They are not many in number; they are the few ones that are imbued with an unusual burning spirit and blessed with the courage of swimming through the oceans preponderant with predators (religion, culture and gender issues). The spirits, no doubt, cannot be suppressed or decimated by any religious, cultural or anachronistic beliefs of the past. The Yeye of Isanlu-Isin and Erelu of Ekan-Meje, Hon. Funmilayo Olasehinde was the only female member of Osun State House of Assembly between 2003 and 2007. She had earlier served as the Chairman, Ifedayo Local Government. In this interview with AKINLOLU ABAYOMI, the woman of substance who is currently the PDP candidate for Ifedayo state constituency spoke on issues of interest. Excerpt.
The legislative arm and the executive have practically been locked in a battle for relevance since the inception of the present administration, what does this portend for the nation’s democracy?
Our democracy is still growing but we are improving, such scenarios are not unexpected but if you consider the pros and the cons, sometimes such a situation can ensure sincere and genuine check and balances on the part of the executive and the other two arms of government which can actually make us achieve the desired developed democracy.
How have women fared as participants on the nation’s political field? Have they got a fair share in terms of representations?
Not really, we still have very few women as active participants on the political field. Many women are however interested but are hindered by the known and the hidden constraints. Women have not got the required fair share and not well encouraged in respect of political participation, the challenges are enormous and women have not been enjoying adequate support as expected. We, however, hope that things would change for better.
How did you feel being the only female member of the Osun State House of Assembly when you served as a member between 2003 and 2007?
Yes, I was the only female member and I felt unhappy finding myself as the only woman among the men but it did not in any way dampen my morale rather I realized I had to make my presence felt and not allowed the gender ‘thing’ viewed from the negative perceptive by being labeled as inactive, so I was able to make my mark.
What really was the experience like? Did you suffer or made to face marginalization in any form?
No, there was nothing like that, I thank God I served with good-hearted male colleagues. God helped me in His wisdom and the men felt much comfortable around me, I found God’s favour and I blended well. My very warm relationship with the men discouraged any act or form of marginalization around me. They saw me as one of them and we all worked as a good team throughout our four-year tenure.
What do you think is responsible for the low and discouraging number of women in politics?
Societal, cultural and religious beliefs are the major factors. The belief in this part of the world is that women are only meant for the kitchen, to keep answering the calls of the men and only be supportive. Funding is also another hindrance. Politics in Nigeria requires much money for the realization of a political aspiration. Many Nigerian women either belong to the average class or are poor. The political scene is meant for only those who can provide the necessary wherewithal for the activities and here, you find very few women being able to match the men. The attitude of women towards themselves is also disappointing. At different instances, women tend to be envious, jealous of each other, and for this reason, they get easily tricked by the men in moving or working against one another.
African socio-cultural heritages, religion and anachronistic beliefs of the past are some of the factors that militate against active participation of women in politics. How do you think the effects of these factors could be controlled?
The NGOs are really trying their best towards sensitizing the public and creating awareness particularly among the women in order to encourage women participation in political engagements. The government is, however, required to increase support for such efforts and also ensure that the 35%affirmation for women in all appointive positions at all levels is accorded top priority.
It has been observed that you do not have special love for jewelry like most women, why if I may ask?
I believe in moderation. I dress, eat and do all things moderately.
You served as a state lawmaker and also served as a PDP Local Government Chairman when AD was the ruling party, your local government is also considered part of Chief Bisi Akande’s political territory of sort, yet, you emerged as the LG boss, how were you able to get that done?
I return all glory to God. God made it possible. There were challenges but He used kind-hearted men and women to get me elected.
You are planning to stage a return to the House of Assembly as the PDP candidate for Ifedayo state constituency, how prepared are you for the political battle ahead?
I believe God will do it again like He had done such with ease in the past. Our party members are ready for the campaign and God’s willing, we will achieve election victory.
Why do you think the people of Ifedayo local government should consider you as their best choice and the preferred representative in the House of Assembly?
I love my people so much and I care about their wellbeing. I consider quality living as very important and I want the best for my people. My people have seen and discovered the qualities they want in me. I have been tested in the past, I served in different capacities and God made it possible for me to leave behind good legacies which made them to trust me. I am trusted by my people. I am created for service to humanity, a vessel for achieving God’s purpose in people’s lives and particularly in the lives of the needy.