Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Country Director of ActionAid Nigeria, Mrs. Ene Obi, has urged the Federal Government to promptly implement the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG).
She spoke on the sideline of the commemoration of the African Liberation Day with the theme: “Reclaiming the Civic Space to Redefine the African Narrative” aimed at addressing the emerging shrinking civic and political spaces in Nigeria.
What is the message ActionAid Nigeria is trying to pass across with this year’s African Liberation Day?
The message we are passing across to mark this year’s African Liberation Day is to look at African governance architecture in terms of looking at the democracy we are operating in Nigeria and to see how that is complying with the African Union, the charter itself which Nigeria is signatory to. We are happy that we are bringing in a lot of stakeholders that really matter, we want to pass the message, build their capacity, and improve their capacity in terms of understanding of the African Charter on Governance and Electoral Democracy.
So, we are bringing a lot of young people together, following up on inclusion, the most vulnerable of women, and the volume of young people in Nigeria and to see how we can organise together. It is a day that is marked across the African continent and Africans in diaspora because we believe liberation is important, we believe freedom is important.
In terms of liberation of its citizens and guaranteeing freedom of fundamental human rights, how would you rate the government of Nigeria?
There’s still a lot of trouble because when you have a lot of unemployment, a lot of people that are suffering, a lot of people in area of conflict, there is a lot of problems. The volume of young people, the number of young people that are not having jobs today is a time bomb. While we appreciate the little efforts of the Federal Government via the N-power, we hope they will be able to release all the funds needed to be able to improve the lives of the young people. Elections have just been conducted which is one of the things we promote, it is part of the African charter, we have a new government in place, we still want more women in decision making positions both elective and appointive as well as that of the young people. Because, the voices of every segment needs to count and that is why we are promoting these things through this means.
You raised concerns about unemployed youths but what is the role of African mothers in building young people to be able to effective in governance?
When I talk about African Mothers, when there is any area of irresponsibility they blame the African mothers. Mothers have a role but if they don’t have a role in decision making how would they make contributions to the quota? African women and men are both responsible in raising children but the burden according to our own adage is that when the child is bad, it is the mother but when the child is good, everybody claims the child. That is an adage but in reality what does it really count, what counts is that women have a stake. The Aba women revolt in 1929 is something that didn’t just happen; it was the pinch of the environment, the economy of the country that led to women losing their lives. Women suffer more when there is a burden of poverty in the society, there is so much suffering in Nigeria. Go to your own community and investigate this, when there is poverty, women bear the burden most even in a little home, the mother will ensure everyone else eats before she does and if it’s not enough she goes hungry.
The Africa that we grew up in, in a community, women have their responsibilities. When a child is born in a community, the child belongs to the whole community. But when you now move into the community and redistribution of our wealth, to selfishness and say this is mine, then there is cause for worry. For instance you go and train your children abroad and then back home we don’t have money to provide scholarships, it will impact on the development on the human capital. No matter how educated your children are, they will return and struggle for jobs here, we need to join hands and make the country work. We need to worry about not just our children but other people’s children. Every child in Nigeria has a right to grow, the capacity to grow to be the best of what he/she can be. That is why we need to bring in more quality decision makers because of what we have seen so far in the opportunities given to women as well.
How do you think corruption can be addressed in Nigeria?
There is a lot of insanity in the system because when you as a single person have 30 cars, the question is where did you get the money from? When you want to dig into the person’s history you will find out that the person’s father never had anything. Is that not insanity? So we are saying that we need to return to the Nigeria I grew up in, that is when you see a person driving a car you ask questions. Today, we are not asking questions, rather we are praising people who ride cars and cover people in dust. We are saying everybody must be held accountable for the money that they produce. Today in Nigeria, everyone has the Bank Verification Number (BVN), if government wants to track anybody in terms of what they are making they can track them.
So, we need to look at anybody who has looted the economy of this country and insist they must pay for it, there must be sanctions.
What is ActionAid Nigeria’s expectation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term?
We have a project on strengthening citizen’s resilience against corruption; we are still working on it. We are engaging on every angle, we want to create a kind of movement on social justice. Government has a part in it; the citizens also have a part in it. We are calling on everyone to rise up and say no to corruption because where there is no corruption there will be more redistribution of wealth of the economy of this country. We have enough wealth, we are blessed with both human and natural resources and so we need to invest in the young people now. What we are having right now is very hungry looking young men reading in the classes, we need to focus on that. What are we giving to the young people of this country both when they are in school and out of school? Are we planning with our population in mind, we need to raise the status quo; we need to raise the stakes.