FCT deserves quality representation in NASS – Khairat Gwadabe
15 years after serving as senator, Khairat Abdulrazaq-Gwadabe, who represented the Federal Capital Territory from 1999 to 2003, says it is about time the FCT gets quality representation at the Upper Chamber. Speaking to some journalists in Abuja where she declared her interest to return to the Senate, last week, she speaks on other sundry issues. Emmanuel OGBECHE was there for The Abuja Inquirer. Excerpts:
It’s been some 15years now since you left the Senate and you’re staging a comeback, what happened?
One of the things I learnt then was that you should always ask your community what they want. Don’t assume that they are suffering.
When I was campaigning in one of the communities, I discovered that the men complained that women take hours to go from their home, around 6am, to fetch water in the river; they walk long distance and before they come back, it’s by 11, 12 or even 1pm; and I felt that that was too much.
So, I decided that we would attract borehole for them. We did that and I was so excited that we were able to bring borehole. The men were happy but the women were not.
They said you don’t like us. I brought you water and you say I don’t like you. They said it’s because you don’t understand. What we had before paid us.
I discovered that when they wake up at 6am, they take all their laundry and go to the river.
They spend the day to socialize, do all their activities and they enjoy it.
The husband and children are there at home and they have fun and when they are done, they now come home with their water.
Now, the borehole is right in their nose and I deprived them of such a nice social time.
So, they wanted their time and that was it for them. I took away their freedom.
So, you don’t always assume that somebody is suffering. Maybe he likes it in that particular way because it comes with some form of consolation which money cannot always buy.
When you were in the Senate, what was the experience like?
I took away the experience of knowing how to lobby fellow senators and not assuming that everybody is going to see things with you the same way. What I took away from that was that I had to map my fellow senators.
If I need something to be done in a particular way, I will go for certain people that I know will stick with it and those who will not stick with it and I realised that the number of children you have, for instance, and that you’re taking care of will determine your strength in holding on to a bargain or a position on any issue.
So, that was the first thing I learnt just by people filling forms and cracking jokes and that helped me throughout my term in that place.
The point is that people who have too many baggage – and we are all getting the same pay and allowances – would find it difficult to stick to principles when the heat really comes on because the first consideration for most (not all) would be that, well, this would be a way of solving part of their problem.
These were the kinds of things that came to play when the executive needed to have some voices to disrupt the system within the legislative arm. Some of these things played easily for them to pick up.
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.
How do you think your constituents will receive you now?
If you recall, they commissioned Abuja monorail some two months ago. I was invited and I attended.
I was the only Abuja based person in the train. All the chiefs and everybody were sitting out there.
They were prevented. These are people that practice politics here, they are the ones that keep the party buoyant.
They are eminent personalities that should be recognised at all opportunities.
So, I had to ask ‘you mean your politics here is that bad, that you are no longer recognized? What is the problem?’
So, they explained that one, the people representing them don’t come back after they are elected and things like that.
So, I felt that we have to have better representation. Politics must be better.
If it is the quality of representation that is causing this, then I’m ready to run.
Everybody knows that the Senatorial seat in Abuja is occupied by the opposition party.
So, the lacuna between governance at the top and the people in the FCT, the highest office you can aspire to here, is serious.
Even though it’s a legislative seat, you can use it to ensure you have better politics played locally. So, these were the things that really started agitating my mind.
Then I decided to go round, talk to people and get their feelings. I went to all the wards, spoke to all of them and the feedback I got was frightening to me too.
They complained and they were saying, you represented us well; why don’t you come out again.
Some of the aspirants over the years will tell me that when we go on tour, people tell them that if you promise to be like Senator Kairat Abdulrazaq who served us, then we will vote for you. All of that was what brought me out.
I said, okay, let me come, sacrifice and provide the platform where we can rise, win elections and play politics properly with better development, allow people to have their voices represented the way I should be represented.
Those who also believe in my ideas will work with me to achieve it. That’s why I came out.
What are you bringing to the table now, especially contesting against an opposition incumbent?
You must understand the FCT terrain because it varies.
If you say you are going to Kuje for instance, the Kuje Council, which is a local government is so huge that if you leave the metropolis and you want to go to a town called Kudun Kariya in Kuje, you have to go to Abaji first, you go to Nasarawa State, pass Nasarawa before you get to Kudun Kariya.
Kudun Kariya is Northeast of Abuja.
If we put road from Karshi, we open a roadway that will lead us to Kudun Kariya directly.
But because it’s not there, they have to traverse Gwagwalada, Kwali, Abaji, Nasarawa State, then back to Kuje.
Abuja is a very beautify terrain – if you like lush green area, go to Kwali side. It’s largely waterlogged and farming is very good in that side.
If you want where there is more waters or rivers, you go to Abaji. If you are going out of Abuja, once you hit Abaji town, there is a turning on the right that takes you to Kandagi.
By the time you get to a point during the raining season, I remember in those days, even up till now, the bridge is washed away.
So, those who are there cannot go to school because the teachers are on this side for the duration of that period.
They are cut away from us. How do you get development to them?
It is effective understanding of the terrain, the needs of the people and how you budget for it for effective development.