Abiola Adeyemi: ‘Women vote more at every election but many still don’t believe in female candidacy’
Abiola Adeyemi is the Lagos State gubernatorial candidate under the Action Peoples’ Party. In this interview with TOBI AWODIPE, she talks about the need for Lagosians to embrace women leadership, garnering support for other female candidates and why Lagosians must look beyond the ruling party.
What made you decide to contest for the post of a governor in Lagos seeing as this is a position that needs a bit of political experience?
I have the necessary experience to be governor. I was the Democratic Peoples’ Congress (DPC) chairperson for a number of years and was also the party’s gubernatorial candidate in 2019. So yes, I have the experience. I was also Action Alliance (AA) chairperson for some years before joining Action Peoples’ Party (APP) in Lagos. I am the chairman of the party as well as its gubernatorial candidate.
The present governor has tried his best, but it is clearly not up to the satisfaction of Lagosians and the people yearn for better. If given the opportunity to be governor, I will do the things he hasn’t done. Transportation and traffic is a major problem in this state that hasn’t been properly addressed and has been left to touts and area boys. These touts (agberos) and area boys are at an unbelievable number now in the state, leaving residents in fear. I am telling Lagosians to try someone else and another party; it might just be better than what they presently know.
How prepared are you for the challenges that this role entails?
I am prepared, because this is not the first time I am contesting. We don’t have the money of the ruling party, but with the little we have, we are telling the people from the grassroots, that we are with and for them and understand what they’re passing through.
If the present government is moving, helicopter will be used, how can he know what the average person in the street is going through? It pains me that poverty is rife and is affecting the judgment of the electorate; we collect what we will eat right now or tomorrow and suffer for it for four years. Until we change this orientation, we cannot move forward.
What would you say are the obvious challenges that your candidacy would address?
Transportation and security are major issues that Lagosians are facing, which I intend to tackle. Touting in Lagos has been encouraged and allowed to fester leading to heavy insecurity.
What are the discriminations, especially gender related and violence you have faced on this journey so far?
Unfortunately, many people don’t believe in women, even other women. Every election, women are the highest voters; you will see old women coming to vote. We go to rallies and people laugh at us, but I don’t mind them, I continue preaching that I should be given a chance to show that I can do better than the men that have been doing it before.
I ask them what has changed since men have been ruling us. I tell them to look at Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education that presently has a woman leadership. Things turned around for the college as soon as a woman took over. UNILAG also recently appointed a woman, as its VC because they realised that women leadership is the way forward. I’m appealing to all to consider women leadership and see the difference.
Politically, men don’t respect women; they embarrass and insult us when we go to rallies/campaigns. When women head organisations, we see that such organisations experience rapid growth and success.
Women’s participation in politics is constrained by several factors, have these hindered you in any way?
The big parties give token posts to women even though we make up half of the country’s population. In the different states, the highest women get is deputy. The discrimination I suffer is much, even from other women; they urge me to step down for men. I tell them to try me first and see the difference. Women understand the value of things, how to budget properly, minimize and save cost as well as plan efficiently and effectively.
I make bold to say that there is no woman-led organisation that is not succeeding and thriving. Women leaders may be strict, but you are sure the job would get done. It is time we realise that women can do better than men and this can only be achieved with everyone’s support.
It’s no secret that Nigerian women struggle politically, how do you intend to address this?
This is true and it is so easy to give up. You will see yourself running, but struggling to catch up. Even as state chairman of our party, some people still tell me to allow men talk or represent the party outside; this is very discouraging. Many husbands prevent their wives from running for office; this affects us politically and prevents us from growing.
Token positions like women leader won’t help us grow. This is why at every election, you will see thousands of men coming forward and less than 50 women, how can we move forward like this? Men speak for themselves, who will speak for women politically?
How can women focused groups and CSOs do a last minute push to support women running, as well as encourage the female electorate?
CSOs are not ready to support us, because they know we don’t have money, even though we have a lot to offer. The only strategy the ruling party uses is money. They throw money and people go out to work for them. They call us for meetings, but nothing comes out of these meetings; nobody is really ready to help us.
I sometimes tell them not to give me the money directly, but instead, use it to help in strategy, because I know that is what is needed most. As soon as elections are near, the ruling party would start sharing money to everyone and we know that is what impresses voters. The day Nigerians stop looking at these tiny tokens and think of the future, that is only when we can move forward.
What would you say to aspiring female politicians who are on this journey right now and those aspiring?
I would encourage them to push forward and not stop because very soon, we will achieve our heart desires. That is only when this country can begin to move forward and things change for the better.