Dame Blessing Nwagba represented Aba North constituency in the Abia State House of Assembly on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before she decamped and clinched the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the last governorship election.
In this encounter with Sunday Sun, she expressed her intense dislike of the recurrent decreasing number of women in both elective and appointive political positions, calling for the implementation of the affirmative action.
She also spoke on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government and the urgent need to rise to the challenge of insecurity. Excerpt:
How satisfied are you with the recent ministerial appointment and by extension women participation in politics?
It is obvious that one is not satisfied and can’t be satisfied with what is on the ground now. How can I be satisfied? How can one be satisfied with this negligible number? First and foremost, in my state (Abia) here there is no legislator here who is a woman, even the House Committee Chairman on Women Affairs is a man, and this is that bad. There is no woman that is a local government chairperson, I am not even sure we have a deputy chairperson at the local government level. Then moving to the national, we have only 11 House of Representatives members and I think only seven senators of the entire number in both Houses in the National Assembly. Then how many women were appointed now? We have only eight women appointed at the ministerial level, we are not satisfied, we are unhappy, we are asking that there should be implementation of affirmative action and it is only when this is done that the issue of women participation in politics, the issue of women inclusion in governance, can really be taken proper care of as it has happened in many other African countries. Talk of Rwanda, South Africa, Kenya, etc; go there and see how they are encouraging their women to be politically active. We the women are not happy and the irony is that it appears the more we cry out the less we get the result, which is what I have come to discover. Of course, I have done my bit, contesting for the House of Assembly, contesting for the House of Representatives, being a governorship candidate and all that, but all this was to show that as women we are capable, that we have the capacity to add value to governance. We have what I call the feminine institution, women are natural leaders, we do multi-tasking, we do so many things at the same time and we can extrapolate that to governance. So, they should give us an opportunity, there should be an affirmative action; there should be something that must be deliberately done to bring more women into governance. The affirmative action is usually done for people who are inadequately represented, for instance, like in the Northerner’s education in the case of the quota system. The affirmative action for women will help to bridge the gap. We have women with credibility, character, highly intelligent, confident and tested and I think in the best interest of the nation they should not be shoved aside. We need them in governance because they will help facilitate the desired change that we need.
How do you see the state of the nation?
What bothers me in our country’s present situation is insecurity and insecurity arises as a result of the unemployment of our youths, the bleakness of the future of our youth. The fact that our young ones do not even know how their tomorrow will look like, the poor governance structure or situation of our country, I think that we the leaders have failed. We came out of colonial governance thinking that we Nigerians could do better, recall that many years back people could come out of the universities and have hope of getting employment, people could get into businesses and have hope of making some profits out of whatever they were doing but that does not appear to be the situation today. For me, I am a sociologist and I know that no mind would want to engage in crime; at least not up to 90 percent of mind will want to engage in crime. It is what the society gives back to the mind that will eventually turn out to be the state of mind of that person. If you create jobs for the youth, think of the North, for instance, they will not engage in the level of crime as we have it today. I am not saying that crime will be totally eliminated in any society, no, but I think we should do more to ensure that we create an environment for employment, engage our youth into productivity. Don’t forget that an idle mind is the devils’ workshop. When you engage your citizens there will be less time to think of crime and that leads to a better and safer environment.
We have always had this insecurity, but it is becoming more alarming now?
That is what I am telling you as a sociologist that crime can never be eliminated totally in any society, but it is the rate of increase of insecurity that is worrisome. The fact that the future of our young ones is bleak and threatened is a factor to trigger crime and unless there are measures in place to address issues of economy, issues of how to engage the youth in employment the ugly situation will persist.
How would you assess Abia State where you ran to become the governor?
I don’t want to talk for now on Abia State as it is because having participated in the governorship race my statement will be perceived as coming from a biased perspective. I will like others to answer the question. All we need to do now is to encourage the person there to deliver democracy dividends to Abians. Let the government drive the economy, drive the people with better democracy dividends and make them proud. Abians should continue to demand what they voted for if they are not satisfied with what they are getting.
How would you also assess the President Buhari-led government?
President Buhari has done four years and Nigerians saw it before they gave him a second tenure. The government should understand that Nigerians are highly expectant; Nigerians want to see a better change that will positively affect their lives. The change they promised is what Nigerians expect to have, real change in terms of the economy, change in the area of employment of citizens, and change in security which I think the government is not doing well if the truth must be told. The insecurity situation in the country is worsening by minutes and that is not good for the image of the country. No society thrives with the alarming level of insecurity that we are experiencing today and government should rise up to its challenge. In the North, East, West, at every corner, nowhere is safe. Somebody said this country has been rounded by some group and we are behaving as all is well, it’s dangerous. There is lack of trust in the system and this should worry the government.
What is your take on the RUGA project which although the Federal Government has suspended, Nigerians are still apprehensive?
The proponents of RUGA have stated what their objectives are, but it is for Nigerians to believe the objectives, but Nigerians did not believe them.