WHY SOME FEMALE POLITICIANS DONT HAVE STABLE FAMILY LIFE
– Honourable Ayo Omidiran
The lawmaker, representing Ayedaade, Irewole, Isokan Federal Constituency of Osun State, Mrs. Ayo Omidiran, shares her views about lawmaking with JOHN AMEH
Politicians love meetings a lot. Why?
It is because politicians play politics with people and politics essentially is about people. So, politicians need to share ideas with people for them to be able to do all the necessary things. That is why we always hold meetings, day and night.
And the meetings don’t affect family?
They do. It is one of the reasons you see some people, especially women, don’t have a stable family life. Playing politics at a certain level disrupts the family setting. But, if a woman has a stable family, grown-up children and an understanding husband, politics is very easy.
This means the meetings create tension in the house, especially for the married?
I have been fortunate. My children are grown-ups; I don’t have kids that I have to look after in the house. My husband understands the intricacy of politics. Even if I don’t want to go to some late-night meetings, he will encourage me to go. Usually, I may be the only woman at such meetings. He will ask me, ‘If you are not there, how will you contribute? If they want a feminine angle, you have to be there to fit in.’ I can’t recall a time that meetings created any tension in my home.
There were about 27 women in the 7th Assembly. Today, the number is 20. What happened?
It worries not only me, but all the women. This means that the (political) space is getting tighter for women to contribute to the society through politics. We have been trying as much as possible to use other means to get into leadership positions. For instance, our Committee on Women in Parliament is sponsoring some amendments to the 1999 Constitution to help in that regard. I won’t let the cat out of the bag yet. But when the time comes, we will do the needful.
Don’t you think the reason may be that the women in the House have not been spectacular in terms of performance?
Honestly, we do not assess ourselves because we come from different constituencies. Your constituents must have something that they like about you before they choose you to represent them. So, no honourable member has the right to assess another person. It’s unfair for one representative to criticise or try to assess another. It’s not always about bills and motion sponsorship and contributions at plenary or during meetings of committees. Some constituents don’t really look at these things before they say their representative is doing well. People have different criteria. I am only glad that my people appreciate my contributions and other things that I do in the constituency and the attention I give to them. It is the business of the constituency to decide how the people want to be represented.
Tell us briefly about your passion for sports.
I grew up knowing that I just loved sports. I really don’t know how and when it started. Back then in primary school, I used to be the only girl playing football with the boys during break. I never saw myself different from boys. I did all sorts of sports; I raced and played volleyball.
You were the Deputy Chairman, Committee on Sports in the 7th House, but today you do not chair any committee.
You will realise that today, I am not even deputising any committee chairman. It was the politics of the inauguration (of the 8th House) that caused it. You will see that I am not the only person affected. This has not stopped me from contributing to the advancement of sports. The committees that I am a member of appreciate my contributions and they don’t take my participation lightly.
When you say the politics of inauguration, what did you mean?
I was in a different camp. We were the loyalists of the party (APC); we obeyed the party to the end and that affected a lot of things.
Why do members address you as the Speaker’s (Yakubu Dogara) ‘princess’ and he couldn’t ignore the politics and allow you to chair a committee?
You have to ask the Speaker. I am sure he will have something to say about it. But, I did not feel or have any hostility towards them. If I were in the shoes of the leadership, I would not do it that way. If you want something and God has given it to you, you should not play God. If you are a leader and you want the best result, you have to put the best people there. And we have a lot of competent people. So, it’s not like there are no other choices. It was being vindictive.
At 53, you look attractive. How do you handle male admirers?
My name is ‘Ayo’ and in Yoruba it means joy. So, I am always looking happy. To be able to give joy to people, I have to be joyful. Most of the time, the attractive looks you are talking about is the grace of God. I do not see it as anything. In fact, sometimes, good looks can be a minus. As a young woman, a lot of people just looked at me and all they saw was a pretty face, not wanting to know the stuff I was really made of. So, people get surprised whenever they engage me and realise that God has also given me a good brain. However, among men, I feel comfortable. Men seem to instinctively know their boundaries around me. They are happy to be my friend and they do not try to go any further. Besides, I always let people know that I am married and that I have a good marriage.
So, if they cross the line, how do you handle them?
You can hardly stay with me for 30 minutes before you know that I am a happily married woman. I am always referring to my husband. My husband is important to me in all areas of my life. So, there is nothing you engage me with that I will not refer to him in one way or another.
So, your husband is a capable man all round and there is nothing he is not handling well?
I have known him for 30 years and we have been married for 28 years plus. We have become friends. The children too have grown and they are very close. No secrets in my family. We discuss everything and apply the principles of democracy. Even when daddy and mummy are not agreeing on an issue, we seek the opinion of the children and we discuss. With this type of family for close to 30 years, there is nothing else that I will look for outside, except trouble.
Who is the strict one between you and your husband?
I am the disciplinarian. Daddy (my husband) is very soft with all the children. I draw the line for the children, whereas daddy draws the line for me.
In your school days, were you the ‘bubbling’ type?
Yes; school was fun for me. I played volleyball at the university. Although I was studying Biochemistry, a very demanding course at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, I would leave in the morning to study and later go to the laboratory. From the lab, I would go straight to the field instead of returning to the hostel. Weekends were interesting; I used to party a lot. I tell parents to allow their children to have fun, especially girls. Let them mix, go out and see things. It will make them stable (and) when they get married.
Your mates must have given you some funny names for being a ‘happening’ campus babe?
Yes; a lot of them used to call me ‘Ayus’. I remember that in my first year, I got involved with students’ union activities and won an election to become the secretary of Queen Amina Hall. Back then, I campaigned for Shehu Musa Yar’Adua (elder brother to late President Umaru Yar’Adua), who was our president then. I delivered Queen Amina Hall to him. He too is late now. Thereafter, my colleagues started calling me ‘First Lady.’ So, it was either Ayus or first lady.
What do people say they would hardly see you doing?
You will hardly see me disparaging people; spreading rumours or deliberately telling lies, I don’t do those. But, I will drop everything to watch football. I am addicted to the game.
Are you a fan of any club?
I am a Manchester United fan. I have been their fan since 1993. Locally, I support Prime FC; that is the Osun football club. For the ladies, I used to run a female football club. But, when I could no longer run it, I started supporting Osun Babes.
There are insinuations that all is not well in the APC. Tell us about that.
Well, we have issues. I will not lie to you. It is not only because of the many alliances in the party. Some defining lines are there, but some people that belong to one alliance have shifted to another part. But, let me tell you that having problems in political parties is not solely due to mergers. The problems of a single entity like PDP are much more than what APC is going through. Regardless of the differences, we are still APC. You haven’t seen ‘New APC’ or ‘Old APC’. Whatever we are going through is internal. Anybody that wants to leave APC can leave to join another party. I can’t say that there won’t be people leaving or there will be no people coming into APC before 2019.
So, it won’t be surprising to see Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Governor Rauf Aregbesola and you move to another party?
No! Move to where? We are not moving anywhere. We are the APC. We can’t move to any other party. Move how? We are the authentic APC. Anybody that wants to go can go. But we will remain in APC as members of APC. We are not going anywhere.
What is the first thing one sees in your wardrobe?
The first thing you see when you open my wardrobe is comfort. I dress for comfort. I am not a stickler for what is in vogue. I won’t call myself fashionable because I just dress to suit myself. I do not believe in extravagance. There are so many things I can do with money than to waste it. I thank God that even with my normal ankara, I get a lot of compliments from people. I can buy a quality handbag and carry it for five years. I buy quality shoes that can carry me for as long as they can carry me before I change them. It will be an overkill to dress like a peacock.
What is that food that you probably will not share with someone?
There is no food I can’t share because I will make sure that I have enough. I love to eat beans. I eat beans and plantain – it used to be fried plantain, but now with age, I eat beans and boiled plantain more often. I love sea food but my number one food remains beans. Amala and ‘draw’ soup – whether ewedu, okra, mixed with vegetables – come next.
– Copyright PUNCH.