Honourable Atinuke Bello, the current Chief Whip of the Ogun State House of Assembly, is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Odogbolu Constituency for this year’s general election. She speaks, in this interview, on the forthcoming polls, APC’s chances in the state, challenges as a female politician, among other things. BOLA BADMUS brings excerpts:
A few weeks to the presidential election, what is your take on the likely outcome of the poll in Ogun State?
The APC candidate, Senator Bola Tinubu, will win in Ogun State with a very wide margin. Even the people in the main opposition are not campaigning for their presidential candidate; they are only campaigning for the governorship candidate. Here in Ogun State, we have a governor that is capable and campaigning for his presidential candidate.
Also, our senatorial candidate, Chief Gbenga Daniel, is from my constituency. The former governor is campaigning for Tinubu. We are winning the election hands down.
Don’t you think the failure of the APC to fulfill campaign promises will affect Tinubu’s chances?
Politics is local. When Tinubu was governor of Lagos State, even without the revenue of the state not being given to the state, he did so well. In fact, he raised the revenue of Lagos State; he raised it to a point that till now, the standard has not been met by any state.
Tinubu is tested and trusted. He is a man with ideas, a man that knows what to do at the right time to make things work. Why would Nigerians leave such a man and vote for a man that failed at the federal level? Tinubu was tested at the state level and he did so well there. We expect him to do more at the federal level with the resources that would be at his disposal.
He created the LCDAs in Lagos and they are still there. Lagos State has local government autonomy and that is something that differentiates that state from others. I know that in these coming elections, people are going to vote for personality and what you have achieved rather than the parties.
What are the chances of the state governor, Dapo Abiodun, against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, Ladi Adebutu?
There is no opposition in Ogun State. Talking about competence, we need a person who did well as a professional. If you say Ladi is popular in Ogun, I will say no. If you say his father is popular, I will say yes. We don’t want a man that wants to ride on the achievements of his father to be our governor; we want a man who has been tested, a man who has recorded achievements in his private life, someone who has competence and has shown capacity. To be governor of Ogun State is not a family entitlement; it is not a family inheritance. It is the collective decision of the people of this state.
So, someone cannot say because of my father, I want to be this. We want capacity and character, which Abiodun has shown as a manager in his private life, which he has shown as a father and a husband. Dapo Abiodun is a good father and a good husband. Let’s see what he (Ladi) has done when he was elected to a lesser position earlier. Is it about carrying the family name up and down? No. It is about competency and capacity.
What has been your experience as a female politician in Nigeria?
It has been challenging. There are men who think intimidating a woman makes them feel great. We face constant checking by men in our decision making. It has been very challenging and interesting as well. The challenges have been keeping us going in the discharge of our duties.
According to statistics, there is a reduction in the number of women contesting the 2023 polls, compared to the 2019 figure. What do you think is responsible for this?
The reduced number of women contesting the 2023 polls is due to all the things that women see on the field. You just want to get out of it and say I am doing this no more.
You know, Nigerian traditions and culture support domination by males. Most females don’t want to stay in a place where their voice doesn’t count. Most females don’t want to stay in a place where they are always challenged. If you are not strong-willed and careful, you may end up breaking down emotionally and losing it.
Also, as a female, you have the task of being in public office and taking care of your family. Taking care of yourself, as a woman, is a job on its own; you have to dress properly. Men don’t care. When they wear shirts and trousers, they are good to go. But women take more time. We have several things that are limiting our participation in politics. If the political environment is not too conducive for females to participate, they may end up giving up and going back to their shells. It takes a tough woman to say I want to carry on.
That is why when some of us get tickets, a man would just come and take it away. I had a similar experience in my local government area but we thank God for where we are today. To succeed as a female politician, you must have a husband that is very understanding. Matching the home front work and the political work is not easy. But you must have a husband that would understand you and know when you are tired. Taking care of the children is not your responsibility alone, you need help. The challenges are what make a woman want to go crazy and give up.
How far have you gone in your re-election campaign to ensure victory?
We have been doing stakeholders consultations. Thank God it has been great. We’re talking to wards, and everybody around. We have done the first flag-off of the governor; we are carrying out the local government campaign flag-off. Very soon, we will be doing the door-to-door campaign.
People have been responsive to the cause and we thank God for that. We have done a lot of things. We have done souvenir, awareness programmes. We have our posters. The things we are telling them are things they can see; our people have been responsive to a very large extent. The reception has been great. So, we are positive of winning the election.
What have been your achievements as the representative of your consistency in the House of Assembly?
Let me start from the little things we have done before talking about what we have influenced into the local governments.
When we came into office, we were able to erect boreholes into several places in my constituency. We have been able to build toilets for garages and major markets in the wards in my constituency. We have been able to reroof health centres which were in bad shape.
For the back-to-school programme, we have 13 students whose school fees we pay per term. These are people who are not financially buoyant. We have a programme under which we distribute free books and uniforms to students. There was a time we distributed chairs to schools. We have done electricity installation in communities; we have sunk boreholes in several communities. We have facilitated two blocks of classrooms in Odogbolu. We also facilitated transformers in Odogbolu.
In my local government area, we gave a whole building of classrooms in the Catholic School. We have done solar installation in most parts of my constituency. At the Comprehensive High School, we also facilitated blocks of classrooms. We facilitated transformers in communities among several other projects that space cannot allow us to mention here.
Is there any particular project that you are passionate about if you win re-election?
Yes, that is major empowerment of women in my constituency and maintaining existing projects.