Chairman, Senate Committee on Science and Technology, Ajayi Boroffice, representing Ondo North Senatorial District, tells LEKE BAIYEWU about his life, family and politics
How did you become a lawmaker in the National Assembly?
My journey into the National Assembly was an expensive venture, which I think many people don’t really know. But the important thing is that in the two elections, which I won in 2011 and 2015, I was able to convince the people in my senatorial district that I can represent them effectively, and that was why they voted for me. I have been trying to make sure that I represent them and, where it is within my capacity, ensure they also enjoy the dividends of democracy.
It has been very rewarding. The situation in which I have found myself exposes me and allows me to understand every stratum of the Nigerian population; from the grass roots to the elite. In the Senate, I interact with the elite and I know their thoughts. I can see what Nigeria looks like from that perspective. I think this is important for a politician. In all, I think it has been a rewarding experience being in the Senate.
With the way the public perceives the National Assembly and vice versa, what is it precisely that creates the conflict of perceptions?
If people are not here, they will not understand. I have a colleague where interview I was reading in one of the dailies about a month ago. He is now a senator and he said before he got into the Senate, he thought we came here to make a noise and play around. He said that when he got here, he was overwhelmed with work; that he was shocked that senators worked. We don’t leave this place (office) until between 6pm and 7pm. We have to work from Tuesday to Thursday. On Fridays, we have to go to our constituencies to meet with our people and interact with them. By Monday, we will run back to start sittings (plenary) on Tuesday. On Tuesdays, the normal plenary sessions start at 10am and end at 2pm, if there is no extension. Immediately after, we start committee meetings. So, if you are serving in more than two committees, you may be moving from one committee to another. I chair the Committee on Science and Technology; I also serve on four other committees. At times, three of the committees may be meeting simultaneously and you will have to move from one to another. Of course, when my committee is meeting, there is nothing I can do than to sit down and preside over the session.
I also participate actively in the oversight functions of the committee where I am the chairman and the ones that I am a member of. This exercise can take us on tour of the country. For instance, I am in the Committee on Navy and we embark on tour of the naval commands in the East and the West. For the Committee on Trade and Investment, we have to go on tour of the free trade zones in the country. I am also in the committees on health and education. So, I cannot attend all because I am always very busy.
But you are also making money in the process apart from the constituency projects?
The way people see us is unfortunate. That is not correct. They feel that once you’re here (in the National Assembly), you are making money. They have flogged the issue of constituency projects. Now, I think people are getting to realise that they (executive) don’t give us the money (for the projects), it is in the budget. We only tell them in the budget where we want the projects to be located. It is the (government) agency in charge of the sector concerned that awards the contract. In some cases, we don’t know the contractors. For instance, I did not know the contractors that constructed the Centre for Emergency Obstetrics in my place and he did a shoddy job, and I cannot trace him. If I had nominated him, I would be able to trace him, report him to the traditional ruler and force him to complete his job (the contract). But because it was given to somebody we don’t know, there is nothing we can do.
We do our best to be sure that we are transparent and concerned about the pains of Nigerians. So, we are not here making money, as people think. Instead, we spend a lot of money because we receive phone calls from our constituencies; especially from people who have problems and they want us to intervene. We cannot satisfy all of them. But we try to meet the demands of some; it costs a lot of money.
Being one of the oldest in the Senate, how do you cope with the high volume of work?
I’m from a different background. I came from the university. So, I am used to the work ethic of the academia. If you come here on Mondays, when there is no sitting, you will meet me here; that is if I haven’t travel. On Fridays, you will meet me in this office.
Does it mean you don’t have any leisure time?
Leisure time at my age? What am I doing with that? Most of the time, I am working because I have always been used to that, right from my days in the university. I don’t see it as a burden at all.
If you work for so long, how does your tight schedule affect your family?
My wife is a professor and she is also used to it, even though she is retired now. All my children are grownups. I am a grandfather, so the issue of looking after children doesn’t arise. It is only my grandchildren that I think I’m trying to relate with, even though they are not at the prime of my attention because they have their parents too.
Has any of your family members shown interest in politics?
It is not an active interest and I will discourage anybody who wants to go into politics among my children. I will discourage them (my children) from participating in politics because the type of politics we play in Nigeria is not the type I think they should get involved in. They all schooled in the US and what they are used to is different from what we do here. They will be frustrated and I don’t think I will encourage them, as of now, to get involved in our politics, until politics (in Nigeria) becomes saner and less expensive; until it becomes more ideological than ‘cash and carry’ because what we do now is ‘cash and carry’ politics.
Your attire is always white. What is the reason for that?
It is just that when I wear white, I want it to be a symbol of purity of my heart and inner man. The white attire is almost a weakness in everything I do. I’m always cautioned not to cross the boundary of righteousness. In any case, it is in line with the Bible which says, ‘Let your garment be white always;’ it is in Ecclesiastes 9:8. It is the consciousness of purity and righteousness as a Christian.
Have you had any embarrassing experience because you wear white always, especially with those around you?
People ask me questions on that. They believe that when you wear white, you are a member of a cult. It is a perception. Even members of those cults in the Yoruba traditional system, the white they wear is for purity. Purity is not limited to cultism. I’m a Christian and I don’t belong to any cult. I belong to two Christian organisations: the Gideons International which distributes Bibles, and the Full Gospel Businessmen Fellowship International. I am not a member of Lion’s Club or Rotary Club.
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