Smart Adeyemi: The Ebullient Senator
In contemporary times, the success story of Senator Smart Adeyemi, is a bold statement of what Nigerian journalists are capable of. Whether one likes him or choose to dislike him, Smart Adeyemi has become part of Nigerians who towered to the height of national recognition. Though this attainment may not be anything peculiar, but, there is a side of this ebullient senator that makes him different from the rest of politicians.
Many like him who have made it in life always forget their country home. They roar in the urban centres and cruise across the oceans to exhibit their affluence in famous cities without remembering what life is to people in their country homes. Not, Adeyemi. Deliberately, he refused to be counted on the side of those who scorn their homes. Aside from his political assignment, the senator is renowned for his philanthropist gesture in Kogi State.
This renowned philanthropist who was born on August 18, 1960, was elected Senator for Kogi West Senatorial District in 2007. After an interlude, he returned to the Red Chamber of the National Assembly on November 30, 2019 after an epic battle with his challenger in the opposition party. He holds a post-graduate Diploma in Public Relations, Diploma in Law, Advanced Diploma in Mass Communications, and Master’s in Public Administration from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri. He was the President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) from 1999 to 2006
On assuming his senatorial seat first, in April 2007, Adeyemi was appointed to committees on Privatisation, Industry, Federal Character & Inter-Government Affairs (Chairman), Federal Capital Territory and Appropriation. He was also appointed Vice Chairman of Northern Senators Forum. In a mid-term evaluation of senators in May 2009, ThisDay noted that Adeyemi had worked on bills on the State of the Nation Address and the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act amendment, and sponsored three motions.
In May 2010 the Daily Sun said Adeyemi had asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to start an investigation of members of the National Assembly whom he alleged were corrupt. Later he claimed he was misquoted. “I never said this National Assembly is corrupt but if there are a few that are corrupt the EFCC should go ahead to expose them”, he said.
Despite his denial, the then Senate President, David Mark, announced a six-man ad hoc committee to investigate the issue, describing it as serious allegation. The committee was chaired by Senate Chief Whip, Kanti Bello, with Senators Ayogu Eze, Olorunnimbe Mamora, James Manager, Adamu Talba and Zainab Kure as members.
Adeyemi’s allegation was similar to one made by Senator Nuhu Aliyu from Niger State in January 2008, which caused a similar strong reaction from the other federal legislators.
Adeyemi won the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primaries to compete for re-election as Kogi West Senator in the April 2011 elections. He rose on the back of PDP with strong support from the late Mr. Fix It, Tony Anenih, to bulldoze his way through the tough politics of Kogi. However, a court nullified the PDP primaries on April 4, 2011, saying it did not follow due process as defined in the electoral act.
A fresh primary was conducted on April 7, in which Adeyemi defeated his opponent Abiye Abinso by 1,124 votes to two. In the elections of April 9, 2011, Adeyemi retained his seat, and also recently defeated the controversial Dino Melaye in a supplementary election ordered by the Supreme Court after Melaye’s victory was nullified. Adeyemi won with a margin of over 20,000 votes on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In 2015 when Adeyemi declared interest to run for third term, little did he know he was going to face one of the bumpiest voyages of his political adventures. He was greeted with injustice, intimidation and elite’s conspiracy. The elite and political class, who ganged up against him were not interested in his political antecedents or his vibrant representation on the floor of the Senate. To them, no one had got a third term chance in the state and Adeyemi would not be an exception.
The onslaught against Adeyemi started in August 2015 when he overwhelmingly won the PDP senatorial primaries for the Kogi West. In what was widely adjudged as credible, free and participatory exercise, Adeyemi defeated his major opponent, Tolorunju Faniyi. It was unprecedented and the people who came out to vote went frenzy celebrating in the district. It was a unique victory. However, the unimaginable happened overnight, starting within his party, PDP, as major bigwigs within the party kicked.
Senator Tunde Ogbeha, a former two-term senator and pioneer Military Governor of Akwa Ibom State, led the war within the party in the Lokoja/Kogi Federal constituency. The leadership of PDP and some highly positioned appointees of government were convinced to work against Adeyemi in the general election. Adeyemi like the two previous elections, won the five council areas in the Okun-speaking part of the zone, namely: Kabba/Bunu, Yagba West, Yagba East, Mopamuro and Ijumu.
Despite the intra-party feud, Adeyemi led with the Accord party candidate, Sam Aro, coming second, while Dino Melaye of APC then, was third with over 10,000 votes difference. But in a dramatic twist, Adeyemi’s lead was upturned in Lokoja and Kogi council areas as Dino raked up votes in the two councils but not without three polling units cancelled in Kogi LGA. Election in the cancelled area was conducted twice before Melaye was declared winner. There was confusion on the floor of the Senate when the APC member representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Smart Adeyemi, said he preferred military rule to the current democracy practised in Nigeria.
His outburst caused a stir in the Senate as his colleagues vehemently opposed his opinion, describing his statement as anti-democratic. He was speaking while contributing to a debate on a Bill for the Establishment of a National Electoral Offences Commission, sponsored by Senator Abubakar Kyari. Kyari had said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was too overwhelmed to effectively prosecute election offenders, hence the need for a commission specifically for that purpose.
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, cautioned Adeyemi, pointing out that the opinion of the former NUJ President was personal and did not represent the position of the Senate. Other senators like James Manager and George Sekibo also disagreed with Adeyemi by insisting that democracy was better than the military government. Adeyemi noted with anger, that the way democracy was being practised in Nigeria, particularly the electoral process, is nothing but a charade.
According to him, ‘’to say without any fear of contradiction, there cannot be democracy in any nation where we do not have a free and fair election. There will be a misrepresentation, bad governance, misappropriation of funds and all the shortcomings that we have witnessed over the years of the democratic rule.’’
As a senator he has been raising controversial issues which have earned him more political foes in the Red Chamber. He has worked on bills on the State of the Nation Address and the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act amendment and sponsored three motions.
He is seen by many as a controversial man. Adeyemi appears to be the only one in his senatorial district with the record and war chest to retain APC’s fortune in Kogi West. He is credited with many landmark achievements. When he lost to APC in 2015, many were left in awe. “We fell for the Buhari Tsunami. There was no justification for voting out Adeyemi in 2015. We just followed the Buhari bandwagon because of the hatred for then President. Adeyemi performed well while he was in Senate. It was a great mistake and I think many people have since realised this”, says Owoyomi Adewale, a resident of Kabba.
As a senator, it is on record how he used his position to reduce unemployment in Kogi West by giving out over 200 vehicles for transport workers as taxi, scholarship for over 1000 under graduates, infrastructural development across the zone, and opportunity for hundreds to secure jobs at the Federal Civil Service.
Aside from his proven antecedents in politics, Adeyemi brings to the table over 20 years of active practice as a professional journalist, politicians and a successful business owner who has thousands of people employed in his business.
“Adeyemi is “SMART”, who wants the best for Kogi West and we cannot but support him and wish him good luck in his campaign for the Senate”, said Jaja Bala, the Coordinator of Lokoja based Youth Advocates for Good Governance. Fundamentally, Kogi West race will be an important test case for the APC to know whether it can still contend strongly in areas where its victory in 2015 was viewed as mirage.
A political pundit however said: “Adeyemi will remain a very tough candidate to beat no matter whom the opposition fields against him.”
As it stands, Adeyemi’s choice Is the SMARTest decision of the APC. The ebullient senator is married with children.