More women need to participate in elections – Naingba

In the just concluded Kogi and Bayelsa gubernatorial elections, male aspirants dominated the ballot papers with very few female counterparts. Our correspondent VICTOR OROYI spoke with Rosemary Graham-Naingba, Founder/President, Ijaw Women Connect, Worldwide, IWC, she says more women need to via for political positions. Excepts:

With criticism trailing the emergency of the governor-elect, David Lyon, will you say the election was free and fair?

I will speak for my community, Amassoma, where I participated and I have pictorial evidence to show you. I was in a boat paddling from one place to another because the floods were everywhere.  People stood in the flood to vote massively.

Wherever rigging took place, I may not know but Amassoma and entire Southern Ijaw which is a violate area, there was no crisis or violence, there was no report of death.  So, I don’t understand where they are coming from but for me, it was a clear victory for Chief David Lyon.

What is your assessment of women participation in the just concluded governorship elections in Bayelsa State both as voters and candidates?

Well, from the stage of the primaries, we had some women who indicated interest and it was very encouraging.  Within that space of time, I was invited to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s stakeholders meeting and other media platforms, where I spoke extensively on the need for women participation in the forth-coming elections, but my disappointment was the fact that women in government especially female commissioners that have served for the last eight years with the present administration, I was expecting that the way the members of the Restoration Camp massively picked the expression of interest form, I was expecting a woman, should also be sponsored also but that it didn’t happen.

Despite all the shout, women in politics, none of them came out.  I think we have a problem.  First, the women don’t believe in themselves because you don’t need to wait for the government to tell you what to do, you have to participate by conviction that you have the potentials to be a governor of a state.  You don’t need to wait for somebody to tell, there is basically no need for godfatherism and endorsement, women should put forth themselves, face the challenges and conquer. 

But I did not see any of them despite the advocacy and wailing. We did not do well for not coming out to contest, we failed but general participation for the electoral processes from campaign to voting a credible campaign, the women did better because women have a greater numerical strength but I think we are still growing.

As a woman leader what do you think was the reason why women don’t come to contest for position especially in the South-South?

Let me talk about the Ijaw nation which is my core interest.  You know it is a matter of self-esteem, I have realized that a lot of us lack self-esteem, we want to remain where we are.  Even, in the IWC, we have been canvassing for women participation because without political power, we cannot be in governance, and that’s the truth. 

For you to be involved in the decision making process because we are in a democratic setting, women need to get into elective positions but women both in politics and civil societies don’t have self-confidence. I am tired of shouting and sometimes, I find myself as a lonely voice trying to do best to support women in the system.

At a point, I called out the deputy Chief of Staff, to Seriake Dickson, Mrs. Ebizi Ndiomu-Brown to come and contest because she cannot tell me she does not have money to pick the nomination form to contest for the seat of governor. If I was in her position, I would have done that, they are afraid, what are you afraid of; after serving for eight years, you still afraid of the system you belong to?

Bayelsa State is a traditional PDP stronghold, why did the pendulum swing in this election?

When you have a leader, who does not listen even for example, in a ship, if the Captain, does not take advice or does not play his organizational roles effectively, you will find out that he navigates wrongly and I think that is what happened with the PDP. 

Yes, PDP has a stronghold in Bayelsa State but when it came to this election and APC presented Timipre Sylva, he won’t win the election because these are leaders we know, he is not a bad but he has been tested in the state, people will began to have doubts again.

Then on the part of Governor Dickson, he did not try for the people, because a lot of issues came up.  There is black out in the state, between 2013 and now, I don’t think I have seen street lights in Yenagoa, and the rate of insecurity in the state as alarming.  You cannot talk to him through the normal conventional way of exercising your right as a person or citizen to say ‘this is what we want’, through peaceful protest, you can’t do it.  You do it, you get beaten, pensioners cannot complain, civil servants cannot talk to him, even members of the state executive council, cannot reach him, then to crown it all, during the PDP primaries, as we all observed the irregularities that happened at end you want to impose a candidate to govern the people. 

Ijaw people, we are now wiser, we have grown past that time, for anybody to decide for us because we have tested power and governments, you cannot come and bully us anymore, so the failure of PDP is a Dickson syndrome. The people decided to vote an individual and not a party, this is actually what happened.

Can you set an agenda for David Lyon

First, as I have always said in gatherings, without human capacity building, we cannot progress because the mentally of our people is so poor, and that is a major problem.  So, we must build capacity and that deals with education.  We need to revival our educational system and not just building schools, but an educational system that will pass through the people.

Security is key people cannot go to their offices in fears as well as walk around in the streets with fears.  People cannot go to their business in fear because in the past years, there have been a lot of security issues in Bayelsa State. 

He must be able to tackle security so that investors can come to the state.  Even, the oil companies that have relocated should come back since he has been in the oil sector, there will be a direct contact with top management of these oil companies to fast-track their relocation.  For that you will promise them a safe Bayelsa.

Lastly, I want to see development, he must take supervision strictly; from now, we must begin to hold leaders accountable.  If you say, from Imiringi Bridge to Tombia roundabout is N30 billion, how did you spend, give us statistics, what is the dollar rate and conversion, let’s know because we are interested to know what goes out and comes into the state’s treasury. 

So we can hold our leaders accountable.  He has been saying development, he should create more roads to open up the communities.  It is our state, if we don’t develop it nobody will develop it for us, also, if we don’t tell our stories, nobody will tell our stories for us. 

For me, he should concentrate on these three areas, constitute his cabinet very perfectly and even those who looked down on him, will celebrate with him at the end of his tenure.

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