I grew up with the ideology that politics was a dirty game predominately dominated by majorly corrupt people. I knew little or no women who were involved in politics asides from the then-popular ministers like Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and Dr. Dora Akunyili who were appointed as ministers in the different presidential administrations.
I remember when I created my Facebook profile back in 2010 and there was a section where you could indicate if you were interested or not interested in politics, I quickly clicked on “not interested” as if it was a plague, I was trying to avoid lol
Fast forward to a few years later, my opinion and interest in politics became “If I am appointed into a ministerial position, I will accept” but the thought of contesting and winning an election was a no-no.
Currently, if you ask about my stand on politics, I will tell you that it is evolving but I’m not yet sure where to but time will tell.
So what changed?
From my experience, I have put together four (4) practical ways young women in Nigeria and Africa can develop an interest in politics.
Awareness they say is the lowest form of knowledge but I would also say, it is the beginning. My growing interest began with becoming disturbed and dissatisfied with several issues in Nigeria. The End Sars protest which became one of the most successful revolutionary protests among the young people in Nigeria also highlighted the array of problems in Nigeria.
I also became aware of my giftings and abilities as an individual, I became aware that for the problems we are complaining about to be solved, intelligent, competent, and visionary individuals needed to assume public offices.
Awareness of the problems and awareness of my abilities as an individual became a pointer to pay attention to issues around politics and governance since that is the seat of decision-making.
Jim Rohn said “You become like the five people you spend the most time with. Choose carefully.”
Today, social media has made it so possible to spend time listening to people beyond our geographical location.
I am one person who is quite active and selective of whom I listen to and follow on social media, I follow and listen to people who are living the life I desire and aspire to, you can call them role models.
I discovered that some of the women I admire became vocal about their interest in politics. It began with an associate in NIFES whom I follow Chizzy Nwokoye, She completed a course with the first cohort of the “School of Politics Policy and Governance (SPPG)”, Uju Uyanneh my friend who was always vocal about “Your View” on TVC and other political affairs in the country, then my mentor Joyce Daniels and Dayo Benjamin Laniyi who joined political parties and declared interest to run for some offices.
Associating with them virtually began to make me see and believe that it’s possible to get into politics and that it is not an exclusive reserved for some incompetent person but rather people with vision and great values can decide to go in there and influence policies that will eventually make life better for the citizenry.
When I traveled to Rwanda for the African Women Summit in May 2022, I visited the Kigali Memorial Centre where I immersed myself in the story of the genocide that happened in early 1994 leading to the loss of lives of millions of citizens in Rwanda. The experience was such an emotional one.
Today Rwanda is one of the leading economy and tourist destinations in Africa with 61.3% of women making up their leaders in the parliament. Making it the number one country for women in power globally. How did this happen?
After the genocide, the surviving women who had lost everything, husbands, children, and means of livelihood, came together and began to build up their broken cities, they started building charity and nonprofit organizations, to restore the lost glory. When the country became stable, it elected a major percentage of women into leadership and decision-making positions.
Another form of exposure was working with my organization Engage Empower Educate Initiative. We are currently working on a project “Pink Vote Movement”.
The Pink vote movement is a pan-African initiative aimed at empowering 100 million more women to vote in elections across Africa and in Nigeria our goal is to get 10 million more women to vote in the 2023 elections. Being a part of this grand movement has had me researching and creating content and communication materials around this. (Hopefully, in subsequent articles, I’ll share more details about this movement, so stay tuned). This has also heightened my awareness of political issues around women.
Movies and books also have a role to play in increasing exposure to issues around politics and governance. I’m currently reading “How to Win Elections in Africa” by Chude Jideonwo and it’s been quite enlightening, I’ll recommend it to anyone interested in politics, governance, and leadership generally, the strategies shared there can make you a better leader beyond just the political office holder.
Since I was 14, I’ve been directly and indirectly involved in social impact and community service projects and this has shaped my ideology about service. It has made me become a responsible citizen contributing to the community and social development wherever I find myself.
Beyond serving in a political position or office, you can start making a change in your little capacity in any environment you find yourself. Rather than keep complaining about the challenges and issues in your community, think and ask yourself, in what little way can I make a difference?
You could begin with volunteering. When you are faithful in little, I believe with time, your mind will open to bigger challenges and you would have developed the capacity to solve national and global issues.
In conclusion, Will I run for office in the future? I can’t tell but I believe time will tell. We need intelligent, credible, and capable hands to begin to run for offices in Nigeria and Africa. When we allow incompetent and selfish people to get into public offices, they will develop and implement policies that will work against us the enlightened and intelligent ones.
So rather than complain about the quality of leaders, I will say, prepare yourself and run for that position when the time comes.
I believe if women are great home builders, they could become exceptional nation builders if given the opportunity.