By JOSEPHINE IGBINOVIA
She left the corporate world for politics in her desire to contribute to good governance. Amiable and articulate Hon.(Mrs.)Bolaji Cecilia Dada is the Vice-Chairman of Apapa Local Government; a position she is holding for the second time. She is a 1991 Lagos State University graduate of Industrial Chemistry with a Masters in Corporate Governance from the Leeds Metropolitan University, United Kingdom.
In this interview, she talks about her life as a woman in politics and how she always finds herself as the only female in the midst of men in her career life. she also discloses how the local government chaired by Hon. Ayodele Joseph is partnering with corporate organizations to develop the area. Excerpt:
What efforts have you made to motivate other women to join active politics?
We actually have a supervisor for women affairs who I work with in such areas, and together with the wife of the Chairman of the local government, we’ve invited women in our local government area to meetings on several occasions. We’re engaging the women in both economic and political empowerment programmes. To the best of our ability, we teach them to be self-reliant and to comport themselves well in public places. We’ve really made them to believe in themselves.
After serving in this capacity, what do you plan to achieve in the nearest future?
I’m a Vice-Chairman and that’s the least I want to be. My ambition, like I’ve always said, is to be the first female President in Nigeria. However, I always allow God to take charge because I believe that He is the one who crowns. All I can do is be the best I can be, and put in all my efforts while I serve in whatever position I find myself.
How are you working towards making this ambition a reality?
The only way I can work towards it is to have faith in God and to be myself. I can only put in my best into every work I do, and leave the rest to God.
You are a mother and wife, and yet, you sound an ambitious politician; but how come many women claim it’s difficult combining these three tasks?
It all has to do with planning. If you plan your time properly and you have a husband that you communicate very well with, there would be no problem. When there is understanding, every other thing will fall into place. As a mother, wife and politician, it hasn’t really been easy but I’ve been able to survive by the wisdom and grace of God. I have a wonderful family. Just recently, my husband and I were invited to a church programme titled ‘Marriage is a Plus’, and our marriage was used as a model for marriages, and other couples were advised to emulate us. So, in my home front, I have no problem and in my political career, marriage has never been a hindrance.
Has “Party politics” ever affected your political career in any way?
I don’t understand what some people refer to as party politics. I however would say that I’ve always found myself in the midst of men. When I was on the board of the Lagos State Sports Council, I was the only female member, and that was before I became the Vice-Chairman of Apapa local government.
When I was the Secretary to the local government, I was the only female on the executive council of the local government as well. When I was contesting two tenures ago as the Chairman of the local government, out of about 12 aspirants, I was the only female aspirants; I also was a challenge to all the male contestants. I’ve never been told to step-down for any one because of my sex.
Are you insinuating there are no gender barriers in politics?
There will always be! Out of the 57 local governments and council developments areas in Lagos state, you can count the number of women on your finger tips! That goes to show that the ratio of women office-holders to that of the men is still nothing to write home about. Though the state has tried to be gender-sensitive, the ratio given to women is still not significant; but I know we’ll get there some day.
I understand this is your second term in office; how has the work been?
Well, as soon as we came into office in the last administration, we noticed the environmental decadence in the local government and we saw that as a huge challenge. We took up the challenge and so far, we’ve done quite a lot and are still working. We came up with a project tagged ‘Keep Apapa Clean or Leave’, and we led by example by engaging in a week-long sanitation, including my Chairman.
We also employed more street sweepers. When we returned for our second term, we re-launched the project and engaged the youths in the enforcement of environmental laws. We also got vehicles to aid their operation. Also, since we came in, we’ve renovated and constructed almost 40 roads and drainages in the local government. We’ve built a primary healthcare unit, renovated schools, donated vehicles to the police and we’ve bought transformers for some communities.
We did quiz competitions for primary school pupils and the winners were taken to London on an exchange programme with another primary school in the UK. We’ve also continued to provide school uniforms for pupils in all the primary schools within the local government. We give them two pairs every year to ensure they don’t wear worn-out uniforms.
I could see that some of the schools have been renovated while some are being rebuilt…
The state government renovated some while we renovated the others. We got support from corporate sponsors to build new blocks for some. You see, because of our resolve to bring much improvement to the local government area, corporate organisations rose up to say they wanted to work with us.
So, we get sponsorships from companies like the Flour Mills of Nigeria, Sifax, Kazuma Shipping Nigeria Limited, to mention but a few. We also have free buses for pupils coming from Ijora to and fro, and from within Apapa. For those from the water sides, we’ve built standard boats.
Are you saying that good governance can attract private sector partnership?
Yes, once it is observed that you are working diligntly as a government, you will be supported by the private sector. You can imagine what happened when we were campaigning for a second term! The GRA, Apapa Club, and corporate organisations within the local government had a rally for us! If we had not done well, they wouldn’t have got involved; they never got involved the first time we contested.