Interview

December 8, 2022

Proof Tinubu’ll implement affirmative action — Betta Edu, APC Women Leader

National Women Leader of the rulung All Progressives Congress, APC., recently made waves at the Chatham House,  London,  while fielding a question on behalf of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the party’s presidential flag bearer, on issues around public health when the latter visited the independent policy institute Monday.  

Dr Betta Edu who is a Harvard Certified Medical Doctor, a Public Health Specialist from the London School of Hygine and Tropical Medicine, University of London UK, recently  bagged the Fellowship of the African Institute of Public Health Professionals in Cairo, Egypt.

 Edu is a member of the Presidential Health Reform Committee, Nigeria, immediate past chairman of the Nigeria Health Commissioners Forum, Fomer Commissioner for Health in Cross River  and Chairman of the COVID-19 Response task force in Cross River state. As first Director General and CEO of the Cross River State Primary Health care Development Agency, an agency she created from the scratch working under the Leadership of Governor Ben Ayade and Dr Linda Ayade, she was Special Adviser to the Governor.

She tells WO why it won’t be business as usual with regards to women participation.

By Funmi Ajumobi

Women have been more visible in the APC campaign this year than before. Why?

Basically it’s the role the women want to play in the incoming administration and we need to change that narrative right now. As Nigerian women, we are asking for 35% affirmative action. We want to be at the front burner and we want to be maintainstreamed. We must work for it because power is not served a la carte.

 You will not sit in your house and the men are everywhere campaigning for votes and they are doing a great job and just believe somehow that when they are done, they will hand over the prepared meal to you. It doesn’t work that way.  

So we are out there doing the work across the nation and going to get the right result and then we can now come to the table and place a demand based on the result we have produced.

Talking about affirmative action, do you think APC is still going to do otherwise if elected again?

Hundred percent sure. Even on this, it is not yet over.  During the launch of Women Campaign team, the president said he was putting together a team to look into it and present it back to the house, believing that this second time, it will scale through. 

 A lot of work and lobbying has to go underneath and of course reaching out to the right quarters so we can get it right. So even at this time, it is not going to handover to the next administration.  The president is still committed to it .

Women especially at the grassroot are always used as praise singers and they are given immediate reward of foodstuff and cash etc. What is your plan as the APC women leader to at least change the scenario and improve the lives of women at the grassroot?

As APC women leader, if you have followed my activities since I have been elected as the woman leader, it has not been the usual. Like you said that women are only given rice, wrapper, cash and they are praise singers. We have been empowering women and taking care of their welfare.

We have done financial Empowerment for women across Nigeria. We have supported female farmers, we have supported business start ups and we have even done various outreach in various states for our women. All of these is to build them up financially, preparing them to contribute more to their families and the society.

For us, it is not just to get the women to come and sing and dance, we want to build women at the grassroots. 

Government is also putting in a lot to build women. There is the unconditional cash transfer under the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs 70% of the beneficiaries are women at the grassroot. When we talk about survival fund, TraderMoni and all other interventions are basically  targeted at the grassroot and 70% beneficiaries are women.

The unconditional cash transfer has reached about 9million and over 6million out of it went to the women, so they can be economically empowered to be able to make their contributions to their families, the society and indeed their own lives.

But the scenario is that once you don’t belong to the ruling party, you don’t benefit. Are these intervention funds for your party women or for all women?

It’s for all women. In fact when I go to carry out interventions,  I don’t call women based on party membership. Nigerian women are our focus. We have gone to states that are not APC states for intervention and it was the governor that invited women to the hall. Majority of those women were not APC women and they all benefitted from it as long as they were able to get to the venue.

Will a PDP seating governor go and call APC women to fill the hall? No. Our intervention is for women not for our party alone. If it’s just for our party women, we wouldn’t have been going to states that are not APC.

In the Tinubu manifesto, is there a specific thing for women that women will be looking forward to?

A whole lot. In all the persons that have put out their manifestos across the country, one thing I can boldly tell you is that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was the only one who expressly stated what he wanted to do for women and he was specific. He did not make general statement.

Other party’s manifestos just said they will empower women. Asiwaju was very clear on what he wanted to do. He started by saying that he will ensure that women get the 35% affirmative action and it’s not going to be affirmative action for appointment alone but affirmative action for everything. Affirmative action for elective positions, for employment, in terms of contact, access to utilities and all rounds.

He was careful enough to say it that in the Federal Excecutive Council,  35% of people there will be women. He didn’t beat about the bush. In appointments to the boards, parastatals etc, 35% of the leadership will be women. He was specific. He hit the nail on the head and didn’t go about saying a general statement. In terms of employment, mainstreaming the gender, fighting against Gender Based Violence among others. 

How many women are out there to be elected to get the 35% in elective positions? We have many of them in other parties that are not ‘big’ or at the forefront’

My coming into the office moved things from where they were to a higher level. Before now we used to have like 20 to 30 women running for offices in the party but it has moved from that figure to 95. We are hopeful as we are supporting them to cross the line and become the actual candidates. This is a departure from the previous normal. Under Asiwaju, things will improve  because he is a deliberate politician who is known for going extra miles to fulfill what he put his mind to do.

He has given women that direct commitment that things will change.

For example 2 out of 5 delegates will be women for the states and Local Government elections while for the national, 1 out of 3 would be women. His manifesto clearly stated social inclusion and Empowerment for women and he even said the position will be a minimum number of 35% and not maximum. 

Now, not talking as a politician, seeing a lot of promises in the past, can Nigerian women take it to the bank that this is what will happen?

The difference between Asiwaju and others is that others give promissory notes that they never kept. Asiwaju did what he said. In Lagos State, Asiwaju is the first person who made  a woman  the Head Of Service in Lagos State.

He is the first person who made a woman the Chief Judge. In Lagos today, because of the employment opportunity he gave to women, majority of the Permanent Secretaries in Lagos State are women. Even in the Civil service,  he still priotised them; giving them employment and giving them promotions.

He was the first who made a woman Deputy Governor which is now a trend. Going back to his household, Asiwaju was not intimidated by his wife going to become senator while he was not in any government office. He encouraged his wife to pursue her dreams and goals. So you are seeing a man who has given raw evidence to empower women. There is no better way to speak it than to say Asiwaju will be there for women.

What have you learnt as a woman leader since you resumed office?

Human management. The ability to manage people at the higher and more diverse level. Before now, I have managed people but it has been around the health sector. I was the former Special Adviser to the governor on Health. I have managed profesionals which has been a lot easier.

At this time, I’m managing an entire diversity of women at different cadres of life; some old, some young, some middle aged, some rich, some middle class, some poor, some educated and some not educated. It is a different level of exposure.  

These six months, have taught me how to manage different people with different backgrounds, cultures, understanding and believes.

The ability to have patience, to pull women in the right path to deliver better results for all as women. These are big lessons and I’m really grateful for that.