As Woman Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kwara State, Alhaja Sarat Adebayo, played a crucial role in mobilising women to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed and other candidates of the APC in Kwara State. In this interview with VICTOR SEYI, she offers incisive views on the debates surrounding the office of the first lady in Nigeria as well as the roles, place and responsibility of women in politics
What are some of the expectations of your primary constituency – the womenfolk – from the new administration of President Muhamadu Buhari?
Firstly, I want to thank God that the President at the helms of Nigeria’s affairs today is from our great party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Our labour at the campaigns has been
crowned with success at the state and federal levels. Having said that, I want to plead with President Muhamadu Buhari to implement the 35 percent affirmative action for women. No doubt, our women played significant roles in the electioneering campaign and so they deserve the right place in the scheme of things by way of appointments, empowerment, social security to the aged and to women in general. In addition, we need to know that women constitute the largest percentage of the country’s population. So with this we expect that women would be accorded better respect in national matters.
I am particularly saddened by what happened in Taraba to our only female governorship candidate, Senator Aishat Alhassan. I see it as men rising against her, it is very bad. We should have a situation where men and women operate on equal right and platform in scheme of things.
Women have what it takes to compete favourably with men, It is high time Nigerians get mature in politics like in the United States where Hilary Clinton, is warming up for 2016 presidential elections. In Germany, the Chancellor is a female and has won the seat for a second term. Our case should not be different here, and why can’t the men give one seat to one woman out of 36 state governors? It is too bad. So I am appealing to the President to look into the issue of women and place them where they will be able to render their supportive roles effectively, not just women affairs. It has always been men alone occupying chairmanship of boards, parastatals etc. If you empower a man, you empowered just one person, but if you empower a woman you have empowered the nation. If you educate a woman you have educated a whole nation. Women deserve more than 35% placement of public office. The President should consider moving it to 45 %.
What women went through during the campaigns is enough to make them earn a good place in the scheme of things. Whatever you give to a woman is not a waste but an act of nation building. Though they say men are breadwinners but it is the women who know where the shoe pinches. We, women, are the ones left at home with the children. At work
we are the ones the men look up to for peace to reign and for support, so adequate empowerment is what women deserve, nothing less. When there is a crisis, the women are at the receiving end.
Women are not nonentities but invaluable partners in planning and execution of national development. If the men folk push us better into the limelight, they would enjoy the contributions we can make in aiding their efforts. What a man can do, a woman can do it much better in our own way. So I am imploring the President to give women a try and see how we would deliver to expectations and all will be well with this nation.
But we have seen women also being at the forefront of corrupt
practices in Nigeria, so…
(Cuts in) What is the ratio of men in corrupt practices compared to the number of women? Less than one percent! I need not mention names, we all read about it in the papers and hear in the news. I am not saying women should be spared when they betray public trust, no, such women are no good representation of women and that negligible proportion of bad eggs among women should not be used as a yardstick to condemn women from exhibiting their God given potential.
So those women who are fingered in corrupt practices are in micro minority among the women population in this country. Corruption is not in the character of women, we teach our children good morals and give them decent upbringing, so when you see isolated cases of women in corrupt practices, know that it is an abnormality. Women are known for uprightness, transparency and sincerity. Women have large hearts and passion for whatever they do. When it comes to trust, it is the women that you can rely on; if you have a duty to perform and you need people, by the time men had left you, you cannot know, they will still be pretending, but when a woman is with you, it is easy to know and when she departs she would openly display it; women don’t betray trust. The Almighty Allah has a valuable place for women, so our men should take a cue from this.
The President was quoted as saying he might not recognise the office of the first lady, how do you react to this?
President Muhamadu Buhari is a man of high integrity and wisdom. Being who he is, he has his own reasons. To be sincere the office of the first lady has not been constitutionally created but the supportive roles being played by the first ladies to their husbands cannot be underestimated. It is these women that relate with other women, giving succour to the women, the downtrodden, but if the President decides otherwise I won’t blame him. Going by the nation’s experience with the last first lady – I don’t want to mention names – by her conduct she fell short of the nation’s expectations from our first lady. You cannot compare her with the likes of Hajia Turai Yar’Adua and the woman who brought us out of the kitchen, Mrs Maryam Babangida of blessed memory.
Mrs Maryam Babangida comported herself with decency and carried her Better Life for Rural Women project in a way that all women even in rural areas knew that someone high up there in the corridors of power was looking out for their interest. Mrs. Babangida demonstrated vision and she used the opportunity given her to do things the way we can never forget.
So if you place Maryam Babangida side by side with what the last first lady did, you will see a wide gap of incompatibility. We have never had it so bad in this country. Let me be frank with you, that woman created many problems for her husband and she was a major factor in the failure of her husband. She was too vocal; she wanted to be heard where wise women
would have kept quiet and just observe things. She would put her mouth where she had no business talking. She went ahead imposing candidate for governorship. Imagine the first lady of the nation keeping grudges with governors of so many states. What is her business doing that? An office that is not backed constitutionally and should be run on low
profile she was running with impunity. That office is an office to display social responsibility towards women folks the downtrodden and the less privileged in our society. It is not an office to hijack power from the governor or the president, so President Muhammadu Buhari
knows what is good for Nigeria, he has been there before and knows what to do. And he knows that women supported his cause very well.
But there is this notion that women should not participate in politics, what is your take on this?
I don’t believe in such! How would people say women should not participate in politics, can the men do it all alone? Politics is not meant for men alone. God created us equal but with different roles to play for the society to move forward. Whether you are male or female, everyone created by Almighty Allah deserves the right and opportunity to serve their people; we all have a responsibility to our society. We have social responsibility, corporate responsibility as well as all possible responsibility ordained by God. Women are entitled to every public office that the men can occupy. You cannot quantify or value the passion that women put into what they do, these you can’t find with men. It is only in women you can find the right sense of humility, compassion, motherhood and discipline. When a woman holds
and office and when a man holds same office, you can’t compare the results at the end of their tenures.
What, in your opinion, is responsible for the low participation of women in public office?
Women, despite their numerical advantage, do not seem to support themselves when aspiring to public offices, have you noticed that? Then there is the poverty situation among women. The poverty gap is so wide between men and women here in Nigeria. It is about 75 percent to 25 ratios of women to men living in poverty. Men use the high poverty rate among women to get at us. They give peanuts to women to cajole us and many of us fall back to support the men. Also, the level of education and awareness among women is still very low.
Women competing with the men do not have the financial capability to stand shoulder to shoulder with the men so this is a great problem. Aside these, there are cultural and religious impediments. But gradually Nigerians are getting past all that, what is left now is the issue of
jealousy and envy and I believe that with time all these will fade away as level of awareness increases and our women get better enlightened. That is why the men should help us to ensure that our voices are heard loud and clear that the woman has very vital roles to
play in the nation building process.
What message or advice do you have for women across the country?
My advice is also a plea, that women should please support President Muhamadu Buhari in office. The support we gave him during the campaign is not the end; we should support him till he succeeds in building a new Nigeria for us all. It is not over until it is over. We have a role to play in making his government to succeed so that we can have a better society.
Also women should make it a point to support ourselves. We must stop all attitudes of envy and jealousy, we need to get matured. Also I am urging women wherever they are to come out and let their voices be heard in the act of governance. If you are not there, you cannot know what happens there. Refuse to be placed at the background, come out and make your voice heard. We have the numerical advantage; let us use this to uplift women to greatness. I am sure that with the continued support of women in Nigeria, President Muhamadu Buhari will succeed and even be there for 2019 insha Allah.