By Chima Gabriel
Honorable Mrs. Adenike Agnes Shobajo is the Managing Director of AS+, a communication, public relations and event management company. She is a seasoned Public Relations practitioner with a wealth of experience in the corporate terrain and a proficient politician.
In this interview with Esther Onyegbula, she talks about how she cut her teeth in the political arena, the numerous challenges and issues affecting the average female politician in Nigeria, the influence of party leaders and party politics and the way forward.
As a Public Relations practitioner, how did your journey into politics begin?
I am honorable Mrs. Adenike Agnes Shobajo, a professional Public Relations practitioner. In 1998, I joined the People Democratic Party (PDP). I was invited as a PR practitioner by a friend Chief Mrs. Aruegu Elegbede to do some publicity for former President Olusegun Obasanjo who just came out from prison and it was clear that he was going to contest the presidency. This marked the beginning of my journey into politics.
Of my own free will, I did the job without collecting a kobo from anybody. My staffed worked in Abeokuta, in Lagos, in Abuja, and all over the places, and at the end of the day, I am happy to say that it paid off because Olusegun Obasanjo won.
How has it been with you in politics?
In 2003, I had a foray into politics because at that time I was in the mist of politicians . As an aspirant, I tried my hands under PDP for Somolu senatorial seat of Lagos state and after working extremely hard, the party leaders decided that a person who decamped at the last minute from AD to PDP should become the candidate.
I remained in the party because I have never been a political prostitute which why I have remained in the party up till now. From 2003 till 2007, I remained in the party , attending ward meetings, local government meetings, contributing at the state level, and at the national level. In 2007, I tried my hands again as a senatorial aspirant under the platform of PDP in Lagos state. I worked closely with the team of Funsho Williams at that time but unfortunately, we lost him before the elections.
After the death of late Funsho Williams, why did you remain in the party when it was obvious that ACN now has a firm grip on the state even when others were cross-carpeting?
I decided to remain in the party because like I said again, I just didn’t think I should be a political prostitute. In 2010 and with the support of my husband, I still contest under the PDP platform that I have known all these years. Many people cross- carpeted and got one position or the other. A colleague of mine even became SSG via cross- carpeting.
After two unsuccessful attempts to go to the senate, why did you decide to gun for the federal House of Representatives’ seat . Was it a political strategy or was the decision influenced by party politics?
On my way to purchase my form that morning , as I got to third mainland bridge, I received a phone call from Chief Mrs. Aduke Minner, BOT chairman and I told her that I was going to purchase the form for senate. She said that was the reason why she called. She noted that she has been receiving some pressures from party members that I should I step down and go for House of Representatives instead of the senate, that many people are supporting me to still contest but that I should contest for the House of Reps.
I told her straight away that, ‘’ if you or party members say don’t go, I will turn back now and go to my house, I won’t even contest again. But she said that the people are saying I should agree to contest for the House of Reps and I obeyed. I bought the House of Reps form instead of the senate form. Both weresold at the same amount. Contrary to what people were saying, it was not free. Nothing was free. I paid N210,000 for the form.
After purchasing the form, I came back to her and showed her the form because in politics anything can happen and I believe it is God’s hands because that evening in her house, all the ward chairmen were present and she was shocked that I came to show her the purchased form. She said, ‘’well, the chairmen of the wards are here, come with me and let me tell them that you have obeyed’’. That was how all the ward chairmen from the 12 wards from my local government prayed for me that day. And I had the support of everyone.
Even the men who had the intention of vying for the same seat gave their support on their own free volition and decided to work with me as the party candidate and I am happy to say that despite the fact that in some places we didn’t have votes during the general elections, I recorded more than ten thousand votes in my constituency.
Do you think that if the national assembly elections were not postponed from the initial date to a new one, that the outcome of the result would have been different?
I felt sorely about the national assembly election postponement. I felt it would have been held alongside the presidential elections which came the week after, but my postponed election was shifted to the gubernatorial one which brought some confusion . I still continue to ask why INEC did not shift it to the next elections that followed.
You will recall that we had the senatorial and House of Reps elections first and the presidential was to go before the gubernatorial and State House of Assembly elections. I wondered why a National Assembly election was not put with the presidential election. Rather it was shifted by INEC and putted together with the state elections.
Anyway, I thank God for everything. However, I felt that there was no point for me to continue to make noise and cause rumbles when all that we wanted was for good elections to take place without crisis. I am happy. I became a candidate after three attempts and I am still here, but it is sore that I have not been able to get anything. No appointment and no contract. So, all I did was to continue my professional practice, hoping that if anything good comes we will thank God.
What do you think is the issue affecting increased women participation in politics in Nigeria?
There are so many issues militating against women participating and succeeding in politics. It is not just participating but succeeding because if you participate ,it becomes an experience and it rests as an experience. We must succeed, get there and make a difference. The issue of money cannot be removed from issues affecting increased women participation in Nigeria politics.
What is the way forward out of this dilemma?
We can talk of gender mainstreaming from beginning till now but to actually ensure that women are mainstreamed successfully and get into political offices successfully, women should network, sit and work together irrespective of party affiliation.
So, if what we are saying is for more of women participation in 2015 elections, in terms of the issues of fund, any support coming for women should come early.
Let me say quickly, women should appreciate that nothing will be given to them on the platter of gold; nothing will be given to them free. It is for them to work for it and be sincere and visible. People have to see you as someone who can add value to democracy, to governance, to leadership and the society by putting your energy to work.
Also there is need for self assessment, to see that you are fit for the position that you are vying for and then, you work closely within your party as a woman that dreams can become reality. Most women make the mistake of thinking that they can do it on their own; it is important for us to work with our men, work with our party guidelines and follow due process.
Compared to previous elections, the 2011 general elections had many women contesting for one electoral post or the other, yet only a few emerged successful. What in your perspective is responsible for this?
We had many women that showed interest in the last elections because of the awareness created, the education given, and also because of publicity and enabling environment created by a few women like the first lady, her Excellency Dame Patience Jonathan and Mrs Josephine Anineh and a few others for women to participate.
Despite all that, electorally, our people are still not aware of the fact that they needed to understand what the Beijing platform of action that we had meant. In certain countries, it is working but in Nigeria, the general public don’t understand what it was all about because there is no enabling law to ensure that actually, the mainstream women should go into political offices.