Hon. (Mrs) Ayo Omidiran represented Ayedaade, Irewole, Isokan Federal Constituency of Osun State in Nigeria’s House of Representatives between 2011 and 2019. Presently, she is chairman NFF Women Football Development Committee and also owns a women football club. Amiable and soft spoken, she spoke to Saturday Sun shortly after her recent birthday celebration this November.
How does it feel to be a year older?
I am just thankful. We have had a very difficult year, I’m still grateful and blessed to be alive. In all things, we have to be grateful to God. It has not been easy. It has not been more difficult than it is for others too. For one to have the grace of God to be here now, I think it’s real blessing. It’s been wonderful; I give God almighty all the praise.
Could you tell us your journey into politics, how did it start, did someone tell you to go into politics or you just want to impact lives?
I was born into a political family. I grew up in politics. I used to laugh when people say that people called them to join politics until it happened to me. Political leaders who worked with my dad saw my participation in active politics. I was really flattered. They didn’t come through me, they went through my husband and they talked me into accepting to contest an election.
I was just lucky that I was asked to come and join a political party and I was asked to contest election. It’s not everyone that is in politics that will go for election. Some people would love to go for appointment. A lot of people have been in politics even since the third republic and yet they have not been able to have that honour of contesting not to even talk of winning. I feel really honoured. It’s just the grace of God and real privileged to have been called to serve at that level. My first active participation was contesting in the House of Representatives in 2007, it was not successful and in 2011, it was successful.
Growing up, did you envisage that one day you will become a politician?
It wasn’t really largely on my mind but I know I feel comfortable with politicians; my father being a political leader in the old western state. Infact in the old western state, that time there was no Osun state when I was growing up. In our area, which later became Osun state, the whole of my constituency, he was the party chairman of UPN; my father was a disciple of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. I grew up being in the midst of all these big politicians. I remember on several occasions, I had woken up to see Chief Obafemi Awolowo in my father’s parlour and a lot of people outside waiting to catch a glimpse of Chief Awolowo. It happened to me three times when I was growing up. It is fascinating. It wasn’t strange when I was called to serve. I’m happy that I have the blessing of my husband because it would have been very difficult for me if my husband had said No. I wouldn’t want to join politics and lose peace in my home.
What is your perception of women’s position in politics, is it okay or needs to be better?
It is not okay. We really have to improve. We have to take a deliberate step, amendment of the constitution to stipulate a certain percentage for women in elective and all other aspects of politics. To contest election, a woman has so many hurdles against her. Apart from the financial aspect, where they are expected to also spend heavily like the men do if not more, we have the acceptance level, whereby some people look down on women who want to actively participate. Where you expect fellow women to readily accept you as contestant and rally round you, you see that a lot of women will even prefer to support the men than women. We need to attest that women too have a lot to give, they are kinder, and we are less susceptible to corrupt tendencies. So, having women in political positions will be more beneficial to the people than the way it is now.
In your constituency, what would you say you have done while in the House of Reps?
I made sure that all my zonal intervention project money, which people call constituency projects were things that my constituents are able to see on the ground. Whatever allocation was made to me throughout my stay in the House, I made sure that they were reflected in the constituency. One other thing I did was, before election, I had to go round all the wards and ask the people what they wanted and everything was noted. In the course of my representation, I made sure that I touched everything that they asked for. In my area, mostly water. The chunk of my constituency project money was on providing water for the people. I built schools, I built primary health care centers, and at the same time I facilitated vocational training for a lot of young people in my constituency and women too. I feel satisfied that I was able to do all these for my people.
In all these, what has life taught you as a person?
I know that to be successful in politics you must love your fellow human being as you love yourself, without empathy, without the love of others you cannot be a successful politician. Most of what we are asked to do at the level that I served which was representation, you embraced your constituents, feel their pains, feel their joy and totally put yourself in their shoes all the time. This has made me to be more patient and see things from the other perspective that I was used to before I went to the House. Largely, I think my experience has made me a better person.
When you are not talking politics, what do you do?
I’m a businesswoman, I’m a sports administrator. I was lucky to be the first Nigerian woman to serve in FIFA as member of organizing committee for under 20 and under 17 women world cup. I served the committee for six years; before then, I was a member of the Nigeria Football Association 2002 and 2005. I was chairman of women football committee that time, I went back as chairman, women football committee in 2017 and now, I have just been reappointed as chairman of women football committee of Nigeria Football Federation. I own a women football club, which I started in year 2007. Apart from that, I’m into family business too, which is real estate and production of oil (PK)
How do you relax?
My name is Ayo, meaning Joy, I really like enjoyment. I love to be happy, I dance a lot. Apart from that, I love movies, I also travel a lot. But apart from all these, I just love to have my private moment. I love my company so much, it’s easy for me to relax and I don’t hold grudges. It makes it a lot easier for me.
What is your favourable fashion item you can’t do without?
I have never given it a thought what I cannot do without fashion wise. I don’t get addicted to anything. There’s nothing I can’t do without, I must be honest with you. I don’t follow fashion trends. I just do comfortable things.
I just try to do what is comfortable, I wear what is comfortable, and I wear what I like apart from that, I love good shoes. I love my perfumes. I need to have with me basic hygiene things. If I don’t have cream to rub I don’t really care, I just have to have my toothbrush and toothpaste. Any other thing I can do without. I’m not really a makeup person. It’s not every outing that I make up. Make up has different levels. I prefer the light one, I’m not a fashionista, when I like something I buy it. I like good quality shoes and a good bag. I think every woman loves a good bag.
Where’s your most favourtite travel destination?
In the course of my football administration, my love for travels has really helped. Football has taken me everywhere around the continent, however, when my children are younger we always go on holiday to England. At that time, England was my favourite; as they grow older and they are scholling in America, my favorite place is now America. I can say I love New York. You can never get bored in New York. So, New York City is my favourite destination.
You said your husband is a pillar to your career, especially politics, is he a politician?
No. infact, he is apolitical but as human being, he has one or two things to say about the way things are at any time. He gives me neutral opinion about things and that has really helped me a lot from the standpoint of a politician.
So, how did you meet this wonderful man?
That was a long time ago. I think he has a flat tyre and I just got down from a vehicle. I was going home. He asked me, ‘please, is there anywhere around here where I could get a vulcanizer.’ I looked at him and decided to take him straight to where he could get a vulcanizer. That was when he started asking, if I’m a youth corp member in the state (Osun). That was how we started talking.