In this interview, with HEAD POLITICS, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM, Women Leader of the Kwara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Hajia Ramat Oganija speaks on the issue of increased women participation in political position among others. Excerpts:
As the Women Leader of the party, are you satisfied with the performances of the elected women council chairmen?
Let me first thank Almighty Allah (SWT), then our leader and Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed for giving us the chance. It is not an easy thing for women to be called to rule, especially in a big and somewhat volatile political environment like ours. As regards their performances, they have just crossed their 100 days in office and if not for the economic situation in the state and across the country, they usually celebrate their scorecards to highlight their achievements. But we have to say they have done well and you can see the changes in the economy of the local governments. They were able to bring in some revenue streams in order to jack up their IGR. The salary issue is one of the biggest problems facing us but it is already being looked at. These three women are already samples and if they performed well, women will be given more positions. I believe they are trying their best and they will do more.
What role did the party play in their emergence?
A very big role and that is why I thanked the party chairman for the guidance. Now the leader of the party, Dr Bukola Saraki has limited time for us here because of the volume of the assignments at his disposal as the Senate President of the country. But the chairman of the party, the Governor and Dr Saraki are always in consultation on how to move the party and state forward. When the aspirants for the chairmanship position were announced then, it was not until the 11th position before the first one was called and the remaining two followed in that sequence, we thought we had lost it. But thank God for the story today and that is why we normally tell them that election is just one of the processes and they cannot be called gallant winners until they finish their tenures gallantly.
Is your office looking at organising a kind of retreat for aspiring women and those already in position to sensitise them on good governance in the state?
We are looking at conferences at interval for them but the situation in the state has not helped matters and if you do such in the era of this salary issue, they might term it as wastage. So we are being very careful. But God willing, our local government women leaders, their assistants and other stakeholders will be invited very soon by my office to equip them with requisite knowledge which they will in turn pass to their counterparts in the wards all down to the grassroots.
Do you think we might still have additional women in positions in the party?
That is our prayer and we are already working seriously on it and instead of the number reducing, we expect a jack up. The last time, we have three commissioners and we need more and the good thing is that our leaders know the value of the women and they have been providing necessary guidance and support for us to excel.
Why do you think women in the state have not been able to use their numerical voting strength to put themselves in positions?
We are seriously on it and men have to support the women to achieve this. True, we have the highest number of voters but issues like culture among others have not been properly interpreted. For instance in Kwara North, at times they tell you they don’t have names of women when we ask and I think it should not be so and thank God they are now trying to adjust. That was part of the reasons the party called for the submission of three nominees for commissioner slots to include a male, female and youth to ensure the three categories of persons are represented. This is why we are hoping on Allah (SWT) to help us organise the sensitisation to call women from all over the country to come and tell us their experience here in Kwara and where women have been very useful to them. So I want to appeal to our women to use the positions they occupy today to pave way for others by performing solidly.
How have you improved on the office since you came on board?
This is the first time we are having three women as council chairmen as against one or none. I beg the three women in that position today to set a good precedence and legacy that will encourage men to give us more chance. During the TIC tenure, we had 8 women vice chairmen and same number for men shared across the local government. There was also increase in the number of women supervisory councillors; we have five women out of 24 in the House of Assembly also. But we are asking for more.
What has been the challenge for your office since the emergence of three female council chairmen?
If you should know, the day of their emergence was a critical day as some people were querying why women in this kind of local governments and whether they will be able to perform and we have to calm them down that what a man can do women can also do it even better. And to my office, anytime I want to speak during meetings some of our male party members used to tell me to sit down because they know I will not preach anything than having (more) women in power. Here we are not used to using women for bigger positions, its not within our custom before, we are just coming out now. The late Baba Saraki loved women and supported them while he was alive but their chances now are brighter during his son (Dr Bukola Saraki’s) era.