Sunday, 13 October 2013

Women Participation in Politics

Interview with Dr Mrs Sarah Jibril, Special Adviser to the President on Ethics and Values

 What made you go into politics? 

My upbringing, my schooling experiences, experiences in and outside the country particularly in the US and UK and others. Another influence was what I studied, that is Physical Education Psychology, Recreational Leadership and then my Masters in the Psychology of the Family and PhD in Social Psychology. It’s all about personality development and striving to be the best within yourself and raising people with the best standards. More so observing my dear late husband as a soldier, even in the military the professionalizing process was all about doing your best as defense officers for the country. I realized that politics is an integrative process. My educational experiences and background are multidimensional and that made me feel that the best place I can impact others is in politics in that I observed that politics has been misdefined and misrepresented. It is the same thing with leadership and democracy. The same thing about systemic orderliness, which means the right character, the ethics and even the understanding of the values for which they are behaving by choice whether right or wrong are often misunderstood. A lot of people in leadership positions are completely ignorant about their philosophical basis for joining politics. And I see it as not really being for the enhancement of the quality of living of the human specie, but it is more or less an extractive thing. To me this is against the kind of training that I had. And being trained as a teacher and having taught young ones and middle aged people, I just thought that what is going to make me happy and live long and to enjoy my life is for me to be in a position to see what I can do to correct these misdefinitions and the purpose for people taking on representative leadership through politics by contesting and living a right life.

What has your experience been as a woman in Nigerian politics?

Of course I was quite aware of all the negative things but I realized that there was the absence of ethics and deliberate obstinacy to do things right and that is why I dared to go into politics as a woman. I respect other people's contributions and I dared to do things the right way. The men thought it was an aberration for a woman to want to correct the wrong doings. Again that is a misrepresentation of what a woman or a mother is supposed to be. They also forgot that I am also a parent and that if I trained as a teacher in this country do they expect me to follow them and pollute the society? Because I observed that some elders exhibited adult delinquency in their behavior renting young boys as thugs teaching them how to assassinate others, creating insecurity, buying AK-47's to kill human beings and not mosquitoes. I feel that the men cannot render our biosocial contribution to humanity to absolute nonsense. The Heavens feel insulted that created us and so do the environment and the earth because our blood at birth meets the ground and we have distributed our breast milk. We cannot do this for human beings on the planet earth and then we are rendered nonsensical. We are not a nuisance! Male politicians search for money, power and material things turning against our products on the planet earth. But we dare to defend that which we dare to produce by the help of the Almighty God. 

Could you kindly itemize the challenges or key issues that hinder women participation in politics in Nigeria?

The non-appreciation of the value of women. 
The monopolization of political power by the men.
The lack of ethical will which is supposed to be political will by the political actors which results in negative attitude, that is chauvinism. 
The push of women to add to the pollution in the society and not using the women as a source of purity, solution, responsiveness, compassion, and sense of equity. 

The men in politics don't allow women to play their roles as provided by their God-given responsibility to the women. Therefore they make sure that they are marginalized where they are supposed to have economic empowerment and when they want to contest they want women to get money by all means like stealing, sleeping around in order to distribute so that they can win elections. Naira versus naira it cannot happen. If the youths really want the society to be sorted out they should ask which sort of leadership do they really want. If you want yourselves transformed and liberated from the archaic status quo you have to go and think about what are the criteria you expect from a politician, man or woman. What character in the politicians can you emulate and even teach your future children? Ethics is about good character. In Islam ethics is in the Sharia context while in Christianity it is about righteousness, which includes the fear of the Almighty God. It is about people who will respect the Constitution and want to live the Constitution and teach others about living the Constitution practically. You are asking me as Special Adviser to the President on Ethics and Values and I am referring you to what we are supposed to do and we don't know but we neglect that it is about ethics and values and that is what Mr President has done. I am referring you to the 1999 Constitution, Chapter 2, subsection 23 that talks about National Ethics, check it out. Sub-section 24 talks about the duties of the citizens, that's our job. Parents, teachers, professionals, CEOs, bosses, leaders in the Churches and the Mosques, whatever we do, the main business of all of us is the continuation of the teaching of good character. Now the task of the State in chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution subsection 15 from 5, states that the State shall eradicate and abolish all forms of corruption and abuse of power. What I have been telling you is all about the abuse of power to misinterpret, to misdefine and so forth. It is the correction that is supposed to be there that we are neglecting. It is the correction of the misinterpretation about our duties of the State that we want to include and that is my job not only as a parent, a professional, a politician but as a citizen of a country whose dignity and integrity and conscience must be well represented here, in diaspora and in the committee of nations. These are issues that should endear men to the mothering citizens of the state but they stand against the women to the point at which they are asking that a girl at thirteen is old enough to be a mother. They want to marginalize us but some of us have said no and we will stand and encourage the younger generation as examples.

The women are the conscience of the world. We have lost the word called conscience and discipline in Africa. The youths must salvage their generation. This indiscipline is the creator of the national, family, communal and socio-economic insecurity and that is why some investors are running away from Nigeria. It is such unethical issues that women want to correct. Nigeria is a frontline signatory of the convention of integrating women into politics where it was agreed that women participation in politics should be at least 35%. We have had Mexico 1975, Nairobi 1985, Beijing 1995, New York 2005 and so forth, so why haven’t the so-called leaders of Nigeria been able to domesticate that sentence. It is important to find out why the FG established the Ministry of Women Affairs? Why are there only ‘women leaders’ in party executives? These are the questions that need to be asked. How many councilors, senators etc have privileged women raised? We thank God for 35% that this dispensation has achieved in appointment in the cabinet. I remain unapologetic, resiliently in politics because of the young ones and even the girl child. 

In a research conducted in Nigeria, there were a number of women interviewed about how they voted in relation to two female candidates who stood for election. It is quite interesting that not one of the women interviewed voted for these two women candidates. When the women were asked what influenced their voting patterns the two highest responses were that they didn't know about the female candidates due to poor publicity and that they voted as they were directed by their husbands. How can we encourage women to support other women in politics considering that women have almost half of the national voting population? 

The National Council of Women Societies promoted by Hajiya Laila Dogonyaro (may her soul rest in peace) when she was president of NCWS in 1996 selected me to go to the United States because I was the chairperson of the women political awareness task force. I went as an international visitor and I was taken to the two parties’ (Democrats and Republicans) headquarters to meet the women. The democrats decided to set up what is called EMILY's list (Early Money Is Like Yeast). The women gathered themselves and said that the only way they can put themselves in place is to have criteria to screen the women and if they are okay they will campaign for the women. They financed the campaign by contributing $100 dollars each. If you want to contest or get an appointment for any thing you put up your application to EMILY's list headquarters for Democrats and you have one also for Republicans. 

But being a democrat or a progressive I was more interested in what the Democrats were doing. They screened candidates thoroughly. Once a candidate scaled through, they sent the list to the state level to tell the women the candidate had been cleared to contest for governor or a senator etc and that was how they were able to raise female governors and senators in the United States. Since 1996 when I came back to this country everywhere I have given this lecture and even to those that sent me to the U.S., nothing has been done about it. But as long as you remain a beggar and don't want to substantiate support for yourselves with your sweat and money, then you are not ready to move anywhere. 

Those women you see that are winning elections, didn't win because women supported them. It could be because they have the dynasty in their constituencies and so forth or by zoning and somehow they were lucky in elections.

There are a lot of good women who if they have power will utlise it compassionately, motheringly for the society and the country and even Africa. 

Thank you very much for such an in-depth interview.

You are welcome.

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