Politics

Nigerians shouldn’t repeat past mistakes in 2023 polls –Oboh

Mrs. Mabel Oboh is African Democratic Congress (ADC) National Director of Diversity and Inclusion national representative in the party’s Lagos State Campaign Council. In this interview with BIYI ADEGOROYE, the former governorship candidate of the party in Edo State speaks on some political issues ahead of the 2023 elections

How do you see the massive increase in the voters’ register for the forthcoming election, especially the youth?

The increase in voters’ registration is traceable to the #EndSARS revolution that brought out the fire in the youth of Nigeria. The fire here is that awareness, that consciousness, that understanding that they have to be part of nation-building. However, there are still a good number of people, especially the youth who did not register to vote, believing that their votes will not count.

In my opinion, this attitude is due to a lack of understanding and other factors. The Catch-22 situation here is: How do you explain to hungry, angry, frustrated and confused young persons that casting their votes will put food on their table? This is what a lot of young people are finding difficult to comprehend. We don’t want #End- SARS to repeat itself, so we are educating these groups of youths that they have the power to change our country for the better is important and key to our future electoral process. However, it is very encouraging to see good improvement in more people registering to vote this year. This is the beginning though because there is still a lot to be done by the government in sensitising the youth but the improved turnout signifies that Nigerians are desperate for change.

But there are allegations of PVC hoarding and mopping. What effect would these have on the elections?

It will have a serious effect if the allegations are true. We should not also forget the fact that students were on strike at home during the registration process and most likely a huge number of them won’t be able to collect their PVC because they are still in session. Moreover, there are still a lot of people, who have not been able to collect their PVCs from INEC collection centres. I am one of those affected; despite all efforts made, my PVC has not been found. I will be going back to my LGA before the end of the new extension date for collection and there are many more people like myself. I don’t want to think negatively for now but if the allegations of PVC hoarding and mopping turn out to be true, I will consider it as an action in favour of the ruling party, so other political parties should be on the alert. For certain the African Democratic Congress (ADC) will surely be watching.

To what extent would you say women are participating in politics?

Women’s participation in politics in Nigeria is poor. The under-representation of women constitutes a serious democratic deficit, which undermines the legitimacy of the contemporary democratic ideal. Political participation of women begins with increasing the number of women in decisionmaking positions, but it cannot stop there. What is required are gender-sensitive governance reforms that will make all elected officials more effective at promoting gender equality in public policy and ensuring their implementation.

Most political parties are not helping as well. They must first give the platforms that are needed for women to excel in politics and governance by being committed to the 35 per cent affirmative action for women. The records there show that ADC is doing far more than 35 per cent. There are multiple factors why women are not doing well in politics in Nigeria compared to some African countries and the western world; monetization of our political systems and structures. For instance, ADC gives women, youths and People With Disabilities (PWDs) free expression of interest and nomination fees. How many other political parties are doing that? Even when women get the tickets, campaign costs are way too exorbitant to complete the race successfully. Another main factor is outright discrimination against women. More so, there are societal factors that impede women’s representation in politics. They include religious or cultural norms surrounding marriage and most likely indigeneship, especially the structures that portray women as subordinate to men. For these reasons, women should learn to cultivate a passion to help other women. I have said this time without number that the few women who have made it in politics should mentor new entrants. It’s unbelievable that currently only seven out of 109 senators and 22 out of 360 House of Representatives members are women.

From your experience as a former governorship candidate, what factors hinder the electability of women in Nigeria?

My Edo 2020 guber candidacy experience changed my political perception for life. So many factors are against women in politics. Once again, I will say that the huge financial implication involved in electioneering is a huge hindrance, especially for small political parties. From my own experience, women do not have any hope of winning without access to a deep pocket. Publicity is also key for the electability of women. In my case, my greatest support came from the media. They brought me out without being biased. So, I do believe that women seeking office should make the point of approaching the media for support.

It may not help you in winning but it will certainly uplift your political career. Politics is also marred by violence, persecution, intimidation and torture. While both genders are victims of this, it presents particular barriers to women’s engagement and political participation. Moreover, women in Nigeria are largely marginalized from the political sphere, often as a result of discriminatory laws, practices, attitudes and gender stereotypes, low levels of education, and the disproportionate effect of poverty on women.

What effect do you think the over 50 attacks on INEC facilities will have on the elections?

The continuous attacks on INEC facilities are unacceptable. The culprits are enemies of democracy and the voice of the people. These wicked acts may affect the outcome of next year’s elections. Because the materials needed for the elections, especially permanent voters’ cards that are yet to be collected by their owners are being destroyed by the inferno. Though the actions are condemnable, it should not be a reason for the commission to contemplate altering the schedule of this year’s general election, as being speculated in some quarters.

How prepared is ADC for the various elections in the country?

ADC has revamped and waxed stronger after our congresses held in May last year. Our party is the only one in Nigeria that affirmed and gave the youth and women over 35 percent representation and with great consideration to people with disability. It is a shame that we are not fielding a presidential candidate due to unacceptable actions by some unscrupulous members of our party and our expelled presidential candidate. Our party believes that it was a sponsored attempt to prevent ADC from producing a president in the coming elections. Despite our short fallings, our other candidates are doing very well with their campaigns and we are certain of winning a good number of seats.

Is your party considering merging or supporting other parties?

To my knowledge, there is nothing like an alliance or coalition with any party. If there is a need to, we would call a press conference to announce any new development. However, ADC candidates are very confident that we are going to clinch the votes of the youth, women, and PWDS amongst others, so we are focusing on winning the election with our candidates.

Why does your party want to govern Lagos?

Lagos is the heart of Nigeria’s economy, therefore needs a sound system to govern the state. ADC without daught has the best candidate for Lagos. As the national representative of the ADC in the Lagos campaign council, I can proudly say that our gubernatorial candidate Funsho Doherty’s tight ‘Tiger Agenda’ is what Lagos needs to revive the state. Our party has a strategic plan in place to put Lagos on the right track by reforming the public service in the state and catering to the welfare of the people, among others. The key points of his agenda are Tax reforms, infrastructure, government reform, improvements of our educational and health systems that people can trust, rule of law that will ensure public order and much more. His running mate, Rosemary Giwa- Amu is a perfect match. She is God fearing woman with judicial background, and whose passion is to improve the welfare of women and children in Lagos State. We also do have the overwhelming support of Lagos Mothers for Good Governance, a concerned women’s organization, working judiciously to deliver a target of over two million votes from women and youths for ADC in Lagos due to the trust in the party

What is your party’s position on Nigeria’s rising debt profile?

Our party is worried about the level of government’s borrowing to fund the budget deficit and service debts, a situation now negatively affecting the economy. A major apprehension about Nigeria’s economy today is the country’s debt profile of N77.6 trillion which is considered to have risen beyond its means of repayment, even as the Federal Government is proposing to borrow an additional N11.3 trillion to fund the deficit in the 2023 budget. We cannot continue our borrowing habits. We have to start looking inwards to generate sustainable revenues. This is a major priority for our party.

How reliable do you think Nigeria’s democratic process is?

There are roadblocks to a strong democracy in Nigeria at all levels of government. The conflict triggered by political competition and communal, ethnic, religious or resource allocation rivalries poses a major threat to democracy. Corruption pervades the daily lives of Nigerians. Many government institutions do not adequately engage with citizens or the private sector and cannot carry out their mandates. All these deficiencies in our Democratic systems need to improve swiftly.

 

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