Elizabeth Agbese Egunbe, from Igumale, Ado local government area of Benue State, is a young woman seeking to make an impact in her community. In this interview with RUTH TENE NATSA, she says that old political leaders will lead to an obsolete government and calls for innovative minds to take over from the old generation.
What changes do you seek as 2019 elections approach?
The older generation have done their bit and a time comes when power has to shift. And I think this is the right time because young people are more energetic and have the know-how on how to go about these things. If they remain in government, government becomes obsolete; as such, we need new hands, innovative minds and a newer generation.
Aside the energy you boast of, what do you have to offer that the older generation are unable to give, considering the popular saying, the older, the wiser?
I hope to partner with non-governmental organisations to bring developmental projects to my area. The allowances given to legislators sometimes, does not get to the people directly, but with the help of these NGOs, you can actually help the communities with what they deserve. I actually run a charity organisation where I reach out to the elderly (aged). I am from a disadvantaged area with lots of old people not well taken care of, and so, at the end of every year, we reach out to them with blankets, slippers and even soya bean to help supplement their nutrition, among other things and we hope to do more for them.
One would wonder that as a young person, your target programmes are to the aged. What plans do you have for the youths in your constituency?
I have a programme for the less privileged in my area. In Benue State, public schools have been closed for sometime, not completely though, but teachers are not being paid. As a result, they are not working and if you ask them, they tell you they are hungry and cannot teach with hungry stomachs. Most of the schools are dilapidated. I can tell you authoritatively, that there is no school in my constituency with an ICT centre, so you can imagine the crop of children being groomed. They have no computer education and are not well taught because the teachers are not doing their jobs. So, I am planning to give incentives to young graduates such as NCE and diploma holders so they can stay in the village and teach these children.
What other ways are you planning to raise funds aside the projected constituency allowance?
I am looking at constituency development funds as well as liaising with NGOs to bring in funds. I will also use personal funds. I hope to build ICT centres in each of the five districts of Zone A, including Utonkon, Ulayi, Igumale, Igigbam and Agila, five districts and 10 wards. So, if I can get a centre in each of the districts where the children can come and learn, it will go a long way.
Can you tell us some of the challenges you encountered as a young female candidate seeking for political office?
As a young girl, I was looked down on. Many believed I could not, especially in comparison to my opponents who had huge financial resources; it seemed to many I was just testing my popularity. But I clinched the ticket to my party winning 521 against 282 to my opponent.
Where you sexually harassed in any form?
What would you say are the key challenges women suffer while running for public office?
The stereotypes of people believing that women in politics are promiscuous, is not true, because I have been in this for about a year and have never been harassed, either by my party chairman, states or national executives or any one. Not by text messages or body language.
In 2019, what will be your strategies in engaging voters?
I am going to be working on door-to-door campaigns.
You said you had spent over N2.5m for the primaries, how much do you envisage to spend through the elections and how do you get your funds?
I envisage spending about N10m. So far, my sources of funds have been family and friends as well as personal savings.
What gives you the confidence to seek for a leadership position?
Truth is my people are tired of other parties and are willing to give me a chance. Just today, I got a call from one of the traditional rulers who said they had been following my track record in the Home Feeding Programme, which had helped me recruit a number of women and those women are willing to support and canvass votes for me. So, he is optimistic that if I could do that without vying for office, I would do much more given the chance to serve.
Give us a background on your academic qualifications
I read Economics at Benue State University and have a Post graduate Diploma in Business Managment, which is still in view.
Would you trust whatever result the INEC announces?
No, I would not. We know some parties are ready to rig. The smaller parties are on ground working, but what are the larger parties doing? Right now we have CSOs monitoring these elections and we hope that the INEC will be truthful. They should not see the government in power as the ultimate but should give opportunities to the younger generation to bring in what they have for the development of the nation. It should not be about parties now but about individuals.
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