Remi Sonaiya was the candidate of KOWA party in the 2015 presidential election. In this interview with Kayode Oyero in Ile-Ife, the 61-year-old politician and retired professor of French Language, Linguistics and Applied Logistics at the Obafemi Awolowo University, speaks on her political vocation, the Buhari administration and other issues.
PT: Why politics when you are a pure educationist?
Sonaiya: I was concerned about the falling standards all around, especially as I had studied in the same university where I was teaching. I was concerned that students who belonged to my children’s generation could not have the same standard of education I had. I realised that politicians determined the quality of our lives. I decided to quit the university and join politics.
PT: Looking at your scorecard at the last presidential election, are you glad you did?
Sonaiya: I am very happy I participated. I had no illusions going in. I knew it would take time to bring about a shift in the political culture of money and violence which had been so entrenched in our system. I was glad that I had votes in every single state in the country. I believe the chauvinists too would come round when they realise we need a change.
PT: Talking about the present administration, do you feel you and KOWA party would have done better if you were elected?
Sonaiya: Of course, I would have done better by God’s help. For example, I would have consulted widely in selecting members of my cabinet, so that we would get the best people to manage our affairs in different sectors. Party considerations would not have been primary; the interest of the country would have been. And I would have gotten the cabinet in place before my inauguration, so that we would really hit the ground running. It’s strange to nominate people for ministerial positions and not have them assessed by the Senate on their competence in specific areas.
PT: KOWA party seems to be a silent opposition.
Sonaiya: KOWA is not a silent opposition party. The fact is that in Nigeria if you do not have plenty of money it is difficult for your voice to be heard. We are very active in the social media, where we have quite some amount of following. We are gradually building up the party, and we are very hopeful that soon we will become more visible as more people join us and contribute to funding the party. KOWA does not believe that parties should be funded by money from government coffers.
PT: The present president has a track record of three attempts before the fourth and successful one. Come 2019, God sparing our lives, do you intend to contest for president?
Sonaiya: Of course, it is the person who emerges as the party’s candidate after we must have conducted our primaries who will represent the party in the presidential elections. Who knows, maybe it would be me.
PT: Politics is a male-dominated area, especially the race for president. And you contested. What drives you?
Sonaiya: What drives me is a passion to see my country be well governed and her citizens live a dignified and prosperous life, as in so many other countries that I have had the opportunity to visit. I believe there is nothing fundamentally different from us and other human beings in terms of the abilities we were created with. How come we won’t use them to improve our lives? How come we allow a handful of people to get away with so much theft and condemn the overwhelming majority to a life of penury? I am driven by a passion for truth, righteousness and justice. When there is righteousness in governance, the people will rejoice. I also believe Nigeria owes itself the responsibility of getting her act together and taking her rightful position of leadership in Africa. I long to remove the shame which has for long hung over us.
PT: What is your message to African women?
Sonaiya: African women should be bold. There is no need to be afraid of politics. Let us begin to see participation in the political life of our nations as a duty we owe our nations, ourselves and our children, just like we participate actively in the running of our homes. If half of the population is missing, we are being short-changed. Women have their peculiar contributions to make which will complement those being made by men. It has been shown that in societies where women are present in governance, such societies become more stable, more prosperous, leading to better standards of living.