Ene Ede is a well-known gender activist and veteran journalist who has been promoting enhanced women participation in politics all over the country. She contested as a deputy governorship candidate in Benue State under the Alliance Action, AA party in the March 6, 2019 governorship election.
In a chat with National Point Newspaper’s managing editor, Constance Meju, Ene reveals identified missing links in the political game for women: Excerpts:
How did it go at the election?
I have tendered apology but I need a bigger platform to render apology to the women I have supported over the years. When they told us we should not be inviting them to too many meetings all the time, that we were wasting their time, we thought they were arrogant. Truly, many of the things we did, we contributed to their failure. We needed to be meeting them at their base not calling them. There is this support group led by Ene Jonathan, they called me, “Mummy where are you we are in your community?” That kind of support was more useful. Of course, there have to be interface but they don’t need all those meetings. We call them for small monies that can’t help them; it’s like a distraction.
One other thing that I never heard anywhere, we did not tell women seeking election the kind of form they will have to fill and about the sensitivity of that form. I never heard it anywhere. That was why my own candidate was able to take my form away with the help of the INEC official and my party candidate. Nothing was said about the critical security of the document. That was why I filled the form and left it with my candidate and he went back to fill the form with another man.
You know, that form, you can scan it or colour photocopy it because nobody will take black and white photocopy, and have it in different places in case of anything. We did not tell them about all these.
Was that what happened to a lady from is it Kaduna State who was attacked at the party secretariat in Abuja over the 2015 elections?
Halima Bintu, she is leading a big coalition now and contested in this last election. Did she find the documents?You know she could have scanned those documents.
One other thing is the issue of money; issue of money for use in election. For women,it is important that you look for a way to know how much is given to your party. In my own case, they gave money to Senator Gemade, my party governorship candidate and the woman leader. Nothing was given to me as deputy governorship candidate and even if we were contesting as one party, there are times we campaigned individually; he has his constituencies and I have mine but I had to cater for mine.
There are post-election issues
Another very disturbing issue is the trauma you go through. You need a team of people who will stay with you throughout the election. The trauma is too much. Many will leave before the election is over.We didn’t have money to cushion the effect of the election. Just before the election, I didn’t have money, I started lacking money, at a stage I didn’t have credit in my phone. If people contribute money , there must be money you keep.
Gbenga promised us N100million for our state rally where they will lift our hand, but 10kobo did not come and you had already planned; I was even saying N100million would not be enough. Tell women to have modest campaigns, I had a big campaign team. Some team members will abandon you. You need loyal people that will never let you down but will hold your hand if you collapse.
No amount of financial support is too small for a candidate. With N100 data you can reach many. Somehow, all the money they sent to me came to meet dire need. Some people are shy to contribute small amounts. At my level, N100 came a long way with the recharge card I bought. You can raise millions with N100.
People asked why I did not join APC, APC people are so aggressive. You also need to consciously begin to forgive people; enemies in politics. Women need to know how to manage opposition , sudden resistance and enemies; you meet so much in politics. If you don’t have people, you can land in poverty, depression.My family did not support me; some were angry I was coming to divide the vote in the village.
Women at the Election Tribunal
For women who want to go to the tribunal, we have never worked out how to support them. International organizations must also provide opportunities for their support. Let women organizations and women groups solidarize with them. Be in court to identify with them. It is symbolic; the judge will say,’Ha! I don’t know what the women are saying”.
Let there be follow up on women. People are abandoned. The 100 Group, The Feminist Group, I did not see any. We shouldn’t abandon women after elections. Phone, reach out to them to avoid some falling into depression. I tell people, “The elections are over, the trauma is here”.
To be successful in our electoral process as in other climes, there must be electoral reforms and a change of habits and attitudes towards elections. In the coming administration Nigeria will have only 27 women in the House of Representatives. We need active gender desks.
Women should build friends and acquaintances that have money, engage in long-term political goals while doing things in your communities in preparation for future elections.