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As part of its preparations for the 2023 general elections, the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) recently launched a nationwide campaign targeting women voters in its bid and efforts to garner support for its Presidential Flagbearer, Senator (Dr) Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. The party held a national seminar/retreat for its female members to guide them on how to attract more supporters to the NNPP as well as raise their consciousness on the programmes and philosophy of the party and its plans for Nigeria when it forms the government at the center.
In this interview with Cyril Mbah in Abuja, Dr. Maryam Jummai Bello Yasin, the National Women Leader of the NNPP, took time off to discuss why women are usually more comfortable with occupying the passenger’s seat in politics and during elections. Excerpts.
As a woman leader, what is your message to women and what will you want them to do during the 2023 general elections? It is possible that many women and youths will be satisfied to collect N5, 000 or N10, 000 to vote the wrong person into office.
I am telling women to come out en-mass and to vote the right persons in 2023 so that the suffering we have endured for so long will be over. Nigerians have been suffering for many years since the present administration came into office and we should collectively say enough to this situation. Since the All Progressives Congress [APC] came into office, it has not been easy for Nigerians and women have been the most vulnerable. So, any woman who will collect money from the wrong people to vote in a wrong candidate will be doing a disservice to herself, her family and the nation in general. We are the ones as mothers that face the problem of inflation, the high cost of goods in the market and suffer the most. Mothers are home makers and when we are subjected to the pressures of inflation and high cost of goods, the family system suffers. Many politicians have not been honest and are not keeping their promises. This has discouraged many women from coming out to participate in politics because men do not give the women a chance but will rather ask them to stop down. Women are confident, we have the skills and we are more thrust-worthy and can deliver the dividends of democracy better than men, who have failed the nation woefully. We have seen how well many women in positions of authority have done in office and the impact they have created in the nation and internationally. It appears that men are scared of women taking over everything from them. Men should allow women to compete favourably with them in the interest of democracy because we have what it takes to compete and we go into office to serve rather than to loot. We do not have an avalanche of problems like men, who have chains of girl-friends and other problems. We are ready to serve diligently because we know that the end justifies the means. Women feel it more when our children are in trouble and do not go to school but we are happier when our children have actualised their dreams.
We want to see a nation where children will have jobs to do after schooling and we also want our women to be engaged in lucrative business because we support our husbands to build healthy families. Sometimes, women are compelled to sell their properties including gold and other inheritance to see their families happy. It is so disheartening and very disturbing that these days after education; the children roam the streets with their educational qualifications without jobs to do.
What is the way out of this problem?
The nation’s education system is not practical enough to teach children life-enhancing skills. We need an education system that will be more skills oriented so that our children can have some expertise by the time they graduate from schools. Even the quality of education today has fallen below what it was in the 1970s. Can you imagine that some National Youth Service Corps [NYSC] members serving in my office could not draft a simple memo? I was shocked that someone can pass through the university system and read English but cannot draft a simple memo or construct correct sentences. This is so because the education standard has fallen so low under the present administration but NNPP is coming to make things right even at the grassroots levels. We would ensure we provide the right infrastructure that will make things work well. We would also look into the welfare of teachers. When teachers and lecturers are not being paid well, it is not surprising that they use the time necessary for teaching to do other businesses or take up extra home lessons to meet up with their needs and neglect their primary duties. Teachers are helpless. The society does not even respect teachers and people see them as nobody in the social order and this has hampered their performance and dedication to duty. I call on the present government to look critically into teachers’ welfare problems and do something about it. The NNPP and its presidential candidate will give proper attention to education and we will put education in its right position in the country by increasing the budgetary allocation to the sector in a manner that the entire nation will be proud of the education system. Nigerian children are making the country proud in Europe, the United States and in the United Kingdom and are winning laurels of excellence in education outside because we have children with excellent brains. This is one of the reasons why many Nigerians such as Hajia Amina, Dr. Okonji Iwela etc are occupying global positions of honour everywhere. Children and women education and health shall be the priority of the NNPP across Nigeria. Those with special needs shall receive proper attention. Specifically, we plan to mop up out-of-school children from the streets of Nigeria in the first four years.
We have eighteen political parties and out of the number of those contesting, only one woman is competing as a presidential candidate. In the last election also, the only woman who came out got only one vote. Why are women not interested in elective positions or supporting their own to win elections?
In one of my interviews with a foreign radio organisation, I said Nigerian women do not want the sympathy of men but a level playing field to compete favourably with them. Give us the chance and we would show you what we can do but they are scared of women taking over or overthrowing them and taking power away from them. Even though they have money and we do not have, they are still scared of women. NNPP is a gender friendly party. This is why we have identified with it and passionately support its leadership, its manifesto, blueprint and programmes for a new Nigeria. The 2023 general election is critical for the survival of Nigeria and demands active participation of all citizens particularly women who constitute half of the nation’s over 200 million population. For long, Nigerian women have shied away from politics and their civic duties despite being the victims of clueless and inept governments.
The women we saw here are more interested in following the presidential campaign train and shooting party slogans or praising the candidate. The women have not shown sufficient interest in contesting elections. Why is it so?
Women who join any elective race are frustrated and forced to drop out. Many political parties raise the cost of the forms so high that women cannot afford to buy forms. Even the APC told lies that it has waived the cost of forms for women but how free was it. The claim has a question mark. Men are using money politics to destroy Nigeria. Can you imagine a party selling its forms for N100 million each and many people are rushing to buy the forms. How did they get the money? The party in office has destroyed the country and the economy and we are in a situation where people cannot feed three times a day or even feed well two times every day. Yet, many people rushed to buy forms for N100million each when they can use the money to improve their people, especially the masses and the unemployed persons roaming about the streets in search of non-existing jobs. If you give women in every community N10, 000 each, the money will be multiplied into N100.000 each in six months time selling vegetables, tomatoes and pepper. But the so-called aspirants who are men cannot help people. Rather, they want to flaunt money by buying N100 million presidential forms. It is a sad thing in this country for women because before any rich man can assist a woman, he would want to sleep with the person. This is how low we have gone in the country. The change we were promised was nothing but a ‘One Chance’ promise. It is only God that can save us from the trap that we fell into in the name of change. An administration formed by the NNPP shall undertake a vigorous review of all existing policies on women, children, and other vulnerable groups with a view to implementing programmes and instituting projects that target their wellbeing and social protection. State governments, shall also be assisted and encouraged to adopt federal models in this respect. Ends.
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