Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Favour Shuaib Ishember, the senatorial candidate for Justice Must Prevail Party (JMPP), who polled 51 votes in the just concluded elections, has said even though she lost, she is happy Senator George Akume also lost.
Since this is your first time of going into politics, why go straight to contest a senatorial position and not the chairmanship or councillorship?
I have never imagined that I would dabble into politics although I know I am creative, I can function in several positions. I never imagined I will aim for a higher cadre like the senatorial position. But the political party in which I happen to find myself, JMPP is God’s own initiative. It was given to the vision bearer, Apostle Chukwu Ezuzolugo, who happens to be the presidential candidate of our party. He is also a novice as far as politics is concern but we believed that God has the interest of Nigeria at heart. God cannot come down by himself to begin to help people, he uses people and I believe it was grace that called me into JMPP. I was called into politics to help sanitise the system, to correct all the injustice that is going on around me, to bring justice, equity and transformation in the land.
First, I was made the national woman leader of my party, and going by my actions in the party it was clear that it was a task I could handle very well. You know, you won’t know your capabilities until the opportunity to demonstrate those leadership qualities you possess is trusted at you. Right from my childhood, I have always demonstrated these qualities but like I said earlier, I didn’t know I will have to venture into politics, I thought it will be in something else like empowerment of women and youths etc.
It was when we were preparing for our primaries that the vision bearer, Apostle Ezuzolugo told me that he thought I had what it takes to go for Senate and I agreed with him. What really pushed me to go into politics is the condition of my people back home in my Senatorial district. The people of Benue North Senatorial District need a David that God will use to deliver us from the Goliaths that have kept us in our present predicament.
Were you not afraid to take on a political giant like Senator George Akume?
Well, I consider Senator George Akume as a big brother, my uncle and he is a man I respect so much. He was once my governor and a two-time senator representing my Senatorial district. But when duty calls and considering who is behind you, you don’t look at yourself as an ant before a giant. We don’t look at how big our problems are but how big our God is and His ability to solve that problem. When God sends you on an errand, he provides strong shoes. So like the biblical David, I was able to confront whoever is the Goliath that is on the throne that was the confidence with which I went into that election.
So how will you say you performed?
Well, considering the political environment in Nigeria which is not too friendly for women who want to go into politics, I wouldn’t say I performed badly. There were a lot of challenges that I had to confront. Many saw me as desperate, many felt my role should be in the kitchen and not on the field slugging it out with men, many saw me as loose and wild, I was attacked morally. They tried to break me down psychologically because they felt threatened by what I stand to offer. Another challenge was resources to run my campaign because politics in Nigeria is not just difficult without money, it is expensive. Our party is not just new but not buoyant as well.
It was not just difficult printing my posters and erecting billboards, it was frustrating. I did not have enough money to spread the message through the media and other means. But it was not all gloom because I got support from unlikely quarters, my friends, colleagues, family members and with the little I gathered I gave it a push. They told me they were behind me and they demonstrated it in words and in deeds. At the end of the day, I must have lost the battle which is the Senatorial seat to represent my people but I won the war of fear and intimidation. At least, Senator George Akume now knows that Nigeria is changing, the political landscape is changing. Gone are the days people just throw up their hands in the air and conclude there is no way, the same old brigades will return. Everyone now knows that if you want a change you have to be bold and go for it, stick your neck out and speak out. That a woman that is not just young but a widow could confront him and make an impact, that is something. Until now, I’m still wondering where I got the courage, which is why I conclude that JMPP is of God.
What I really wanted was a change and even though I didn’t get it, I got just 51 votes as officially announced even though some people said it was 251, the point remains a change has been initiated, Senator Akume lost the seat and another personality, Aker Jev, is taking over. We are trusting God that he will do better and if he doesn’t, we will also change him. But I am telling you that this is not my end in politics, I am not giving up, it is a step in the right direction and from now on, it is forward ever backward never. I will remain in the political space until I am established on the throne where God wants me to function and deliver his mandate to better the lot of not just my people of Benue North Senatorial District but the entire country as a whole and even the African continent if God so desires.
How will you rate INEC’s performance during these elections?
INEC tried but there is room for serious improvement. Election in Nigeria is seen not just a contest between political parties but between religion and ethnicity. So the same law INEC enforces in the South, East and West should be enforced in the North as well. If you’re declaring election inconclusive in a particular region or state due to irregularities, don’t close your eyes to the same irregularities in another region or state just because the ruling party’s interest is being threatened. INEC should not be seen as backing the ruling party, let there be a level playing ground for all. I am saying this because in the just concluded presidential elections, the masses spoke and it was clear they rejected the ruling party and that is why the candidate of the main opposition party, the PDP is in court to reclaim his mandate. INEC said it was against rigging and was neutral but if you ask the electorate they will not share the same sentiments, they felt short-changed. I am not a member of the PDP but I am for justice just like my party, I stand for equity and fairness across party lines, religion and ethnicity. If I don’t speak up against injustice today just because I am not the target, tomorrow it might be my turn and nobody will stand for me.