Public office has taken my freedom away — Marafa

Senator Kabir Marafa

Member of the Senate representing Zamfara Central Senatorial District, Senator Kabir Marafa, is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream). He tells LEKE BAIYEWU about his life and politics

Since when have you been in the National Assembly and how has the experience been for you?

I have been here since 2011 and my experience is that of delight, excellent working environment and meeting a lot of people. This is the best place one can work. One will come across different people with diverse culture, religion, and ethnicity. One of the best example or lessons one learns here is working with people. National Assembly teaches someone not to be an island; it teaches one to build bridges.

What challenges come with being member of the National Assembly?

There are several of them. One of them is the delicate balance between the demand of your constituents and your personal demands — that is your time for rest, prayers and family. It is a job that is quite demanding, time consuming and very hectic. But a lot of people look at it from the rosy side. I will give an example: a lot of people believe that the work of a member of the Senate or House of Representatives stops at the plenary. So, when they look at the chamber on television or by other means and you (a lawmaker) are not there, they will simply say the senator or representative does not attend the plenary, forgetting that plenary is just about 25 per cent of the legislative work; 75 per cent or even more is in the committees. An average member, at least, belongs to three committees. Some can be in as much as seven or even more.

Another issue is that one can have like three meetings in a day, apart from the ad hoc committees, which may require that we travel. For instance, I’m a member of an ad hoc committee on the crisis in Southern Kaduna and other parts of the country. That means we will go to the nooks and crannies of Kaduna and other states like Zamfara, Ekiti, Abia, Enugu, Benue and other places. We have oversight functions too. There are a lot of things to do. So, there is a serious demand on our time.

How have you been able to convince people that your experience in the National Assembly is different from what people think?

One thing is the integrity issue. People tend to forget what one was doing before coming to the Senate. A lot of people believe that a lawmaker is just a poor man who has come to the Senate and suddenly makes it. The situation is not always correct. Also, there are smear campaigns because of those issues, which are largely out of envy. Somebody will sit down and just say senators earn N36m or N12m or N2m or N20m monthly or are paid N40m quarterly; that they are thieves. They forget that you also have family, parents, well-wishers and friends to whom you are responsible and who feel the pain when their father, brother, or friends are addressed in derogatory manners. They forget that they don’t give themselves that kind of money without giving themselves the commensurate responsibilities with the money. Now, there are problems I came here to inherit. Even now, people say they have problems that I never knew before — ‘my wife or father is in the hospital,’ ‘I have fire incident, I am travelling, I am sick, I want to eat, I want clothes’ etc. So, there are a lot of challenges but I just mentioned a few that we come across everyday, which, most of the time, we find very difficult to overcome.

One thing I will add is that with my experience so far, Nigerians are very good people. When you talk to them to educate them, they listen and understand. And when they understand, they will give you all the necessary cooperation.

How do all these affect your family?

You have to keep telling your people (family) that they should bear in mind that now you are not the same husband your wife used to have. Before, I was just Kabir Marafa, a husband or a father. He is different from Senator Kabir Marafa. If somebody abuses me, and you are annoyed, just ask him, ‘are you abusing Kabir Marafa or Senator Kabir Marafa?’ If it is Senator Kabir Marafa, then, I should bear in mind that it is one of the consequences of public office. If I am not occupying that office, that person will not abuse me. But if you are abusing or insulting me, that means it is personal between us. That is what should bother me. The day I step down, resign, retire or impeached or whatever, those people won’t abuse me again.

What has public office taken away from you?

Like I told you, it is my personal freedom. In those days, there are a lot of things I did.

Like what?

Like socialising with my friends. We attended ceremonies of personal friends and acquaintances freely. We would attend social gatherings and mingle with people. Now, I don’t have that opportunity anymore. Now, I am serving people. Now, I have to learn to talk to people who I didn’t relate with so much; people that I didn’t like their ideas but now I have to listen to them.

Also, the freedom with my family. Sometimes, one of the toughest things for a woman to do is to marry a politician because she will spend months without enjoying a bit of his time. You will come here (Senate) and spend the whole day. As soon as you get back home, you are tired or have meetings in the night. You have to see this or that and fix this or that. Then, your phone keeps ringing. My phone line has been the same since inception of mobile telecommunication (in Nigeria) and I am still using it. Honestly, one will miss his children as a senator because one doesn’t use to see them often and one doesn’t have the time for them.

How do you relax when there is time for it?

I engage myself in prayers. It is one sure way of unwinding. When you communicate with God, you tell Him your problems from the innermost and you believe that He hears you and He knows everything; He is everywhere, He sees, He foresees, He writes and underwrites, He does everything. All these frustrations go away when you depend on somebody who has knowledge and power over all things.’

Again, I find time to visit friends and relations and crack jokes. They tell me some of the things the society says about me. If I have the ample time, I jog too.

Do you play any sports?

Not really but I play table tennis if I have the chance.

With your experience so far, would you love to see your children in politics?

Yes. I think we are born politicians. I am blue blooded; I was born a prince. When I was growing up, I used to see people coming in and going out of our house, seeking assistance in one form or another. My children will definitely continue from where God says I will stop. I see life as a relay race where somebody passes the batton to you and you play your own part and pass it to another person.

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