Monday, 4th December 2023

‘Why Tinubu should give more opportunities to women in his government’

By Kehinde Olatunji
22 July 2023   |   3:25 am
In the last few years, there has been a decline in the number of women in elective positions in the country. Women rights activist, Oluyemisi Adesina, in this interview with KEHINDE OLATUNJI, highlights the challenges facing women in politics, expressing optimism that a better deal is under way in the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration. She also speaks on other…

In the last few years, there has been a decline in the number of women in elective positions in the country. Women rights activist, Oluyemisi Adesina, in this interview with KEHINDE OLATUNJI, highlights the challenges facing women in politics, expressing optimism that a better deal is under way in the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration. She also speaks on other issues.

What is responsible for the decline in the number of women vying for elective positions in the 2023 general election?

In my view, it is a result of lack of confidence and ability to persevere. For instance, what made President Bola Ahmed Tinubu succeed in his aspiration to become the president of Nigeria is self-confidence. His faith in God and conviction gave him success. This is what I feel is lacking in many of our women in Nigeria. Some women are afraid of the political terrain in Nigeria and that is why they don’t participate in politics. Without participation, there won’t be an avenue for them to be voted into elective offices. I believe women should show more interest in politics.

What we need is to strengthen our self-confidence and believe we can do it. Recall that when the Ninth National Assembly was rounding off, the First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, said that during her days in the Senate, she was interviewed on why she chose to go to the Senate, and not the House of Representatives. I feel the question was meant to demoralise her but she chose courage and the rest they say is history.

Look at the former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. She is a very courageous and focused woman too. Time will not permit me; I can go on to mention great women of our time who have made positive impact in the country. In a nutshell, let women develop their self-confidence and in the coming elections, more of them will emerge.

Do you think President Tinubu will achieve 35 per cent affirmative action in his political appointments?

Please note that Rome was not built in a day. We (women) shall entrench and adopt the principles of no retreat, no surrender. I believe women have a great role to play in our country and they should be given more opportunities to serve in public offices because they know how to manage people. We are mothers. We are the jewels of our respective houses and we know how to manage situations. With the way President Tinubu has started appointing women as his special assistants, I believe strongly that they will be given good roles in the current administration, not only at the national level, but also at the state level.

Don’t you think women lack financial power or popularity to challenge men in Nigeria’s political circle?
No. I don’t believe in this theory because we have women who are far richer than men. So, I don’t believe lack of financial power is the reason we don’t have more women in politics.

What is your assessment of President Tinubu in less than two months in office?
His performance is fantastic because of some of the great things he has done and some of the positive moves of his administration, especially his laudable policies to address some of the basic problems in Nigeria. I am confident to say that President Tinubu has done remarkably well so far because I am a living witness.

I could recall that around December 2022, some friends and family friends stopped greeting me. They accused me of campaigning for Tinubu and his Vice, Senator Kashim Shettima for the presidency. Some of those who were not in their support accused me of being one of the people who did not mean well for this country. Some of them even expressed surprise that I was supporting the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, telling me, ‘You call yourself a Christian and you promote a bad market. Look at what is happening in the country, are you not tired?’ I did not answer and I cut them off from my line. But thank God, the stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.

Tinubu, in less than two months in office, has really surprised a lot of people. He has shown himself to be a bold and courageous leader who can address some of the problems in Nigeria. I’m also very pleased with some of the appointments he has made so far because they are credible people who are very knowledgeable and very effective in their careers and professions. For example, the newly appointed security chiefs are the best officers in the armed forces. Some of the special advisers appointed by the President are renowned technocrats who have displayed professionalism and integrity in their professions. I believe strongly that Tinubu will be a good leader and Nigeria will experience growth and development during his administration.

Do you think women are equitably represented in the appointments made so far by the President?
Let us just wait and see. I believe women will get at least 25 percent in the present administration, because Tinubu will give women opportunities in his government.
If the current administration fails to meet affirmative action, how best do you think the target can be achieved going forward?
I believe every development is a process and, therefore, we need to change or modify our strategies. This will take the form of massive mobilisation for elective positions. I feel very strongly that this will improve our negotiating power for appointments in the future.

Do you think Nigeria is winning the war against gender-based violence, considering the efforts that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have put into the fight?

Not yet, but there is great awareness and a strong desire to improve. I think the two areas where we need to be more serious and direct our scarce resources for quick results are improved legislation and enforcement. More decisive actions on these two areas will take us close to the Promised Land if not the land itself.

How will you advise younger generations, especially girl children and women?
I advise them to be focused. They must remember at all times that they are jewels created for special purposes. They should not allow anybody to derail their dreams or waste the potential God has deposited in them. I must say this, please do not fall prey to predators and peer pressure, which is now a major problem to a girl child. Women should be more committed to raising their female children by educating them and providing for their basic needs. This, in my view, will not allow them to fall prey. I will also advise our young girls to be hardworking and dedicate time for their studies. They must always aspire to be great in life and be role models to their family and country.

How do you feel clocking 50 years?
I feel great and happy celebrating my 50th birthday. I feel great every day I wake up, but this one is an exceptional feeling of the presence of God in my daily affairs. It is a feeling that will force me to reflect, but ultimately I have come to appreciate the impact of God and His faithfulness upon me, my home, my family in my aspirations and achievements today. I give Him praise.

Why did you decide to touch lives with your 50th birthday celebration?
Everybody is a product of society. I believe we emerge, get nurtured and survive in society. Therefore, all our achievements are products of the same society. Basically, I believe in capacity development, empowerment and making sure every living soul lives a meaningful life. This, to me, is changing lives and uplifting humanity.

I have commitments to demonstrate this by rolling out scholarships for some female science students who are financially challenged. This I feel will help them pursue their dreams and their career developments. This particular project is so dear to my heart and I feel great having this opportunity to bring this to life. I was a beneficiary of a government scholarship when I was in secondary school. The award was given to me when I was declared the best female science student.
I celebrated my 50th birthday by paying the medical bills of patients in some hospitals. As a product of the church that loves singing, musical equipment were donated to some religious organisations. I also gave wonderful gifts to the first baby delivered on July 6, 2023.

You don’t really look 50, what is the secret?
The grace of God and peace of mind. I thank God for the grace to clock 50 years.