CHIEF Kemi Nelson is one politician that needs no introduction. She is the woman leader, South West, of All Progressive Congress (APC)
Nelson began her political career during President Ibrahim Babangida-led military regime in the late 1980s and early 90s when she joined the National Republican Convention (NRC), one of the two parties founded and funded by government. She became exposed to party politics as she was saddled with big assignments including the chairmanship of NRC’s electoral committee for the party’s presidential primaries in Osun State. At different times, Nelson was Commissioner for Establishment, Training and Job Creation, Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation,during the administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as governor of Lagos State. She spoke with Effects recently in Lagos.
Dealing with women is not a child’s play. You relate with illiterates, semi-illiterates and literates, how do you cope with them?
Politics, basically, is local. If you want to play politics, you have to begin at the grassroot. That’s why you have different kinds of people, illiterates, literates, haughty ones, proplre of different shades and characters, and you must learn to manage them. Once you can manage people, relate with everybody and that has never been a problem for me because I have been in the terrain for some time. I’m used to dealing with people. As you grow older, you become more matured and that is a plus for you.
What kind of person is Kemi Nelson?
I’m like water, when you put water inside a container, it takes the shape of the container. For me, I can deal with anybody at any level. On your first contact with the grassroots, you’re viewed as a proud person, So, you really have to gain their confidence. Once you gain their confidence, you are good to go .
As a politician, what has life taught you?
Life has taught me to be patient. In a situation where somebody before you is lying and you’re aware but you dare not point it out to him that he’s lying. Instead of telling him the truth, you’re smiling at him, I think that person will be satisfied that he has won at the end of the day. Life has taught me to be very patient with people and take people for who they are. You have to train yourself to the level that even in the face of disappointments, you can still hold your head high.
Who was your female role model in politics, in those days of early beginings?
There weren’t many female politicians when I joined politics. Actually, the face of politics has been masculine for a long time. However, I admired women who had contributed immensely to the development of the society. Truly speaking,, women are beginning to show the stuffs they are made of given the opportunities thst had come their ways .
Can you recall vividly, your journey into politics?
Let me start by saying I went into politics by accident. I remember that some years back, I used to have a business centre on Allen Avenue, and we had this association of businessmen and women on Allen. The reason for the association was to be able to. call the attention of government to the are. On one occasion, I went to meet the chairman of the Local government on appointment. I met the chairman in his office, laughing, chatting but we sat down patiently, waiting for him. We became so infuriated at that moment and I told myself that I had to be among those that would install the next council chairman in my area.When former president Babangida came out with the idea of newbreed politicians, that encouraged me and I joined NRC. I cannot survive without people. They are my strength. Politics has also helped me in my relationship with people.
Recently, you marked your 60th birthday. But you don’t look your age, what is the secret?
First, I want to thank God for His grace for giving me a good husband and Godly children To God be the glory, I have a personal relationship with God. That is the secret.
I go for a walk twice a week because of my busy schedule. My Masseur comes to the house three times in a week in the evening, I have my steamer and I’m a Clarins person. In the last 22 years, I have been using Clarins. I don’t believe in changing my moisturizer
You have this signature hairstyle/ headgear, what informed your dress sense?
I’m from a family of fashionistas. My mum, my father, my siblings all love fashion. I am from that kind of background. I remember my grandmother was one of the ladies in Lagos in those days called Lady Bourdillion group. My style comes naturally. A lot of people had approached me and I had taught them but they never got it right and I believe that is God stamp on me. I have worn my low cut for over 40 years. I don’t have the patience to go to the salon, stay so long under the drier, under the steamer, burning your head. I don’t have the patience.
Ashiwaju Bola Tinubu is APC leader, what’s your take about him?
Asiwaju is a strategist and a great planner.He is a leader of leaders.He works 48 hours in a day. I always tell people that if you want trouble, lock Asiwaju in one room, take all his phones; his head will be working like something else. He is very intelligent and very generous. He has a very good heart, he forgives so easily. At times, people who have betrayed him, the next thing you’ll see Asiwaju dinning and wining with them. He has a very large heart that is why God has been so good to him.
What’s your advice for women going into politics?
If indeed you want to serve your people, you have to belong.Do not let anyone scare you.You can be in politics without contesting. You have to belong to a party and you have to work with your party at all level. Again, I tell people that its not all politicians that are bad. People just paint this picture that politicians are bad, it’s not true. When you move close to politicians, you will love politics. The good thing about it is that you meet a lot of people along the line, people that normally you will never have come across .More women should come into politics.
Is your husband a politician?
My husband is a retired civil servant.
And he allowed you to be this active in politics?
Like I said, I married my own friend. He has always encouraged me right from the onset. He is the chairman of my kitchen cabinet.