Sarah Jibril, a former presidential candidate and special adviser to the president on ethics and values, speaks on the nature of her job and the position of women in politics. Excerpts:
Work to foster positive value system
Generally, we are coming up with policies very soon and I think the president will appreciate that we have to apply the bigness of our heart, intelligence and conscience. We would have to raise simultaneous platforms formally and informally, enlightening rural as well as the elites.
It is expected that the eyes of the adviser on ethics and values will see every aspect of our policies, be it in government, private sector, foreign policies, etc and it is only logical that we must now have data that will help us monitor the impact of our teachings and we have people who are very happy to partner with us as volunteers.
They have plans to come up with community transformation centres across the country where we can disseminate our information, gather data, as well as measure the impact of our efforts. Each local government council is called upon to assist us here because we want to get to the grassroots. They can lend us a building or contribute whatever they can.
We also intend to promote agriculture by encouraging the establishment of community farms where people can plant together and harvest together through self help and multi-purpose societies.
We must encourage people to be their brothers’ keepers so that the spirit of oneness and love can begin to flow again as it used to be. This will help in tackling corruption and drive greed away from our midst.
Transforming the citizens
We in the Ethics and Values group believe we can reshape our country to bring it in line with what the president want for this nation. We will address those things that had brought shame to us as a nation.
We are talking about transforming ourselves into a status that will put Nigeria back in the right position of being the number one investment destination in the world and we cannot attract business if we continue in the old order. We must accept that if we are to achieve our vision 202020, everybody must accept to be re-oriented and be transformed. I believe that our collective determination will make us to succeed as a people.
We are growable, we are beautifiable and it is wonderful that we have a president who is thinking in this direction. The PDP must be happy that we have a president like Goodluck Jonathan and people like me that can be trusted to carry out this assignment.
Power to the people is not only about having economic power; we must also have power to be self-disciplined , to act as nation builders. We have people in PDP who have noble hearts. We must now encourage the emergence of the best people in our midst, especially amongst women and this is what the president is doing.
We must have a positive paradigm shift in the country. This is why we are creating a positive platform to show forth that we are a good people and that we are capable of transforming Nigeria.
Poor access to education opportunities
I want to thank you for drawing the nation’s attention to this issue. The less women are educated, the more ignorance is compounded and I believe that even the north wants to catch up. The earlier we know that western education is not a curse or “Haram”, the earlier we are able to catch up.
But this issue of women not being allowed access to education is serious because those who have had access are actually doing very well. It is just a few people who are creating these problems. It an issue for northern leaders, be they educated, traditional or political, to learn to differentiate between the reasoning civilization or applying archaic discrimination. They need to recognise the worth of women in the development of people. We are created to complement men and to complement each other.
Political power is given to spread goodwill, love, and values. If they think that power is given to suppress, then we are suppressing ourselves and displaying perpetual ignorance.
Many women in politics
Women are really working hard to be the best. Women in politics must also work hard to be the best they want to be. Look at the professional women for instance, those of them that are being recognised by the banks and even the Judiciary.
Our sisters are doing well in politics and our politicians are now using them to take credit. However, women in politics are still seen as threats and therefore, being marginalised. Where are the women that contested elections?
Why is it that the political parties are not recognising them and giving them their dues? We are having a contradiction and it creates dilemma. Unless one is mature, you do not quite understand. Really, women politicians are complaining, but the political parties are not listening to them.
Seeking justice for social ills
I have always mentioned that the 1999 constitution need to be amended to help us tackle these defects. There is a great error in that issues that pertains to justice and equity in chapter 2 of the 1999 constitution, unless the constitution is amended, is not justiciable. Which means it is destructive to the sensibility or conscience of the nation that issues that are causing the problems are not justiciable.
We, being a developing country, are peculiar people and because we are of multiple nationalities, it is ok for us to continue to review certain aspects of our constitution that are pregnant with controversies. Unless we have the maturity to discuss them, because of the future generation, we would be dwelling on this confusion and covering a lot of things under the carpet.
Workshop on changing values
What we are doing by having these seminars is to enlighten the political parties, the government, and other sectors. We are removing the ignorance about the contents of the constitution, as well as letting them know that women remain the link between the nation and her development.
Now, when you look at the symbol of justice, everywhere in the world, it is the woman with her blindfolded eyes holding the scale of balance. If we are to show or apply the values of equity, it means the best people that will ensure justice would be the woman with the conscience, to distribute goodwill and love.
So, the issue that can be raised is that of the stipulations in Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution, sub section 23 which talks about national ethics, values, justice. We are told that even this provisions in the constitution as good as they are, are not justifiable.
Now it means that the whole constitution is accepting the non-recognition of justice that women and other marginalised people should have. Government should take note of all these and political parties must appreciate that what draws back the issues of justice and equity in the country and the non-application of the principle of accountability, transparency and democratic values is the fact that politicians have flouted issues of equity or justice to people.
We have several female bank managers. Why is it that the male-dominated economic sector trust women more than politicians? That is why the First Lady, Patience Jonathan, finds it difficult to stay back. We will work hand-in-hand to ensure that justice is done.
We are stakeholders in this issue and women should realise that as long as they remain cowardly on this issue, things will continue to go wrong.
We have a lot of investment in women to bring out the qualities in them and to use these qualities locally as well as internationally. That is why Mr President must be commended for carrying the entire conscience of the nation and putting it on the laps of the women to be re-cooked.
So, it is not an appointment for Sarah Jibril alone, it is an appointment and assignment to the women, the parents, and everyone who cares about the fear of God as well as the dignity of this country.