, to teach science.
In my previous incarnations as an academic and as a business man, failure or giving up had never been a considered option. In these earlier enterprises, my success or lack of it was largely dependent on my efforts and determination.
By contrast, as a politician, I have perennially found myself walking and dancing in paths littered with opalaba (pieces of broken glass bottles). My success now depends almost equally or perhaps even more on others than on myself!
I foresaw the current crisis in the eighth senate long before its inauguration on June 9, 2015. I pleaded endlessly with Senators Bukola Saraki and Ahmad Lawan for a consensus that would make one of them the Senate President and the other the Deputy Senate President.
I requested to lock both of them in a room and to open the room only after they have reached a consensus or after one of them had killed the other! Had my efforts succeeded, my party, the Senate and my country might have been spared the crisis of the last many months.
Candidate Buhari campaigned on a platform that included a determined assault on corruption; he was hailed and resoundingly elected because a majority of Nigerians believed he was preeminently qualified to wage and win that war. I have always felt that if such a war were to be diligently waged, there will not be enough rooms in Nigerian prisons to hold public office holders who would be found guilty.
And if the truth be told, these might include most of those supporting Saraki as well as most of those opposed to him! And I am talking here of supporters and opponents either from within or outside the National Assembly. The interview I granted to Tell Magazine in 2009 revealed enough on crass legislooting.
Many have wondered why I have been less vocal as a senator than I was during my tenure as a member of the House of Reps. I feel great pain when insinuations are made that I had been bought. Those pains rose to the fore following the publication of the phone numbers of all senators by Sahara Reporters.
I am probably the only Senator in Nigeria who has only one phone number. It would have been easy to get a new phone number. These days, phones come with apps that can filter out calls from numbers that are not on the phone’s contact list. Perhaps my error was my refusal to take either of these easy options. Instead, I chose to answer as many calls and texts as possible.
They came in a deluge! I got calls from the UK, USA, Canada, Germany and far away Australia. A few of the messages included racy photographs from ladies, who obviously had little interest in matters of public policy!
About half of the calls from within Nigeria were solicitations for help in securing employment or in getting financial assistance. Mercifully, some prayed for and encouraged me to keep faith. Some made legitimate enquiries and did so in quite civil language and tone. Others like Dokun Adedeji were unkind and needlessly rude.
I had taken a decision to respond to each call or text message in its own tone. I would match civility for civility, diligence with diligence, rudeness for rudeness, and curse for curse. Contrary to the accusation of Dokun Adedeji, I did not partake of selling my party’s majority to reactionaries.
I have I betrayed no one. Rather, on many occasions, I have informed my party caucus, APC leaders, and my senate colleagues of my readiness to give up my office as Chief Whip for the sake of resolving the most embarrassing quagmire in the senate. I did so as recently as last Wednesday during the Executive session of the senate.
In decrying my choice of deprecatory epithets to respond to Dokun Adedeji, Femi Orebe obviously saw no wrong in my being unfairly portrayed as a sellout. Orebe also left out my latter response to Dokun Adedeji that included my reasons for not to speaking on some matters.
Back in High School, there was a Negro Spiritual we often sang “NOBODY KNOWS THE TROUBLE I SEE.” Two days ago (Friday, April 22), I was on my way to Osogbo so I could see my Governor and thereafter proceed to Ora Igbomina, my hometown, when I got a call summoning me to Abuja for a meeting with the President at 3.00 p.m.
I made an immediate U-turn racing to the Ibadan Airport while praying for a miracle to catch a flight. I was panting and sweating by the time I boarded the plane which miraculously had waited for me.
The plane took off immediately I took my seat. However, as I switched on my phone after landing in Abuja, an sms message was delivered with a message that the meeting in the villa has been postponed!
Despite the intense pain and sorrows that I have borne in the last many months, I remain grateful to God for the rare opportunity to serve as a senator of my country. I am particularly grateful to Femi Falana, who counseled me last week not to resign as Senator.
Although every forest begins with a tree, I have found out that the adage that a tree does not make a tree is particularly most apt in the forest of politics.
Although Dokun Adedeji’s text did not say so, perhaps his vilification is not directed at me personally as Orebe alluded. Perhaps! Hence, I apologise to Dokun, Femi Orebe and others, whom I have disappointed for taking the issues so personal. We live and learn.