Ms Yemisi Ransome-Kuti, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s cousin, has told FLORA ONWUDIWE, that if Nigerian women were given same opportunity as women in other parts of the world they would make a difference in leadership. She spoke on other issues. Excerpts…
What is your take on the call for restructuring of the country, or are you thinking differently; if so what other way can we forestall the violence across the country?
Restructuring is an obvious solution to Nigeria’s challenges. The ‘how’ has always been the problem. The objective is clear. Devolution of power to the sub national levels and true fiscal federalism is the way to go. Nigerians want a country where there is fairness, justice, rule of law and equal opportunities for every citizen, regardless of tribe, gender or religion. This will require a review of the constitution and the people sustaining the pressure on government that we have no alternative but to restructure, if we want to keep Nigeria as one united, indivisible entity.
To change Nigeria’s situation, do we need more women in leadership?
Yes we do. Countries led by women have proven their effectiveness. It only makes sense that institutions fare better when gender balance is practiced. You can’t run fast when one leg is disabled.
What would you have done differently, if you had remained in mainstream politics?
I would have ensured inclusiveness, transparency and accountability are the models in my constituency. I would advocate for support laws to reduce the cost of governance in Nigeria, laws that would create the enabling environment to support the private sector to grow the economy, thereby creating jobs for the populace, particularly our young folks. Overhauling the education sector and strengthening the health systems would have been my priority. All these issues were clearly spelt out in my manifesto during my campaign.
If other women had left politics the way you did, perhaps, now, not even a handful of women would be in politics, why did you leave politics?
I left because it appeared to me that poverty, which was the reality for many of the masses of our people who actually vote, created a condition where, it would seem that they were not ready for candidates who weren’t prepared to buy their votes.
Has any successive governments approached you for ministerial appointment which you rebuffed, if any what was the reason for the rejection?
I haven’t been approached by any government for a ministerial appointment and since I was not a member of the party that won the election, it would have been strange if I had received such an offer.
People like your aunt, Fela’s mother and a few other women at her time, championed the cause of good governance and it is on record; are these things women in politics today are emulating today?
I’m sure some women in government are doing their best to uphold these principles, in spite of enormous challenges. That’s why you need a critical mass of credible, qualified women with strong ethics and values to make a difference. The same goes for the calibre of men and youth in elected offices. We shouldn’t forget that the civil service is where all our plans are executed. The same standards must apply to all public servants not just politicians, probably even more so for public servants. Politicians come and go, public servants remain.
The offspring of Kuti’s families are tagged as radicals, activists, and this you demonstrated at your younger days on bad governance. But not lending your voice as an elder gives so much concern, what is your candid opinion on the mess Nigeria finds itself now?
I may not be in active politics, but I haven’t stopped speaking out or being active when opportunities arise. There are also many ways to contribute to national development besides being in elected office. I was active before my foray into politics and have continued to remain engaged on issues around economic and social reforms. You can also always find ways to contribute a lot quietly behind the scenes, rather than being vocal on social media or print and electronic media.
What is your reaction on incessant killings, banditry, kidnapping and payment of ransom to free victims held in captivity?
Successive administrations have failed to develop effective security architecture for Nigeria. Recall the Chibok Girls’ kidnap and many other such incidents that demonstrated the failure of past governments to protect the lives of the citizenry. They have also been unable to address the underlying causes of insecurity, poverty, lack of quality education, healthcare and infrastructure. The impact of Climate Change in the Sahel cannot be overestimated. The Lake Chad has more or less dried up disrupting economic activities and contributing to civil unrest in that region. Cows and their he rde r s no longer have f e r t i l e grazing ground and make their way to the South. We must address all issues around migration, border security, proliferation of arms and conflict in neighbouring countries as a matter of urgency. This increase in the spate of criminality is a nightmarish situation that doesn’t bode well for peaceful coexistence in the country. Urgent steps need to be taken by the President, the Legislature, Judiciary, Governors, Traditional Rulers and Religious Leaders. Every Nigerian should take responsibility for not compounding the problem; families should only produce children they’re able to provide for, good parenting, restoring discipline, ethics and values in the body polity. We must encourage our young men women women to acquire skills that will make them independent and self-sufficient as entrepreneurs able to compete in the global economy, not just certificate holders. We must also find ways to come together, be our brother’s and sister’s keeper. Organise neighbourhood watch programs and appropriate strategies to ensure security in our communities. It is critical that Local Governments are strengthened to deliver quality services and good governance to citizens. More importantly, the challenges of insecurity should be tackled holistically, devoid of ethnic and political biases. The entire country is affected by the activities of these criminal elements.
Women in elective offices are not so many, what message do you have for the electorate by way of electing many more women into offices?
Many women have been elected into various offices. However, they’re not enough, even compared to other African countries. More women should enter politics. Nigerians should vote for more women; however we don’t just want any woman. We want women with integrity who are qualified, c o u r a – geous and capable of doing the job effectively.
The Nigerian Economy is deteriorating and is affecting a lot of small businesses such that some are comatose; what is your comment?
Without economic development, it’s virtually impossible to overcome the issues of corruption and insecurity, particularly in democratic settings. Nigerians are very creative, hardworking, entrepreneurial people, we have been blessed with the diverse pool of talents that exists in our various ethnic groups. It’s imperative that the government supports private sector growth and development. It must create the enabling environment for the private sector to flourish. This is the best mechanism to address poverty, youth unemployment, insecurity and other challenges facing our country. We have the best policies in the world. I have been a member of many of the committees created to develop these policies & strategies. It’s time to stop visioning, wake up, step up, get off our behinds and start implementation.
Is the LIC Club for the youth in Lagos, is there any plan to make it national?
The Lagos Island Connect (LIC) is a youth driven initiative geared towards bringing all stakeholders together, public, private, international and local development partners and individual philanthropists to focus on programmes at the grassroots that will unlock and unleash the enormous capacities in our young men and women, beginning with Lagos Island. We are partnering with the Lagos State Government. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, progressive forward thinking members of his administration in the Ministries of Youth & Social Development, Commerce, Industry & Cooperatives, Wealth Creation & Office of the Sustainable Development Goals & Investment, who have been very supportive in developing plans and programmes that will impact businesses and empower young folks on Lagos Island. In partnership with the office of the SDGI, Mrs Solape Hammond and other Stakeholders, we’re currently embarking on a needs assessment exercise to capture data that will be utilised to analyse the gaps and needs for businesses and young folks living or working on the Island. In partnership with the Private Sector, supported by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI), we’re planning to organise a Lagos Island Economic Summit later in the year and the promotion of the 2km Rule which encourages businesses and institutions to procure goods, services and personnel within 2km of their organisation. Social accountability, principles of ethics and values are embedded in all LIC programmes. This is a pilot program to see how we can drive a home grown, bottom-up approach to national development from one local government to another. We envisage that, if we’re successful we will have a template formulated by Nigerians, with an understanding of global conditions, to drive development at the grassroots. This can then be replicated in other Local Governments in Lagos State and across the nation.