We could come back to PDP but I want to ask how you read the rising number of women leaders across the world
It is God’s way of telling us that He created men and women equally and women too can take charge as far as leadership is concerned. We are happy this is happening in our life time. Luckily, Africa is already part of that trend as Liberia, our nieghbour, has a woman president. Women are coming to take their rightful place. We should be able to give each other the space. Contributing to leadership at the apex of leadership and power shouldn’t be exclusive to men.
Will it change anything?
A woman may be a president but she would think of the family. A woman would not go there and disregard the family. As long as the family is the core of a woman, she will always be careful, more careful when in charge.
How do you relate this trend to yourself?
We don’t know what the future holds. We pray for every woman. I was praying secretly in my heart for Mama Taraba to win. Even though we belong to different parties, my first constituency is women. Through her, we could have got the first female governor and from the north for that matter. If she achieved that, women could look higher. She would have broken the glass ceiling, especially in northern Nigeria. The north would have broken that record. If she got it, all of us would have got it.
Are women increasing or decreasing in terms of participation in politics in Nigeria?
From the statistics from 1999 to date, women are decreasing. The number of women has reduced. It is sad we are not even having more women in appointive positions. At least, in the PDP, we came out with a formula although it became a problem in problem in implementing the 35% quota. The number of women in state and federal agencies or legislative houses is decreasing. We have to come up with another strategy because an idea such as one female senator from every state could not be implemented. How do you decide which senatorial district provides a woman at every turn?
How about the usual clash between managing the home and political involvement which is always the problem against women in politics?
For me, there is no serious clash. My children are all grown up and gone their own ways. I have grand children who come only now and then. My husband likes my food but it is just the two of us.
Terrible things dominate the news nowadays, such as stories of mean and cruel treatment of each other everywhere. How do you cope with it?
At times, you go to Facebook, you see terrible video or picture, a terrible, terrible thing happening to a child or a woman and you keep on wondering if we are going back to medieval times. Even the medieval people didn’t do such things, I would say. The public is not spared the agony of those pathetic stories that spoils your day. Our society is degenerating. We need soul searching. Government should do a lot of moral education. The National Orientation Agency, the churches, the mosques, community leaders, religious leaders, the emirs and chiefs have a role to play. Everybody should be concerned and involved.
Let’s go back to the political parties. You said PDP has not learnt its lessons. How different is the APC from the PDP in terms of crisis?
The parties are all the same the way they are. They are all not independent. That’s bane of our parties. Parties must be independent to be parties. But, here, they have to go abegging. That’s why you find them taking dictations. So, political parties must look for funding so that they can tell the executive the truth. Seen as such, the parties at present are not doing their job.
What are the alternatives that you think can still work bearing in mind how everyone has become used to handouts from the executive?
The alternatives are there in the constitution. If members pay party dues, you will have enough. And they will raise their stakes in the party. It is also in the constitution of the parties that five per cent of the emoluments of all officials elected and appointed on the platform of the party goes to the party. And people buy forms to contest for offices on the party’s platform. These are legitimate sources. They are enough to run a party rather than collecting donations from the governor or president. From where does the executive get the money to fund the party?
What’s your scorecard for the APC now?
We are still watching. They are saying they came and met some challenges but the people are saying it is because there were problems that we voted for you. So, do something. They have been in office for a year plus now. I think everybody wants the government to succeed because if they succeed, it is for Nigeria, it is for all of us. If they fail, all of us will be suffering, whether you are APC or PDP member. So, we are eagerly waiting for the change.
I want you to score them on a scale of 100 per cent downwards
Mr Onoja, you go out and hear people. My score would be partisan.
You said we are eagerly waiting for the change. If you look at it in terms of the party and the president, where might you situate what could be hindering the change?
The party has the manifesto. I don’t know if it was in the manifesto but I heard security as an area of emphasis. It has improved a bit. I can say that because I come from the north-east. There is some success, though not total. On the economy, I am not an economist. If you go to the market, everything is not well. They allocate the blame to the mess created by the past government but they are here to clean the mess. So, why the emphasis on the mess itself again? Now, on employment, we have not seen the rate falling yet. Every day, scores troop to our house here to see if we could help. How many people can I help?
Do you have a parting comment?
I have a parting comment and it is to Nigerian women. We should not give up. Women should take up the fight and insist on participation in governance. It is our right. We are not begging. Nigerian women should be visible. Things are down now but we should not be out. Political parties should do the right thing about women too. That’s what I want to say.