Mrs. Angela Nkwo-Akpolu was the deputy governorship candidate of the Change Advocacy Party (CAP) in Imo State in the 2019 elections. In this interview with FAVOUR EGBUOGU, she speaks on her political experience, women involvement in politics and violence against women, among other issues
Why did you quit your journalism career for politics?
No, I did not quit, I took a leave of absence to contest the election and after it didn’t work out, I have since returned to my practice and developmental work just like every other person who had a thriving career or business before contesting election.
What made you go into politics?
I probably have a problem with the word politics. Nation-building is more like it for me. I got tired of armchair criticisms, you complain, and probably rant on social media.
You try reaching out to those in authority on how you think the system can work but the suggestions are rebuffed.
So, I decided to do something different bearing in mind that doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of madness. I earnestly wanted a change and did what I thought was the best at that time.
What were the risks you faced when you ventured into politics?
My meager savings gone! Unfortunately, when you stand an election, people assume it to mean you are the pawn that should be tossed anywhere.
So, if your child takes ill, rather than treat him or her, you sheik the responsibility and prefer that an office seeker should pay the bills, even when you can comfortably buy bottles of beer for yourself.
There is also the issue of perception. Too many people assume that good Christians or Muslims can’t contest elections because it is termed a dirty game. I lost quite a couple of friends, who thought it was morally wrong to stand election.
How has your experience been so far?
Engaging and bittersweet but now I understand that people do not actually demand good governance. We prefer to mind our business rather than form or use existing strong networks to demand quality representation.
Rather than call out an official or agency for shirking their responsibility, we prefer to suffer in silence, while the officeholder goes about unbothered because he knows except in special cases, we will not do anything!
What do you think about women involvement in politics in Nigeria?
Unfortunately, very discriminatory! Political parties are structured to scheme out women even when they provide the supposed free nomination forms. But obviously, the women that have shown up in politics are women who can own their space, read, travel and are passionate about change.
Despite the challenges of coping with family, women have held their own and in view of the bias we grapple with, I score us ninety per cent. If men had to confront the myriads of issues we do, I can assure you they won’t achieve more than us.
How do you think that women involvement in politics can be improved?
Yes, if we adopt Affirmative Action and gender quota systems like in Rwanda, Namibia, Kenya where women enjoy over 40 per cent representation and their economies booming.
Despite laudable gender policies and manifestoes by the various political parties, each of them has failed to make it a working document and failed to give women their promised quota within the party hierarchy.
Furthermore, party structures are faulty as women are assigned only woman leaders while men occupy the other positions, hence whether she agrees or not, her vote makes no difference.
As long as this remains, we cannot produce quality numbers to effect positive changes we earnestly yearn for. For instance, while condoms are shared as souvenirs during sporting events and which is used as a choice, nobody shares sanitary towels which are clearly a must!
Or the decision by male politicians to hold meetings at untoward times in the night, knowing women cannot attend because their husbands may not understand the import of such meetings, let alone allow them.
We must assign a quota to women during elections; say for instance 45 per cent of every level. That way, elected officials know a lot is expected from them rather than the jamboree we experience that is erroneously termed representation.
Do you think that Nigerian women have the capacity to lead the country if given the opportunity?
Oh yes, in most cases women are more read and qualified but because of patriarchy, the process is skewed to favour men. Women according to the official population figures form about half of Nigeria population, 49 per cent while the other half is men, youths, and children.
So, if we have the numbers, how is it that it has not been reflected in positions of authority?
One thing is obvious, with all the men in almost all the decisionmaking offices, Nigeria has not fared exactly well, insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, insecurity, an alarming rate of gender-based violence are proof that we need a change. And if you ask me, now is the time to effect that change.
How best do you think that Nigerian women can be empowered?
Encompassing laws that guarantee quota system as practiced in Namibia, Rwanda and South Africa has clearly set those economies apart from us because they have women who can think outside the box?
With the increasing number of violence amongst women, how do you think that this can be resolved in society?
We need to pass the Violence against Persons Prohibition Bill (VAPP) in every state urgently, presently only 22 states have so far passed it into law.
It protects the rights of everyone including men. We need to strengthen our security agencies and train them not to be biased.
We must genuinely respect people’s rights and spaces and treat people fairly.
Between politics and journalism, which do you prefer?
I love being a journalist. It’s a profession that keeps you on your toes.