A former Deputy Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Ms. Adetoun Adediran has called on men to stop intimidating women in politics. She spoke with Segun James: Excerpts
What is your view on the performance of the All Progressives Congress-led government and so far?
We know that Rome was not builil in a day; and we are talking about changing from one party to the other, changing from a party who ruled for 16 years, we have to know our onion; but so far, we are on the right track. You can’t say there has not been change in the country since the APC took over, but it has to be gradual and if you want to be sincere you would rightly admit that there has been progress.
Look at the Nigerians that returned from Libya, a lot of them left the country because it was in bad shape. They felt the country could not offer them opportunities to fulfil their dreams. They left in frustration, and now they are getting back because the country is moving forward. Even people in other places in the world are returning back to set up companies and businesses here.
But you know change is not easy. It is just like when you wash a cloth, you have to allow it dry before you put it on; Buhari is a man of dignity, he is respected all around the world, let’s give him a chance, he would bring the change he promised. We need more patience. What has been damaged for 16 years cannot suddenly change overnight.
But people think the president is concentrating much effort in the fight against corruption and neglecting other sectors?
When things are like this, you would say because I don’t belong to his party that is why am being targeted; but you have to realize that fighting corruption was the promise he gave to Nigerians. So much of our national wealth was stolen. A lot of people stole money and people say he should not focus on corruption, look at the road and the state of infrastructure, we need to collect the money in the hand of the few and use it for the masses and I want to tell Nigerians that things would work.
From your answers, you are already endorsing him for a second term?
Buhari deserves a second term; things are working; it would be gradual, don’t forget that there was much damage done by the previous administrations, the country would soon be a better place for us, I believe the president has good intention for the country.
What is your reaction to the statements issued by former president Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida?
Everybody has his own mind. The letter was meant to do some check-up, and I think the president has accepted it in good faith. I think Buhari would move up from there. We know Obasanjo when he was there as the president, he did not listen to advice. People said he was stubborn and he always follows his ideas; I think Buhari would change for the better, we should give him a chance. The man at the helms of affairs understands the letter, he would pick the fact, they are close friends, he knows the reason for the letter, and he would pick things up.
What is your reaction to the Obasanjo coalition?
We now have many parties, I think about 67 in the country, and now you are talking about another coalition. The president has been performing, he is back in the country and he is healthy and he has been working for the people and the country. Let’s give him a chance. The people in the third force; When they were in office, what did they do? Because they are no more in office, they want to form a group to fight the government. That is not good. We have a leader in Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who is working to change things and re-position the party. I believe in the president and Asiwaju to do the best for the country.
How true is it that your party is in crisis?
There is no party without crisis. Because some people would be angry somehow with the state of things. Asiwaju would change things, we know people are angry, crisis is normal in party politics, but it would come and go, but I don’t see any crisis like the one we have in the former regime and party.
You were a former deputy speaker. Will you mind sharing your experience?
Well I was the deputy speaker. I thank God for the memorable time; we had our issues and we worked as a family in the house. It was not easy; we had 40 people from different background and we tried to be friends to ourselves. It was challenging, and I thank God for the grace.
My memorable occasions were during my attempt to pass a bill I initiated for the return of environmental sanitation exercise in Lagos state. When I moved round the state and realised that the state was dirty: I gave questionnaires round the state and got people’s opinions on the issue; we were still operating only the 20 local government areas then. When the bill was presented; on several occasions the speaker was not around, later I realised that this was deliberate; and I said no let this bill be presented when the speaker was around, and it was presented when the speaker came. I remember I met with the state governor and top government officers on the bill and they were happy about it, and later the government presented a bill on that same issue and both, including my motion were passed along with the bill into law.
As a woman, how did you feel presiding over a house dominated by men?
There is no gender when you talk about the assembly members. When I presided as the speaker they always responded with a sir. The issue of gender did not arise, it was not an issue. Don t forget at that time we were just coming from the military regime and people were not sure if democracy would work; I did not allow my gender to control me when it was right time for me to talk I did, I presented my view the way it should be and I did not allow my colleagues to see me as weak because am a woman.
How do you react to the claim that houses of assembly have become rubber stamp of the executives?
Sometime people think like that, that the houses of assembly have been bought and that is because they want accountability and independence.
But there should be cooperation, they should work hand in hand; they should call the attention of government to issues. Thank God for the kind of governor we have here in Lagos state they don’t have much problem because the governor is much on ground and all-round the state project is going on, he is there for the people and there is no problem.
Do you agree that the number of women in politics in Nigeria has dropped? Are you satisfied with the number of women in politics now?
No am not satisfied. The number has dropped in the assemblies and in politics; but we have them more in the judiciary. When you talk about elective positions, our people believe we don’t have money power to compete with the men, that is why when we say we have to spend, we are hoping things would change. We should not monetize our political system, because when you take money from a candidate to vote, it means your vote has been bought and he would not care about your interest.
Our women can’t stand hooliganism, but what I say is; if you want to be in politics you should be able to face it. They would threaten you with guns and others but you have to put your foot on the ground. The number of women in politics has dropped. When I contested at that time this issue was not so pronounced I mean money, hooliganism and the rest, they are becoming too much and women are not that strong.
Are you in support of the affirmative action bill that was rejected by the national Assembly?
Am not in support of 35 percent affirmative action. Why can’t we get 50 percent? Let them give us the chance. At home we cook, wash, take care of the children, and do the rest things so why not give us the equal chance with the men.
Why do you want to go to the House of Representative?
We need to give our people dividend of democracy. Am a grassroots person, I listen to my people I know what they want; I give thanks to the people; even when i was outside the country, when I came back I saw my posters everywhere, I thank them for that, I also thank them for believing in me, I would stand with them.
Surulere is a cosmopolitan city what is the need of the people here?
Do you think there is no problem there? No matter how developed a city is, thee will always be issue with roads, light and several others issues ; I can lobby my colleagues and get things for my constituency? When you know there are issues that are important for your people, you must lobby to get the job done, that is what legislative position is all about.
How confident are you that you would get the ticket, or are you thinking of decamping?
No. I would never do that: Even the leaders of the party would tell you this is a serious and loyal member of the party. I have been in the party from the inception. I have been showing my interest for the position for some time now, since 2007 and the party leaders said no, I should gave them time. In 2011, they said no. All this while I have been working for the candidate that the party presented and this is 16 years after, it is a long time.
We need the representative of the people; someone who would be there for us, whenever the people of your constituency need you. I want to serve my people because I understand their needs.
We know Obasanjo when he was there as the president, he did not listen to advice