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Mrakpor: Women won’t get power without fighting for it

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House of Representatives of Nigeria PHOTO:Wikipedia

Joan Onyemaechi Mrakpor represents the people of Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, after serving two terms in Delta State House Of Assembly. In a recent interview with ODITA SUNDAY, she does not think politics should be made a gender issue.

In your view, why are more women not coming out to participate in politics?

Often times, when I am asked this question, I just laugh. I do not know whether women would like me for my answer or they would prefer me to tell them the truth. 

When you say women should be given a chance, who is supposed to do that? That is the basic question. 

We grew up with the boys, shared the same class with them in primary and secondary schools. 

We were taught by the same teachers, did the same subjects, answered the same questions, and I do not think any boy gave any girl a chance to pass any examination. 

We moved on to the universities, still together as boys and girls, the same department and so on. 

I remember our General Studies (GS) Class at University of Jos. You know GS classes are like Dugbe Market or any other market, because all the departments are lumped together. 

You discover that when you arrive GS Class, the first four or five rows are taken up by the girls, because they always arrive early and they want to be at the front to hear the lecturer clearly, whereas the boys will stroll in leisurely and sit or stand at the back. 

The lecturers did not mark our papers based on gender. We read law, medicine, political science, theatre arts and so on. Nobody asked for a chance. There was no different marking scheme for female and male. 

After leaving the university, we went for Youth Service; still there was no preferential treatment. 

But all of a sudden, as the girls turn to women, boys turn to men, you begin to hear things like handle the women with care, gender equality and so on. I am yet to fathom where the disconnect comes from. 

I do not know what happened between childhood, through adolescence to adulthood.

All of a sudden, women would now have to beg a man to represent the people. Some might even want to run inside the house, just because some men would not like to see their faces on poster. 

Let us look at other areas, because when we limit it to politics, it is all so discouraging. We have male and female doctors. 

I do not think a female is employed and she is told because you are a female doctor, do only three hours per day and let the male doctor do seven hours.

No! They work as doctors. When you meet them in the ward, they are all doctors, irrespective of sex, and they work together. 

I think the challenge in politics is that somebody is mischievously trying to make the Nigerian woman believe there is problem for her going into politics.

What has your representation brought to the people of your constituency?

It has brought a lot to my people. I have been in the legislature for 11 years now. I did two terms at the Delta State House of Assembly and I have been in the House of Representatives in the past three years. 

I have attracted a general hospital, schools and federal government presence. I have also done empowerment.

Usually, I don’t pick projects for communities, rather I discuss with them. Immediately after I am elected, I usually do a thank-you tour round my constituency and with that, I am able to listen to the communities to know exactly what their needs are. 

At times, I hear the executive make some funny statements, which shows how much they understand the Nigerian system. Health centre might just be the need of that community. 

The general hospital may be one or two hours away from their community and all they need is health centre. 

If I am siting health care in a place, you can be sure that that is the need of the people. My people’s needs constitute what I submit during budgeting and appropriation.

Are you satisfied with the number of bills passed so far?

I was even thinking we should slow down, because in my opinion, when a bill is passed and signed into law, we should give it sometime to see the workability or otherwise of that law. 

Laws are made for human beings and they are supposed to be practicable. Nobody is perfect in lawmaking, and it’s possible to make mistakes.

So, when a law is being enforced, you could say no, this aspect should not have been this way, and such similar things. You might need to make amendment or another law to over-ride it. 

More over, some of our laws are similar in certain provisions, which ought not to be so.

For example, if you look at the Child Rights and Rights of Persons, as guaranteed by the Constitution, you would see that there was no need for unnecessary conflict.

Are you satisfied with the performance of present administration in Delta State?

I would say yes and no. No, because I know that Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Okowa is not satisfied with himself, because coming in as governor of Delta State, there were a lot of things he had planned. 

He had passion for the youths, wishing he would be able to get them off the street. He had passion to drastically reduce maternal mortality.

He is passionate about ensuring that the elderly get good medical attention, regardless of whether their children can afford it or not. He had passion for connecting villages or communities in Delta through a network of roads. 

However, because of the economy, he has not been able to achieve all this to the level he had thought and told Deltans during campaigns before he was sworn in. 

But again, I would say yes, that I am satisfied to the extent of the available means, judging by the economic situation in the country, where governors go cap-in- hand to Abuja every month for feeding money by federal government. Currently, Governor Okowa has turned Delta State into construction site. 

If he had the money, Okowa would turn the whole of Delta communities into a model state of his dream, because apart from the state capital, where road construction and drainage works are going on and other cities, he would want local communities to also be adequately taken care of.

What will you be bringing to the table, when you are re-elected to the House of Representatives?

There is a lot that I have in mind to do. Water is still a very big challenge in Aniocha/Oshimili federal constituency. 

It cuts across the four local governments; even those in the water zone like Oko community in Oshimili are still having big problems. I pray that God will give me the solution to provide water for my people. 

The issue of electricity is a major problem. The Federal Government should do something about power. But most importantly are our youths. 

They are idle, not because they want to be idle, but to an extent, because there is nothing to do. For instance, some of them are willing to do business, but there is no capital. 

You are at the forefront of the proposed Asaba University. What is the situation of things now?

My bill to the House of Representatives to turn the Federal College of Education (Technical) Asaba into a full-fledged university is based on the glaring fact that Delta State does not have a federal university. 

You might want to ask what do I mean? You may say Delta has Petroleum University, the Maritime University and the Admiralty University, but all of them are restrictive or specialised.

I cannot go to the Petroleum University to study law or medicine. Neither can one go to the Maritime University to study architecture. 

So, I came up with that Bill, because for a place like Delta State with specialised universities, we cannot be doing catchment, as the state is about the second or third in ranking educationally speaking in Nigeria. 

And that was what necessitated the bill and by God’s grace, when I brought it to the House, they welcomed it. 

It has passed through First Reading and is now at the Second Reading. It has been committed to the House Committee on Education. Once it sails through, it will go to Senate for concurrence.


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