Grassroots mobiliser and Women Leader of the Labour Party of Nigeria (LP) Barrister Ebere Ifendu tells AMINA ALHASSAN AHMAN that Nigerian women need a level political playing field to genuinely impact the polity. Speaking on other key issues she also expounds on the strides the Governor Olusegun Mimiko-led administration is taking to leverage Ondo State. Excerpts:
In Nigeria’s politics women are severely challenged because of a lack of level playing ground. Is Labour Party showing any worthwhile progressive example to leverage women’s lot?
It is a known fact that women are still not making any significant progress in politics. We already know some of the predicaments women are facing. LP is the most gender-friendly and consistent party in Nigeria. Both the constitution and the manifesto of the party strongly support women participation in politics.
So far it is the only party that has given women positions in the highest decision making body of the party. Most parties play lip service to women participation in politics by not putting in place structures that will support their participation.
LP has built its structure from the ward level to the national to ensure that women are part of the executive and this has given us a voice and opportunity to excel. In most parties there is still the problem of internal democracy and most times women are sidelined.
They don’t even get the opportunity of being delegates when candidates are being chosen. I will encourage women before joining any political party to read their constitution and manifesto; it will help them to make the right decision in choosing a party that will guarantee them equal participation in politics.
As women leader of LP,what has been your strategy in mobilising women to make your party stronger and more popular as well as expanding its present reach?
I just concluded a capacity-building training programme with the zonal and state women leaders of my party on effective networking,leadership,accountability and communication. The workshop was sponsored by the International Republican Institute (IRI). This took me to all the zones of the country and gave me an insight into the challenges, hopes aspirations of the women.
The women are now better equipped to reach out to women within and outside the party in their respective states to encourage them to join the Labour Party.
We also had a summit in Akure, Ondo State recently tagged “The Total Woman”. We used it to bring women together irrespective of their political or religious affiliation;to encourage them to participate in politics. These are some of the advocacy we have done to expose the party to women and youths. I believe come 2015 we will have more women in Labour party.
What are the chances of LP winning the forthcoming election in Ondo State with major defection by LP members to the opposition ACN. What are the party’s survival strategies?
It is not true that there is major defection by LP members to the opposition party. Just some weeks back during Governor Mimiko’s declaration of his intention to run for second term, over 10,000 ACN members decamped to the LP, including Dr.OluAgunloye. The LP family in Ondo State is intact. Believe me, Labour party is Ondo State and Ondo State is Labour Party.
There is really no opposition in Ondo State and this is because of the enormous transformation of the state by the Mimiko-led administration.
Within the last three and a half (3 1/2) years,the governor embarked on development projects to better the lives of Ondo people.
We built the mother and child hospital, a world-class hospital. He started the Abiye programme, all these targeted at reducing maternal mortality and morbidity. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised his efforts and gave him an award.
Today women are no longer dying in Ondo due to pregnancy-related issues. Still on health, he built the Gani Fawehinmi Health Diagnostic centre. On education, he built mega schools and just recently after his visit to Ondo State, the Minister of State for Education decided to launch the ‘Free Book’ programme for the southwest in Ondo State in appreciation of the governor’s giant strides in education.
Ondo students now enjoy free transportation to school and back with the free bus service initiated by the governor. Mimiko-led administration has built roads, regional markets; international automart as well as setting up of an agriculture village where youths are engaged and the AUGA Cattle Ranch and encourages economic empowerment of market women. In a nutshell, every aspect of life has been touched positively by the governor.
Ondo people are very educated, enlightened and politically conscious. They cannot be deceived. They are aware that the so-called opposition have nothing to offer them. They are not sincere and are not true progressives. They are only looking forward to a way expand their empire.
Otherwise, why would any sane person think of distorting the progress and development of the state? I am convinced that come October 20, the Ondo State electorates will give their massive support to Dr. Olusegun Mimiko in appreciation of what he has achieved so far. He’s a man who promised during his inauguration to work for his people and has kept faith with that promise.
Any last words or advice?
I only ask for a free and fair election without violence,ballot box snatching and where they will allow one man, one vote.