Vivian Ebele Bello, a journalist and rights activist, who is aspiring to become Nigeria’s president after Presidnet Muhammdu Buhari, speaks to ENE OSHABA on her political journey among others.
When did you join politics and how have you evolved?
Well, I have not exactly been in active politics for long, however, I have been involved in grassroots mobilisation and campaigns on issues that bother on leadership accountability, environment, gender, basic freedoms as well as good governance.
I have campaigned on these issues extensively for years, strengthening the voices of local communities and other vulnerable segments in the society, building their capacity to advocate their Rights as well as for better policies and programmes that would shore up their livingstandard.
What then motivated you into active politics?
My entrance into active politics comes from experiences with these engagements overtime and sadly, seeing that the several alternative policy suggestions and improved leadership and governance standards being pushed for over the years by the citizenry have remained a mirage as little or no gains have been made in that regard.
I, therefore, came into politics knowing that having good grasp of the issues the way I do, and along with clear understanding of what needs to be done and more importantly, having the intellectual and mental capacity to do same, and not be bogged down by the Nigerian leadership disease of godfatherism or cabalism, I am in the best position, with the support of Nigerians, to take on and re-direct the course of leadership of this country towards the path of its real nature, which is greatness.
You could have aspired for any other position, why do you want to be Nigeria’s president?
I am principally in the race to restore functionality to Nigeria, to return Nigeria to the path of functionality. I am out here to see a Nigeria that will work again for Nigerians. Nigerians should be able to go to the hospital to access decent healthcare; mothers do not have to give birth at home and lose their young ones in the course of giving birth.
Nigeria can afford qualitative maternal care for every Nigerian for that matter. Nigerians do not need to spend huge sums of money on medical tourism abroad.
My decision to run for the presidency actually stemmed from the deafening cries of Nigerians, especially women and the young, from virtually across the entire length and breadth of the country, who have been in utter agony from situations and conditions that stem directly from leadership failures; from large-scale abduction of school children, to mass raids and attacks on communities, prompting in some instances whole-community displacement, to kidnappings, rapes, security nightmares, decayed educational system complete with persistent strikes, to widespread unemployment, poverty, intractable inflation, plummet of living standards, environmental crisis across the land, women and young people apparently have become the worse caught up in all these.
The sudden taking to suicide by ingesting snipper and jumping into Lagoon by young people; the reeling of horrific numbers on a daily basis of people killed by the military and security agents; mass-listing of Nigerians, mainly young people on fraud schemes, particularly internet frauds, amongst so many other alarming trends, tell me in clear terms, that there is need for stepping-in, in the leadership of Nigeria to inject sanity into the system.
Many of the anomalies that we are seeing today are in some cases people resorting to self-help and desperate measures, many of which arise from hopelessness. Therefore purposeful leadership is clearly needed in Nigeria to quell the tide of anomalies, the country is fast embracing, and restore the confidence to the citizenry.
I sat down and did a retrospective look across the length and breadth of Nigeria; from the East to the West, from the North to the South and I see a country that is in dire need of restoration. I see a country that is in the trenches of crisis. I hear the cries of women who have lost children in difficult situations, I hear the cries of children who don’t go to school and there are not even sure if they can return to their homes; being abducted en mass. I hear the cries of difficult situations of the ordinary man, the ordinary woman out there, Nigerians go through daily.
I hear the lamentations which seem to be reaching the sky and I feel that the way to a problem is not lamenting, but by actively confronting and tackling the problem particularly if you have the mental and intellectual capacity to do so. That is why I got into the race.
Which political party are you running under and how gender-friendly is the party?
Consultations and talks are still on. It has, however, reached advanced stage, and I will be unveiling my party soon.
The gender-friendliness of a political party is one key factor on my list and the talks and consultations centre around this and a number of other important issues.
How would you describe politics in Nigerian especially as a woman politician?
For the woman, I think the politics in Nigeria is still evolving. Politics in Nigeria hasn’t been as integrating of women as it should be. And so you see a lot of talks around women inclusion in politics in Nigeria, in reality, it still remains, to a large extent, on paper which accounts for the dismal number of women you see in political institutions, especially elective positions in Nigeria.
Are there peculiar challenges you face being a female politician?
Of course there are peculiar challenges for the female in politics in Nigeria. Economic factors seem to top the list, as for some reasons, the Nigerian political climate is unduly monetised, with moneybags settings very high financial stakes in virtually all the processes. A situation that naturally skews out the female gender to a large extent, as their economic capacities in many instances does not match that of the men. This therefore effectively denies the country the opposites of harnessing the excellent leadership potentials of women in bringing about effective national development.
Much as regulating authorities, such as INEC, have recognised and tried to deal with this factor, not much progress has been achieved in the regard.
There are also other peculiar challenges that bother on socio-cultutal gender stereotyping; some people in the society, funny enough, still hold onto that stone-age belief-system that a woman should not lead; her role or place is in the kitchen or the other-room, so to speak. That kind of sentiment is still being held by a significant number of people and this also acts as a push-back for women in politics, in Nigeria.
Whats your take on the rejection of Gender Bills by the National Assembly?
The rejection of the six Gender Bills by the National Assembly is very disappointing. It is a major low in the life and history of this National Assembly and it’s leadership.
It reinforces what I said earlier about the disposition of certain segments of the society towards women and in the case, we can clearly see, that the 9th Assembly in Nigeria, has a problem with given women their due place in the polity.
These incidentally are a bunch of men, who have women as mothers, spouses, children, sisters, and when it matters most for them to stand up for women, they simply choose to display a most shocking level of negativity towards them. Well, as women, we will rise from the dust they have thrown us, we will dust ourselves, we will pick up the gauntlet and we will push on. I know that someday, women will pushdown the wall of gender stereotyping, inequality, in this country. That will happen with my presidency.
On that note, would you say the International Women’s Day was worth celebrating?
Well for me, despite the odds, the International Women’s Day in Nigeria is still worth celebrating. As women, we celebrate ourselves, and I know for certainty, that there are countless number of men out here in Nigeria, who celebrate and value women, immensely.
Women have made giant strides in the annals of Nigeria’s development and continues to do so. It is even courtesy of women, their natural stabilizing factor, that the little level of peace and sanity we still have in this country subsists. Women are absorbing a lot of blows silently from the mis-governance in the country and doing a lot at the background and quietly to stabilize the system. Their role in the socio-economic and political development of the society, cannot be over emphasized. And so at a day like this, I celebrate myself and all women, who are holding it down, for the sake of our children, for the sake of our families, for the sake of our society.
I also celebrate the new 2022 Electoral Act, signed the President, it marks a watershed in the annals of Nigeria’s political development and holds out some ray of hope for electoral integrity as well as for women, in the electoral process in Nigeria.’