Her political journey dates back to 2006/2007, when her husband, High Chief Owolabi Salis contested for the governorship seat of Lagos State. Mrs. Salis is confident that time has come for Nigerian women to take the bull by the horn and give men a run for their money.
Her campaign is taking her to the five local governments in her area; Epe, Ibeju-Lekki, Ikorodu, Shomolu and Kosofe, and she has been receiving overwhelming support from her people.
In this interview she granted the press recently, Mrs Olabisi Salis revealed that she wants to go to the senate to eradicate poverty in her senatorial district and make life better for her people through people-oriented programmes.
She also stated that she has been involved in empowerment programmes several times as she is passionate about helping the poor. She speaks on her ambition and other matters in this interview.
Why are you starting your political ambition with a senatorial election?
Actually, I started my ambition in 2006, when my husband, Chief Owolabi Salis contested for the governorship seat of Lagos State. I had to resign my appointment with the Central Bank of Nigeria, and since then, I have been in politics in Lagos and I have helped so many people in the state. I have empowered so many men and women, and I help the poor regularly. I believe that the voice of the people must be heard. Our people are not adequately represented at the senate. We need to eradicate poverty, empower the women and ensure that their voice is heard in the society. I want to enact laws and initiate bills that would enhance the improvement of the people in my district.
What do you think are your chances of winning the election?
My chances of winning are very high looking at it from the feminine perspective. I know the incumbent senator from Lagos East Senatorial District is deep in pocket and he has been there for four years. But that doesn’t stop my chances of winning, it would be like the story of David and Goliath in the Bible, you look at David as being minute and small, while Goliath is giant and big. But at the end of the day, David won, I believe that in this contest, I stand a better chance of winning. The voice of the people must be heard, the people are not happy with the way the incumbent senator is treating them, most of their lands are being taken over. I am ready to go there to fight for the people, especially the poor, if you don’t take care of the poor, the masses, your chances of winning any election is eroded. He was given four years to perform and I don’t see anything he has done, people are complaining bitterly. I want to go there, let them give me four years to perform and see what I can do because a woman can perform, we are better managers, I believe I have a better chance.
Politicians are fond of saying that they were called by the people to contest elections, but in your own case, was it a clarion call by the people for you to contest or you just decided on your own to contest?
The call to gun for the senatorial seat of Lagos East Senatorial District is from the people, they want me to come and represent them. When they look at my performances amongst the poor, how I have been helping them to eradicate poverty, to pay school fees and take care of them, they called on me to represent their interest at the senate.
You have been campaigning for long, how has the reception from the people been?
In my campaign so far, the reception has been very positive, people want a change in Lagos State. People have been telling us they want PDP in Lagos State. Most of their lands are being taken over in several areas. People are being maltreated, the okada (motorcycle) riders are complaining, the market women are complaining, they want the PDP in Lagos at all cost, they want me in this senatorial district, the incumbent has not been performing, he has not lived up to expectation, he promised them many things that he has not fulfilled.
The issue of politicians promising people and not fulfilling them has been a problem, as a woman politician, how would you convince the people that you would you would fulfill your campaign promises to them?
We are all individuals; people of integrity would not fail campaign promises. In my journey in life, I have promised people and fulfilled them. I believe it has to do with individuals. I don’t think such will happen in my own case, I have been promising people and I have not failed them. If you don’t try me, how would you know if I would perform or not? From my own side, I have never promised and fail. I believe in performance in my own way, people have tested me and I have never failed them. I promised them so many things, which I have fulfilled, if I am given a chance at the senate, I would do all that I am promising them.
People say our leaders turn to something else, when they get to political offices, what do you think is responsible for this and how can you assure us that if you get there, you would not change?
You are right because so many people, if they want your vote, they would come to you and promise heaven and earth. They forget the downtrodden, I have said it that is depends on individuals, you cannot say that all the leaders do that. Some fulfill their promises, I fall on the side of the people that fulfill their promises and I believe that people should encourage leaders to perform by not extorting money from them during their campaigns. When you spend money during campaign, you believe that you have performed your own part of it and when you get there, people want the other side of the bargain, it is not possible. Politicians spend much money during campaigns and people expect so much from them during campaigns, so you cannot have it all. You should talk to the electorate to minimize their demands, while we are campaigning so that they would not stop us from doing what we want to do.
Your senatorial district, Lagos East consists of rural areas; Epe, Ibeju-Lekki, Shomolu, Kosofe, and Ikorodu. What are some of their problems that you have identified that you want work on, when you get to office?
We have five local governments in my constituency as you have said; Ibeju-Lekki, Epe, Shomolu, Kosofe, and Ikorodu. In some areas, they have peculiar problems like in Ibeju-Lekki and Epe, they have not had electricity for the past five years. In Ikorodu, Shomolu and Kosofe, their pipe borne water has been faulty, and they have common problem, which is poverty, I need to look into these as a woman. If you emancipate women from poverty, definitely it would affect the home, so we have some programmes that would eradicate poverty being one of the Millennium Developmental Goals (MDG). So we need to look into how we are going to increase youth empowerment, train women, men and youths and with this, poverty would be reduced.
PDP has been in the central government, and you want to also win election as a senator, how do you think the party can succeed in making life better for the people?
I have said it all, I want to be a senator to make laws, and help in forming fiscal policies, so I need to look for ways of ensuring positive change in my senatorial district by empowering the people and by making laws that would be in their favour.
The PDP in Lagos State keeps saying that the people are demanding for change, they said the same thing in 2003, but it doesn’t look as if they are interested in taking over power from the APC in Lagos State. So, how prepared is PDP in taking over power in the state? Also, looking at 2015, the APC said that the PDP wants the elections postponed, what is your view and do you see the PDP winning these elections?
What gives me the impression that the PDP is winning this election in Lagos State is that we are prepared to win the election, everything is at the top gear and we are not postponing the election, we don’t want postponement of the election, we are ready to battle it out. We want a positive change and the change starts form you and me to cast our votes for the right candidates, vote the right person because the power is in your thumb to choose whoever you want to represent you at the national and state assemblies. So, we are ready for this election, we don’t want it postponed at all.
What do you think would give the PDP the opportunity of winning the presidential election in February?
I think the election is a walk over for President Goodluck Jonathan because he has done so many things for the country and he promised us that Boko Haram would be faced out of Nigeria in his campaign programme. Some of our leaders are behind Boko Haram, they don’t want sanity in the country. If we give President Jonathan a chance for a second term in office, I believe that Boko Haram would be eradicated in the country. When we look at what President Goodluck Jonathan has done in the country, you would know that he is a performer. Benin-Ore Road was completed during his tenure; the Metro Line Project abandoned during the tenure of former governor Lateef Kayode Jakande of Lagos State has been revived. Even in the northern part of the country, a lot of things have been put in place by President Jonathan, you know that you don’t transform in a day. He has just been there for four years out of the 15 years of our democracy, so he should be given a second chance.
You talked about market women and okada (motorcycle) riders in Lagos State, does it mean the PDP would ask okada riders to go back to the roads in Lagos if it wins the governorship election since people believe the restriction of okada operations has reduced accidents and armed robberies in the state?
No, I am not saying that. I believe the incumbent Governor should have had a meeting with these people to tell them what is expected of them. It doesn’t mean they should be harassing and killing okada riders. There was a day at Ikorodu Road, when the army pursued a young man such that his limb got broken. Are we saying that because we don’t want these people, they should be killed; most of these people are graduates. Unemployment is affecting them and they decided to look for a way of getting livelihood, I am not saying we would return them; we would meet with them, tell them what is expected of them and restrict them to some locations. We should not just harass them as if we want them to go into robbery and be carrying weapons. These are young people who want to work; we should encourage them by restricting them to certain areas and use better methods to talk to them.
A lot of people have talked about the economy of Nigeria as cost of living is increasing and the exchange rate is increasing. What do you think the PDP government should have done on the economy of the country?
Everything boils down to poverty, unemployment and all that, we are trying to reduce poverty in our society. A recent report indicated that hunger rate in Nigeria has reduced to 8% from 14% and at the same time the programmes of President Goodluck Jonathan has reduced unemployment by providing jobs for our youths, by introducing skill acquisition programmes that would enhance our productivity. I think the economy is improving, poverty level is reducing and unemployment level is reducing too based on international figure.
The wife of President Goodluck Jonathan, Dame Patience is hated by some people for allegedly interfering in governance. To you, who is Dame Patienct Jonathan, do you appreciate her for what she has been doing, do you see her as a role model?
Dame Patience Jonathan is the wife of our president; we need to appreciate her for all that she has been doing, for the NGOs she has floated so that we can hear the voice of the women in the country. I really appreciate her courage, we cannot be equal, she has been putting in her best to make sure that women are recognized in this country. To me, she is performing. Nothing stops her from being my role model.
Sometime last year, the President of Liberia was in Nigeria and said that sometimes, women are their own problems. She said that, when she was going through problems in her country she was shocked that men supported her more than women. Do you think the women would give you their support during the election?
I think we are ready now, women are ready to support fellow women. We are not our own problems, we are ready, we were marginalized, we were relegated to the background, but now we are ready because we believe that a woman would understand a woman better. In most cases, when I go out to campaign, women troop out en-masse, they even support me more than men. Women need to be represented in all the leadership positions in this country, so I believe we are not our problems anymore. Women usually support women more than men. We are ready to ensure that the country is taken to a greater height, we have talked to ourselves, we are battle ready now.
A lot of people want to vote, but the issue of Permanent Voters Card (PVC) seems to be a problem now, what would be your advice to INEC on this?
My advice to INEC is to release PVCs, we have been talking to our people to go and collect their PVCs. The officials should encourage our people to collect their PVCs because they are there in thousands for them. Without the PVCs, they cannot vote, so they should encourage them by giving it to them.
Some people are afraid that this election would be violent. How has it been with you since you started campaigning, have you ever been attacked?
To be sincere, the issue of violence is very germane and we need to look into it. I believe the Federal Government is looking into it to combat violence during the election. I would not say I have not experienced such; we were attacked by a cult group in Epe last week, when we went there to campaign. It is an issue, and I believe the government should look into it so that we can have a free and fair election as it obtained in Ekiti State and in some other states.
Is it only the government, what of the politicians, who disrupt the rallies of their opponents?
I am appealing to the politicians not to have a win-win attitude, for the fact that your opponent has an upper hand against you in an election does not mean that you should send people to attack them. You must have an attitude of democracy, where people can vote willingly and allow the electorates to vote for whoever they want. How do we have democratic government if our people are killed or harassed? We should talk to the politicians to let our people follow their conscience.
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