Bolanle Ashabi Sarumi-Aliyu aka BASA is the first ever female governorship candidate in Oyo state under the National Interest Party (NIP). In this chat with ENE OSANG, she speaks on her aspiration and experience insisting that money politics marred the chances of most women.
What is your background and how did you join politics?
I was born into the family of Chief Ali Balogun Sarumi; a community leader, businessman, investor and a politician. He was a member of the House of Representatives and Chairman on Science and Technology, representing Ibadan North on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD) party between 1999 and 2003. My mother, Mrs. Jean Balogun Sarumi, is British and Christian by faith while my father is a Muslim.
I am married to a Nigerian husband and with children. I am indeed a typical Oyo woman and I speak Yoruba fluently.
I can say that I was born with a silver spoon, but I would always sell the spoon so that people around me would stand a chance in life. My mum taught me to be confident and bold with the notion of ‘I can be who I want to be.’ We were taught to be humble, honest and also content in life.
Every holiday we would visit our grandparents and I loved every bit of it. I learned business skills from my paternal grandmother. My growing up was around children from poor homes, almost 90 per cent of my friends parents were managing to get by, and I enjoyed playing with them and they were much fun and generous with the little they had. I guess this is when the passion began to build and I decided and even told my mum when I was 10-years-old that I would be the President of Nigeria, so I could ensure no one was too poor to live.
What is your educational background?
I completed both primary and secondary education in Ibadan and my tertiary education was at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, U.K., where I studied Social Policy.
I am the CEO of Bees Bridal Ltd and also Mia Uniform. I founded Childhood Bridge International Initiative and BASA Foundation, both of which are Non-Governmental and Non-Profit making Organisations, crusading to up-lift the less privileged in the society.
I have lived and worked in Nigeria for over 30 years now and have been engaged in various projects and programmes at all levels most especially at the grassroots.
So, your background influenced your joining politics?
Like I said earlier, my dad was a member of the House of Representatives, and a Chairman on Science and Technology, representing Ibadan North on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD) between 1999 and 2003. His popularity within Ibadan metropolis abounds.
When my dad went into politics in the 70s and 80s with Chief Bola Ige, things changed and my dad began to spend all is resources and time on the grassroots and neglected the home, his priority was 90 per cent on politics. He won his elections in 1999 and became a member of the House of Representatives; this was when I joined him and was in the background as his campaign coordinator/strategist.
I learnt a lot from his experiences, he did a lot for the people in our consistency and till date the people say good things about him, which is a good legacy. Even after he left office he continued to support the grassroots and this affected the home. We all had to live a tough life including my English mum, guess this made me stronger and more determined that one day I will end money politics and I would also ensure the system works and provide an enabling environment for the people of Oyo state to thrive in.
When this happens politicians won’t be able to buy votes, for the masses won’t need these pennies again. And the people will not be depending on politicians to provide for all their needs again. That’s when the system is working.
I also supported a female candidate in 2011 that ran for senate with some campaign management but it was at the later stage she lost but got an appointment to be a minister and I became a special assistant on social development in Abuja.
Will you say that your dad’s status as an astute politician has helped your political career?
My dad did very well for the people around him and his constituency during his active days, so politically I learnt a lot from him. I also enjoy people’s goodwill even in places I didn’t think I would be known because of the many lives my father touched back in the days. This has greatly helped me politically and I intend to maintain the good name of the family.
My decision to venture into partisan politics is to serve our nation, encourage and promote gender equality in Nigeria and build a better body of politics.
Do you have your husband’s support?
My husband is fine with what I do because he knows how deep my passion is to serve people. He has been supportive right from onset even with my foundations. He believes Oyo state needs me, especially the women and children.
You are the first female governorship aspirant in Oyo state, what motivated you to join the male-dominated race?
I started this mission in January last year full blown; at first all I did was to promote myself to the people all over Oyo state. I did this for many months even after declaring to be the governor on June 12, 2018; I still didn’t have a political party. I got calls from almost 6 parties, in the end I aligned with the party that is genuinely for the people: National Interest Party with motto: a Nigeria for all. The party leader and founder is a woman, this must have helped my decision. She’s also contesting to be the President of Nigeria. She is Mrs Eunice Eruejide, a very brilliant woman.
I am glad and happy I started this mission, the feedback was very encouraging. Fathers are calling in when I am on radio encouraging me and saying how my victory would encourage their daughters to also aspire to political positions and how they also value the girl-child.
There are many young women I mentor now and it’s growing by the day. I have a foundation called BASA Foundation; I have a mentoring club as well that is expanding daily. I want the girl-child to be proud of herself and thrive to be the best in this life and also impact positively on other lives.
My background and upbringing really helped and shaped my life; parents out there should support their children and make them happy. Let them be who they want to be, don’t force your dream career on them.
Besides having a woman as its leader, what other factors attracted you to the NIP and what are your chances?
My party, the National Interest Party (NIP), we stand a very good chance because the people are fed up of the same old two political parties that have ruled us for decades. People want to try a new party. Oyo state is very good at removing serving governors and we had never allowed second term up until 2015 when the current government got its second term. It’s definitely time for a new party and that will be NIP.
Do you see the Oyo people electing a female governor?
Oyo state politics is a very unique and different from many states. Luck is on my side because my state has never elected a female governor and has never got a female deputy governor, so the time is right.
The women in Oyo state are politically educated and strong women. The fact that a woman is in the governorship race now has boosted their morale and they are all ready to back me. We, Oyo women, back each other so I am not worried, even the men are saying let’s even try a woman because men have been there for decades and they still haven’t been able to touch the masses lives.
Oyo state people don’t care about the gender they just want to elect a governor that will genuinely serve them, this I will do and more so help me God.
How would you assess the year 2018 as it concerns politics and women?
I would say women have been brave and bold this period leading to the 2019 elections. We have a huge increase in female aspirants; however, our parties failed many of us at the primary level. Many women won their primaries but were rigged out. So, we still have a long way to go to ensure women get more chances in elective posts.
What winning strategies would you recommend to prospective female aspirants?
I call them my 3Fs, Fear, Finances and Frivolous offers men in power put to them.
Fear as we all know emanates from the violence associated with our politics. I would advise women not to be afraid anymore for what will be will be and I would rather live a life well spent and do all I dream to do than say “what if”.
Finances have been a challenge to many women and including me, but I am not worried about this because I believe that most of our people have got smarter.
As women, we would support each other and also get support from well-meaning Nigerians, men and women.
Frivolous offers is the second F, personally, I have had some challenges from very old men in politics and I have told them point blank that you mind how you speak to me and don’t even disrespect women around me and I won’t disrespect you too.
So, I think the women have to come out bold and brave for we can’t continue to fold our arms and let the country fail on us. In real sense of things, we are their mothers.
I always tell fellow women not to start if they don’t stand a chance. I also tell them to join a party that will give chance, go from ward to ward and local govt to local govt. Know your people and don’t make promises you can’t fulfil and most importantly don’t practice money politics for so many reasons.
What is your advice to the electorate on the general elections?
Electorates should look out for parties whose policies would be centered more on the people’s welfare and this will cut across improved access to medical care, quality education for all, rapid community development, enhanced security, women and child rights, agricultural revolution etc.
People should not be too poor to live, where poverty levels would be drastically reduced so they can live with the dignity that they deserve as citizens of this great nation.
It is not fair to see families with incomes less than N40,000 having to send two or more kids to school and pay fees in full; hospital bills in full; pay house rents in full; care for their elderly and other relatives that are less privileged; and so on.
Many parents keep more than one job or have both parents and children labouring just to survive consequently, the quality time we ought to give our kids suffer contributing to all manner of waywardness we see in our children today.
The primary role of government is to take care of its people and not to watch them suffer or live in misery.
Electorate should vote for candidates whose manifesto would have direct and positive impact on all citizens and residents irrespective of their gender, religion, culture, class, political affiliation etc.