Princess Abiodun Oyefusi, the daughter of the late Ayangburen of Ikorodu, Oba S.A.A. Oyefusi, in this interview, speaks on why women have been dissociating themselves from politics, the need for women to stand up for their rights in leadership positions in Nigeria, and why she is contesting for a senatorial seat in Lagos State. SEGUN KASALI brings excerpts:
Why do you want to contest for the Lagos East Senatorial District?
I am contesting in order to help strengthen the laws of our nation through the democratic process by making direct laws that actually impact Lagos East people and benefit them and also to fight for the right of the women. As at 2014, we were officially 49.5 per cent of the population and we are in 2018. So, we are 60 per cent of the whole population and we have never had a proportional representation in politics. We have never had women presidents, governors, and even state chairmen. So, we need our 35 per cent. We need our women to be properly represented in all positions to be empowered.
Who do we blame for that, government or political parties?
I think it’s about time we stopped apportioning blames but rather spread the blames across. It is time to look at how we can develop our nation because if we keep playing the blame game, how then do we develop and we are supposed to learn from the mistakes of the past.
Should we vote women because they are women or because they are capable?
You don’t vote on the basis of gender, but their ability, what they have to offer and what they can deliver in that position. We, women, have proven beyond reasonable doubt that we have a lot to offer this nation. If you look around the world, we have women as one of the best managers, best governors and so on. Right now, the best economy in the world is being headed by a woman and most of the changes effected in the world have been driven by women. As women, we know how to impact and relate with our people and that is not a case of gender but equality. It’s a case of what is right for our women. We are fighting for the right of the girl-child. They are not giving us the opportunity to tell the girl-child that they can achieve anything they want to achieve. If you go by what is recommended (35 per cent by the UN), which we are trying to get affirmative action to implement, we are supposed to have 37 women in the Senate but we have just seven. How then do we represent the needs of the women? How do you create opportunity for every three senator in the states? One of the senators should always be a woman. We have 36 states in Nigeria, but we only have seven women as ministers and that’s not fair. We see how things are operating around the world and how do we apply it should be the question and ensure that we do not repeat the same mistake as in the past. I won’t blame anybody right now because we are all to blame. It is a case of how do we develop.
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What factors do you think are hindering women’s active participation in politics?
There are a lot of things because there’s a way our society and culture has defined women. Women have not been empowered. They have not been in a position to empower themselves. They are more dependent on the male gender but that’s part of the problem. Some of our cultures are fantastic but some are hindering us and when we move forward by creating a level-playing field for everybody, you will see that women are also to blame because we have come to accept that the woman is to support the man in some ethnic groups in Nigeria that is still the case. They will educate the male child before they educate the female child. When there’s need to consider the income, the preference always goes to the male child. A child is a child. We are all equal. When we start to treat every child the same way and we change our mindset, we start to create opportunities for everybody. There are a lot of other factors that affect us such as economic, social and political that affect the women. For example, look at the forms. The nomination fees are crazy. How do you get a nomination form for 45 million naira? When will a woman who doesn’t have such amount of money start to raise such. But, now that we have seen that some parties like the PDP give women free nomination forms and you just have to pay for expression of interest form to encourage them to come in. As women, we have to believe in ourselves and stand up for our right regardless of what’s happening. We have to make sure that we fight for every position. We have to make sure that we ensure equality in all levels and let’s get that 35 per cent for our women and then we move forward from there.
Do you think the combination of roles as woman being a housewife, a mother, a care giver and so much more, is one of the hindrances of women’s participation in politics?
I don’t think so. The Prime Minister that just had a baby had been bringing up a family and the role of looking after the family and the household is everybody’s role. Both the male and female live together and that’s the unit that makes up the family. And that shouldn’t limit the ability of a female to contest for any position. We support each other and that’s what the family should portray, regardless of whomever or whatever you are doing. But our culture is one that sees women as the ones that sit at home, cook, and bring up the children that must do this, that must do that. We need to re-educate our women that it’s your role but you can do both. You can combine both and you can also be an effective leader in your community. You can be in politics without jeopardising your role in politics.