By Eric Elezuo
She is a combination of beauty and brains. She is an accomplished wife, mother, sister, daughter as well as a great inspiration to the teeming lovers of good tidings. She is Mrs Abimbola Majekodunmi-Onokoya, the Ogun Central Senatorial District candidate in the 2019 general elections under the new breed Green Party of Nigeria (GPN).
In this brief chat, she flawlessly itemized what it takes to be the best leader the people can be proud of, adding that her tenure when elected will witness prosperity and progress like never before. Excerpts:
Kindly give us a brief on your background
I was born Abimbola Majekodunmi, now I am Mrs. Onokoya. I was born on August 11, 1979 in Abeokuta of Egba origin. I was privileged to attend some of the best grooming academic grounds among which is Children House School in Ibara for my primary education where out of a dint of hardwork, I wrote and passed the Common Entrance in primary four.
Then, I went to Nawair Ud Deen Grammar school, Abeokuta, and obtained my Senior Secondary School Certificate. Afterwards, I proceeded to the University of Lagos for a Diploma programme. However, a strike action prompted my travelling to the United States for holidays. That journey put paid to my UNILAG experience. A good friend I had known back in Lagos had insisted I stayed back in the U.S though I never made plans to. After much considerations, I heeded the advice and a lot of lines began to fall in pleasant places for me.
First, I met my lovely husband, whom I married on January 31, 2001. The marriage is blessed with three lovely children today. They are Olufunmi, Adedapo and Olamide.
After my marriage, I pursued my career with full force, obtaining my Licenced Practical Nurse (LPN) status at the Micro Tech Training Institute for Practical Nursing, New Jersey, USA in 2003.
In 2007, I qualified as a Registered Nurse (RN) at the Raritan Valley College, New Jersy, USA. I am presently studying at the Grand Canyon University Arizona, USA for my MSN
Mrs. Majekodunmi-Onokoya is not a career politician, to put it succinctly. What drove you into this profession, if we may call it that?
Well, I have always had passion for everything Nigerian, even while I lived abroad, in America, to be precise. It may interest you to know that I moved back home in 2013 after being away for 15 years. All these while, I have always had good intentions for my people. I must tell you that each time I visit Nigeria, I behold sights that draw tears from my eyes. I literally cry. One thing is always obvious on the faces of the people once you stepped out of the airport; unhappiness, despondency including a feeling of hopelessness, helplessness and fear of the unknown. The reason is not far fetched. it is hinged on the dicey situation of the country. I see a lot of people toiling endlessly to make an imaginary living to no avail. All these things combined make me react, and some termed me an activist.
I became more vocal after President Muhammadu Buhari alluded to Nigerian youths as “lazy”. I had considered myself and other Nigerians in the Diaspora, knowing we not lazy but some of the most educated people in the world. It was then one of my friends called me and said “we need you in Nigeria. You need to come”. This call took me by surprise, but I made up my mind to heed it thinking someone was considering for special adviser position or something in that neighbourhood. She shocked my marrows when she proposed that I run for the senate seat. It didn’t make any sense to me, and so my first response was ‘no’ because Nigerian politics is quite different from what is practiced in America.
However, after deep thought, I decided to give it a shot knowing that this is another way I can further extend help to my people and I’ve always been helping people as a registered nurse. I have been practicing nursing for 15 years.
The Senate is a legislative arm, essentially lawmaking, do you think you can actualise your intention of helping people from there which is best achieved from the executive arm?
Policies change administrative equilibrium, and policies emanate from law making. When I get over there in the Senate, I become part of the system that can change these policies that are currently governing Nigeria and inject human faced policies as it is obtained in other climes. For instance, education, in America, attracts 21% of the yearly budget; in Nigeria, it is about 3%. Those that belong to the Executive arm cannot change that. That is where I come in.
Which constituency are you planning to represent, and on what platform?
I am running to represent Ogun Central, conprising six local governments – Owode, Egba, Ifo, Ewekoro, Abeokuta North, Abeokuta South and Odeda local governments. I am contesting under the Green Party of Nigeria (GPN).
I understand that the position you are running for is the position which the incumbent Governor of Ogun State, is running for as well. Do you have any strategy to defeat him?
That was the first thing that got to me when I was asked to represent Ogun Central under GPN. I thought about it and said to myself that it cannot be done. But coming to consider the realities on ground, you will understand that the man we are taliking was once a Senator and presently a governor. On both occasions, we know what happened. I keep telling my people that if you want a different result, you have to try a different thing. He’s been tested and tried and he has done the best he can, but we really need to move forward. We need to do something new to get a better result.
What is that particularly striking feature about you that you really think will bring the votes over to your side?
Well, you need to hear the echos all around. I have been up and about, reaching out to people and listening to their heartbeats. They all seem to speak one language – they want someone new – me. I am not the breed of politician that shares money. In fact, where am I going to get the money from. I have been telling my people that the money a politician gives you money is not free. The money is definitely coming from somewhere and they have to make it back. When I give people my fliers, they ask me what I’m going to add to it. I sit them down and tell them what I think is the truth and my plans for them. Yes, I have a striking feature, and that is honesty, and to a great extent a great passion to give the people of Ogun Central the best life can offer.
Two issues may play down your chances – one, coming from a foreign land and two, being a woman. What are your plans to turn the two into a stepping stone to victory in 2019.
Well, I see myself as having female features but mentally, I am just another man. My friends tell me that though I am a woman I think like a man. while growing up, I used to tell myself that I was going to marry a doctor, so I wouldn’t really have to do much, but my father always make me understand that a woman has to be an asset to a man, not a liability. The man will respect and value you for that. Coming back to politics, yes, women are a bit limited in terms of education and finance, and those inform some of the reasons women don’t really go into politics. I have a good heart and I want to do the best. At the same time, I believe in the mantra that what a man can do, a woman can do better.
For a first-time politician, don’t you think that the Senatorial position is a little elevated and elite, wouldn’t it have been easier to start from a lower level?
I mentioned earlier that my people actually chose this commission based on what they know I can do, and recall as well that the incumbent Governor of Ogun State started from the Senate. Honestly, with my managerial skills and the trust I am being sent to uphold, I will make the best senator ever.
Check this out: I manage about eight cities in New Jersey and I work with Visiting Nurse Association as well as the Case Manager for the patients in eight cities. I have lots of caseloads and I manage them well. I know I can do better as a lawmaker for the Federation because anything that happens up there affects everybody and not just my constituency or state. I watch videos of present Senators and their presentations, and think I am like ‘how did they get there’. I don’t think all of them know what they are doing. Honestly, I can do better.
But these things are somewhat contagious. Most people there spoke glowingly like you, but on getting there, they find themselves muscled and end up compromising. Are you prepared for an opposition so strong it can weigh you down and make you forget your professed passion?
Yes. I thought about it and somebody said to me “How are you going to deal with the other side?” I know it’s going to be tough and it’s not going to be easy. It is very important that I remember my people who sent me there every single day. Putting at the back of my mind the conditions of my people is something that will keep me on my toes every single day, and for that I will compromise.
I have outlined constant town hall meetings where I will personally meet with my people and feel their vibration. We need to have town hall meetings so that the people can constantly communicate with the person representing them.
The major challenge is that bills take time before they become laws, do you plan to use your personal resources to bring things to pass while waiting for the government to act on the bill?
Yes. Don’t that I will be paid constituency allowance which is basically meant for projects. These funds will into what they are meant for – every bit of it. Much as I know what to do, I will leave the planning to when the exact resources is known. But be rest assured that execution will be based on what my people need.
In a nutshell, we will empower our youths. This is a must. Also, our women must be taken care of. I have been involved in service to humanity and this is what I have been doing for most of my adult life – helping people. I believe everything we own will be gone when we are gone, so why hold on to them.
How do you want to be remembered after all these?
Funny enough, I have asked myself this question over and over again, and each time, I get the same answer. When people mention late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, everybody thinks greatness; that’s what I want. I want the legacy; even when I am old and gone, I want them to mention Abimbola Majekodunmi-Onokoya and everybody is in awe – in positive awe.
And do I achieve that. I have to really listen to my people and do what they want as much as I can. I intend to replicate the American standard when it comes to getting things done. The earlier we bring Nigeria to where it is supposed to be, the more respect we will gain from the international community. Imagine a President calling another President lifeless, it is because we have not earned the respect of others. These are things I will work towards changing.
As a woman, family should be priotised. What plans have you made in terms of family, with your family based in America?
We discussed it when I was first invited and my husband was in total support and even agreed to relocate to Nigeria with me. So, we are ready to move. My first child, my daughter, will be going to college soon but my eleven and five year olds will be moving with me. So you see, I love country and constituency so much that I am willing to dump America.
Most politicians send their children abroad when they get into authority…
I have always been in love with Nigeria and that I have transfered to my children. I don’t want a situation where when I am old and gone, people say Abimbola’s children cannot be found. I’m surprised people don’t teach their children the values of our culture.
In a nutshell, can you just itemize those plans and projects that you have in mind for Ogun Central when you are elected?
I have so many projects, both from my initiative and from asking the constituents because you have to ask people what they need. Some people told me they need water and good roads. Where I grew up in Abeokuta, there’s a major road that links to Oyo state, the road was like an “express”, but if you go back there, the roads are tiny because of the number of people living there and that causes traffic. I plan to push for the road to be dualized when I get to the Senate. More so, it is a federal road.
Again, I believe Nigeria’s greatest assets, are the youths, not even crude oil. Most of them do not know what to do and so they experiment with all kinds of drugs all in a bid to take their minds off their problems. My plan is to get vocational schools for them, where they can learn to be independent through making soaps, clothes, engage in carpentry works as well as computer training.
We are going to set up a lot of programmes like that across the six local governments. We will thereafter, get professionals. At graduation, we will to equip them with those things they to need to function.
I will do all within my powers to get the children off the streets. I believe that we can still work with some of the schools we have presently to ensure that the children learn in a comfortable environment furnished with computers, with no leaking ceilings .
Moreover, we can actually build libraries for communities to access with unlimited internet and books to read. I love hardworking women, especially the ones in the market, and I am going to see that they are well empowered. I don’t believe any woman should sit at home, waiting for and on their husbands. We create adult education centres so that the elderly can read, understand and write.
What would you say to the up coming leaders of tomorrow – the youths
They must remain focused, scrutinize their political candidates, know what they stand for and their plans for them. They must not allow politicians to use them as political thugs while their own children are living and enjoying abroad.
Thank you very much, ma. It has been very nice talking with you. I wish you the very best in the coming elections.