Mrs. Noimot Salako-Oyedele, running mate to the Ogun State All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial candidate, Prince Dapo Abiodun, may be new to partisan politics, but she is obviously not a push over. An engineer with about thirty years foreign and local experiences in the private sector, Salako-Oyedele, in this interview with Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor, explains how she intends to add value to the next administration in the Gateway State if the APC wins the next governorship election.
THERE are so many versions of the story of how you emerged as he deputy governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ogun State. Can we here straight from the horse’s mouth?
Following his victory at the primary election and his subsequent emergence as the governorship candidate of our great party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), my principal, Dapo Abiodun, had to get himself a viable running mate. The expectations were high, as such party leaders got talking about who the deputy governorship candidate should be. A lot of factors were being considered as the search continued.
Eventually, the leadership of the party and the candidate agreed that the position be zoned to my Local Government Area, Ado-Odo-Ota. Also, it was made clear that a Muslim was needed because the governorship candidate is a Christian. And you will understand that in our part of the world, we do well to balance all these factors whenever we are talking about politicos and governance.
Let me make this very clear, I am in this race prepared. It wasn’t forced on me. I was interested because I have always wanted to be in a position where I could contribute my ideas to running the government so that I will bring to the table the things I have been turning over and over in my head over the years. I have always been interested in how our common patrimony is being used for the people.
It was a good thing I got to know of the search for a Muslim running mate from my part of the state. So, I went for it. I put in my curriculum vitae and told those who should know. Quite a number of us were interested and eventually we were shortlisted to six eligible aspirants. We were invited for a screening session. We had interviews and then there was voting. After everything, I was announced the deputy gubernatorial candidate of our party.
What was your initial reaction on being confirmed as the running mate to Dapo Abiodun?
My initial reaction was relief. I knew all along that I am well qualified for the post. I am also very passionate about people. An opportunity I have always wanted presented itself and I went for it. Fate, providence and destiny also played significant roles in it all. It was a process that took about two months of hoping and waiting. And in all those two months, I was thinking and praying about it all. Wishing that I will get the chance to do the things I have always wanted to do.
It was a time to wait and dream. And as I dreamt of the things I will contribute to good governance if I am selected, I will also step back when I remember that numerous others want the same opportunity. There was uncertainty but I was optimistic I can be the person to be given the chance. No doubt, I was on edge too. Especially after the interview. I remember somebody telling me as I entered that ‘oh, you are the number six aspirant.’ I almost fainted. I repeated the ‘number six’ like three times.
But I composed myself and gave my best at the interview session. I felt I did well but it was left for the panel to decide. I had to wait while they compared notes. So, when eventually they said I was the one nominated, I felt really relieved that Thursday night. I went home relieved and partly fulfilled. I was no longer anxious. Rather, I had my eyes already on the tasks ahead as I join my principal to seek the mandate of the good people of Ogun State.
However, by the next morning, I had received over hundreds of calls, messages and visits. My face was being splashed on all the newspapers and blogs here and there. You put my name on Goggle and all sorts of stories are there about ordinary me who, before then, used to be a very private person! That was when it dawned on me that I was in proper and the expectations of people from me hit me and I became challenged by the tasks ahead. No doubt, I am ready to live up to these expectations.
Why did you accept the offer to run considering the crisis trailing the ticket at the time?
I accepted because it is something I have always wanted to do. As I told you, I presented myself for the job. I heard about it and I told myself it is something I can do. So, when it was offered to me, I gladly accepted because I want an opportunity to help do so many things right in our dear state. I have been an armchair critic for long. I have seen many things not being done right. I have not had this opportunity before now, maybe I would have done this long before now.
But while criticising the things I thought were not being done right, I had my plans. I was always thinking about how it would be done if I am opportune to be in a position to contribute to policy formulation and implementation. For me, this is a case of preparedness meeting opportunity. I am well prepared for this job. I am educated enough; exposed enough; qualified enough and I have had a career that equipped me. Then, the opportunity came and I went for it.
Have you been in politics before now?
No. I haven’t really been much of a partisan politician before now. But I have always exercised my civic rights to vote. Even whenever I am abroad, I ensure I carry out my civic responsibilities on election days. I didn’t have politicians in my nuclear family. My dad was a thoroughbred professional. I have some of my extended family members being council chairmen and the likes. A cousin of mine is the immediate past federal legislator that represented our constituency here.
Would you say women are getting what they deserve in politics and governance today?
More women are engaged in political activities. You go everywhere and you see that women are the larger number of party loyalists and canvassers. At campaigns, it is the women who are more actively involved on the field, singing and dancing. They are the strength of the parties. But when it is time for representation in governance, we make use of less number of women. These are the things I have discovered.
There are reasons for this. Women are limited by certain factors. One of such is finance. Not many women have the financial wherewithal to really participate at certain level politically. They are checkmated by finance at some stage and the men take such opportunity to move ahead and grab the position. Secondly, not many women have the mind and the strength to stand shoulder to shoulder with men when it comes to dragging political positions
The mere fear of the violence men can unleash will frighten some women and they will opt out. It is not every woman who can go all the way when violence is introduced into politics. But the men will go all the way. Men can withstand more violence than we women. In such situation, women are forced to step aside and this is one factor that militates against women a lot.
But I tell you, when the factors are based largely on merit, women do pretty well. Women can stand their own anywhere when it is about merit. Check the civil service and see how women are holding their own effectively. It is not a competition between men and women. We are saying if merit is applied in politics more than brute force and big pockets, more women will do well.
Also, women need to be more pushful than they are now. The opportunities are there. The men are not holding us down. If we push and ask to be given opportunities, many men will support us. When we come out like I did, to say, ‘here we are, send us’, the system will look our way and give us more opportunities. But as it is today, women are still being limited. I am hoping my candidature will open the doors for more women to come aboard.
If elected, do you think the Dapo Abiodun administration will allow women to flourish in politics?
Very strongly, I believe his administration will create more rooms for us women. Already, he has shown he is not gender-biased. Among six people; four men and two women, I was nominated as his running mate. It is a sign that he will not discriminate against women. And he has even professed his readiness to allow merit to determine who gets what in his administration.
Even now, as we seek the peoples’ mandate, he tells everyone that I am significant in his team. He is surrounded by a lot of competent people and there are a lot of women among these people already. I see in him a man who recognises efficiency. I am not surprised. He is a successful entrepreneur in the private sector, so he must have worked with a lot of competent women.
We will not be in government for the women alone. We will be in government for everybody. Women are, however, special and I will do all I can to propagate more roles for women within and outside government. If you check Dapo Abiodun’s mission statement, it states clearly that women will receive special attention from him. Programmes like ‘Okowo Dapo’, a free interest loan scheme and others like it, will put smiles on the faces of our women once we are elected.
Spare tyres are very important. I am sure you have a spare tyre in your car as you drove all the way here from Lagos. I doubt if anybody will embark on a journey from here to Abuja without a spare tyre in the booth. I say it is not derogatory to call deputies spare tyres. In my case, my principal made it clear he wants an active running mate who will add value to the ticket and the government.
He said he wants somebody to form a solid team with, so as to take Ogun out of the woods when we get elected. The meaning is that I am going to be a very active spare tyre. I won’t mind that at all. It will be interesting to work with someone who understands the use to which he can put an active spare tyre like me. Already, I have been a very good spare tyre for him as we campaign. I have represented him at some places and he got good reports. I think he is happy to have me as his spare tyre.
So far, how will you describe your experience in politics?
I will start by admitting that my life is not the same again. A lot of things have changed about me surprisingly. Since joining Dapo Abiodun on the ticket, I have been dragged out of my privacy into the public to feel the pulse of the people and relate with them better. I can now sing, dance and speak in Yoruba language for a long length of time unlike I used to do before. And I am enjoying it all.
Very importantly, I have gone round the state the way I have never done before, and I have seen things I have never noticed before. I have a very strong sense of despair for what our people have had to endure all these years. The people of Ogun State, especially the people at the grassroots, need urgent help. We must do all we can to bring succour to these people. Life is really hard for our people.
Infrastructure is in dire state and the people lack basic amenities in most parts of the state. Health, education, roads, name it, are all in need of attention. Campaigning round the state was an eye opener and one is able to understand why our people are eager for a better government. I am saddened by what I have seen and challenged by the tasks ahead. We have a lot to do.
We have a task of bringing hope to these seemingly hopeless situations across the state. The people received us well. They told us their needs. They pleaded that we must come to their aid. They want a new direction that will give them hope and they are trusting us to bring about this new direction. They are ready and eager to vote for us on March 2nd. We also must be prepared to meet their expectations.
People need to feel the impact of government. Beyond what we see in the cities, the ordinary people of Ogun State in the rural areas need to be shown there are some people at the helms of the affairs of government. Currently, they feel no impact of the governments. These are things we will urgently go about addressing once we take office. My principal is as eager to touch the lives of the people as I am.
The task is daunting but I am sure we have the right attitude and intentions and those are the things that matter. We will work with all and sundry to bring about the much needed changes and I believe the good people of Ogun State will be the greatest beneficiaries of this struggle we have embarked on. Our state is a state of many firsts. We shouldn’t be backward. Today, our youths are languishing around the towns and villages without hope for the future. We want to change this narrative.
We will bring in new sets of skills from our various backgrounds to complement what the civil servants have on ground. That way, we will achieve more results and touch more lives. We will learn from the civil servants, they will learn from us and that way, the state will witness a better administration.
From the private sector, what new things are you bringing into governance?
Government is a continuum, as such we intend to continue the good things being done while introducing a lot of new things that will further bring about the desired results. We will work with the civil servants. I want to assure you that I will bring my experiences to bear on the administration. My principal is also a well grounded private sector player. We will work for Ogun State, and together, we will change the narratives.