…commends Uzodimma for appointing more women
Chief Mrs. Ruby Emele is the Special Adviser to the Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodimma on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. A one time Chairman of Isiala Mbano Local Government Area and Chairman of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) Imo State chapter, Ruby in this interview with Nigerian Newsguide spoke exhaustively on gender issues, women participation in politics, abandonment of motherhood roles which has caused great moral damage to our society. She however insisted that women always succeed in positions of authority, leadership and responsibility.
She also commended Governor Uzodimma for appointing more women in his government and for succeeding in turning Imo around in just one year.
My name is Hon. Chief Mrs. Ruby Emele, Special Adviser to the Governor of Imo State on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.
Few days ago, the International Community celebrated International Day for Women. In Nigeria, women celebrated it in their numbers, are you comfortable with the place of women in politics, in society, in religion, in every facet of human life in Nigeria?
Well, I will answer you this way, there has been improvement, yet there is room for further improvements.
Now in the House of Representatives, there are 360 Members, less than 10% of them are women. In the Senate there are 109 Senators, about eight are women and sometime ago we heard about 35% affirmative action, is it that women are docile, they are not interested in coming out in politics to take what they should ordinarily be part of or there is an oppression from the men and what have you?
Thank you very much for this question. Those numbers need to be improved upon, if you check very well, women are very good managers. Some people will tell you, train a woman and you’ve trained a nation.
And so, in the area of management, even in the area of lawmaking, there is need for a balancing act. I choose to put it this way, gender mainstreaming. That’s the way I choose to put it. You know those women who have had the opportunity to be seen in positions of authority, leadership and responsibility, they have done very well. Of course, the case of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, everywhere she has worked, she has made her mark. Women approach work with commitment, dedication. I think we’ve come to a point where men should allow more opportunities for women to come and help redirect issues. I want to use this opportunity to thank His Excellency the Governor of Imo State, Distinguished Senator Hope Uzodimma, if you check very well, he has shown that he is gender friendly and given a lot of women opportunities to come and play their parts in his 3R Mantra government of Recovery, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation.
So in the area of appointment, yes, a lot more has happened. But in the area of elective positions, a lot more need to happen. If you check very well, you will see that women are bothered about the welfare, well-being of not just their husbands, but the children and society at large. So, going to areas where you make laws to better the lots of the people, of course you know they will do very well. So there is need to create enabling environment that will push some more women who have core competencies into positions of public trust, because they will always deliver.
In 2023, what are you expecting in Imo State, because we are aware that in the last two elections, women were given free tickets by political parties but the participation was still very low?
Elective positions and electioneering is not just about ticket. You know women calculate things before they enter into it. If you have given a woman free ticket and she checks the field and the cost of entering the field is not available, she will back out. She checks well before she launches into it. So, I think we’ve come to a point where the men, should look at those women that have the qualifications, the character to go and represent the people, then you give them a push and they will go there and deliver.
…You give them a push by way of loan or…?
You can make the electioneering less expensive, you can make the processes less expensive.
This is another thing all together, de-monetizing the electoral process, and the fund or assistance you are talking about, is it by way of loan?
No, am not talking about loan, you don’t take loans for consumption. Loans are better for investment. It’s not the best to go for loan for consumption. Like I said before, a woman wants to check, yes, I have this ticket from here to here, what does it take me. After the election you may have the cause to answer to the courts – post elections and all that. She wants to check what it costs to take care of all that concerns that election from beginning to the end. Women try to be meticulous about these things and not to launch out and get stuck mid-way. So we have to get to the point where we take our time, discover those who we have checked and tested, they can be trusted with power. In this regard, therefore, I support a move by some groups to mobilize funds for women participation in political process and leadership. I mean women who will go there, be humble, deliver the goods and not the born tigers. In those days, communities came together to call one of their own to represent them. “Ndigbo si na ha ma nwa ha ga aga mba, ri fo nri, welata ya”, (Igbo proverb says the society knows their children who will travel and bring goodies back home). I think we have gotten to that point.
Some people are clamoring for the establishment of an endowment fund for women participation in politics, are you subscribing to that?
That will be also good. If there is an endowment fund for that, that will be good, then we take our time, discover those who will be committed to ensuring that they add value to governance.
Let’s get this one, by Sunday the Anglican church worldwide will celebrate women again, much more later, the Catholic church will follow suit, but there is high rate of immorality – cooperate prostitution, child trafficking, baby factory and what have you, especially among women. They are part of kidnapping syndicate everywhere now, they are part of robbery. Is it that mothers have lost control of their female children or is it a combination of environmental factors and digital development?
It is a combination of a whole lot, and it will take a collective responsibility to recover them and reduce to barest minimum such incidences of immorality and crime. I don’t forget what Hilary Clinton said once, she said, “it takes a village to train a child.” So, where we are now, you know you have to take stock of the environment. This is a jet age they call it, these children are exposed to all manner of information through the internet and all that. Ideally, the digital space was meant to make life easier, make commerce simpler, but you discover that these days, some of our children are using it to commit all sorts of atrocious things. I agree on the home-front, there are lapses. It is time to call our mothers to be more sensitive to the lifestyles of our children. You know before, if a girl child goes out and comes back home with expensive items that her parents didn’t buy for her, she must be questioned by her parents, unlike today when mothers are encouraging their children to go into all manner of illicit activities to make money. I think now, it is time for women to get back to the track and take back their God-given role and responsibility if the society must move forward.
Another thing is peer pressure, there is more lot that need to be done at the home-front and then the schools also. The teachers should beyond teaching ABCD in classrooms, show more than a passing interest in the character formation of the children they are teaching. Perhaps there has to be training and retraining of teachers so that they will get back to that point where you are bothered about the entirety of the being you are training. Is not about ABCD. When you go to Higher Institutions, the day they want to do convocation, what do they tell you, that we are graduating these children that have been found worthy in character and learning but these days is it the same, you will even find those who graduated without the learning and the character.
Those who didn’t attend lectures and graduated, are they coming out with a piece of paper? And you discover that most of them are unemployable. The knowledge you sent them to go and get is not there. Some passed through the school and the school didn’t pass through them. They are strangers to learning and the character they were supposed to get is not there at all. Perhaps we have gotten to the point where skill acquisition and entrepreneurship should become part of the curriculum not just in the secondary school but up to the tertiary level. And then, even the lecturers at that point, they also need to develop the interest and consciousness of making these children better people when they come out. Let’s all join hands to think about tomorrow. Sometimes, it looks like we are losing the next generation.
Some African students came here yesterday – the Union of African Students – it comprises students in all the African nations and they came here with a lot of complaints, if they tell you what is happening in the schools in the areas of drugs and all that, you will marvel.
Even parents may not understand that these things are happening, so there is work to be done. We need to recover the next generation. Who are you handing over to? That’s why I said it’s a collective responsibility. The parents are involved, the teachers are involved, religious leaders are involved, community leaders are involved. You know there were times, community as a whole disciplined a child, they called you to order, recovered them and they became better people. But these days, it’s like nobody cares. When another adult is correcting you, it is for your own good, it will be recorded for you and not for the adult. The adult has played his part and he’s on the exit point, preparing for the other side. So all of us should join hands and make it work. It’s a collective responsibility, all of us even the media has a role to play for us to have a better society.
In January this year, the government of Imo State marked one year in office and it was not celebrated. But this time, government wants to celebrate officially the achievements of Senator Hope Uzodimma in the past one year. What are these achievements? What about the local government administration, has he been able to do something in that area?
All round, this administration has been able to do a whole lot. When His Excellency the Governor assumed office, a lot of infrastructural decay was met on ground, of course you live in the city of Owerri, you know what the road looked like then, but if you look back now, you can see that almost everywhere is passable in the city of Owerri. I was looking at Assumpta roundabout moving towards Port-Harcourt road the other day, I was like, so it can be this beautiful. So, he’s done so very well in the area of road rehabilitation and reconstruction. And of course, environmentally, and considering the fact that as soon as he came in, Covid-19 showed up, it became a very big challenge and he confronted it head on, providing isolation centers, putting up a committee that is headed by Prof Maurice Iwu who knows quite a lot about these viruses.
Information dissemination became very important so that our people will know those covid-19 protocols that will assist them not to easily catch the virus. So, that was domesticated in all the local governments and then they took up the campaign such that all our people in the rural areas would know how to use the nose mask, they know about social distancing, they know about washing their hands under running water with soap, they know about hand sanitizers, these are non-pharmaceutical measures.
And then immediately that was happening, there were lockdowns and people’s economies were affected, just like the global economy was shrinking and so on. His Excellency the Governor made efforts to send down palliatives of all nature down to the local governments and the Council Chairmen were made to distribute them down to the needy, not once not twice, several times to cushion the effect of the pandemic.
And then at the local government too, the council premises were dilapidated, some overgrown with bushes and all that, so it became very important for Chairmen to give facelifts to these local governments secretariats. Of course, most of them didn’t have conveniences and they had to provide them, some didn’t have water, they had to provide that in order to make those councils look like where people should stay and work. Thereafter, we started launching out to provide other basic amenities to the people.
Since December and January, road grading has been going on across local governments to see that there are pathways for our farmers to bring out their produce. And again, that last year, because of the effect of that Covid-19, His Excellency saw that farmers were also affected. So, he thought it wise to ensure that fertilizers were given to the farmers across the local governments at no cost.
You know in the area of our traditional rulers, we have returned the respect and regard our traditional rulers should have. A lot is going on here and there. His Excellency is one that has the reach, he has the contact. Since he is here, very serious investments have been coming in. Go to Ohaji Egbema, you see that modular refinery by Walter Smith, they have started producing AGO, DPK and Condescends. There are two gas plants also there, that have come in since the governor came onboard, one by Shell and one by Seplat.
He has done a lot of things in just one year. You can see this free transport scheme for the workers, the buses that bring them to work and take them back, the vehicles he gave to Judges and even the appointees, Commissioners and all that. The Permanent Secretaries also got their own, that shows that the governor is also very mindful of the welfare, well-being and comfort of Imo workers.
What advice do you have for those who are still opposing the government, saying this government must not succeed at all cost?
They should support this governor. The truth is that Senator Hope Uzodimma as the governor of Imo State means well for Imo State, the truth is that he has come to work. He wants to change the narratives.
…are you sure he is going to achieve much the way he is going?
One good thing about him is that he is focused and not publicity conscious. He is not into unnecessary packaging of lies in order to impress onlookers.
But they say he is too calm, that the only area he is action packed is vendetta against Okorocha.
Well, they should not misconstrue his calmness as weakness. It’s not true. The governor is focused, calm and decisive. He is a humble person. The important thing is that he likes Imo people. He wants to create enabling environment for even those who are in the private sector to thrive, so that together we can join hands to deepen our economy and now is the time to do it. Governor Uzodimma is working hard and seeing how we can improve our internally generated revenue, so that as federal allocations are shrinking, we will not be caught hands down napping. So, I want to thank Imolites, those who have supported and are still supporting him should continue to do so. And those who are on the other side, I implore them to join hands and let’s maximize this period for the overall benefit of Imolites.