Clarice Azuatalam CLARICE AZUATALAM is a veteran journalist and long term unionist who in response to heightened calls for increased participati
CLARICE AZUATALAM is a veteran journalist and long term unionist who in response to heightened calls for increased participation of women in political decision making joined the fray in the 2019 general elections. She contested in her Owerri Constituency for a federal seat in the Lower Chamber of the National Assembly. In a telephone chat with Constance Meju, she reviews her experience contesting for office under MAJA Party.
Money was a major issue
Vote buying was really a major issue. People were selling their votes for N1,000, N2,000, N5,000 depending on the municipality and party. The two major parties fully engaged in vote buying. In fact it was sorry to see how people were selling their right for four years for as little asN1,000 and N2,000. What can that buy? N2,000 cannot even cook a good pot of soup. Poverty has made the people so desperate they are ready to e bought over with very little. Government has to discourage vote buying.
You know women do not have money, most men have money and politics in Nigeria consumes money from campaign to election. People come to campaign grounds based on monetary expectations. In my constituency the slang is ‘aka kwogaosesike’ meaning a hand that gives reasonably. They see political campaigns as bazaar, everything is money.
Violence Not Really An Issue
There was no violence in my constituency and no death was recorded in my state, Imo during the February 26 and March 8 elections. It was only in Mbano area that a female candidate’s brother was reported shot and the woman had to rush him to the hospital.
Terrain Difficult For New Parties As Brand Loyalty Holds Sway and INEC Did not Sensitize Enough
I found out too that people are still loyal to brand. My party, MAJA’s logo is the map of Nigeria and a school bag, a little difficult to understand by the people in the village. The people are used to umbrella and broom. Not enough sensitization was done by INEC to educate the people on party logos. I have always said that INEC always comes in for elections and goes in after elections but the work of sensitizing the people on voter education ought to be a continuous process.
Women were receptive but did not match this with votes
Women were receptive and supportive but they voted for major parties that gave them money. Youths are readily available to do dirty jobs for politicians. They come saying, we can do this and that for you if you give us money. In our campaigns in the communities, at the market place, we were well received but the votes did not come. There is need for mindset change. Politicians have so disoriented Nigerians they are ready to take any crumb.
Give Appointments To Women Who Contested
I agree that we did not get enough seats in the elections, three per cent. I support the call for more space in appointive positions. The federal government should give appointments to those women who participated no matter the situation. That way you can serve and build and maintain your structure and also show that given bigger responsibility, you will be able to handle it.Men do not often go back to their constituency and nobody is going after them but no woman will fail to do something in her constituency as she will be afraid because of her in-laws to avoid bringing shame to them.
The major parties PDP and APC did not give any woman opportunity;, women were over-ruled. In my Owerri Federal Constituency, since 1999 no woman has been given the opportunity. It is so sad.
From my campaigns I observed that our communities have no access roads and there is high unemployment among the youths. Poverty is also an issue.
Message to Women
Don’t give up despite setback. Let us start planning for the next four years and keep trying. One day God will hear us and liberate us.
#Gender And Accountability
Constance Meju is gender equity and environmental justice advocate and publisher of Port Harcourt based National Point Newspaper