Hon Olubunmi Wumi Ogunlola represents Ekiti Central Federal Constituency II in the National Assembly. Just recently, she empowered 300 women and widows across the three local governments in her constituency. In this interview with RAPHAEL ADEYANJU, she says representations at all levels favours men more than women.
Why did you decide to make your empowerment programme exclusively for the female folk?
The reason is to send out the message that economic empowerment of the female folks is the only solution to the socio-economic problems facing the Nigerian nation. As a woman, I am alarmed by the level of poverty among the female folks, especially widows and women with physical disabilities. That is why I have promised to use any available opportunity to promote the cause of women and also appeal to the conscience of those in the position of authority to stop paying lip service to women and youth empowerment. I have started with the financial empowerment of over three hundred (300) women and widows across the three local government areas in Ekiti Central Federal Constituency ll who were drawn from the 33 electoral wards in my constituency.
What about the men? They also voted for you, so have you excluded them?
Don’t get me wrong; I also cared for the male folks. As a matter of fact, this is the third empowerment programme in the last one month.We started with training and.empowerment of the youths. We organised a capacity building programme on ICT for 45 youths across the 33 wards in my constituency. Participants at the ICT training programme were trained on the importance of ICT and the danger of its excessive usage. Beneficiaries were fully kitted and provided with materials. Two weeks ago, we also organised an empowerment programme for over 100 farmers drawn from the 33 wards in the constituency. The farmers who came from Ijero, Efon and Ekiti West Local Government Areas of the state were empowered with cash and various farm tools. We distributed farm tools like spraying machine, 50kg bags of fertilisers, insecticides and herbicides. I hope other relevant stakeholders can join hands with us to make farming attractive to the Nigerian youths.
As a woman, why are you so interested in agriculture?
I am a woman and as well a mother who is concerned about the plight of many unemployed youths. I am concerned that despite the availability of fertile arable land and a huge population of healthy employable young men in Nigeria, we still complain of poverty in the country. Iam concerned as a representative of the people, I am very concerned about this situation of the country. Let’s face it, there is hunger in the land; there is unemployment which is not acceptable to me as a leader, as a mother and as a member of the society.
As a federal lawmaker, what will be your suggestion as solution to this problem?
As an individual, my suggestion is that the federal government should as a matter of urgency declare a state of emergency in the agricultural sector in order to combat the problem of unemployment facing the country. Our youths should be productively engaged in the farms.
Do you think the youth would be interested in farming?
They cannot be interested because the present agricultural practice, which relies on traditionall practice and annual rainfall, is not profitable enough to attract youth participation. If the federal government is serious about creating employments through agriculture, then it must make farming more attractive to the Nigerian youths. The government should increase budgetry allocations to the sector and thereafter encourage modern mechanised farming. We cannot expect our youth to embrace farming if they are to use the same tools that were used by their grandfathers. These are the people whose parents went to school because they wanted to escape
What can you say about the insinuations that the 9th National Assembly is a rubber stamp?
That insinuation is not correct because not all requests from President Muhammadu Buhari are approved by the legislature without scrutiny even though we believe that both arms of government must operate in an atmosphere of peace for the country to witness all development. I don’t think Nigerians should assess the performance of the National Assembly with the number of times we disagreed with the president.
People are saying that because of the speed at which you are ready to pass any bill presented by the president as well as any approval from the executive.
I don’t think all that comes to the National Assembly from the executive is approved; it is not correct to say that. If you knew what they brought and what was given back to them, you would know that it was either reduced or something was added to them. The fact remains that it wasn’t the same thing. In other words, it means some steps were taken by the National Assembly to scrutinise what they brought.
One would have expected that the legislative arms are there to provide checks and balances for the executive. Is that the case here?
You are very correct but that doesn’t mean sheer antagonism. I want to believe that it is in peace that we can really forge ahead. It is not when we are at loggerheads and fighting. I think it is the media which believes that until you fight or disagree, that is when you are really playing politics or administering government, whereas it is not so.
That does not prevent the legislative arm from keeping the executive on check, I believe.
Yes, it is our duty to do this, but not to the extent of disrupting the peace of the land. It’s when we are at peace that we can sort out things, that we can agree and have meetings of the mind. I want to break down what the speaker said to mean that it is not when we fight that we can keep the executives on their toes. It is not as if we don’t disagree; may be at times, it is not open to you. If we have misunderstanding, there would always be a round table talk to forge ahead. The word ‘Rubber Stamp’ is a journalistic language.
You earlier spoke about women empowerment. Are you happy with the present level of representation of women in leadership positions?
As a result of the oppressive nature of men, women are not being given the privilege. This is somehow most especially for some of us who have been privileged to be in small position of authority. Things have not really changed; in fact, it’s retrogressing. When it comes to representation, women are not being given the numbers they should be given either in elective positions or appointment. For instance, the time we used to complain of this, then at the National Assembly, we had over 20 percent, but now it’s zero point. In the Senate, we have six, House of Representatives is 12. This is unfortunate and absurd especially when we compare it to other countries. We can only hope and pray; that appears to be the only solace because when efforts fail, the normal thing is to resort to prayer.