She is bold, brilliant and articulate; she is Hon Fatima Mohammed, apolitician, and entrepreneur. Starting her political foray in 1999 with Alliance for Democracy (AD) where she served actively in various assignments including as PRS in the then Bola Ahmed Tinubu Campaign Organization (BATCO, Hajia Fatima was also the arrowhead of Jimi Agbaje gubernatorial campaign in 2007. She was indeed the Initiator of the Jimi Agbaje Outreach (JAO). She was a front role stakeholder in the Presidential and Governorship elections of Nigeria in 2015, and her political sagacity and experience cuts across parties which give her an edge as a leader.
Fatima is well respected amongst her political friends, followers and associates. Currently she is vying for the house of Representative Ifako Ijaye Federal constituency of Lagos state.
Hajia Fatima is also the Director General of Atikunation independent campaign group. In this chat with Esther Onyegbula, she talks about her vision, passion for women empowerment, abducted Dapchi girls, and other issues.
What are your plans towards girl child empowerment? Are you going to fight poverty alongside the girl child empowerment?
If you know me and the precedence that I have, I don’t believe in fighting poverty, I believe in palliating. No individual can eradicate poverty, no government can eradicate poverty. Poverty can only be palliated and the effects cushioned so that people won’t feel it. That is why on International Women’s Day I will be empowering 300 women. Not only am I teaching them how to catch fish, I am working with a micro finance bank to provide them with soft loans without interest. They will be empowered in cluster. Fashion designers will get a specified amount, hair dressers, etc. The programme is for artisans. They would revolve the loan among themselves without interest. All the trade that we want them to learn they will get start up capital for as well.
What are you doing in your capacity to encourage more women to get involved actively in politics?
I have been mentoring women, I have been running sensitization campaigns and empowering women, but do not forget that Nigeria is a very special country. Women are culturally and religiously inhibited and these inhibitions are limiting factors. In 2019 we are going to have more women actively participating in politics.
Considering the fact that a few women who have been in politics have been caught up in one scandal or the other, do you think women still have a chance?
I will never support patriarchy or follow a man to bring down a woman. Be that as it may, when you cannot assert yourself as a woman you will fall prey into the hands of god-fathers. If Patricia Etteh was very assertive nobody would have been able to push her hands and get her into trouble.
What was your experience like in the last election in 2015?
I actually ran for the House of Representatives two years ago, I won the ticket but they went to play games and they took away my name. That will not happen again because I am ready for them. At that time we were taken unawares, I just believe that since I have won in the presence of agents and INEC that they won’t take off my name, so I didn’t go the extra mile, but today, I have gone the extra mile. My team and I have sat down and re-strategised and I am more prepared. They can’t take away my name.
Do you still believe in the system, since it removed your name?
It was not the system, it was some bad eggs in PDP then that took away my name, because they do not believe in winning, they just believe in embezzling funds of the party.
We already have a candidate representing Ifako Ijaye constituency, how do you intend to defeat an incumbent?
Before he won the elections, all their leaders in APC came to beg me, to please help him win, so I helped him on the condition that the electorate would feel the presence of government. Please ensure that government is doable and achievable. He wasn’t known and up till tomorrow he is not known; he has been there for two years yet there is nothing the people of Ifako Ijaye have to show for it, no single constituency project. Ifako Ijaye is the second largest local government area in Lagos. But the rate of poverty is disheartening. Poverty is walking on the streets of Ifako Ijaye. Ifako Ijaye will get a new lease.
What is your party doing to sensitise the electorate on the need to have their permanent voter’s card?
We have been sensitising our people- we have gone to different LCDAs, to share fliers and register to enable them have their PVC because that is the key in the upcoming election. That is the only insurance we have. We have educated them and will continue to educate them on how to monitor the elections, protect their votes. People are tried; we want to change the change.
Why is it that women are always in the background and it is only during election time that we see them?
This administration has not implemented the 35% affirmative action, but all these will change soon when Atiku becomes president. He would give women a voice, because he believes in girl child education and empowering the girl child, making women stand tall. He has a passion for uplifting the poor and changing their lives. He has 50,000 people who work for him. He can’t employ 180 million Nigerians but he can make our lives better by becoming the president.
Don’t you think that most of these politicians are too old to be contesting for elective positions?
I am an advocate of “not too young to run, not too old to rule”. With the kind of democracy that we have in Nigeria now the political situation is a school on its own.
These politicians that people are saying are too old are the founding fathers, politics has been inculcated into them, and how to rule. Government is not what you just wake up and say, I want to run. Preparing for elections doesn’t come cheap. Whether we like it or not there is so much money involved in politics because we are a developing nation. When we get developed like America and other countries that will change.
Why the choice of Atiku?
I belong to the People’s Democratic Party, the only party that is set to change the bad change. It is a personal conviction, you set out your card on the table, all the players in the field, and during the political calendar we have the pretender, the contestants, and the contenders. Right now we have a lot of pretenders; they all want to come out. We have a lot of contestants, but for me Atiku is the only contender, and I know a lot of people feel the way that I feel. Atiku Abubakar is a credible candidate in every aspect and by the grace of God he will be the next president of Nigeria.
You said Atiku Abubakar is the only credible candidate. Why do you say so, when we have other notable candidates like Sule Lamido, former Jigawa state governor?
I make bold to say it again. It is not in my character to really talk about people but we all know that Lamido Sule has a case with EFCC bordering on alleged corruption charges. So are you saying that I should go after someone who has a precedence of allegedly squandering tax payers’ money? I don’t have anything against Alhaji Lamido but he has a case in court. It has been alleged that he squandered money, he and his son. I am sorry; I want to continue to go with Atiku Abubakar.
How do you intend to sell Atiku Abubakar most especially to the south south, south east and the north central, because when you look at the North they have APC on ground? How do you intend to convince the south west people with the issue of Atiku /Obasanjo on ground?
When you have a good product, you don’t need to hype it or do advertisement. Atiku is the most sellable candidate. The politics of the southwest is very dynamic. You have a lot of people who are exposed, because the usage of the internet is much here than any other part of the country. Do not forget that Atiku Abubakar is one of the people that made APC stand on its feet and when he left the APC you will see a downward trend because the pillar that held them just left. So selling Atiku is not a problem at all, you don’t go through so much trouble to market a sellable product. Atiku is the largest employment of labour, his company employs over 50,000 people, and he is a lover of youth. In all his organisations youths are his departmental heads. He is very detribalised, he has a wife from the southwest, he has a wife from the south east. He believes in the girl child, and giving hope to the women. Above all he believes in restructuring and deepening of democracy.
I am a woman of possibility -I don’t want to think that he will not get the ticket. I want you to know that even if the party begins to play games Atiku would run on any other platform.