The road to political office has never been easy for women. Hon. Bisi was among contestants for the Edo State House of Assembly Akoko-Edo Constituency II Seat. She narrates her experience in this chat with Paul Idouzee our Edo State Correspondent.
Please tell us your experience contesting for an Assembly seat in the recent primaries
“My name is Hon. Bisi Akpaida, I ran for election in the Edo State House of Assembly from Akoko-Edo Constituency II. I was the only Lady that ran for the race among 11 men. It was very interesting. Naturally, since I am the only woman in the race you would think the party chieftains and leaders would say, give the position to the woman, especially since Governor Obaseki and some pro-gender based organizations are clamouring for 35 per cent affirmative action. No, it was not like that.
Everybody is expected to be on the same page as a man; that was my unfortunate plight. Not that what the men were doing was a big deal but, it was more of using money and the involvement of men activities. You know men believe they are superior. I have to first of all fight that segregation.
So, when the men will go and consult and see party leaders, I will put my ear down to see what they will do and do better. Assuming they give funds and other items, I will give more to gain better acceptance. For me, I had to compete and close the gap. In a way I have to come out with better capacity, more than the men. When it comes to ideas and what I want to offer to my people, it is better than what they have to offer. Most of them know it and also said it. The questions was, are the people ready to field a woman candidate in the EDHA seat for Akoko-Edo Constituency 11? The local government would have enjoyed the privilege of having a woman for the first time. This tells me that there is a lot to be done in that aspect.
What were the challenges?
What actually worked against me as a woman was the finance. I did not really prepare for it in that area, because I didn’t understand you will spend a lot of money in such an election. I used to think that primary election is very cheap to run. Unknown to me, the process is very tedious and expensive.
After spending the money, the issue of woman now came to bear. So, you can see that two challenges are working against the female folk in an election. One, the woman factor in relationship with the men and, two, how she plays her political game to get the ticket.
Most times after observing the situations, I will brave up as a man too. They will say, would this lady be able to hold meetings with us at night and hang out with us? I gave it my best shot and thank God I overcame. During the campaign I did my best. They just want to be sure that the lady is not a woman, but can act like a man also maybe because most political leadership mantles are seen as an exclusive office for the male gender.
So if you are coming out as a woman to contest an election, you must be able to pay the sacrifice, switch roles of being the man and woman at the same time. That is where the onus lies. Seeing a woman in a male dominated career does not mean that is a men only profession, it only means that men are more than the women in the trade.
It is time for women to rise up and take their place in politics. That is what I observed and would advise that most vital women running NGOs should rise up and contest, support women especially financially. You remember President Olusegun Obasanjo said Nigeria is not ripe enough to conduct free, fair and credible elections, and that is the truth.
It was during this primary election that I knew people buy polling units ahead of the elections. Budget money for a specific polling booth. Before you can get the ticket, is really a serious big deal. You must be ready to pay the money even as a woman. They need it in cash.
Most times women shout and cry that the men should give them political power, from my lessons; the men are not willing to give it free to the women and might never do. The women must battle for it and get it as others are fighting for it. The bottom line is that any position you want you must fight for it, and what other aspirants are doing, you must be ready to do.
What do you consider most important?
What is vital is, be ready to campaign and give leaders and voters money to get what you are looking for because the electorate and delegates are all after what they can get not necessarily the development you are promising. That is what I experienced during the recent Edo State House of Assembly primaries.
Be ready to pay the price, if other aspirants are holding meetings in the night, be ready to do it also. So, women should be ready to match the men in politics money by money, strength by strength, intellect with intellect and take the battle to the voting fields for the elections.
At that process or time, politics will no longer be seen as a man’s world, but as equal opportunity for us all; both male and female are putting the same resources to achieve their ambition or aim.
What is your forecast on future elections?
The truth is that women are not even ready yet from what I can see on ground. In fact, after the primaries elections when I had to step down, I saw women on various platforms saying let’s give women a chance. Who is going to give women chance like that? Women must fight for it.
At the end of the day, even the men had not been able to take the opportunity by themselves. That is how I realized that the men are not ready to give the women a chance. When you enter the political field, nobody cares whether you are a female to give it to you free. Even a physically challenged person will not be considered for free power. Nobody really cares about your weakness; it is a business of the battle for the fittest.
Women must be ready to do it, when you hear women saying, the men are not willing to give us a chance, note that those women are not ready. For women to go for politics, they must see how they can be supported with trust funds. If you begin to ask the men for support they will begin to ask for other funny, funny things like sex because they don’t even believe in the women’s capacity to win on the first place. So they see it as a wasted resource. That is how it goes. I hope going forward, women can come out with trust funds to contest for politics; this way am sure women will be ready to win their elections.
Before a woman can consider going into politics she must be educated, have capacity, political knowledge, be grounded in the system and lastly, have money to run the elections, that is the Nigerian system at present. Maybe, as a result of hunger, poverty, and many other social vices in the society that makes funds become a major factor in Nigerian politics.