By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Three months after her marriage, Dr. Elishama Rosemary Ideh could have disengaged herself from her years of social and political activism for her new husband to savour and relish her enchanting and arresting beauty.
“I only recently just got married, somebody like me wetin concern me, concern Nigeria, let me enjoy my husband. I have waited for 15 years if Nigeria wants to burn, let it burn,” she said.
But last Thursday, the 54-year- old woman was camped in a hotel suite in the Ikeja area of Lagos with her top aides.
Indeed, the scent of fresh romance was far from Ms Ideh who had been a widow for the past 15 years before her recent marriage. The former real estate mogul turned-politician was rather focused on the daunting task of emerging as the first female president of the country.
Ms Ideh is one of the three declared presidential aspirants on the platform of the Alliance for New Nigeria, ANN, the new political party that is presently galvanising Nigeria’s endangered middle-class to rebuff the stranglehold of the established political class on the nation. The other two presidential aspirants are popular motivation speaker, Fela Durotoye and medical doctor, Thomas Ikubese.
She was a foundation member of the Chief Olisa Agbakoba-led Nigeria Intervention Movement, NIM which collapsed into the ANN.
Ideh, born and raised in Lagos to an Ewohimi, Edo State former policeman father and businesswoman mother, read Mass Communication in Bowie University, Maryland, USA before returning to Nigeria to build a business empire around real estate.
She claims to have built an advantage over her two male rivals in the contest for the ANN presidential ticket. Her strength, she said, was in her social capital acquired over 20 years of networking with the rejected class.
So, what is her drive?
“I am going out there because of the decay I have seen out there in the course of our community outreaches, taking care of every sector of the marginalised.
“The sector that has been neglected, abandoned, the homeless, the widows, the street guys that we popularly call area boys, the street girls,” she said in reference to her social involvement with that class of society regarded as misfits or popularly called area boys and girls.
“I was just interested in making sure that I am my brother’s keeper according to my beliefs and the faith that I represent.
“I witnessed the decay in people’s lives because out there in the streets, we met real families, husbands, wives with children living out there in the street and under the bridges. As you would have your home, they were living under the bridge.
“That wasn’t even all my concern, they were raising children; children we met who were raised under such conditions until they were about 10 or 12 years old. These were children who had never known the roof of a home, never seen the walls of any school; most of them became drug addicts, armed robbers,” she said.
She said such concerns prodded her to reach out to find anchor in the institutions of government, but alas, with little success.
“I began to reach out to government circles that I thought should have been responsible and even though they exist, but they were not doing what they were supposed to do.
“From there, my passion started growing and my slogan is: Rich Nation Poor People, we are better than this.
The seeming relegation of that category of people, Ideh fumes, would one day rebound on the country if not addressed immediately.
“Nigeria is rich, we are blessed, there is no reason for what I see in our communities, for any Nigerian to live in this way. And nobody cared for such people. But you know what developed my interest? These are the people who will trouble us as a nation in the future,” she said.
“These are people who have known nothing but living like criminals. And I said, something needs to be done and I became a voice for this category of people. In my own little way and in my small sphere of influence, I rehabilitated most of them, I took many of the families off the streets and I began to solicit for scholarships for them to different schools.”
Ideh traces the malaise to the poverty in the country, a situation she said, has been manifested by the recent report that indicated that 61 per cent of Nigerians were living in extreme poverty.
“What actually pushed most of these people out there is abject poverty. And the work began to grow seriously and it became a serious burden and I said okay, my team needs to take this to a higher level to bring forth a New Nigeria and that was how Partnership for a New Nigeria was initiated.
“What brought about Partnership for a new Nigeria is the poverty that I have seen in the lives of people we have been taking care of,” she said.
Noting the several problems the country has recently been passing through, she said that it was time for a woman to come and salvage the country.
“I think it is time a woman’s touch comes upon the nation; not just any woman because she wants to make a name
“Continents and nations are referred to as she and there is a reason for that. The presence of a woman holds the home together and there comes a season her natural influence must go into an environment
“When you don’t have enough representation for her to come in, that is when you see an environment collapse. If you see an environment collapse, from the home unit to the neighbours, to the community, the presence of a woman has been removed and it leads to a natural decay.
“The reason why some animal species go into extinction is because the female has been removed. Nigeria might go into extinction,” she warned if her intervention is rebuffed.”
In making the case for a woman president, she pointed to the role of women in reviving the political fortunes of Rwanda and Liberia, two African countries that in the last 20 years, moved from disintegration towards socio-political stability.
“I believe that Nigeria is at that point right now and if you look at nations that had really gone down, like Rwanda…Rwanda had collapsed and there was genocide like what we are experiencing right now, but when they wanted to rebuild it, they injected about 68 per cent of women into the system and everything turned around. Also Liberia, the list is endless.
“This is even a dangerous thing for me. I have no reason whatsoever to enter this contest.
Out of 20 years, 15 I did as a widow, as a single mother of three children, used my resources,” she said of her past sacrifices to change her environment.