Iman Sulaiman-Ibrahim is a new breed politician. She is vying for a seat at the House of Representatives in 2019 to represent Keffi Federal Constituency (Keffi/Kokona/Karu) in Nasarawa State. In this interview with JOSEPH CHIBUEZE, she bares her mind on the way forwardfor politics in Nigeria
At what point did you decide to go into politics?
I didn’t just have a stable and secured childhood, but I was opportune to study and live in the UK for about 15 years. Being fully aware of the rights and privileges of being part of a system that is fully enabled, built by people from sheer hard-work, diligence and dedication. Early in 2016 my son fell sick, we almost lost him, he was 11 years old, he had a flu but it took a different dimension, after 10 days he was partially paralised, within 3-6 hours of diagnosis, my son received the highest level of care any child on planet earth could access. When he went in for surgery at the GOSH London, it was a team of 38 experts from different medical field that he required, From top consultant pediatric neuro surgeons to Pediatric ENT surgeon’s etc. An 11 year old boy!!! I have never seen such level of care in my life and if we was to pay for it, we couldn’t have been able to afford it but due to the fact that we work and pay our taxes, we had access to that level of care for our children. That was when I knew it was time to come back home and get involved with policy making and governance, because there and then I made a promise to The Almighty to dedicate this season of my life to nation building, so every child in Nigeria will be able to access that level of healthcare and also have the opportunity to survive and thrive.
This was when I decided to go into politics fully.
I know it is not going to be easy to actualize our dream of building a society where things work, we just have to start. Collectively we can drive excellence.
There is this perception that politics is a dirty game, do you agree with that?
When dirty and selfish minds play politics, they play dirty. You can only give what you have. When clean, selfless and sane minds take charge and play politics, our politics will then reflect the true people that we are, our Ideologies, principles and values. There’s so much stigma and stereotyping attached to politics especially towards women. However, we must continue to strive to change people’s outlook through enlightenment. We must remember that ideologies, values and principles of the people and political parties set the tone of the political arena.
The politics that I am going into has a total selfless approach, it’s not a do or die affair. I have other business interests, I have other aspirations and goals, and I have a loaded bucket list. If I don’t win a seat, I don’t win, though I will love to win because nobody runs a race to lose, I will do all I can within the law and within my capability to win, but if I don’t win, it is not the end of the world.
People make it do or die and they forget that it is about people; that it is about service and they begin to kill and to insult people, I am not interested in that kind of politics and won’t be a part of such by the grace of God. I will engage in politics that is centred on service. If I get the seat good, if I don’t get the seat, I will find other means to serve and wait for the next four years to try again.
Through your NGO, you are already doing a lot for this country, must you go into full partisan politics to be able to help in building a nation of our dream?
My role as a Co-Founder of The Beehive Initiative and my role as a Honourable Member will not Conflict but rather complement each other.
It will give leverage and access to greater policies and tailored fit interventions for the Constituencies we represent. Allowing room to do much more good for the people.
In this country, we have everything that it takes for everybody to survive and thrive but we must zero in completely, raise the bar and leave the spirit of compromise and selfishness out of the equation.
Our Political Arena is hungry for people with strong character that are selfless, diligent and dedicated. It’s not enough to complain, criticise and speculate. We must ACT. As it’s getting more difficult and challenging for us to catch up with the rest of the world. We have lost many eras, the industrial era, the technological era, now we are struggling to tap into the information era which is phasing out.
How do you see women participation in politics in Nigeria?
The Interest and participation of women in the Nigerian political terrain will see a surge in the 2019 elections. We are aware that we must play our role in nation building to complement the male dominated solution angles. Predominantly, the occupants of this country are women, so also we own the greater chunk of the problem, which we must be given the opportunity to offer solution for. The problems that is Emerging from our low participation and representation outweighs the challenges faced by women in politics. That is why we need more women in politics to make room for gender friendly policies which will enhance productivity.
How do you ensure justice and fairness if you don’t have the most populous people on this planet contributing to policies? You cannot decide for me what I need as a woman. Do you know what I need? Of course you don’t. So you can’t have balance in policy and decision making. What that means is that you are going to be leaving a lot of problems unsolved and as long as those problems are not solved, we cannot achieve the kind of development we desire.
To build this nation, we need balance in governance. I urge women that no matter how challenging it is, we have to be actively involved in politics. We are not there to challenge the men but to back them up, compliment their efforts so that we can achieve all our set goals as a nation.
Besides the challenge of finance, there is also the issue of patriarchy, the men feel they should always be on top, and also key/ sole decision makers every time they remind you that you are a woman.
It is not a contest, we are there to back them up with what they cannot see.
An aspirant was speaking and he said he is going to look after women and youths. I asked him what about children? Someone in the gathering said, when you take care of women and youths, children are covered.
I said no. absolutely wrong. I told them that the needs of the child is totally different from the needs of women and youths- Our children need baby food factories, they need pediatric care facilities in the hospital, they need an early learning plan and teachers, a play ground, children Libaries, and so on. Women need their own things, factories for Sanitary Care, empowerment programmes, community development centers, child care structures, libraries and so on. The youths need their own things as well, they need jobs, career workshops, sporting facilities and finances and grants and so on. You cannot say that when you take care of women and youths, the child is covered. It is wrong and we must get it right now otherwise the world will leave us behind.
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