The first-ever National Progressive Women’s Conference with the theme: One Voice: “Women Uniting tor Progress” held in Abuja during the week, with over 10,000 delegates in attendance. The dominating discourse from the opening ceremony to the panel discussions, was that women will no longer play the second fiddle.
In this interview with JULIANA TAIWO-OBALONYE, the wife of the Kaduna State Governor, Aisha Ummi Garba El-Rufai, says it will no longer be business as usual come 2023 general elections.
How will the first-ever National Progressive Women’s Conference impact on the 2020 elections, in terms of participation?
First of all, I’m very impressed with this conference. I must commend Hon. Stella Okotete for putting this together, because this is the first of its kind, as far as I can remember in Nigeria. So it’s something that we’re proud of. For me, this conference is a message for the 2023 elections that as women, we need to be seen more, we need to be heard more and we need to be at the forefront of leadership. In any capacity, I keep saying this, we have to be there in any and every capacity. Even if we’re not holding offices, we should be allowed to be able to bring our voices and our contributions and add value to the table. And if we’re given spaces on the leadership platform, we will make Nigeria better. Everybody knows that women are better organizers, they’re better coordinators. Even as mothers, we wouldn’t want to see our children turned into political thugs.
So by the time we’re allowed to take Nigeria as our own child that we need to nurture then, there is no limit to the value that we’re going to bring to the table. So we are appealing to our men, our husbands need to support us more. We need to be seen as partners, not as some inferior group that needs to be swept aside, we need to be considered as value adding partners. We need to join hands and heads together and make Nigeria the most glorified country in Africa. We can still be the Giant Of Africa, but we’ve lost some of that esteem and unless everybody comes to the table women inclusive, then there is no going anywhere, you know, positively or progressively. So women need to be at the forefront of leadership and I’m so happy with this and I hope that the men will listen. And as women we also have an assignment to take it upon ourselves to see ourselves as community shapers, you know, as development agents that can make things happen at the end of the day.
At this point, should women be appealing for their rights or making demands with your strength as noted by the First Lady of Nigeria?
Why should we appeal? We don’t have to appeal and we should not be made to demand. It should be an equal partnership. It should be an equal consideration. It should be a fair platform, where nobody has to appeal or beg or demand. It should just be a natural process and where everybody is given equal opportunity to add value to what is being done to make our country great.
Ahead of the 2023 elections, what is your advice to women seeking political offices?
My sisters, women, please stop shying away from leadership roles. Stop shying away from politics. I’m sorry to bring this out bluntly but you know, most men have devised a very… you know it’s like a repellent. Like, they keep saying oh women in politics, most of them are prostitutes. So what if you know you’re not? If your husband supports you, if you had your self-respect and dignity, you ignore that and you should not be scared of being called anything. Go for it. Be courageous enough to come out and do it and be ready to face a lot of challenges. But be ready that no matter what happens, you will get through it because what happens to most of us is we start then you know a lot of us get intimidated and discouraged from a lot of, you know, scheming and lots of things and then we go back. No, let’s face it, and go over it. Get over it, go through it and get to the right spot.