For the former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Mrs. Adebisi Sarah-Sosan, politics should not be left for men alone. She got involved in politics and she later became the Deputy of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State during his first term in office from 2007 to 2011.
Today, Mrs. Sarah-Sosan is seen as a model and a star politician, who did her best while in public office after working as teacher and an education administrator.
Speaking during an interview with Oladipupo Awojobi in her residence in Ikoyi, Lagos, Sosan dwelt extensively on issues bothering on women in politics, especially on the issue of appointment and the notion that female politicians sleep around. She made it clear that female politicians are decent and that they have been doing their best to contribute their own quota to the development of the country.
What attracted you into politics because many people believe that politics is for men?
Politics is for everyone, not just politics that has to do with governance; there is politics in offices, in churches and even in your homes. So, we are all political animals. I want to thank God that I don’t have any regret going into politics, when opportunity came for me to go into it in 2006. Initially, I had aversion for politics, especially because members of my family have experienced violence, roping them up in what they did not do and all that. When the opportunity came, I prayed about it and I saw that it was God’s calling at the right time and that God had a purpose for me to contribute my own quota to the development of the state and the country.
I had peace of mind within me, and I felt it was something that could be done, and I agreed to go into it. Going into politics opened my eyes to so many things that I did not know. We only see the glamour of politics, what it involves is so much that it is only when you are involved that you would see the heat and see if you could stand it. The heat in the kitchen of politics is so much such as going out there to campaign to people to sell your party and convince the people, especially when some people have some notions and misconceptions about your leaders, and your party. Many people don’t ever see anything good in politics and yet they want the government to do some things for them.
But, how do you get things done if not through politics, if not through democratic means that are in place. The journey started and it opened my eyes to a lot of opportunities. I feel it is an opportunity to be closer to your people, especially those at the grassroots, to fell their pains, to know the expectations of the grassroots from those that lead them. It is an opportunity for you to serve the people, so politics is an opportunity to serve the people, especially if your people are not much exposed.
Politics would make it possible for you to educate them about how government runs and what is expected of them as citizens. Despite the challenges of violence, pull him down syndrome and what people say about you, once you are focused and upright, you would be okay. Just forge ahead, do your best and see that you touch the lives of the people. It is a good area of meeting the needs of the people.
What have been your experiences as a woman in politics?
In the traditional setting, cultural and social setting, not long ago, people were usually surprised, when they saw women going into politics. But, this is changing because they have seen that women going into politics have proven themselves, and that it is not about what the people think it is. Those misconceptions people have about women going into politics are not true, rather the women complement what men are doing, and women are not violent. They are more loyal, and more committed. When a woman involves herself in something, she goes all out, she doesn’t want to fail. The society always wants to see what a woman can do, and many women have been able to prove their worth, and show that they can do better than men. Instead of violence, we dialogue, we compromise to agree and we resolve a lot of issues in a motherly way than men. Talking about husbands supporting women, like I have said, many women have proven that those misconceptions are wrong. They have proven that it is not true that women politicians sleep around to get positions, how many men will they sleep with? Women politicians work hard like the men to get what they want. They go out there all night to campaign, to lobby, where we don’t have enough money, we use our feminine touch. Men believe in spending money, but we will appeal to the sense of the people that we are mothers, we are more caring and that we would do it better. Opportunities have been given to women and a lot of them have shown that they can do it well.
Like I said earlier, many men have discovered that what people are saying about female politicians are not true, so they are more relaxed now and they give them support. They even take them to the meetings, come back to pick them and give them ideas. My husband, as a retired military man, faced the military men, he campaigned to them and he used to call meetings in our community and tell the people why they should vote for our party and all that and he still does it. Women don’t misuse the trust of the people, our integrity is intact and so now our husbands give us support even young ladies are experiencing that too. When you see the likes of those that have done it well like your aunties, your sisters and all that, you would also want to do it. If you say we sleep around, does it mean that if it is a woman that is the leader, men too would have to sleep with her to get positions? I think it isvice versa, it is not what many people think, it is the intellectual capacity, it is the skill you have acquired that matters and with the support of your leaders, you would get there.
We see a lot of women campaigning and doing all they could to get men into power during political campaigns, how come they are not doing it for fellow women?
It is unfortunate that many women support men to ensure that politics is well managed without violence, we are being short-changed, we are being marginalized, and we are being excluded from positions of authority. Many women go out there to canvass for votes to ensure that their parties win, but what we get in return is minimal. It is time that this is changed, if it is education, we have a lot of women that are educated, if it is technical know how, we have a lot of women that are engineers, scientists, doctors, we have a lot of women that can be in many positions. It is unfortunate that many Nigerian women have been short-changed; I know it is like that in many countries, but that of Nigeria is so bad. I am using this opportunity to appeal to our leaders that they should give opportunity to women. If you look at the last general elections in Nigeria, most of our women were not returned. In the House of Representatives, where we have about 360 members, only about 15 are women, when 50% of the nation’s population is women. This is unimaginable, it is appalling, and it is unacceptable. We are groaning, we are in pains, it is very unfortunate, who will speak for us, when we don’t have many women in the legislative arm of government, who is going to put our own interest forward. It is really shameful, women are edged out, and it is not that we are not qualified. It is time that our leaders did something about it. We can give a quota to women like say 40% of members of the parliament should be women because in Rwanda, 56.3% of the members of their parliament are women. We say we are the giant of Africa, but we are not there yet. In 2011, there were about 20 women in the House of reps, now they are 15, the same thing happened in the senate. Also, in the Lagos State House of Assembly, it is bad that we have few women there, the woman in my constituency in Ojo area lost, I wept, when it happened. I think this is not okay at all.
How do you rate the performance of women in public offices, many people believe that some Nigerian female ministers have not done well?
That is a national issue, but I want to tell you that the women that are doing all these are not doing it alone; there would be a smoke before you see fire. There would always be some men that are supporting them; women are not bold enough to misbehave. I want to say modestly that many women have performed well, if few women are now misbehaving, it is a banana peel. Sometimes, the pressure is much except you are a strong-willed, you would not be able to resist it. They would tell you nothing would happen, this is the way we do it, but there would be trouble if you do it. Experience sometimes matters, for me, the fact that I have worked in the civil service was an advantage for me. If you ask me to do something and I cannot do it, I would tell you ‘no.’ but, many people do not have that background, they do not know the intricacies of the public service. Also, many people did not have enough training before they got into public offices. Everyone, who wants to go into a public office should undergo training even if it is one or two weeks, they should go through inductions.
We will like to know how you coped with your job as the then Deputy Governor of Lagos State being a wife and a mother, and do we see you coming out to contest in 2019?
Like I said, if you have a good husband that supports you, the home front is already covered. Also, by the time I got involved; my youngest child had finished secondary school and has moved onto another college, which is why we don’t encourage women that are still nursing babies to go into politics. I would not advise any woman that still has babies to go into it because the formative years of a child are important. When they are not round me, when they are in schools and I cannot go there, their father used to visit them and I have friends that did that for me. Also, in the home front, my husband is supportive, we communicated always even when I traveled. If those things are there, there is no way you would have problems, don’t allow communication gaps and know what you are doing, so I combined the two effectively. My experience as a civil servant, an educationist and an education administrator made it easy for me then. Talking about 2019, the Bible says we should leave tomorrow as it would take care of itself. My tomorrow is good, it is brighter, when the opportunity comes, I am ready.
What would be your encouragement to women that are afraid of joining politics?
I was at a programme of African Women Organisation, where women are encouraged on governance and many women converged and part of what we discussed was to encourage women into politics. Some women were saying, people don’t encourage them, but I said nobody would encourage you, you have to encourage yourself. You can start with the work in your community, whether in your church or wherever, you can be doing little things. We encourage women to remove that fear, they need encouragement, people are afraid of violence, but there is no violence. If God is with you, nobody can be against you, forget about violence, go on your knees and tell God that you want to go into it to better the lives of the people. So, I want to encourage our women not to sit back and be complaining. They should make attempts and come out. The excuse of money is genuine, but we should come out and be part of decision making and policy making in the country, it should not be only men. If we have the numerical strength without quality candidates to talk for us, then our number will be meaningless. So, I want to encourage women to go into politics. If a lady of just over 30 years is President in Kosovo Republic, then you can imagine. The day I saw her, I said ‘wow,’ she is such a young lady, one day, Nigeria would have a female Governor, not even one, we would have many. Thank God for Hajia Aisha Alhassan in Taraba State, she almost made it before she lost eventually, but she should not give up, one day she would be there.
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