Nigerian leaders fuel division with ethnicity, religion



Lady Yemi Mahmud-Fasominu is the Ondo state Commissioner of Women Affairs and Social Development, and a delegate at the ongoing national conference. In this interview with ENE OSANG she blamed leaders for promoting division in the country, and called for states to be strengthened in order to tackle pressing needs of its citizens.

What is your take on President Goodluck Jonathan’s speech at the conference?
I want to commend Mr. President for his ability in making the confab a reality because some Nigerians thought that it would not see the light of the day. I am very hopeful that something good will come out of the conference because it is much more than sitting down for three months to discuss Nigeria, but the decision’s reached must be given priority by the National Assembly making sure it constitute a large part of the constitution. We all believe that if Nigeria must change, we must discuss issues that concerns Nigeria and Nigerians, if the constitution is amended it must take into consideration of all Nigerians that is it must be all encompassing and this confab will not be complete if at the end of the day decisions reached are not entrenched in the constitution and that is why the idea of a referendum is very important.

Some Nigerians have seen no need for the confab if all decisions are still subjected to approval by the National Assembly what is your take on that?
The National Assembly is the law making body of Nigerian and we are all Nigerians we are working together, I give kudos to Mr. President for asking the people to talk about the issues and how to move forward. You cannot divorce the constitution from the people and the people should be allowed to realize their thoughts and say this is how the constitution should be, and I want to believe that is the essence of this confab. People have been drawn from all works of life in Nigeria to represent the people of Nigeria and we have even gone farther in this confab to ask for memoranda from the people so that we can come together and harness our thoughts because a lot of things is happening in our country today that we don’t like, we are all aggrieved. Nigeria is like a weak roof that can collapse anytime that is why this confab is very timely. We are not competing with the NASS but at the end of the day whatever conclusions we arrive at would be placed before them to look at it and the constitution would be made to favour all.

Do you agree that  the major problem in Nigeria today is religion and ethnicity?
Obviously we have over 400 ethnic groups in Nigeria, we are divers in culture, language and even in our ways of life but then, this is not the only country where we have divers cultures. I don’t believe our problem is about religion or ethnic group but our leaders, because they have captitalised on ethnicity and religion to make sure that they fuel division in Nigeria so that a few people can enjoy the resources of this nation. The problem is not about ethnicity because we have been living together rather, it is the insincerity of our leaders that is causing division. People are not angry because they are Hausa or Yoruba, they are angry because over 70% are poor and don’t have food on their table , their is unemployment and leaders have refused and failed to provide the basic needs that we need to move the country forward.

Would this confab solve all these problems you have mentioned?
We are laying all these on the table, the youths are saying that they have been cheated and If this country must be one, this is the Nigeria of their dream and this is what we want. The women are also saying they are integral part of this nation and why should their be violence against women, why should their be child labour, why should there be rape and the government is not doing anything about it. We are saying that if we must continue to be together in this country we must come together and discuss.

Youths are not happy with the composition of delegates saying the older delegates contributed to Nigeria’s problem. Do you think it was wise for them to be included?
The elderly people have been role players in the development of Nigeria and they are the active players in the governance of Nigeria and I want to believe that they contributed to our problems. If you are 50-75 years and you have not been able to proffer solution to Nigeria and you are still here well, we still need them to be there because we have to depend on history to be able to talk about the present and proffer solution to the future. The truth is our elders failed us because they were there when things were happening, they contributed to what happened now among them we have leaders, among them we have people who deliberately prevented things to happen in Nigeria but I want to say they need to be there so that we discuss, and am happy that some of them has affirmed the fact that they contributed largely to what is happening in Nigeria and some have even apologized to Nigerians for what they did but what we are saying now is that we should move forward to have a new, united and strong Nigeria. We should also try to express our anger in the most civilized manner no matter how bitter we are so we can see how we can in the spirit of give and take move forward.

What issues have your state mandated you to present and what are your expectations concerning them?
Ondo state is participating in this conference as part of Nigeria and the basic thing we want is the unity of Nigeria. We believe there can’t be unity if there is insecurity, and there are also some key issues like the issue of concentration of power for example, the issue of federalism are the key issues listed to be discussed at the confab and we believe in Ondo state that the power at the federal level should be weakened so that the state will have strength.

If the state have strength for example Ondo state will be able to cater for the teeming unemployed youths we are even saying that if we can as a country begin to look inward to see what potentials in my state or your state and ask how can I develop my state and all that so that attention will concentrate on the state. If we can do this we have a period of jettison for about 5,6,10 years from now to allow each state develop on their own and be on their own we can now have our destinies in our hands and we would be able to plan for our youth, women and how to develop our state based on the natural resources that we have, these are the issues that we want to bring to the table and discuss.
Power is too concentrated at the federal level what am saying is that state should be the federating units, what I mean by that is that we have 36 states in Nigeria so we should have 36 federating units. The states should be the unit to take care of all its citizens at the local government level at the state level. Let the states determine what happens at all strater of the state.

How are you presenting the issues of women especially the Ondo state women?
Other state women cannot be different from Ondo state women, the women are 50% population of Nigeria and and we are demanding gender equality. There are so many issues, we are talking about 35% affirmative action  that has not been passed, we are saying if we must live together if we don’t have women we can’t live here, we are Nigerians and we want to be part of those that bring development to Nigeria.

If you look at women in position today you will agree with me that they perform better because women are psychologically prepared to make things right so if women are at the hem of affairs things would have probably been right and all these problems we have now will have solution. Women should be given the right to participate in governance we have very few women in institution of authority, we have few women who have been given appointment either at the federal, state and local government level and we want more women in governance. I don’t have any rift with men, we are not competing they have been at the centre of affairs but women are coming up now and we want them to give us chance to move forward.

We are also talking about the issue of child trafficking, all these things affects the women because they are mothers of these children, women are the mothers of rapped children, they are mothers of children killed in the north, and all these evil perpetrated affect the female group more. Violence against women, child abuse/trafficking and we are saying there should be special courts for women to treat cases of rape, because most females that are rapped cannot come to professional courts to report for fear of stigmatization.

In Ondo state we have family courts where cases of child abuse is been treated like if you feel as a child that your parents have abused you, you can come to that court and we discuss. And through this some parents have been sentenced, some families have been brought together through the interventions of the family courts so we are saying that in Nigeria there should be special courts for women where cases of violence against women especially the case of rape is treated because the majority of rape victims settle out of courts some of the men even settle the parents with money and what happens to the future of that child whom the trauma will live with. So these special courts is to allow these victims express their minds freely with been exposed to the professional courts also most of them refuse to go to the hospital for check because of stigmatization and after three days if there is no medical report your case cannot stand the test of time but in the court there must be a private arrangement where people that are raped are tested so that perpetrators of that evil are brought to justice as a matter of fact, I want to recommend castration for men that rape girls.

Why do you think there is foot-dragging by the law makers in the punishment for rapists?
It is because of Nigeria, it is because of the nature of our law makers people are insensitive to the plight of others and that is one of our major problems in Nigeria. This is not the first time we are talking about the issue of having special courts for women, or violence against women, we have been talking about it but am happy that Nigeria is trying to define a new Nigeria and I want to believe that this confab will give birth to a new Nigeria and if that must happen all these issues must be discussed.
Some Nigerians have said the confab is just Mr. President’s way of winning the hearts of Nigerians towards the 2015 election. Do you agree?

Whatever people think for me as a person I believe that it is a way forward, and it is very important for Nigeria to think about Nigeria and have key interest in what  has been happening in the last few years, and if you are there at the hallow chambers you will see the magnitude of inconsistency, injustice that is happening in Nigeria. since people are bearing their minds I believe the law makers and government are human, the world will judge us if having listen to all the issues in Nigeria and we reach a decision not favourable to all, the world will judge us. I believe something good will come out of the confab because Nigeria cannot remain the same after the confab, we must make a difference after the confab.

What is your view about the upcoming elections.  Do you think it will favour women?
I want to advice women to come out and vote because if you stay at home    and keep saying I cannot come out because I do not have money to or you say you will not play politics because women that do are good for nothing women you won’t be able to be a partaker in the development of Nigeria, I want to call more women. We do not have many women as we should have in the National Assembly. We cannot stay behind and conclude that men are taking over all the positions we should not only be voters but active participants, we should join political parties and make sure that we are relevant in the society.

What advise would you give fellow delegates concerning the conference?
My word concerning the conference is that I want to tell all the delegates to please lay their complaints peacefully so that we can listen to each other and let’s see where we have wronged so that we can right those wrong, it is very important. We should work together irrespective of religion or ethnic group we come from so that we can fight the problem we have in Nigeria which includes greed and corruption.

What is your take on President Goodluck Jonathan’s speech at the conference?
I want to commend Mr. President for his ability in making the confab a reality because some Nigerians thought that it would not see the light of the day. I am very hopeful that something good will come out of the conference because it is much more than sitting down for three months to discuss Nigeria, but the decision’s reached must be given priority by the National Assembly making sure it constitute a large part of the constitution. We all believe that if Nigeria must change, we must discuss issues that concerns Nigeria and Nigerians, if the constitution is amended it must take into consideration of all Nigerians that is it must be all encompassing and this confab will not be complete if at the end of the day decisions reached are not entrenched in the constitution and that is why the idea of a referendum is very important.

Some Nigerians have seen no need for the confab if all decisions are still subjected to approval by the National Assembly what is your take on that?
The National Assembly is the law making body of Nigerian and we are all Nigerians we are working together, I give kudos to Mr. President for asking the people to talk about the issues and how to move forward. You cannot divorce the constitution from the people and the people should be allowed to realize their thoughts and say this is how the constitution should be, and I want to believe that is the essence of this confab. People have been drawn from all works of life in Nigeria to represent the people of Nigeria and we have even gone farther in this confab to ask for memoranda from the people so that we can come together and harness our thoughts because a lot of things is happening in our country today that we don’t like, we are all aggrieved. Nigeria is like a weak roof that can collapse anytime that is why this confab is very timely. We are not competing with the NASS but at the end of the day whatever conclusions we arrive at would be placed before them to look at it and the constitution would be made to favour all.

Do you agree that  the major problem in Nigeria today is religion and ethnicity?

Obviously we have over 400 ethnic groups in Nigeria, we are divers in culture, language and even in our ways of life but then, this is not the only country where we have divers cultures. I don’t believe our problem is about religion or ethnic group but our leaders, because they have captitalised on ethnicity and religion to make sure that they fuel division in Nigeria so that a few people can enjoy the resources of this nation. The problem is not about ethnicity because we have been living together rather, it is the insincerity of our leaders that is causing division. People are not angry because they are Hausa or Yoruba, they are angry because over 70% are poor and don’t have food on their table , their is unemployment and leaders have refused and failed to provide the basic needs that we need to move the country forward.

Would this confab solve all these problems you have mentioned?

We are laying all these on the table, the youths are saying that they have been cheated and If this country must be one, this is the Nigeria of their dream and this is what we want. The women are also saying they are integral part of this nation and why should their be violence against women, why should their be child labour, why should there be rape and the government is not doing anything about it. We are saying that if we must continue to be together in this country we must come together and discuss.

Youths are not happy with the composition of delegates saying the older delegates contributed to Nigeria’s problem. Do you think it was wise for them to be included?
The elderly people have been role players in the development of Nigeria and they are the active players in the governance of Nigeria and I want to believe that they contributed to our problems. If you are 50-75 years and you have not been able to proffer solution to Nigeria and you are still here well, we still need them to be there because we have to depend on history to be able to talk about the present and proffer solution to the future. The truth is our elders failed us because they were there when things were happening, they contributed to what happened now among them we have leaders, among them we have people who deliberately prevented things to happen in Nigeria but I want to say they need to be there so that we discuss, and am happy that some of them has affirmed the fact that they contributed largely to what is happening in Nigeria and some have even apologized to Nigerians for what they did but what we are saying now is that we should move forward to have a new, united and strong Nigeria. We should also try to express our anger in the most civilized manner no matter how bitter we are so we can see how we can in the spirit of give and take move forward.

What issues have your state mandated you to present and what are your expectations concerning them?
Ondo state is participating in this conference as part of Nigeria and the basic thing we want is the unity of Nigeria. We believe there can’t be unity if there is insecurity, and there are also some key issues like the issue of concentration of power for example, the issue of federalism are the key issues listed to be discussed at the confab and we believe in Ondo state that the power at the federal level should be weakened so that the state will have strength. If the state have strength for example Ondo state will be able to cater for the teeming unemployed youths we are even saying that if we can as a country begin to look inward to see what potentials in my state or your state and ask how can I develop my state and all that so that attention will concentrate on the state. If we can do this we have a period of jettison for about 5,6,10 years from now to allow each state develop on their own and be on their own we can now have our destinies in our hands and we would be able to plan for our youth, women and how to develop our state based on the natural resources that we have, these are the issues that we want to bring to the table and discuss.
Power is too concentrated at the federal level what am saying is that state should be the federating units, what I mean by that is that we have 36 states in Nigeria so we should have 36 federating units. The states should be the unit to take care of all its citizens at the local government level at the state level. Let the states determine what happens at all strater of the state.

How are you presenting the issues of women especially the Ondo state women?
Other state women cannot be different from Ondo state women, the women are 50% population of Nigeria and and we are demanding gender equality. There are so many issues, we are talking about 35% affirmative action  that has not been passed, we are saying if we must live together if we don’t have women we can’t live here, we are Nigerians and we want to be part of those that bring development to Nigeria. If you look at women in position today you will agree with me that they perform better because women are psychologically prepared to make things right so if women are at the hem of affairs things would have probably been right and all these problems we have now will have solution. Women should be given the right to participate in governance we have very few women in institution of authority, we have few women who have been given appointment either at the federal, state and local government level and we want more women in governance. I don’t have any rift with men, we are not competing they have been at the centre of affairs but women are coming up now and we want them to give us chance to move forward.
We are also talking about the issue of child trafficking, all these things affects the women because they are mothers of these children, women are the mothers of rapped children, they are mothers of children killed in the north, and all these evil perpetrated affect the female group more. Violence against women, child abuse/trafficking and we are saying there should be special courts for women to treat cases of rape, because most females that are rapped cannot come to professional courts to report for fear of stigmatization.
In Ondo state we have family courts where cases of child abuse is been treated like if you feel as a child that your parents have abused you, you can come to that court and we discuss. And through this some parents have been sentenced, some families have been brought together through the interventions of the family courts so we are saying that in Nigeria there should be special courts for women where cases of violence against women especially the case of rape is treated because the majority of rape victims settle out of courts some of the men even settle the parents with money and what happens to the future of that child whom the trauma will live with. So these special courts is to allow these victims express their minds freely with been exposed to the professional courts also most of them refuse to go to the hospital for check because of stigmatization and after three days if there is no medical report your case cannot stand the test of time but in the court there must be a private arrangement where people that are raped are tested so that perpetrators of that evil are brought to justice as a matter of fact, I want to recommend castration for men that rape girls.

Why do you think there is foot-dragging by the law makers in the punishment for rapists?
It is because of Nigeria, it is because of the nature of our law makers people are insensitive to the plight of others and that is one of our major problems in Nigeria. This is not the first time we are talking about the issue of having special courts for women, or violence against women, we have been talking about it but am happy that Nigeria is trying to define a new Nigeria and I want to believe that this confab will give birth to a new Nigeria and if that must happen all these issues must be discussed.
Some Nigerians have said the confab is just Mr. President’s way of winning the hearts of Nigerians towards the 2015 election. Do you agree?
Whatever people think for me as a person I believe that it is a way forward, and it is very important for Nigeria to think about Nigeria and have key interest in what  has been happening in the last few years, and if you are there at the hallow chambers you will see the magnitude of inconsistency, injustice that is happening in Nigeria. since people are bearing their minds I believe the law makers and government are human, the world will judge us if having listen to all the issues in Nigeria and we reach a decision not favourable to all, the world will judge us. I believe something good will come out of the confab because Nigeria cannot remain the same after the confab, we must make a difference after the confab.

What is your view about the upcoming elections.  Do you think it will favour women?
I want to advice women to come out and vote because if you stay at home    and keep saying I cannot come out because I do not have money to or you say you will not play politics because women that do are good for nothing women you won’t be able to be a partaker in the development of Nigeria, I want to call more women. We do not have many women as we should have in the National Assembly. We cannot stay behind and conclude that men are taking over all the positions we should not only be voters but active participants, we should join political parties and make sure that we are relevant in the society.

What advise would you give fellow delegates concerning the conference?
My word concerning the conference is that I want to tell all the delegates to please lay their complaints peacefully so that we can listen to each other and let’s see where we have wronged so that we can right those wrong, it is very important. We should work together irrespective of religion or ethnic group we come from so that we can fight the problem we have in Nigeria which includes greed and corruption.

No tags for this post.

Sign Up Now

ePaper Subscription