Nigerian women are strong, powerful with so much potential

Accord Party Candidate for House of Representative,Esan North East/Esan South East Federal Constituency, Edo State Women are grossly under-represented in active governance in Nigeria. The total number of women in the House of Reps is a glaring instance of how women are traditionally relegated in the affairs of steering the ship of the nation.

There are a total of 360 seats in the Nigerian House of Reps but women occupy less than 1 in 5 of the seats. In 1999, there were 13 women in the House of Reps. In 2003 the number rose to 21, peaked at 27 in 2007, then dropped to 25 in 2011 and further dropped to 22 in 2015. Currently a paltry 6 percent of the seats in the House of Reps are occupied by women.

But women are determined to change the status quo. As the 2019 general election approaches, a significant number of women from different areas of endeavor have risen to this challenge.

One of the women at the forefront of this movement is the Executive Director, Centre for Rights and Development (CERAD),Barrister Josephine UzoyaIjekhuemen. The brilliant lawyer is confident she has what it takes to clinch the Federal House of Representative seat for the Esan North East/Esan South East Federal Constituency of Edo State on the platform of Accord Party.

In this interview with SOLA OGUNDIPE, Ijekhuemen speaks about her quest to help mitigate the problems of Nigerians starting from her own constituency. Excerpts:

You are a lawyer and human rights activist. What is your motivation into politics?

My name is Josephine UzoyaIjekhuemen and I am running for Federal House of Representatives Esan North East/Esan South East Federal Constituency, Edo State. I believe that Esanland is due for a democratic leadership/representative who is capable of making valuable contributions that will produce a fair, just, and equitable society in Esanland. At this point in our democracy, we need a new crop of leadership for progress

“Enough is Enough” of losing pregnant women and our daughters to human traffickers.

“Enough is Enough” for our girls, women, fathers and brothers dying of preventable diseases.

Enough is Enough” of the future of our youths being wasted, of the future of our children hopeless.

“Enough is Enough” of the politics of self-aggrandizement and desecration of the people’s sanctity as human beings.

I believe that our people cannot progress or move forward in this our society with the current composition of leaders representing us.

You know what the people want, but can you deliver?

Our people want leaders that believe that the people should be healthy, stay safe, enjoy life to the maximum, make positive contributions to the growth of the land and achieve economic growth and prosperity. I believe I am that leader. I am determined to offer an effective representation to my people in Esan North East/ Esan South East through my 7 points agenda when I am elected. I will be a servant leader, a friend and daughter to my community. I pray our people understand that 2019 is an opportunity to really examine the minds and intentions of anyone who wants to lead.

This is your first foray into politics but you are so confident. What’s the secret?

My background and training in Law, legal research and advocacy has prepared me adequately for meaningful engagement in the nation’s political process. I graduated with a Bachelor of Laws LL.B. Honours degree from the Edo State University in 1996, and qualified as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1999. In 2004, I was certified in International Applied Environmental Education from the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., USA. I’m a practicing lawyer, and Executive Director of the Centre for Rights and Development (CERAD), currently I’m the Zonal Coordinator South/West of the UNDP/NACA CCE Alumni, and a member of the Ethics Review Committee of the College of Medicine, University of Lagos. I am an accomplished technocrat, development expert, social activist and human rights advocate with experience spanning over two decades, and my entry into the arena of Nigerian politics is borne out of personal conviction that cognitively capable and conscientious citizens can no longer afford to look on as spectators in the political space but be active participants and players in the political dispensation and the quest to rejuvenate the polity.

Do you mean being a lawyer gives you advantage in your quest to the Federal House of Reps?

Yes. I would say my understanding of what the law should consist of, coming from my experience of legislative, policy drafting and analysis prepares me adequately. In 2009, I was nominated for the distinguished Nation Builders’ Merit Award and in the same year also became an alumnus of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) of the United States State Department after having attended a month-long program which focused on “Grassroots Democracy” in the USA.

I’m consistently primed to promote social equity, equality and harmony on the altar of the Law and Justice. My career  trajectory working across Nigeria and internationally includes advocating  for  the  rights  of abused women, children, the underprivileged, the vulnerable, socially and economically disenfranchised citizenry.

In  my quest  to  reshape  the  development  narrative  over  the  last  20  years,  I  served  on  numerous committees and panels, advocating for the rights of the underprivileged members of society and  consulted  for  national,  international  and  multilateral  development  organizations  including  the  United Nations.

I’m also a member  of  Nigerians Against  Rape,  the  Lagos  State  Gender  Based  Violence  Advocacy  Group  and  the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA).

What’s your view of Nigeria as a nation?

Nigeria has searched endlessly for nationhood, but poverty and corruption have been the bane of development and growth since independence. There are real challenges. Several forces are threatening the advancement and consolidation of democracy. One of the greatest threats is poverty. A hungry man has various characteristics; he is angry, desperate, violent and deaf to reason. Poverty is manifesting in grievous images.

The present level of tension and crisis in the country is the resultant effect of poverty and the damage corruption has inflicted on the economy. You can imagine the number of suicide cases that continue to increase and in desperation Nigerians are taking heart-rending risks.

Over 10,000 people have died in the bid to cross the desert and Atlantic Ocean in search for greener pasture, the home-front having become too hot to dwell in. The risks also involved kidnapping and wiping out entire families in the race for quick financial fix. People are the same everywhere crying for a leader that will genuinely have their interests at heart.

Insecurity and corruption are major vices in Nigeria? How should these be tackled?

It is unfortunate that insecurity and corruption have crippled our values. Huge public funds end up in private pockets and democratic institutions have come under severe threats due to corruption and naked stealing of public funds.

Today, we are confronting the problem of violence and unnecessary bloodletting. Countless innocent Nigerians have been killed since 1999. The poor and vulnerable people are being killed, the rich are also being killed; unarmed and defenseless people alike are massacred. There is, in fact, a strong link between corruption and violence. Today, there is very big challenge. Our country is unstable. There are too many arms in circulation.

We are today faced with bitter ethnic contests and our country remains divided. There is the lack of an inspiring national spirit, a compelling national ethos, a rallying ideology that stimulates the people. Government needs to address the ills of the nation. Cutting the hate tree that brings forth bitter fruit of violence and killings is not the responsibility of security personnel alone. My slogan “Keeping Hope Alive” is as a result of the present situation that seems hopeless but with God we can restore the Hope for development now and for generations to come.

How about poverty?

The prevailing high rate of poverty in Nigeria is responsible for the growing level of incidences of tension and violence and the Federal Government must arrest the menace. A government of the people must not overheat the polity and must contribute meaningfully to nation building in order to deepen democracy for purposeful development and growth. regular town hall meeting and

What are you bringing to the table to make a difference?

I have a 7-point agenda comprising effective representation, transparency and accountability, open door policy, community-driven projects and promotion of Bills required for effective representation.

The first strategy is effective representation. This would help to provide a Representation at the National level that will focus on the paramount interest of the Constituency and ensure bills passed have qualitative value and essentially meet the needs of the people meant to serve.

I am for transparency and accountability. My goal is to demystify government, ensure legislative and constituency projects, process are open to all Constituents as well as give regular accounts of expenditures and allocations for constituent projects and legislative interventions.

I’ll run an open door policy. This will ensure that my representation will be accessible to the Constituent. They can reach their Representative as well as guide on how they can be better served by my representation.

I’ll focus on community-driven projects. Constituent projects will be sponsored based on feedback received from Constituents. It will be operated by the Constituents as well as ensure such projects are targeted towards human capital and sustainable development of the Constituency

There would be regular town hall meetings. To constantly engage with Constituent actors, stakeholders and interest groups, regular town hall meeting will be held throughout my tenure to ensure a mutual community dialogue that will promote effective representation.

I would initiate and promote Bills that are effective for community development. Legislative bills sponsored and voted under my tenure will ensure that the needs of the constituent are of paramount consideration. I would restore cultural ethos, to bring back our traditions and culture that promotes harmony, peace and prosperity and incorporates it into legislative and constituent projects and activities.

It’s often said that religion and politics mix. What’s your view on this?

Ethics and morality form the bedrock of the Law and these are derivatives of religious beliefs.  So to actualise the ideal society you have to incorporate elements of religion which is not totally invasive but permitting all to practice their faith in governance.

What are your interests outside of the Bar?

I volunteer in church harvest committee, teach marriage class in church. I’m a JDPC coordinator in my parish and provide legal support to at least three churches. I love poetry, writing children’s stories, arts, classical and jazz, I am a passionate cook and I love travel and adventure. To exercise, I walk daily. I’m a committed walker.

Are you health conscious?

I am quite conscious of my health. I don’t eat red meat. I walk to exercise, drink water and eat lots of mixed veggies.

What’s your assessment of the Nigerian woman?

The Nigerian woman is a strong, powerful being who has so much potential to do a lot for the development in Nigeria. She has multitasking abilities, she’s a builder and the glue that holds everything together yet she’s soft and caring. The only issue that is really undermining the average Nigerian woman is patriarchy. This has prevented her from realising her full potential. We need to change this narrative to enable witness and appreciate what we are capable of achieving.

What’s your final word?

My commitment to the development of my community and quest to represent Esan North East/South East Federal Constituency of Edo State is reflection my commitment to the ideals of nation building. It is continuation of my lifelong devotion to human capacity development in all its ramifications. Restoring the social and economic fecundity of Esan North East/South East constituency is the primary priority of my candidacy. As a Humanist, I seek to serve with probity and equity and focus on revamping the ethos and values of the culture of my homeland. This is the essence of my political mission.

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