‘I want to see that even the smallest communities benefit from democracy’
Jummai Gundiri is the candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) for the Adamawa house of assembly (Uba/Gaya constituency). Starting her political career at the age of 21, in 2019, she contested the position of women leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with TOBI AWODIPE, she speaks about her desire to lift her people out of poverty and underdevelopment.
Why are you contesting for a seat in the state House of Assembly and how would you describe your journey so far?
I have a lot of reasons for contesting, but my biggest reason is that I have my people at the heart of everything I do. I’m from Hong Local Council of Adamawa, Uba/Gaya Constituency and there is nothing like dividend of democracy in my local government.
The same sets of people have been contesting and representing us since I was a child till now, but nothing has changed. They’re only focused on winning and not the people’s interest and I am saying that I am here to retire them all. The journey to this point has been very rough, but I am still here and I will see it through till victory.
Women participation in politics this year is slightly lower than in 2019, what do you think is responsible for that?
The primary reason is money. It is unfortunate that our politics in Nigeria is money-focused. Most women in politics don’t have money and I make bold to say that 80 per cent of women in politics don’t have money. Women usually come up short financially and it is more telling when running for office in a place that requires you to spend money. I would advice women to leave the bigger parties and focus on smaller parties. I left a big party for a smaller one to realised my ambition and I have high hopes that I would win. I got my form and every other thing free of charge.
Labour Party, as well as so many other small parties, gave women nomination forms free of charge and I fancy my chances with my party. In my state, agents are being paid N3million per person, how can I afford this? There are almost 500 agents, add it up and you will see that we have a serious problem at hand. The politicians running enrich the agents and leave the people to suffer. At the federal level, the agents are paid several millions, how can we move forward as a country? This is why we don’t have competent hands running for office and in office. My goal is to change all these.
What are the things you have identified that you seek to achieve when elected?
I want to concentrate on health. I have gone round all the Primary Health Care Centres (PHCs) and hospitals in my ward and when I tell you that most of them do not have something as basic as water, you may not believe. Women are suffering in hospitals; newborn babies are placed on the floor or iron bed, because there is no space and resources. Some hospitals don’t have electricity; they use torchlights to take delivery. These are things I saw myself, I wasn’t told.
I would also focus on education because illiteracy is rife here. Advocacy is another thing I would focus on; I want to stand for youths, women and children. Women and children are being raped daily and nothing is being done about this. Youths are being arrested illegally; young women are being locked up for months because of miserly debts, some even less that N5,000.
Another area I would focus on is community development; I want to see that even the smallest communities benefit from democracy and my representation. Finally, I want to help others coming behind me. In improving the situation of my people, I want to focus on welfare rather than empowerment; because it is clear that empowerment in Nigeria is a lie. When the people’s welfare is improved drastically, they would be sufficiently empowered to pursue the right things.
What are some of the challenges you face right now preventing this from happening?
Money is my biggest challenge. To fund my campaign, I have been borrowing. I’ve sold some of my lands and property to pay off some debts. I don’t have a car; I use Okada and tricycles (keke) to campaign. I have had Okada accidents twice and a Keke accident that I’m still recovering from, but I’m not deterred.
What new innovations are you bringing to bear?
I intend to help young women and youths because I understand what those two groups are going through in particular, as I am going through it myself. When I go to campaign, some of them give me money and beg me not to give up. I will train young people in the right skills as well as feed them.
Feeding is a big problem for many Nigerians and many people are hungry. The suffering in the country right now is so much that people will do almost anything to eat. If people have what to eat, they would be less willing tools in the hands of politicians.
Have you faced gender based discrimination or violence of any kind while running your campaign?
On so many occasions; my billboard in front of my campaign office was dug up and removed by some robbers, but they couldn’t move it after removing it. I am not sure if their plan was to rob or intimidate me, but when they were accosted, they claimed I was the one that sent them to remove it. This is just one of the many things I have been facing since I joined the race.
I know it is a waste of time reporting to the police, because nothing would be done. I was told in my constituency that a woman can never occupy office in that constituency, even the person helping me was turned against me because they felt I was daring to contest against more established men in big parties but again, I am not deterred.
What keeps you going and encourages you on this journey?
God and my people. Anytime I remember their suffering and the same people are recycling themselves every four years and do absolutely nothing to alleviate this suffering, it angers and spurs me on. Sometimes, I cry in the privacy of my room and want to give up, but my raison d’etre keeps me going.
Someone I borrowed N20,000 from threatened to arrest me. She went as far as dragging me on social media, but I didn’t mind, I looked for how to pay her back instead. If I quit now, all the suffering and embarrassment I endured would be in vain.
Political representation by women in the North is slightly lower than the average nationally due to a number of factors; does this help or mar your chances in any way?
Yes, it can mar my chances, but with God on my side and other women helping me, I will succeed. Only five women won primaries in the whole of Admawa, two in APC and ADC and one in the PDP. Of these five, two are returning and money isn’t their problem; the rest of us are struggling and pushing. If women can come together and help the three of us, it would go a long way in helping us win. Even if it’s one or two that can be helped, not necessarily myself, this would boost our chances of women representation at state level and would encourage others at federal level. If no help comes, I am sorry already about our chances; it would mean the same thing would sadly repeat itself for the next four years.