Jumoke Lawoyin, an activist and industrialist, won the governorship ticket of the National Rescue Movement, a newly registered political party, but her name was conspicuously missing from the list of candidates released by INEC. She was reportedly told she did not complete the registration process with the commission. In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, she relives her disappointment and gives insight on her expectations on the coming governorship election. Excerpts:
PT: You were elected as candidate of the National Rescue Movement for the coming election. How far have you fared?
Lawoyin: You know I am new in the game. We have some issues with INEC. So, for the fact that they said when we finished the primaries in Osun, we were supposed to have gone to Abuja to register and fill in our nomination, whereas I thought that since the INEC, who were like the invigilators, they are supposed to have been the returning officers. We did all the things they said we should do, filled the forms and all of that. But our names didn’t come out when the list was released. They told us that was the reason why. We have written to ask for explanation, and we are still waiting for their response.
PT: Is there any hope or indication that your name would be back on the list before the election?
Lawoyin: I really don’t know. I am not the normal politician. I came into it out of absolute desperation to rescue my state. It has turned out that obviously because I am a novice…I would have thought that after I sat down with INEC officials and we were told we have done everything, we asked if everything was correct they said yes, but when the list of candidates came our names were not there. Then they said we ought to have known that we should have gone to Abuja to submit the forms and that the submission in Osun was not enough. But the national office in Abuja is taking care of that, so we are waiting to see what happens.
PT: Does it mean that the national secretariat of your party did not know that it ought to make submissions to the INEC headquarters of the names of the candidates for the election?
Lawoyin: Honesty I don’t know. I asked questions from Osun State, I don’t know why my name is not on the ballot yet.
PT: Are you still campaigning now that you are not certain that you will contest the election?
Lawoyin: I would not waste my time campaigning when I am not on the ballot.
PT: With this happening, What is your assessment of the election activities so far, do you see it meeting the expectations of the populace?
Lawoyin: First of all, I think the monetisation is tragic, I would like to believe that what I heard Tinubu say…I am from Osogbo… from the Ataoja’s palace, I would hope that it came out not as it meant it to be, because that was an insult to Osun people, to say that he was richer than them and all of that. I am a bit concerned about the way the Nigerian politics is going. Honestly, we are not helping the young people to begin to value themselves as they should. Most young people think politics is a way to make money, don’t worry about anything, just get there anyway. If what Tinubu is saying, that Osun has no money and that Osun is poor, so why are they desperate to put in their person there? What are they doing in Osun, why don’t you stay in Lagos? The in-fighting, the fact that the young people are totally excluded…and look, N45 million (nomination form) for presidency…that is crazy; you have definitely excluded about 99 per cent of the society. How are you going to get the right people for the job? It means we will keep recycling the same old people, so there is no hope, I don’t see any hope here.
PT: The government and the political elite, even listening to the campaigns, portray the Osun people as very poor. Is Tinubu not drawing from that background?
Lawoyin: It just tells you how ignorant the leaders are. Because if the leaders are not ignorant, they will know that Osun State is one of the richest states in Nigeria. So, you are telling me that Osun has no money, almost every few yards, there are posters, does that not cost money? They could have used that money to pay the pensioners. Definitely, it is not a case of Osun State having no money, it is a case of Osun State having no leaders with vision.
Every few yards in Osun State have billboards, are they not paid for? The posters were they not paid for? All the cars on the road, were they not paid for? They bought them, people paid for them; that could have paid the pensioners arrears. Osun State is not poor. I am from Osun State. Luckily, I am also a miner, and I have done mining in six states. Osun State is one of the richest states in Nigeria. The problem is we keep putting leaders who have no clue about what is available. What they do is that each time they go to Abuja to collect money. If they sat in their offices and looked inwards, there is no state that is not rich, every state in Nigeria is very rich, untapped resources, both human and solid.
PT: Given your private sector background, what do you think should be the way out of the present Osun economic problems.
Lawoyin: The whole political scene in Nigeria must be changed. It should not be able money bags.The young people should be allowed to invest in their own future, after all it is their future we are talking about. There is something I want to do anyway, it doesn’t matter whether I am a governor or not. It doesn’t stop me from serving my people.
For the past few years I have been setting up skill acquisition centres. I consulted for Zafara State, and then Kebbi State in skill acquisition for young men and women. I have set one up in Osogbo. Osun State is known for aro (dye), batik. It is an international money spinner. That is one thing that could be done. Any young man can do it; any young woman can do it. You can do bags with batik, you can do shoes with batik. It is an export material.
The Osun festival can be made into a huge tourist attraction. Ilesa is sitting on gold; Ife is sitting on gold and all sorts of gem stones. Then you have agricultural land. Why would you not say that we are poor? We are poor because we insist that we must go to Abuja to collect peanuts. Instead of encouraging our young people to work, we mortgage the land to Chinese for mining, instead of encouraging our young people – we call them illegal miners – instead of setting up and keeping them employed. So we have issues.
Most of those in government have been under government patronage and most of the money bags made their money from government and that is why the state cannot survive. Nigeria as a country is finding it difficult to survive because those who have money that should speak, cannot.
PT: Do you see monetisation of votes in the coming election despite the promises made by INEC and the police?
Lawoyin: Is INEC not part of the Nigerian fabric? You see, if INEC were to be sincere, are they not the people who did the election in Ekiti, coming to do the election here? So, what is going to be different? Nothing. I would like to believe that they know that what is going on is wrong. I don’t think that they understand that it is their children and their grandchildren’s future that they are messing with, and at the end it is their children that are the ones going to suffer because when you have a system where you buy votes and put incompetent people into power, your education is messed up.
Look, Osun is number 27 (literacy list), with all the porsche schools that they built. It would have been better they had built schools under trees and put in quality teachers, than for this kind of thing. It is easier to do porsche schools and collect the benefits than to train teachers and buy books.
PT: Technically, it appears that you have been taken out of this contest, how do you feel about this?
Lawoyin: Well, as a woman, I am a bit disappointed about this. I think regardless of who should or shouldn’t, it is the job of INEC to work with the client from start to the finish. So if there is a gap, they should have called for the person to say you need to do this or that. I feel as a woman, I have just been zeroed out of it anyway.
I guess that our orientation to serve too is different, because if I were a regulator, if there was a lapse or a gap somewhere, since they supervised the primaries, and there was a nominee, if for any reason there was something missing, I would have thought they would call the person, if he is ignorant, or if it is deliberate, so that you can help the person through the process. So, I don’t know, my office is looking, trying to see who is at fault, or if there is anything that can be done. I am not giving up, I am from this state, I will still contribute to the state anyway.
PT: There are other women in the contest. As a woman activist, would you be lending your support to them, since it appears you may not be able to get back into the fray?
Lawoyin: Yes, I am actually backing at the moment, Justice Oloyede. I think she fought a just course. She came across as a woman who has a heart of gold and as a mother, even in office she could walk away from the juicy position of a judge and held on to what she believed in, she is wonderful.
Those are people that could succeed in government, because they stand for something. Most of our politicians stand for nothing. I am supporting her. Actually, I am going to start going out with her to start campaigning. She is of the deputy governorship candidate of the ADC.
Obviously I admire her for the fact that she had the courage of conviction to petition a government, even though it cost her the job, it was worth it. Everything is not about money. That is what Nigerians must understand. That is why I am a little bit disappointed because the men have really missed it, and I felt that they should have given a woman a chance, to see, maybe as a mother, she could redirect our ways.
PT: From a national outlook, would you say that the polity itself has not been fair to women?
Lawoyin: Women have been totally zeroed out. How many women have N45 milion to buy a nomination form? The government just pays lip service, they are (not) sincere. If they really want women in government, then there has to be some positive discrimination in favour of women. Most countries do that. In Europe and in the US they had to do it at some point. Americans call it affirmation, the UK call it positive discrimination in favour of the minorities. We need to come up with something like that in Nigeria otherwise…
PT: What is your view on the high number of political parties in Nigeria?
Lawoyin: What I guess would have happened is, if Nigeria really had a working system, I think a lot of them would have collapsed into one. So that something good will come out of people coming and sitting together, to say, you have a good agenda, and the other has something good in his agenda and we come up with something near perfect, because in this world, nothing is perfect, that we can work with.
It would been a good tool if it is harnessed properly. Perhaps each party has one idea that could be used, there are parties that don’t have manifestos, they just come up with a party and they start. But real politics means that likeminded persons will come together and unite as one to form a formidable force, because again the way Nigeria is playing the game is dangerous, because if one party system wins, then it is a problem.
Without a viable opposition, Nigeria is in trouble. It is the winner takes all. A president wins an election, he only works along party lines. Once you are president or governor, you are for all, you should look at the best person for the job. Nigeria has a lost of issues that need to be addressed.
PT: Some of the newly registered parties like yours seem to be populated by highly skilled and successful private individuals, but Nigerian citizens are not looking their way. What are you doing to change this?
Lawoyin: I know. I think eventually, Nigerians in the Diaspora will have to come in and play an active role for us to have presidents that we be proud of and can speak in any international gathering and not embarrass us. We are all guilty. You talking to me, you are guilty, I am guilty too, because we queue up under this bunch of people who have nothing to offer other than they have cash money. Somebody cracked a joke recently, he said to me, oh Jumoke you are in the wrong business. He said if you really want money, there are two places to go, he said you need to join the politicians and become a proper politician, or you go and open a church.
That is a sad story for Nigeria. We are not talking about how our young people can become skilful, we are not talking about how the standards of our healthcare can be improved. We are thinking, just make money, once you have money, it is fine. You drive with an entourage of 50 cars, then you have arrived, then our children begin to think that is normal. Abroad people respect people that have done something with their lives; in Nigeria it is all government patronage. Someday when some of these wealthy people die, some banks will die with them.