Simultaneous accreditation, voting is invitation for rigging
Hon. Violet Olaitan Williams, Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP’s) candidate for Lagos Island Federal Constituency 1, in this interview with LEO SOBECHI, outlines her fears about Saturday’s election, regretting that political thugs kept removing campaign materials of opposition parties in the state.
• My fears for this election, by Violet Olaitan Williams
What motivated you into contesting the federal seat?
This is not the first time I am contesting. I tried it for the first time in 2007; so this is my second attempt. I am an indigene of this community. I am in the maritime sector. This community is a maritime hub and we have untapped opportunities. So this time around, I want to plough back by way of supporting bills and advocacy for coastal communities to enjoy maritime opportunities, for the youths in particular.
Your legislative agenda are lofty, but do you think that gender issues have been properly taken care of in the past 20 years?
It is the reason people like us must have a voice, because during President Goodluck Jonathan’s era, the 35 per cent appointive and elective positions for women was more pronounced but the opposite is what we have now.
If you look at All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State, it is dominated by all male/male, no female as deputy. Are you saying we do not have qualified female indigenes that can fill that seat? No. Gender voice must be heard and that is why we have to fight for it. We know it is no longer business as usual; we have to fight for it now and that is why people like us must lend our voices as gender representatives.
Do you have any fears about the forth-coming election?
Yes, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is one, because as I speak, there are undercurrents. But it will not be business as usual, because it is going to be bumper-to-bumper situation. We have to monitor them. A situation where a person comes with someone else’s PVC (Permanent Voter Card) and uses it several times should never happen again.
In my constituency, we never had it. It is in Constituency II and not in Constituency I. It is part of the problems we are having with INEC and the masterstroke in the rigging process. I have always been an agent.
I have never in all my life seen where you accredit and just go straight into voting; let us know how many people have been accredited and let them come back. It is daylight rigging. For crying out loud, we do not want it. Let us know how many people have been accredited from one polling unit; let it be displayed and let them come back for their voices to be heard through their ballot papers.
Were there challenges you encountered during your campaigns?
Number one challenge has been vandalism, destruction of banners and posters. I see it as a defeatist attitude from the opposition. As I speak, I have written a petition to the Commissioner of Police. I copied the Area Commander, Lion building and Ebute Ero Police Station. The person that tore my banners and posters is an NURTW (National Union of Road Transport Workers) person and when asked why he tore my banner, he said it was order from above that he was just following and that PDP does not exist in Lagos. He said there was division.
I am an indigene of this community. At what point in time was there a division. What he meant was division in the NURTW. They have so politicised the communities that everything starts and ends with NURTW, which is now unbecoming. Like I said earlier, I contested in 2007 and I never saw this, because it is a community.
We did not have anybody tearing off banners, intimidating fellow citizens because you are in the opposition, but now that is the order of the day. It is the height of it. You cannot walk freely. We are being intimidated as if it is a one-man show, which is not so. We have 91 parties in Nigeria. It means if you are not APC, your voice cannot be heard. That has been the major challenge I have encountered in this journey so far.
What is the police doing about the petition you wrote?
I have actually been invited, but the other fellow did not show up. I put a call through to the DPO and told him that all my banners and poster had been carted away and he came down promptly to address the issue and told them that Lagos State Police Command frowns at such acts and that we must all conform. I recall that on December 5, we went to sign an undertaking with the Commissioner of Police in Ikeja where we were all told that there has to be decorum, politically, with banners and posters in every local government. That was what informed me to write the Commissioner of Police because we are law-abiding citizens, but they want to bring bribery and thuggery and vandalisation into politics which is not so. It is all about service. The police are doing a very good job. I am impressed. When I was called to Ebute Ero Police Station I was surprised. I never thought they would take such action.
Apart from those challenges, what are your chances, strengths and weaknesses?
Fortunately, I am an indigene of the community. I am a grassroots person. I have been in politics since the days of NPN, NRC, zero party, UNPP, AD before we went to PDP with my late cousin, Funso Williams, where I contested for the House of Representatives in 2017.
I have political antecedent that cuts across many parties and, along the line, I have met with other parties. I am known in my constituency. Secondly, we are tired of god-fatherism.
All the candidates from the opposition, I want them to beat their chest for any federal presence in my constituency. I do not really blame them, because they lorded them on us. They cannot tell you the history of Olowogbowo, a maritime hall. When I was growing up in this community, down there it was a harbour, where vessels would come and berth.
At night, the twilight was so beautiful, the seamen would come into the neighbourhood, you would see the sailors and white men in their white uniforms. It was so colourful as growing up had beautiful memories for me.
But sadly those that are lorded on us do not know the gold that we are sitting upon in this community; so they cannot transform, neither can they go down memory lane so that such pictures and memories can be relived and retrieved for our good.
Those are the things I have ahead and above them, because by the time I tell them about the past, the present and the nearest future and what our maritime community can become, people become interested.
It is not about tramadol or codeine or AK47 that they give them for elections and they come once in four years. This is a generational accommodation; it is ancestry, and we cannot sell it. My great grandmother was born here, as well as my grandmother. It is my home, so I have to plough back into the community.
This is my village. Coincidentally, the name Lagos and Marina are all Portuguese words. If you go to Portugal, there is a stretch and not more than what we have at outer the Marina down to the Isalè-éko. The global village is talking blue economy; it translates to maritime communities and coastal communities, where they have to be in charge of their destinies.
Look at all the garages around; we can turn them around. That is where the NURTW boys make their money, which is not ploughed back into the community. It does not go back to the, but there could be no meaning if you do not get there to make the difference.
In spite of the large number of women voters, why is it that female candidate do not get coalition of support to give them victory on election day?
There are so many factors militating against it. If you look at my poster, you would see, Ija Obirin, which means ‘women liberation’; we have to fight. I have always been a grassroots person and one thing we always do before Election Day is to go canvassing. It is the women. It is only the women that can bring out 10/15 people. We are the grass root mobilisers while the men sit back drinking.
Why is it now that the women are not accorded what is commensurate to their strength? It has always been a problem. We do not have money, hence the men dictate and call the shots when it comes to supplying logistics. We only implement, so that has always been a minus for the woman. When a woman has what it takes like political empowerment, financial empowerment, you will see that we will rise above the men because we are nation-builders, we are mothers; we are home-makers. So the difference will always be there. We are working towards it and, I am sure by God’s grace, we would get to where a woman will say I want to sponsor a candidate.
Women cannot sponsor themselves because we are not yet empowered to do so. Those that have it are in the minority and how many people can they really reach out to. Inasmuch as they would love to, the figure is infinitesimal. It is the men that call the shots but they are not the workers; it is women that do the workers.
Now the issue of gender inequality, they believe women are supposed to be in the other room and not to be seen, which is not the case. Very soon in Nigeria, we shall have a female president because we have what it takes.
With that limitation now, do you think women have resolved to support their counterparts in the legislature?
There are so many genders like Women in business. I belong to gender association in the maritime sector, which is purely for women. We are educating ourselves and empowering ourselves to come out in numbers to see that there has to be emancipation for women.
The woman voice is very important for the home and for the nation.
What are the critical pillars and things you want back in Marina?
There is a parlance that says ‘ti oju oba ti eyingbeti’, oju o le ti o. I am a product of Eyingbeti. It literally means that once there is abundance of water, Lagos cannot be put to shame. I am a product of that “eyingbeti,” where water speaks, where water is trade, where water is commerce, where water is tourism, where water is empowerment. We need to open more water transportation, where water commands respect because once you have water you have no business with recession and unemployment; it is entrepreneurial. We can always have it and it is doable if we have the right people there to impress it on the government.
When I was growing up in this community, we used to have fantastic dancing restaurants like Gbagatel. If you are not the Alakijas, the crème de la cream, you will not come there. When we were growing up, it was only for the rich. We had Esquire, Yamaha, Kerarams, Chellarams, UTC, Equip, Kingsway and Leventis farther down but all that glory is gone due to decadence and wrong governments that do not know the wealth of this great state.
I recall we had galleries that was owned by Mrs. A. Omokhuede, and that was where I first met Twin 77 in the 1970s. Daily Times used to come and have shows. It was beautiful. It is now an elixir of itself now.
Those were glorious times that we want to revisit but we must have partnership.
There is something called CSR. Most of these banks, because they do not have people to challenge them, they just come around and grow grasses. We do not need grasses; we could have a PPP arrangement. We do not need roads to go to Ijora. The roads are crying for repairs. Open up water channels so that one can go to Ijora within 20 minutes. Going to Apapa from Marina is less than 10 minutes. If you want to go to Otto, Badagry, it should be through the waterways. Let us open up water transportation, open up the channels, which would bring commerce. After all, the colonial masters came through water to bring trade and commerce before it metamorphosed into slave trade it was trade by barter. So, what stops us from opening up our channels?
If you are elected, what piece of legislation do you intend to initiate to re-enact the blue economy you talk about?
Number one is restructuring, because if you do not restructure, the potential in your community, you may not be able to raise your voice. My own strength is water and land space. Fortunately, our principal, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has a voice and life ambition for restructuring. Once we are able to restructure, every other thing will fall in line because all the coastal communities would come together such as Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Ondo (which has the longest strip), and Lagos will all come together and lend our voices as one coastal community whereby the blue economy would thrive; that is how to go about it.
What can you tell other female contestants about rallying round female candidates?
My advice is that it is not easy but it is doable and achievable but if we do not come out in our numbers, nobody would appreciate our potential. We are the light of the world; we are the salt of the earth. We are mothers. We are role models. If we can make a home work successfully, where you have lawyers and engineers, it is not the fathers, it is the mothers, so tell me, how come you will not be able to make a state work when the home is working? Women, I am appealing and imploring you, come out and let us work together. It is challenging, but I am sure we as women are up to the task. When a woman is up there, we would rally around her and support her. We are the salt of the earth; we are role models. We are homemakers.
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