I am switching party due to the exclusion of aspirants with disabilities, young people and women from participating fully in politics.
Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Lois Auta, founder of Cedar Seed Foundation, young global leader of the World Economic Forum is an aspirant to the AMAC/Bwari Federal constituency.
She was only two years old when she was struck by poliomyelitis. She is a household name both in Nigeria and in international community and has received awards for her role in promoting disabled sport globally in the United States. She holds a diploma in Public Administration and Bachelor’s of Science degree in Public Administration from the University of Abuja.
Auta was until recently, a staff of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) under Central Transport Service Section.
She speaks on her disappointment with the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Why did you settle for APC as a platform to realise your ambition considering the bashing it has been receiving in recent times?
APC has shown commitment over the years by appointing a senior special assistant to the president on disability matters. It did not stop there; it has a national coordinator on the party platform on disability matters in the whole 36 states including FCT. They have state, local government and ward coordinators on disability matters. So they have shown us that they are an inclusive party and that moved me to be part of the party. I have been a member of the party over a year now.
Why have you suddenly changed your mind about running on APC platform after paying such glowing tribute to the party?
It is disheartening and discouraging. They are excluding us from political participation with style. I have done my homework, I have paid my dues but nomination fees has stopped me from participating in the APC primaries due to lack of funds.
I was at the national headquarters to confirm whether it is true and I was shocked to hear that I must pay 50 percent. And I told them since it is 50 percent off for women and 50 percent off for persons with disabilities that mean I am paying nothing being a woman and a person with disability, but they said no, I must pay.
I had appealed to Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari and APC leadership to make the forms free for women, young people and persons with disabilities, those in groups I mentioned that have paid their money should be refunded but it seems all my pleas fell on deaf ears.
About my views on the interest and nomination forms I shared earlier, they promised to give persons with disabilities for free but when the form came out for sale, it was 50 percent off for aspirants with disabilities which have excluded the vulnerable groups from the political participation on that platform.
I am switching party due to the exclusion of aspirants with disabilities, young people and women from participating fully in politics. The fees of interest and nomination forms are too exorbitant. The party structures and systems are not friendly to us, that is why we have to re-strategise and join another friendly party.
I went there with N500, 000 that I could raise for the form but I was told they will not collect until it is complete.
I believe I can make it God’s willing on the new party platform that will be announced soon. With my intimidating profile, people’s goodwill, competence, passion, experience, exposure, character, credibility and support from people, there is no party I will run on and will not win.
How prepared are you to represent the AMAC/Bwari Constituency and what motivated you to seek the position?
What really motivated me to run for House of Representatives is that for too long, persons with disabilities, youths, women and the vulnerable groups have been sidelined from development agenda, they have suffered from discrimination, marginalisation and exclusion from government policies and programmes. I told myself that the advocacy my friends and I have been doing is not enough, the best decision is to be part of the policy makers. To sponsor bills and make laws that will be able to advocate for equal opportunities for these vulnerable groups. We want an inclusive education, employment, health, accessible infrastructure and so many issues. That was why I came out to run for House of Representatives to talk and advocate more on these issues.
You are from Kaduna State, why are you aspiring to represent AMAC/Bwari Federal Constituency and not your constituency in Kaduna?
I have been in Abuja since I was 18, so most of my achievements, awards, I got them here in Abuja. As a public servant with NNPC, I pay tax here and even the Cedar Seed Foundation, the project we have been implementing was started here in Abuja. So, I feel I am part of the indigenes of Abuja and I have the right to contest anywhere in Nigeria as a citizen of Nigeria.
Yes, we have some challenges, one of which is language barrier because when you go out for consultations and campaign, some of the people want to talk to you in their language but I won’t be able to respond to their satisfaction. It is one of my major challenges but this is just a challenge, it can be surmounted. With the ideology I am bringing to the party, the projects I am going to implement is not going to be for the Gbagis, Bwaris, Igbo, Yoruba, so ethnicity should not stop good leaders from emerging and participating in politics.
Aside disability issues, what other issues are important to you in the FCT that you will be pushing when elected?
The people of AMAC/Bwari Federal Constituency and other parts of the FCT have for too long suffered from bad roads, inadequate social amenities like water, electricity, good markets, good schools, good hospitals. So my plan for them when I become a member of House of Representatives is to ensure that these things are put in place, that these issues are addressed in the FCT, the bad roads will be turned to good roads, bad schools to good schools, bad hospitals to good hospitals whereby the sick can be taken care of.
Where are you getting the finances from?
To be frank, we don’t have enough funding but we are using what we have to achieve our goal. We are using the media – social, print, electronic to talk about ourselves, our agenda and ideology, that yes, we have the ability, ideas, capacity, character, competence but no funding. So I’m using this medium to call on Nigerians and specifically the Abuja people to support a leader like me. I want them to be part of the history because when I make it to the House of Representatives, I will be the first female with disability in the National Assembly, and their name will be written in gold that they made this a reality. I want them to demonstrate that they believe in me, my capacity to deliver, my character and competence by supporting me. This is a new thing, a great idea to be part of.
Can you match the present occupant, Zaphaniah Jisalo?
Zaphaniah Jisalo is the incumbent House of Representatives member for AMAC/Bwari constituency and he is doing well. I consulted him before now and he told me he is contesting for the Senate and that gave me the boldness to come out fully to represent people of AMAC/Bwari constituency. Being a woman, a youth and a person with disability, it will give me the opportunity to be able to compete with my fellow aspirants and win. From the consultations I have made so far, I have gotten 70 percent support, they assured me of their willingness and readiness to support me 100 percent. I believe the Chiefs, clergymen, students, youths, women, traders, tricycle riders and so on and so forth, as promised won’t let me down. I have faith from the consultations so far that I will win.
Was the not too young to run law recently signed contribute to your interest in politics?
I was part of the stakeholders in the not too young to run activism until it was finally signed by Mr. President into law. Yes, it is one of my motivations because I belong to the youth. And I believe that being a young person will give me the opportunity to serve and be supported because I come to the table with brilliant ideas and projects and it will boost the fortunes of our party if I win.
My advice to my party and Nigerians in general is that they should see the worth of young persons, women and people with disabilities and support them because recycling the old people will not inject new ideas into the party and rebrand the party. To rebrand the party, they need to support these categories of people I have mentioned earlier as this will give them a good name in Nigeria, Africa and the world. It will also give them opportunity to be part of history and to demonstrate that indeed that it is an inclusive party; it is willing to support these groups of people I have mentioned.
To Nigerians, I want them to believe in me and see beyond disability, disability is just a word. They should change the dis in disability to this ability. They should also support me by voting for me when I emerge as the candidate representing the party.