With concerted efforts co-ordinated by Dame Patience Jonathan to ensure that women occupy 35% of elective positions, the door appears open for all manners of women declaring to contest election into one office or the other. But Mrs Ify Okwudi Onowotu does not want to be voted into the House of Representatives because of her gender.
Mr Williams Eghebi, our Operations Officer, recently spoke with her at Nelrose Hotel, Asaba. She spoke on many issues, including her assessment of present representation at the lower house of the National Assembly. Below are an excerpts from the interview:
Anioma Watch: Who is Ify Onotowu nee Okwudi?
Ify: I am easily referred to as Ify by friends and close associates. I am a native of Agbor, but had my elementary education in Lagos. I obtained my first degree from Delta State University, Abraka, where I read Finance and Banking, graduating in 2001.
After my mandatory youth service at Omega Bank, Lagos, I got employed by Zenith Bank in 2003. I worked at the bank till 2008 where I rose to the position of Assistant Manager.
Anioma Watch: Considering the prospect you had in the bank, what influenced your decision to resign?
Ify: There is no doubt I had a good job, but I felt I could impact more on my community through private initiatives and politics. I joined MINEL ALUMINIUM LIMITED based in Abuja. I am the GM Corporate Affairs. I have other private investments. My husband is now helping to supervise them. I am also a consultant to many investment portfolios both in Nigeria and overseas.
I have always been looking forward to full time politics and right from my period at the university I was a prominent participant. Working in the bank was aimed at garnering the initial experience to better prepare me for the task of managing resources when I am elected.
Anioma Watch: What position are you contesting for?
Ify: With humility, I am asking the good people of Ika to make the messenger to represent them in the Federal House of Representatives. I want the opportunity to transfer the wealth of experience and contacts to develop my community.
Anioma Watch: What are the special things you have for the people?
Ify: I am not coming into politics with a monopoly of knowledge or ideas. I have observed that my people are not benefiting from various non-government organisations(NGOs). There are a lot of funds, both here and overseas, that could be assessed to develop Ika, but our political representatives have refused to assess them.
I have cordial relationship with them, but I cannot do much because they prefer to deal with government or government agencies. If I am in government, I will press these buttons in the interest of my people.
Government alone cannot provide the needs of the people. I want to be the link between government and these NGOs with a view to funding projects in our towns and villages.
I have found out that the level of youth education in Ika is low. I will fund a scholarship programme for the indigent students who are prepared to go to school. For others I will assist them to learn trades and skills to better prepare them for the challenges ahead. To the petty traders and rural women, I will assist them with grants and soft loans. The farmers will receive implements, improved seeds and fertilizers.
Anioma Watch: To you the present representative is not doing well, otherwise you will not be asking to replace her?
Ify: She is doing her best, but, sadly, her best is not enough for our people. I want to do that extra that she is unable to achieve.
Anioma Watch: She was molested and suspended. What is your opinion on her predicament?
Ify: Her being physically assaulted was a slight to womanhood, but I do not think her suspension was improper. I do not think she understood the cause she was fighting because she is not the only woman in the place. You do not fight a leader , you dialogue . And you do not fight what you do not know. It appears she does not understand the genesis of the problem. From what I hear from people who visited, Hon Doris Uboh is not accessible to her constituents.
Some people are in politics to amass wealth while others venture into politics to develop the people and the community. I belong to the latter.
Anioma Watch: A lot of people are not happy with the poor state of infrastructures in Ika, especially Agbor. What is actually the problem?
Ify: I do not think the blame should be dropped on the doorsteps of the governor. The problem lies more with our representatives in government. They have failed us because they refused to lobby their colleagues to attract projects to our area. But I am sure that our people now have the opportunity to make amends by voting for people who have the interest of the community at heart.
Anioma Watch: There is now unprecedented rise in female aspirants for various elective positions. Is it as a result of the agitation for 35% for women in political positions?
Ify: I feel a lot of women are qualified to occupy the highest office in the land. I am not asking the people to elect me out of pity or based on the affirmation. I want the votes of my people because I am capable of delivering on their expectations.
It is sad that our people are unfair to female politicians. The women in politics are labelled unfaithful to their husbands and in some cases called prostitutes. For this reason some credible women are scared of politics.
Women have been shown to be good administrators while at the same time keeping marriage and family values. Hilary Clinton , Prof Dora Akinyuli, and Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, are examples of women in politics but with their heads high.
Anioma Watch: What is the reason for few women in politics?
Ify: Politics in this part of the world is very expensive. Enough women are not in politics because it is a very expensive venture. The few women there are either sponsored by their husbands or family members. Women are economically marginalised in Nigeria.
Anioma Watch: Considering the problem in which the woman representing Ika people is involved, do you think the people would want to vote for another female legislator?
Ify: Just as I said before, she did not understand what she was fighting for. In any case, it was one off. That somebody fought does not mean every woman in that House will fight. She took a decision she felt was the best and another person may view it differently.
Anioma Watch: How do you think you can combine your marriage, business, and politics?
Ify: I am happy to be married to a very loving, understanding, and appreciative husband. I have two kids and my husband assists me to run my business when I am not around. He believes in my reasons to be in politics and he has been very supportive.
Anioma Watch: Any message to the youths?
Ify: I appeal to them to remain law-abiding. They should take part in politics because their future is at stake. This is the chance to make real changes if our tomorrow will improve. They should all join my project.