Under-representation of women constitutes democratic deficit —Rukayat Shittu, Kwara Assembly candidate

Rukayat Shittu is a 26-year-old journalist and the All Progressives Congress (Apc) House of Assembly Candidate for Owode/Onire constituency. In this interview by YUSUF ABDULKADIR, she talks about her experience in politics and the participation of women and youths in today’s politics. Excerpts:

© You defeated two men including the incumbent member. How does that make you feel and what did you do differently?

Yes, I defeated two men, what seemed impossible. It shows that anything is possible. I feel privileged and opportune. It’s Just like a breakthrough for women, most especially the youths.


You are very young yet you took this giant step, what drives you?

I am one of the active and vibrant young females in Kwara State, I worked as a journalist and from there I learned more about governance and politics and how it can work for people. I always want to help people.


How was growing up for you, was politics part of your dream?

Joining politics is part of my aspiration in life. I was a student union leader, I served in many capacities during my undergraduate days and I was the first female Senate President for congress of the National Open University of Nigeria Students with over 85 study centers across the federation


There are several stereotypes as regards women in politics. Why did you decide to engage in it regardless?

The underrepresentation of women constitutes a serious democratic deficit. Party democracy and the promotion of women in decision-making positions are very important. Also, women’s equal participation in politics plays an essential role in the general process of the advancement of women and society, that’s why I decided to engage. I want to inspire and help others to come on board.


Why is it important for women to get involved in decision-making processes?

As far as the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria did not indicate that women should not participate in decision-making, we have the right to vote and to be voted for. It is not only important but it is our right to be part of the decision-making.


What plans do you have for your constituents, why should they vote for you?

If by the grace of God, the wise choice of our party APC, and the will of the people, I am allowed to represent our constituency, I will be guided by the four cardinal responsibility of a lawmaker, which includes representation, legislative advancement, executive oversight, and constituency outreach.

Representation: Apart from the fact that I am to represent the constituency, which makes me a link between government and the people, I will convey quarterly stakeholder’s engagement to harness wisdom, suggestion, and recommendation from our people, which will touch every key issue and form my position that would be advanced at the Kwara State House of Assembly.

Legislative Advancement: One of my primary duties is to propose a review of existing laws, advance motions, and bills to legislate on issues affecting society, which I pledge to do as much as I can. But in addition to this, I will also commit myself to review the impact of existing legislation to ensure all laws are being implemented as intended.

Executive Oversight: This is a necessity, particularly in ensuring budgetary provisions are implemented in line with laid down rules and regulations. My oversight activities will not only be on projects but also processes. I am convinced that effective oversight, particularly in the civil service will lead to transformation in the quality of governance.

Constituency Outreach: Though not a core responsibility for the legislative arm, however, it will be a major focus during my stay in the house if elected. Understanding that rural communities have long been denied many necessities of life, my constituency outreach will involve basic community projects, social amenities, empowerment, etc. I will make sure that my compassionate mind reflects the trust that the people bestow on me.


Is there anyone you are looking up to as a role model in the political space or, as we know it here: a godfather?

The executive governor of Kwara State, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, and the commissioner for women affairs in Kwara State, Hon. Abdulmaliq-Bashir Risikatullah Mopelola is my role model, due to the significant roles they are playing in women and youth advancement in our dear state. Everybody in my constituency is my godfather. I am for everybody.

The governor of Kwara State has been doing a lot in terms of women’s active participation in governance by appointing more females to his cabinet, supporting youths, and many more. More so, the commissioner of women’s affairs in the state has been a great role model to young and aspiring women with how she is assiduously manning the affairs of the ministry to further advance women in the state.


It might appear too early to ask, but do you have plans of going beyond state politics?

Only God knows that. I am where I am now. I pray that I succeed in the task given.


In what ways do you think we can encourage women and youths to participate in politics?

I believe there are many ways to support women’s participation in politics like, mentorship, favorable gender policy of political parties, training and leadership programs, supporting women for local elections, building the capacity of female leaders, e.t.c


Gender-based violence is a menace that is eating deep into our society. How do you think we can curb this menace?

Ending gender-based violence is everyone’s business. We should listen to survivors and believe them, teach people what GBV is and why they need to learn from it. Enthusiastic consent is mandatory, every time, rather than listening for a “no,” make sure there is an active “yes,” from all involved. We should stand against rape culture. Take a stand by calling it out when you see it, inappropriate sexual comments and sexist jokes are never okay. Creation of a safer environment for everyone and make sure they have the support they need.


Do you agree with the assertion that Nigerian youths are lazy?

The assertion that Nigerian youths are lazy is sometimes untrue but also we are not working hard enough. The youth unemployment rate in the country is one of the factors determining laziness, while it is few that are thinking out of the box, who are engaging in legal business or activities. An average Nigerian youth will look up to a white-collar job, while there are hundreds and thousands of entrepreneur jobs out there and sometimes they are more profitable than the white-collar job.


As a lady how do you combine your political activities with your responsibility at home? 

Creating a work-life balance for a woman in politics is everybody’s business in the family as it is for the man, which is to render support. I am not finding it so difficult. So far, I am having the support of everyone around. As much as I respond to my political activities, my responsibility at home will not be left unattended.


What advice do you have for youths and women as regards political participation?

Women and youth’s participation in politics is not only a demand for simple justice or democracy but can also be seen as a necessary condition for our interests to be taken into account. Women and youth should join pro-democracy groups like ‘Kwara Must Change’ to learn more about governance and politics.

In addition, my candidature is not about me; it is about the people of my constituency; it is about the future of my constituency. I want our stories to be told for generations to come, the journey will not end at the poll; I will get to work and ensure quality representation.

This is what we owe Owode/Onire constituency, Kwara State, and the future generation.


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