Hon. Adijat Adeleye-Oladapo is a former member of the Ogun State House of Assembly, who represented Ifo 11 Constituency between 2007 and 2015. In this interview with WALE ELEGBEDE, she speaks on her experience as a female legislator, among other issues
How did you get involved in politics?
I was hardly out of secondary school when I actually started getting involved in politics. I joined politics at a very young age. My father wasn’t an active politician but I got into politics somehow through him. It happened that my father was invited to a meeting but he couldn’t go, I overheard him talked about it and I went to represent him there. Incidentally, the meeting turned out to be a political meeting and that was how I started and I have hardly been out of politics. I have spent over two decades in politics. I started politics relatively very young. It was an accidental thing but I know God already destined it like that.
At what point did you get actively involved?
While I was aiming to get an education, my involvement in politics was still potent as well. I wanted to contest for the councillorship position in my local government, but they said I should leave it for someone else. Along the line, my husband contested for the state Assembly but lost at the primary in 2002 and that was the same seat I occupied for two consecutive terms. After my husband lost the primary election, I left the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and I joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the twilight of the 2003 gubernatorial election. I contributed my quota in the 2004 local government elections of that tenure and I was given the least political appointment in Ifo local government then, I was made a consultant to the chairman on rural development matters. It was while I was there that I resigned in 2006 to contest for the state House of Assembly election.
Were you sure of victory before your resignation?
It was like a joke because it wasn’t that I have money or backing. I remember that former Speaker, Rt. Hon. Titi Oseni asked me if Iyabo Obasanjo or Alhaji Onabiyi were supporting me, I said no. She said how would I do it without the support of these people? The turning point was when we came for the manifesto night for aspirants organised by the governor. We were asked to present our manifesto and after speaking, I found favour in the eyes of God and everyone was like asking: Who is this lady? After my presentation, the Speaker asked me to come and sit beside her. That day was the first time I spoke face to face with the governor and that boosted my courage. I contested the PDP primary against five people, I got the ticket after much horse-trading and I found myself in the state Assembly.
Was there anything you learnt about the event that led to your emergence as a lawmaker?
The lesson for me was the Biblical saying that ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy’ and I think God was referring to me. Some people believe that those who play politics use charms and juju, but I can tell you that I am a living example of those who play politics without juju. I remember that during my first election, a fight broke out in Ifo 1 at the collation centre. The car I was in was trapped in the crisis. The driver was beaten black and blue. One of those involved just shouted ‘that is her’ and I was dragged out of the car. The guy gave me a heavy blow and that day I was fasting. They now said let us burn her, in front of me was a vulcanizer’s shop and behind me is a liquor seller with fire around. I begged those around and gave them money. Eventually, I was left off the hook.
The point I am trying to make is that, prior before the election, someone out of concern gave me two charms to use on the day of the election; he said one is for protection and I can’t remember what the other one was. Those two charms were supposed to be on my body on the day of the election. Incidentally, on Friday that preceded the election day, I saw my period and you can’t use it while you were on your period, so I couldn’t use it. Had it been those things were on me that day, the person that gave them to me would have been my god. Because I would have thought it was because of the charms I used that they were not able to kill me. It was a day that God showed me His greatness.
How have you been able to handle blackmail and name-calling by male politicians?
Politically, we have more male active politicians and they are the ones you see every day. We have more uneducated women playing politics than educated ones because they don’t want blackmail, violence and other issues associated with politics. The easiest name you can call a female politician, especially one that is climbing high is ‘prostitute.’ They will say that it is because she is sleeping with leader A and leader B. But, if that is what it is, then go and sleep with them and see if you can get to where they are politically.
When I first started politics, I used to react to blackmail, but now, it is like a second-cloth to me. You will have to try for you to call me names and it gets to me. Women should be supported to be involved in politics. We have many godfathers but where are the godmothers? We need women who are achievers, who can come out and support other women with their resources. When I decided to contest, I didn’t have money, it was God who raised people to support me.
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