Tariela Oba Oliver is a 34- year-old certified fitness expert who hails from Bayelsa state, but born and resident in Lagos state. She was a candidate for the Lagos state House of Assembly – Ibeju Lekki Constituency 1 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the recent 2019 general elections. In this interview with ENE OSANG, she spoke on the conduct of the elections, the need for money politics to be addressed if Nigeria must make any meaningful progress.
I am a certified fitness consultant born in Lagos state but originally from Kolokuma Opokuma local government area of Bayelsa state and resident in Lagos state. I have a BSC in Criminology and Security Studies from the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), DDP Computer Science from University of Benin. I am s sports nutritionist ASFA (USA), the bootcamp/group instructor ASFA (USA). I founded Couple’s Fitness Trainers Ltd., Nollywood Fashion Company, co-founded Nollywood Beach Resort Company, Triple F Movie Company and Ferros Mining Company Ltd. I also founded the Tari Oba Foundation for the Girl Child, the Young Nation Builders Initiative Forum and a foundee, Fitness for Life International campaign to stop abortion and start adoption crusade.
I am an actor and co-produced EFCC 1st anti-corruption movie titled Classical Fraud; wrote scripts on anti-corruption crusade via entertainment and enlightenment for ICPC, a volunter for NAPTIP. I am the pool manager/fitness trainer for Radisson Blue Hotels and VI – gym/pool manager.
I am also the deputy state coordinator PDP Grassroots Support Foundation, out-going assistant secretary, amongst other associations I belong to.
Tell us your experience as a candidate of the 2019 Ibeju-Lekki constituency?
One word to describe my experience would be adventure. I saw it as an adventure; it gave me an opportunity to visit all the communities in Ibeju-Lekki. It was very challenging also because I made sure everyone in the community had direct access to me. This gave them the opportunity to call at any time to express their needs. These cut across health care, education and most especially unemployment. My campaign centred around the less privileged through my foundation – Tari Oba Foundation. What we tried to do was to put our voice behind the problems. We were able to provide medical assistance for a lot of women and children through medical outreaches, welfare programs and skills acquisition. In a nutshell, the whole process of being a candidate gave me an opportunity to touch lives and impact the community positively.
You didn’t emerge winner, what do you think you should have done differently?
What I should have done differently was not to bother spending money during the campaign. And just wait until the election day and spend the money on vote-buying. That’s what makes one a politician. That was what a lot of men did, but I am a humanitarian, I believe in helping people without expecting anything in return. I do not believe in vote-buying and I will never engage in such practices. As a matter of fact, that’s the major reason Nigeria cannot make any meaningful progress. The amount of money spent on election processes is too much. No nation can develop with such practices. They will continue awarding contracts that will never be completed just to be able to compensate those that sponsored various elections. The electorates have to understand this and stop the habit of demanding money before performing their civic responsibilities.
Aside from money politics and intimidation, which most female candidates have complained about, what other challenges did you face during the elections?
My major challenge was the fact that I contested as a non-indigene as branded by the cabals. I am an Ijaw lady, originally from Bayelsa state, but a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria resident in Lagos.
Despite all I did for the party in Ibeju Lekki, a lot of the party members worked against me, saying that my opponent who had not done anything for the community is better than a stranger. I don’t see myself as a stranger because when I look around Lagos state, I see all the oil companies that were supposed to be in Bayelsa here in Lagos and nobody has chased them away as non-indigenous companies.
At the end of the 2015 elections, about 90% of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members in Ibeju Lekki defected to the All Progressives Party (APC). I single-handedly resurrected the party in Ibeju Lekki. I sourced for new members, sensitised and mobilised citizens about their civic responsibilities. I set up a volunteer organisation for Voters Registration and Sensitisation Exercise. And I partnered with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and within about a year, we registered more than two hundred thousand people who were able to complete process and performed their civic responsibilities in the general elections in Lagos state.
Do you feel discouraged not winning; will you run again?
I do not feel discouraged; not at all. In fact I am very excited. I am happy because if I had borrowed money to buy votes, I would have been sourcing for a means to pay back now. And that means I wouldn’t have been able to provide the mother and child hospital I promised the electorates, the secondary schools I promised would also not be feasible. But even now I am still advocating for the child and mother hospital, the secondary schools and a 50 per cent job slots in Dangote Refinery for the indigenes. I wonder why our young men and women would be jobless, and Dangote Refinery would bring in prisoners from other countries to work in Ibeju Lekki. It’s unacceptable. I will continue speaking until I see a significant change in the lives of the citizens in Ibeju Lekki. I will definitely run again.
What were your development plans for your constituency?
I had a five-point agenda which are: Child and Maternal Hospital, Child and Adult Education, Youth and Women Empowerment, Sports and Recreational Facilities, Qualitative and Effective Representation.
A lot of people do not know this. Several lands have been allocated for hospitals, schools and recreational facilities here in Ibeju Lekki, but these projects have been abandoned without anyone saying a word. This was what prompted me to run in the first place. Women die on a daily basis in Ibeju Lekki while giving birth as a result of lack of maternal and child health care facilities here in Ibeju Lekki.
Children have to work more than 100 kilometres just to get to a secondary school. The primary schools are overcrowded; this results in high rate of out-of-school kids before age ten.
What are your plans going forward?
I have a great plan politically that would be unveiled soon. It has to do with the Bayelsa state gubernatorial election coming up in November, this year.
From your experience in politics, what is your take on Nigerian politics?
Nigeria politics is still very crude and primitive. A lot of sane people have lost hope in the process and left the floor for those who feel politics is a do or die exercise. Bottom line is majority of the people participating in the process are actually coming in for the very wrong reasons. For self aggrandisement, if you really want to serve the people, why kill and maim? Service is not meant to be by force. A lot of those who emerged don’t even have a manifesto. They can hardly give a two-minute speech. How did they emerge? Who voted for them? Who are they representing? We still have a long way to go politically. I wonder what system of government we are practising, because this is definitely far from a democratic process. A country cannot be said to practise democracy when the majority of its population are marginalised politically. We look forward to a better Nigeria where women and the physically challenged would be given a level-playing ground where the will of the people would prevail.
How would you describe conduct of the general elections, especially as they affected women?
The last general elections are the worst in the history of Nigeria in terms women’s aspirations. Various civil societies and gender advocacy groups were advocating for an increase in women’s representation. Instead, there was a decline to any progress made in women’s previous outings since the inception of the fourth republic. This is demoralising and not encouraging, seeing the amount of efforts women put in during the pre election and election period.
On that note, what are your expectations from the incoming administration at federal, state and local levels?
I expect this administration to launder its image positively by giving 50% appointive positions to women. Not leaving out the young women who went through the stress and commitment to serve their nation by participating in the just-concluded elections. We are prepared to support this administration at federal, state, and local government levels. And we would appreciate if this administration recognises our abilities and capabilities, and not look down on us because of our age, gender, religion or ethnicity.
What is your advice to prospective young female politicians?
My advice to young women considering politics is to be focused, determined and hard working. Politics is a game for the brave. Do not let anyone discourage you, do not listen to what people say about politics been a dirty game…It’s dirty just because people like you haven’t come in. We need all young women to come out and rescue our nation from those who have held this country hostage of development. Together, we can make our dreams come through, and see the Nigeria of our dreams actualised, where we celebrate national days such as the Northern Day; the South-south Day; the South-east day and the South-west Day. I believe we would get to a point where we love ourselves enough to choose a leader without ethnicity, religion and gender as a yardstick for good leadership.