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I Foresee a Female Governor in Kogi – Ojeba-Abiodun

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Agnes Oziwere Ojeba-Abiodun is a former member of the Kogi State House of Assembly and a major stakeholder in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state. In this interview, she shares her views about women in politics ahead of the state’s governorship election in November.

What is your background and how did you join politics?

I am a full-fledged Ebira woman from Adavi Local Government of Kogi state. My husband is from Ekiti state.

I was born in Okene to the family of Hon Raphael Ojeba and
Mrs Ojeba, both of blessed memory. My father was a community leader,
businessman, and politician per excellence.

It was when a vacuum was created as a result of the demise
of my elder sister, Hon. Nana Ojeba, that I was called upon to replace her at
the House of Assembly. I was overwhelmingly voted during the by-election to
fill the vacuum. That was how my political journey started.

However, my father’s personality has really helped me and I
thank God that anywhere and wherever I go today, people tell me much about my
father’s well lived life and how he did very well for the people around him and
his constituency during his active days in politics.

So, politically I learnt a lot from him because he was a man
of integrity. You cannot point at any property that belonged to him which was
acquired illegally.

I am from a family where humility is entrenched as one of
our family values, respect for elders, taking life very easy. We were brought
up not to allow anything make us to deviate from the norms, whom you are.

We were trained by a disciplinarian and one of the founding
fathers of Roman Catholic Church in Ebiraland, who had taught us that whatever
position we find ourselves, we should see it as a privilege and must not let it
get into our head.

I enjoy people’s goodwill even in places I didn’t think I
would be known because of the many lives my father touched back in the days.
This has greatly helped me politically and I intend to maintain the good name
of the family.

My decision to venture into partisan politics is to serve
our nation, encourage and promote gender equality in Nigeria and build a better
body of politics.

Your party the PDP has numerous aspirants jostling for the governorship ticket. Do you see the party arriving at a consensus candidate that can wrestle power from the incumbent?

My party, the PDP has been well-known as a party that
manages her affairs well and knows what internal democracy is all about. It has
been in existence since the inception of the democratic governance we are
having today.

I want to assure you that even if a thousand aspirants are
seen displaying their posters and making their intentions known to occupy the
Lugard House in November 2019, we are certainly going to come to a round table
to pick a consensus and sellable candidate.

We have done that at the national level and it was well
managed just recently as you could bear me witness during the last general
elections that led to the emergence of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as our
presidential candidate and we would still do it again at the state level.

Finally, everybody would revert to his or her respective
local governments to work assiduously for the victory of whoever emerges as our
candidate. Our party is not in crisis and I can assure you, we are working so
well to adopt a candidate with premium marketing product.

Do you see a woman being elected governor in the state in November or in the near future?

Kogi state politics is a very unique and different from many
states. I foresee a female governor. All I know it is a stage and when the time
is ripe, no one can stop it from coming to pass. That is why I am clamouring
for the slot of deputy governor to be given to a woman. I have been angling for
a woman to be elected as senator and member House of Representatives.

We are looking at such from all flanks, West, East, and
Central senatorial districts to happen. Let there be manifestation of these
stages and from there, we shall see one amongst us elected one day in a
foreseeable future as the governor of the state.

How does your party intend to canvass votes from the women in a bid to unseat the incumbent?

My party has done so much for Kogi women and the difference
is crystal clear when you weigh the two major parties in the state.

My party places much priority on women’s welfare and
empowerments. We actually do not need rigorous campaign for them to vote the
party that have special interest and zeal to liberate them economically and
politically.

During our reign in governance, my party did a lot
especially in ensuring that women emerged as legislators at the state house of
assembly.

There were women commissioners, councillors, council leaders
from my central zone. A clear evidence of a party that recognises women and
empowers them to excel and inculcate in them that what a man can do, a woman
can as well be entrusted with such responsibilities.

So, I think we would not dissipate much energy to convince
Kogi women to vote us back to power in Kogi state.

Would you say you have made impact in the lives of people of your constituency particularly the women who aspire to be politicians?

In my zone, the Central Zone, you hardly see women aspiring
to political positions. The highest position you could find them is women
leader at local government level or best bet political appointment and I
wondered if it meant no woman was worthy enough to represent us at the national
level?

We have Hajia Halima from Eastern flank and Mrs Abanida from
West but Kogi Central has been known to be unlucky to have such as our politics
end at the local level.

After my late sister’s emergence and of course my humble
self, women have been courageous enough to try their luck in different
political parties for one position or the other. This has really encouraged our
women, today they feel liberated. We now have women like, Princess Gogo
Omolori, Natasha Akpoti, Maryam Ahmed, and several others.

I have had enough experience in politics as I have been in
partisan politics for the past 15 years and I have seen it all, the intrigues
and power play. I have always tried to take the footsteps of my father, my
maternal uncle, Hon. Alhaji Yusuf Amoka, and my sister, who have really
mentored me on the art of politicking.

Consequently, having garnered 15 years of political
experience, I believe I cannot be tagged a novice politically and I have been a
voice too for women active participation in politics doing my best to encourage
women to embrace such. I was able to help one or two of such women in the past
to become ward councillors, Egge ward in Adavi Local government and Ogori in
Ogori-Magongo Local Government.

I have never relented in making frantic efforts in ensuring
women are recognised. I also tell them to join a party that will give women a
chance, go from ward to ward and local government to local government.

It is also my passion for women and children that led me to
establish Sapphire Girl-Child and Women Empowerment. I have a great passion for
women especially women from Kogi Central where I hail from. Indeed, women have
been politically relegated as their voices are suppressed by their male
counterparts.

I have always told them that they could be whoever they want
to be without the men. I have tried my best to continue from my elder sister,
whom I credit it to as an enigma who started the advocacy of active
participation of women in politics. I appreciate God today there are now great
women from Central Kogi who have been raising their voices to be heard as well
as having the courage to contest for one position and another.

If my party gets its candidate soonest, I will be at the
forefront to inform my party to empower more women so as to liberate them
economically and politically through vocational skills acquisition that would
bring food to their table and as well be a pillar of support to their
respective families.

You could imagine, a paltry sum of N10,000 given to a woman
with children; what could she possibly do with such to yield profits for her?
People should not be too poor to live, where poverty levels would be
drastically reduced so they can live with the dignity that they deserve as
citizens of this great nation.

It is not fair to see families with incomes less than
N10,000 having to send two or more kids to school and pay fees in full;
hospital bills in full; pay house rents in full; care for their elderly and
other relatives that are less privileged; and so on when they could be trained
or equipped with vocational skills for three or six months.

It is sad to see many parents keep more than one job or have
both parents and children labouring just to survive hence the quality time we
ought to give our kids suffer contributing to all manner of waywardness we see
in our children today.

The primary role of government is to take care of its people
and not to watch them suffer or live in misery.

If your party makes you a running mate to its governorship candidate what would you do differently to better the lives of citizens?

First, I will be very glad and humbled and I think it is
well thought of because I have been in the party and made lots of sacrifices. I
have been with the party, elected into the state assembly as a legislator seek
re-election, lost out and another party Alliance for Democracy (AD) came to
lure me by giving me their ticket but I blatantly refused as I cannot leave my
party for another, an ideology I have stuck with even though, the AD’s
candidate eventually defeated our party’s candidate.

The people know my strength that is why I was appointed Special Assistant on Assembly Matters, and Senior Special Assistant on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, by Governor Ibrahim Idris, and Governor Idris Wada.

It is obvious that my consistency and unwavering belief in
the party cannot be questioned and I have not been found wanting hob-nobbing,
having an unholy affair with another party.

A firm believer in what I stand for through thick and thin I
have stood firmly with PDP in the last 15 years, so if considered for such
enviable position, I would wholeheartedly accept the offer and it would be a
plus to my party and that would give us an edge over APC led government as it
would be an unprecedented fate to make a choice of a woman as running mate in
the history of governance in Kogi state.

Finally, my circle of friends, both men and women across the
length and breadth of the state would also count and make me stand a good
chance. It would be a strange idea to pick up a running mate from anywhere who
has not been known to have stood by the party during trying times.

What challenges would you say female politicians face given that 2019 general elections didn’t favour most?

Women have no godmothers, but men have godfathers. We are
looking at that one person that can boldly stand for women, speak for them,
support them and be a voice for them in Kogi Central as this would motivate the
women more.

Kogi Central is blessed with industrious women with
courageous minds but the way politics is being played is what has served as a
deterrent for women to venture into it; such as thuggery.

Do you have your husband’s support in your political career?

My husband is fine with what I do because he knows how deep
my passion is to serve people. He is not just a husband but a father and a
friend.

I call him a friend because he knows me well, I have not
hidden anything from him and he has that 100 per cent trust in me. He has been
supportive right from onset even with my Foundation. He believes Kogi state
needs me, especially the women and children.

So, how were you able to balance work and home front especially as a mother?

As a mother of five children, it has been herculean but I
always made it clear to them and all those I worked with that my family comes
first.

A woman is always like five-in-one; we are the home
managers, we are always into career, we take care of the children, we take care
of our husbands. If we can do that then we can as well manage a nation.

What is your advice for aspiring female politicians?

I urge women to be brave enough to join politics, as being
in politics will make some negative attitudes associated with it such as
thuggery to reduce drastically.

Women can never encourage violence and brigandry, we should
not leave politics in the hands of men because the more we relegate ourselves
and allow men dominate, the more there will be continuous increase in violence.

A woman has never been known to see their children and wards
killed or maimed through violence and thuggery. I want to enjoin our women to
come out enmass to support any woman aspiring to any political.

This is because your fellow women understand your pains as
well as your travails and will work out ways to ameliorate them. The men that
you are all clamouring for, will first attend to the needs of his wife or
wives, families, concubines and other frivolities before they think about you,
but when women are given these opportunities of leadership they would place
women as priority.

Kogi women as a whole, I enjoin you all to come out and
contest for positions. I have not seen one who is aspiring for governorship
with seriousness. We can do it as it is already happening in other states. Let
us borrow a leaf from Lagos in particular and South-west in general.

If my party could seize this winning edge opportunity to
have a choice of a woman as running mate to whoever emerges as our candidate,
it would be a great plus and an unprecedented record, a jinx being broken in
the political history of Kogi state.

I always tell fellow women not to start if they don’t stand
a chance. I also tell them to join a party that will give women a chance and also
advise them to always go from ward to ward and local government to local
government to make friends. Know your people and don’t make promises you can’t
fulfil and most importantly don’t practice money politics for so many reasons.

We are needed just because of the situation of the state and
the country at large that need to be salvaged of so many ills. We must accept
that women are the most endangered species in politics. So, it is time we women
stood up and stop being in the other room and come out. We have the potential
and we have what it takes, we need women of unblemished character and untainted
image to join politics.

How is your advice to politicians, youths, and electorate as the Kogi election draws near?

To politicians promoting violence, I ask must you destroy
the future of our youth. We have intelligent young men and women with future
who I advise not to voluntarily abandon their future in pursue of worthless
life of violence for some disgruntled politicians. They would send their
children/wards to the finest universities in the world and never allow anybody
use their children to promote violence.

I urge our youth to liberate themselves today from these
shackles of violent bondage and try to chart a new future for themselves in
their own interest and that of posterity.

I want to urge them that if any politician or leader asks
them to go and maim somebody they should ask him or her to use his own son and
see how he will react.

The electorate should look out for parties whose policies
would be cantered more on the people’s welfare and this will cut across
improved access to medical care, quality education for all, rapid community
development such as the PPDP.

Above all, the electorate should vote their conscience and never succumb to vote buying as they are not just jeopardising your futures but that of your children.

Credit: Blueprint

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