Gender rights activist and former Commissioner for Women’s Affairs in Ekiti State, Ms. Fola Richie-Adewusi, tells ABIODUN NEJO in this chat that women will create and implement programs that will be more beneficial to all if they are in positions of authority
Is involved in advocacy activities or campaigns to increase women’s participation in politics and leadership; What do you think the marginalization or low participation of women in politics has robbed Nigeria of?
Nigeria is being robbed of the opportunity to make the most of the full potential that God has endowed in the country. There is a saying that a bird does not fly with only one wing. As a result, Nigeria has been operating at half capacity. The marginalization or low political participation of women has denied Nigeria the opportunity to fully realize its greatness.
But really, what do you think has prevented women from participating in politics?
There are many responsible factors. There is a power relationship between men and women. This power relationship is still rooted in patriarchy, where the man, as the head, is not supposed to lift a finger to help the woman in the home.
Therefore, creating a work-life balance can pose some challenges for women who are interested in politics, but need to maintain the front of the home because the children are young and the man does not provide the necessary support. There is also the aspect of the economic factor. Women do not have the same access to financial resources as men. So this limits the possibilities of women.
Participation in politics requires money, even if it’s for basic logistics. Political violence, on the other hand, scares many women outside of the field of politics. Many women are not interested in the politics of life and death.
Regarding these, do you see equity, equality or inclusion as something really achievable?
Yes, by creating a level playing field, intentionally allocating seats for women, and caring for and including marginalized people, such as women with disabilities.
Do you have any calls for the support and encouragement of women for groups and organizations?
My appeal will be that women are intelligent and have a lot to offer. Therefore, you should do everything in your power to encourage and support them.
Following the example of Ekiti, who has a Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House of Representatives and State Secretary of Government, what do you think will be the impact of women on women, children and the state in general?
The impact on women and children will be positive. Women in positions of authority, due to their parenting skills, will create and implement programs that will be beneficial to all.
For example, within a month of taking office, the first female Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Olubunmi Adelugba implemented a program to mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Violence Against Women. The Assembly participated for the first time.
In the same month, it took its members for a comprehensive health check at Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital to prevent sudden deaths among MPs. He even spoke of the possibility of a law in this sense, forcing all state workers to attend medical examinations for the sake of their health.
But if I may ask, do women really have the strength for the murky waters of Nigerian politics, especially looking at it from the point of view that violence has been a part of Nigerian politics?
The answer is simple: the more women we have, the less violence the country will have in politics.
With the 2023 election just around the corner, the major parties are still largely engaging in personality-focused campaigns rather than issue-based campaigns. Do you think Nigeria will ever be able to get its politics right?
I think Nigeria can do well with its policy. It’s about doing the right thing. I am aware that the All Progressive Congress candidates for the 2023 general election have been meeting with stakeholders from all walks of life to sell their manifestos and candidacies. So I think not all the candidates are doing the right thing.
What advice do you have for political parties as they prepare for the polls and also for citizens?
That the political parties sell their manifestos to the electorate and that the electorate review what each candidate has to offer. Allow citizens to pick up their Permanent Voter Cards and vote based on their verifiable voting history.
What can you do about the constant verbal attacks on your party’s presidential candidate as the election approaches?
It’s part of the game of politics all over the world to look for something negative to say about your opponent in order to distract them and gain an advantage. However, a serious candidate will not be distracted.
That is why APC presidential candidate Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and his running mate Senator Kashim Shettima focus on telling people what they will do based on their verifiable record of achievement.
Do you see him winning the 2023 elections?
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is a politician who understands politics and has a positive record of achievement compared to others in the race. He believes that he will win the 2023 elections; he is working hard to win and he has what it takes to win.
What gives you that security? I mean why do you think Nigerians should vote for him and what do you think he will do differently?
The Yoruba have a saying that if someone promises to buy you a dress, you will first look at what they are wearing so that you can judge if they can keep the promise. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu transformed Lagos under very difficult circumstances, to the admiration of all.
He displayed a rare ability to identify top talent residing in Lagos, regardless of their tribe or religion, to create a benchmark that no other state has surpassed since 1999. I believe Nigerians should not gamble with their votes. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and his running mate will make the desired positive difference in Nigeria.
Despite laws, efforts and implementation, cases of rape and other cases of gender-based violence have continued to be a problem in Ekiti State. Wich is the way to go?
The implementation of the laws has given people the confidence that justice will be done. What we are witnessing is an increase in the reporting of cases, which was not the case before. The other field of gender violence that has also come to light is female genital mutilation. The FGM Law needs to be revised to give more severe penalties to perpetrators. Criminalizing FGM in all its forms will help curb the practice. The continued and sustained implementation of the laws will go a long way in reducing gender-based violence in Ekiti State.
As the wife of the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Oyebanji, seeks a special court for gender-based violence cases, some people think they should be settled out of court. What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the two options?
I agree with Her Excellency, Dr. Olayemi Oyebanji, on the need for a special court for GBV cases because such a court would provide confidentiality while reducing shame and embarrassment, which often prevent women from victims of gender-based violence report.
It will also allow a speedy delivery of justice, unlike ordinary courts. Settlements will continue to give perpetrators power over their victims if they know they can always buy their way out. The perpetrators must face the full wrath of the law!
How has the brain drain in the medical sector (among doctors and nurses) affected women’s and children’s access to quality health care?
The brain drain is affecting all sectors of healthcare delivery, not just women and children. However, since one of the indicators tracked to measure the success of a health care delivery system is maternal and infant mortality, morbidity, and patient-to-physician ratio, the brain drain is negatively affecting women’s access and children to quality medical care.
For example, now in Nigeria, according to a statement by the Nigerian Medical Association in a report I read, the ratio is 1 doctor per 4000 patients instead of the World Health Organization recommendation of one doctor per 600 patients, while for nurses it is one nurse for 1,160 patients instead of the recommendation of one nurse for 5 patients. Governments and all stakeholders in the healthcare delivery sector need to address this and save the health of the country.