Politics

Obasanjo went after me for begging him not to go for second term in national interest

For four years, we tried to build the independence of the National Assembly’ • 2003 episode: Buhari ‘smuggled’ out of plane after followers overwhelmingly stormed airport • Explains why she wants to return to Senate By Jide Ajani and Soni Daniel Senator Khairat Abdulrazaq-Gwadabe was elected to represent the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in the Senate at the start of the Fourth Republic, running on the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) platform. She held office from June 1999 to June 2003. Born in Zaria, Khairat bagged the bachelor’s of law degree at the University of Buckingham and has a master’s degree in constitutional law from University of Lagos. After taking her seat at the Senate in 1999, she was appointed into Committees on the Environment, Health, Women Affairs (Chairman), Federal Character, Tourism & Culture and the FCT. Previously, in 1994, she was a member of the Panel on the Review of the Customs and Excise Department. As a senator, she represented the people of the FCT well and she was a very strong voice for women participation in politics. As of December 2011, Khairat was the Chairman of the Senators Forum, through which serving and non-serving senators share their knowledge and experience to promote democracy. The people of the FCT, having x-rayed the current representation at the Senate and those aspiring for the seat, have asked her to run for the seat again so that they can benefit from her purposeful representation. This is why she is running for the Senate on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC. In this interview, conducted after she officially declared her intention to run for election, last week, the senator speaks on why she wants to return to parliament. You were in the Senate from 1999 to 2003. What was the experience like? •Senator Khairat Abdulrazaq-Gwadabe Over the years, because of the way I’ve interacted with people at my job, coming to the Senate and having understood the nature of people from different places, I could easily understand their points of view. But one thing in the Senate, in the very early stage, that shocked me into understanding that this place is about knowing how to lobby your fellow people and not assuming that everybody is going to see things with you the same way, gwadebe3was when we were filling our biodata. In one place, they left space for four children’s names and, as I was filling, I could hear one of my fellow senators saying: ‘distinguished, there are not enough lines here for us’. And one other fellow asked, ‘how many children do you have?’ He replied, ‘I have 13’. Another senator said, ‘I have 26’. So, I turned my head just to see the faces of those who had this number of kids. What I took away from that was that I had to map my people there. If I needed something to be done in a particular way, I knew the people who will stick with it and those who will not and I realized that the number of children you had and that you’re taking care of will determine your strength in holding onto a bargain or a position on any issue. And that helped me throughout my tenure in that place. The point is that when people have too many baggage – and we are all getting the same pay – you find it difficult to stick to principles when the heat comes because the first consideration for most (not all) would be that, well, this would be a way of solving part of their problem. Some of us who did not have many children still had to support people – those who had school fees to pay and all that. These were the kinds of things that came to play when the executive needed voices to disrupt the legislative arm. These were a few things I picked up very early. One doesn’t generalize, but I found that the cultural biases largely influenced the makeup of the person. You were very close to the late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo; even when they wanted to remove him as Senate President, you were one of the women against his removal. What attracted you to Okadigbo? And were events to be replayed, will you still stand by the OYI OF OYI, as Okadigbo was known? The Oyi of Oyi was an excellent mind. I love excellent, intellectual minds. The intellectual sagacity came with some form of arrogance that reflected in his charisma. When you are arrogant with your knowledge, you are not afraid to exude what you know and correct those who do not understand what you know and I like that. But a lot of those who don’t know as much don’t like to be told off. If you find a very intellectual person, he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. So, that may be the only thing that was lacking in him. But nobody is complete. Okadigbo was a man of distinction who knew what he knew and was not bothered about what you said. When we were to vote for the Senate President then, I was looking for somebody that had experience. We were all green coming as senators in 1999. So, I pitched my tent with him, as against others who were running, and, at that time, the Senate Presidency was zoned to the South-East – and virtually all those who were elected from the zone vied for that position. (Mind you, I studied law in the UK and I came back and did my master’s in Nigeria, and then my NYSC. They posted me to Lagos but I didn’t want to do it in Lagos. I wanted to go to the East)

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