Ayisha Osori is an aspirant for the House of Representatives on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to represent the people of AMAC, Bwari. In an interview with Michael Oche, Osori speaks on her aspiration and the role of women in politics.
One of the first hurdles is at the primary election. What do you think are your chances of winning?
Right now, the three main aspirants who have shown interest in running for that post, I will say that in terms of political analysis I will probably be the underdog. Obviously, the incumbent, Jisallo is running, there is also Hon peter Yohanna, who is currently the Bwari area council chairman. What I bring to the table that is different from them is the vast experience in the private sector because that is where I came from. I have spent over 10 years in the private sector. I have a very strong understanding of business. I have a very strong understanding of policies as somebody who trained as a lawyer, I taught constitution law for a while. So I understand also constitutional implications and know how to perform my duties in the national assembly. I also have a very strong network in the civil society because two years ago I joined civil society as the CEO of the Nigerian women trust fund. So I also bring that experience and expertise.
So I think that is what I bring to the table, a very strong local and international network that covers private sector and civil societies. I am also the only woman who is running. You know that the president has a very strong agenda for women. We also know that while he has done a lot in terms of appointment, there is still a long way to go in terms of elective positions. So considering all these angles, though a typical political analysis will still say she is an underdog because I have never ran for office, but I also have some considerable pluses. I have a brand. I am known to be honest and forthright. Having written publicly for over five years, first in Thisday and then Leadership, I have a followership of people who read what I write, who believe in me.
From your consultations and the feedback you have been getting, what do the people of Abuja need?
Particularly for the indigenes, one of the pressing issues obviously is the issue of inadequate representation when you talk of federal character in our constitution. Right now, it is limited to the 36 states and it doesn’t acknowledge the FCT. So that is a big issue. So whether it comes to representation in terms of picking ambassadors, or perm sec or ministers, that is an issue for the indigenes. They want to be adequately represented. And that is very valid. Two, there have been the issue of mayorship, if they are not going to have a governor, why not have a mayor? Those are the kind of things that border the FCT indigenes. And I think the third one is the land swap issue.
Whether they have been adequately compensated for land that has been taken? So what will I do if I am voted as a representative? I like what Malala, the youngest Noble laureate winner said. She said the best advocate for an issue is the person who feels the problem. What is lacking is proper organising skills. There is a technique to organising. So, for me, it is to enable to the people to make sure their voices are heard. There is where I bring my skills in the civil society into play.
Why did you decide to run at this stage?
Honestly, the only answer I can give is if not now when?
Do you expect a level playing ground at the primaries? especially that apart from being a woman, you are also contesting against the incumbent?
We all know that the primaries are the hardest part of any election. Will there be a level playing field? Some will say no. Congresses has just ended and I am sure you are aware that many people are contesting some of the congresses. Because they believe that even from that process, things have been manipulated to keep them out. So when you bear that in mind and what our typical process is – getting the delegates and how the delegates are selected – I will say it is 50/50. The reason why I am saying so is that when you are confronted with the people who have been made the delegates, it is up to you as a candidate, even if those are not the delegates you wanted, presuming you have the influence to choose the delegate. But no everybody has the influence to choose a delegate. So, presuming you are like me who doesn’t have influence to choose a delegate, then of course you have access to the delegate. It is now a matter of how can you sell yourself to the delegate? Also the other side of it is, are the delegates already predisposed towards certain aspirants? Again, you will only know after that day.
But I can for now, my engagement with the delegates has been very open and I have been getting very useful feedbacks. If on that day of the primary, we have something like option A4,that will be fantastic and you will say it is transparent. But there is room to improve the transparency around the primaries. But the only way to change that is to engage. A party is not likely to change its process by people from outside saying you must change you processes. It is only going to change when there are people from the inside agitating for it to be changed. And it is a process that is going on now. There is a lot of discussion going on now by party members about how the ward congresses took place.
What advice do you have for women going into politics?
My first part of advice will be for women who don’t even consider politics. Many of us grew up in communalities where politics is not for ‘us’. I grew up in that kind of environment. So I can sympathize with many people who think that politics is not for them – they don’t want to get involved, there is no place for decent people in politics. But we can see the repercussion. Plato said if you don’t get involved in politics, then your inferiors will take decisions for you. I think that is what we are suffering from in Nigeria right now. So, my first leg of advice is to the women who don’t even think about politics. Of course we can’t all contest for elective post, but you can be a supporter. You can be a fund raiser. Because there is no doubt about it, nobody can run for election without money. You can decide I want to put somebody there.
So all these women in cooperate Nigeria who are running the companies, be it Banks, manufacturing, are you aware that your counterpart, the men are ensuring that they sponsor people they trust, that understand business to enter into politics and run for offices so that they can protect their interests? When are women going to realize that, we need to start putting people in there, not just to protect our business interest as business women, but to protect the interest of the people we care about – our children. I doubt if there is any mother who doesn’t care about her children. So, how about securing the future of our children? And the best way to do that is with the right policies. We have just suffered another horrific lost in Potiskum with 47 innocent children being blown up. How do we ensure that we have the right policies in place to protect us from this kind of tragedies? It is Potiskum today, what if it is Abuja tomorrow? Who can stand up and say with 100 per cent confidence and say that it can’t happen in my child’s school? Unless your child is schooling abroad. As long as you have a child schooling in Nigeria, that child is at risk. The politics doesn’t mean we all have to go and buy forms to run for office. Politics can also to be standing up and saying I want the people who feel the same way as I do to be in there and protect my interest and that of my children. And the other leg is for women who are like me, who are saying let’s get in there.
Maybe you see things from the different perspective. For me, after five years of writing, I felt enough talk. You don’t want to be forever a critic. Of course there is nothing wrong with being a critic. But sometimes you have to get involved in the solution process. My advice is when you feel that way and want to get involved, just do it. There is never going to be a perfect time. Yes, our personal lives, whether as wives or mother might decide when you want to enter a race. But if you see your window, then take it. But you must be strategic. Don’t be emotional about the issue of I want to join this party or that party. Right now, many of our parties don’t really have an idealogy. No party is 100 per cent good and no party is 100 per cent bad. Do your analysis and say this is the best party in the constituency that I am running for. So that i what I mean by doing you analysis. Also don’t take defeat if you don’t win. If you loss an election win in some other way. Is it the relationship you have built in your constituency? How do you build on that? Is it in your party or friends you have made? So when the next convention comes, you can run for national organising secretary or treasurer.
What is your opinion on the role of godfathers in Nigerian Politics?
I will say there are two ways to look at the godfatherism issue in Nigeria. Yes, you can’t run from the fact that people have godfathers and maybe soon we will have godmother. Right now we have god fathers who typically fund elections for people because we all know how expensive it is to run for elections.
Even our electoral act sort of recognizes how expensive running for election is, because there is a section which puts the minimum which people are supposed to spend for election. i think that of a president is about N1 billion. And who has N1 billion to spend in an election. And we all know that that isn’t conservative. It is probably higher, but that is what INEC recognizes. So, you need godfathers to fund the election. But on the flip side, when you do, the godfathers are going to come back to demand for their money. They want the money back plus interest. We have seen this type of scenario play out over and over again. But it is bad for our democracy. If there is a way to reduce the influence of money. Yes, there is no denying the fact that you need money. Yes party should charge nomination fee. This is a way of raising money for the party. You need to spend money on media – on adverts, send out SMS. Yes all these cost money. Yes, you need to make posters and print T-shirts, but do you really need to pay delegates and voters? Now, that is where the use of the money is a problem. And it is problem for all of us and it is a problem that we need to examine.
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