Fiona Onasanya: Dreaming to become Britain’s first black female Prime Minister
“My desire is to open the door so others can go beyond” – Fiona Onasanya
Michel Angelo, the Renaissance artist who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art once said, “The greatest tragedy of life is not that we set high aim and miss it but that we set low aim and reach it”. In life you must have long-term goals to keep you from being frustrated from short-term failures. The great philosopher, Seneca said, ‘’ it is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult”. Being undaunted in your pursuit automatically guarantees its accomplishment. Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.
On June 8,2017, seven Britons with Nigerian origin were elected as British MPs (Member of Parliament) to the House of Commons, the lower house of Parliament. Olukemi Olufunto Badenoch (37), Chuka Umunna (38), Chinyelu Onwurah (52), Kate Osamor (48), Helen Grant (55), Abimbola Afolami (31) and Fiona Onasanya (33).
Out of the seven MPs, Fiona’s story stood out tall, not just because of the feat she has accomplished, but because of the countless odds that she surmounted in her bold and audacious journey. The Labour Party youngster routed out the 52-year-old conservative candidate, Stewart Jackson. It is interesting to note that Jackson had been Peterborough’s MP for 12 years.
I decided to do an interview with her and was further intrigued and fascinated with her deep sense of simplicity and availability that is far declining among the present crop of politicians in Nigeria and Africa at large. I believe strongly that the core responsibility of a good leader is availability; leaders that are unavailable are a liability to their constituencies.
I was irresistibly drawn to her undying passion to positively impact the people she represents coupled with her unquenchable thirst for change. I am flabbergasted with her deep conviction in a dream that is obviously larger than her. Don’t ever give up on your dreams and when someone tells you “it can’t be done”, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it, it simply means you can’t do it with them! Walt Disney said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”. Her audacious dream was the major prompt that made me to vigorously pursue an interview with her. In this interview she opens up on her own idea of what politics should be. Enjoy the excerpts:
Who is Fiona Onasanya?
An individual who has a heart for people and has now become a Member of Parliament who is seeking to Make People (MP) Feel Inspired (Fi)
Your election into the UK Parliament was a big surprise, considering the fact that you defeated the incumbent, a formidable opponent who is thought to be more experienced and mature than you. How did you achieve this feat?
People of Peterborough decided to make a choice for change! I did not achieve this alone – I thank God for His favour. It was the hours volunteers and supporters put in together with the legacy of my Labour predecessor Lisa Forbes that made this achievable.
I read in one of your interviews where you said you will one day aspire to become Britain’s first black Prime Minister. Do you really want to go that far, or is it just a lofty aspiration?
I absolutely wish to aim high – The sky is not the limit as there are footsteps on the moon!
So many people go into politics for the wrong reasons. What do you consider those wrong reasons to be?
I cannot generalise on the reasons why others go into politics but I will advise my reason: I care about people. I wish to be a voice for those seeking to be heard and, most of all, I hope to become the change I wish to see.
Using yourself as an example, what are your core reasons for going into politics?
People are my passion and I enjoy helping others; so I chose to get involved in local politics, and start making a real difference. This led me to stand as County Councillor for Kings Hedges. As a County Councillor I was the Labour Spokesperson for Children, Young People and Families, the Group Whip and then became the Deputy Leader for the Labour Group.
One of the greatest scientists once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. As a youth, a lawyer and a politician, what do you wish to do differently in the British Parliament?
I say if you do the same thing you’ll never get further than where you are! Because if you change nothing, nothing changes! So I see this position as an opportunity to address imbalances and assist. The major thing that has hindered youth-inclusiveness in electioneering process in
Nigeria and Africa at large is the extreme cost of politicking. Your campaign budget was modestly designed to avoid unnecessary extravagance. How did you do it that you were able to spend modestly and still penetrate the masses?
People volunteered and gave time, talent and treasure into the campaign. I cannot thank them enough and I’m extremely grateful.
What do you think are the major differences between the way politicking is being done in the UK and Nigeria (Africa) and how can this huge gap be bridged to evolve best practices?
Corruption needs to be identified. Election fraud is taken extremely seriously here.
Lupita Nyong’o once said, “No matter where you are from, your dreams are valid.” What words of encouragement do you have for youths out there that are struggling with their dreams?
Where you are right now (location) says nothing about who you’ll become (destination). The sky is not the limit when there are footsteps on the moon!
The 2017 election into the UK Parliament has become unprecedented with respect to gender equality. Over 200 female MPs were elected into the UK parliament. How do you see this improvement vis-à-vis the world meeting the 2030 target for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of which gender equality is central?
Whilst this is a step in the right direction, there is still a way to go. We are closer to where we want to be now compared to 2015.
There has been a great concern all over the world on the issue of youth unemployment and empowerment. Do you see this as the problem of the government or the problem of the youth themselves?
Whilst aspiration can be part of the issues, the government needs to also ensure opportunities are made available. Companies need to then work together with government to offer roles, apprenticeships, skill development and decent pay. It is also very important to approach all that one does with a spirit of excellence.
In Africa, politics is mostly seen as a career and means of livelihood. What is your candid advice to the youth in Nigeria and Africa that are considering going into politics?
Place people at the centre -pride comes before a fall, and as a politician, your role is to serve. It really is not about you!
The issue at the centre of the British Parliament is the BREXIT saga. Many people believe that this will hype the anti-immigrant stance of Britain and also distort trade relations with the rest of the world. How do you see Britain faring after this exit in the near future?
We need to be cautious not careless with negotiations to ensure we get the best deal possible – no deal is not an option.
You are a Briton with a Nigerian root. What fond memories of Nigeria do you have to share with the people?
I am. My father was born in Nigeria – I however was born and raised in Cambridge – so childhood memories were made here.
What are your favourite Nigerian dishes?
Suya, Egusi and Jollof!
Basil King said, “Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid”. I want to encourage the youths to take a bold step into politics. I have always mentioned it at different fora for the youth that politics won’t evolve until we are involved. We should stop being a spectator on issues that border on policies and politics. We must not be afraid to fail no matter the intimidating nature of the opponent. Failure isn’t the worst possible result, not trying is!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “It costs nothing to dream and everything not to”-Rodney White