Abiodun Essiet is a gender advocate, women leader of Nigeria Women Trust Fund, Public Health Consultant and a Researcher. She is a young female politician currently contesting for the position of a councilor of Orozo Ward, Abuja Muncipal Area Council (AMAC) , in Abuja under All Progressive Congress (APC) . She is a passionate community leader with seven years experience in project management, community development and leadership. She is involved in identifying developments gaps in the society and ways of bridging the gaps. As a participant of CANVASSITY PAN-AFRICAN YOUTH DEMOCRACY PROGRAM 2018, she is working on a 6 month project in her community on public service efficiency by engaging elected representatives to become more accountable, efficient and to deliver impactful governance to citizens. Chiomah’s blog connected with her recently.
Please tell us about yourself My name is Abiodun Essiet. I was born in Oyo town and grew up in Ibadan. I have a Bachelor of Nursing science degree , and I am also a Registered Nurse, Registered mid- wife and Registered Public Health Nursing certificate with a Masters in Public Health. I hold a diploma degree in Development Leadership and certificate in Community Development Leadership by Women, Conflict and peace building, Action Research for a Citizens led Change from Coady International Institute, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Currently I am the National Director for women, Gender and Development Affairs of Africa Youth Development Commission. I am also the Executive Director of Abiodun Essiet initiative for girls a Non Governmental organizations dealing with youth and women empowerment, Board Member and Health Consultant For Strong Enough Girls Empowerment Initiative , Ladder Development Initiative and a volunteer for Baobab for women human rights.
I am also actively engaged in public service, volunteerism and mentoring.
Having achieved so much success why politics with all its intrigues? As a gender activist, I decided to go into politics because of the wide gender gap in decision making platform . Women are discriminated against in virtually all spheres of life in Nigeria e.g. in the home front, in educational institutions, in working places and in political appointments. The worrisome aspect of this discrimination is that it has persisted for so long that it is now so deeply rooted and institutionalized in Nigeria system. Nigeria women are strictly restricted women by our culture to a stereotyped role of home keepers, child bearers, and child rearers. She is to be seen and not heard, their subordinate role is not dependent on the social, educational or economic status. Women’s role in Nation building is their equal participation in decision making processes at every level and in every sectors. Engaging in community development is our fundamental attempt to eliminate gender- based poverty.
How supportive has your family been of your ambition? My Family has been supportive because they have seen my determination and passion for gender justice in the society and moreover my parent are also politicians. I take politics as a profession and I made my family members to understand why it is important for women to go into politics. As a multitasking woman, I have not allowed my political ambition affect my duties to my family or life. I prioritize my work on a daily basis and I employ people as a support system for me in my home and work.
I know this has been a dream but many times we are afraid to follow our heart and chase our dreams . What gave you the courage to go ahead ? Hmm, politics is more than a dream to me , it is my destiny as it is something I believe God has sent me to the earth to do, fulfilling His purpose on earth by helping the less privilege and promoting Gods agenda in leadership. What gives me courage is the fact that I have the inner conviction that I am on the right track and fulfilling a spiritual mandate. Nobody can stop any man for fulfilling his or her destiny, when God is on your side, who can be against you?
Why did you choose to run for Councillor and having had experience politicking what are your general impressions? Councillor is the lowest level of governance and the one closest to the people. I observed that the way we practice democracy in Nigeria does not promote citizens participation, and I believe that local governance create the platform for citizen to fulfil their civic responsibility. I am passionate about promoting civic engagement in Governance and protecting the right of women and improving their access to services. This is because I believe that when citizens are involved in governance it promotes development and democracy and the Local Government is the most fundamental and closest in the deliverance of public service. Also, acknowledging the fact that women access public service more than men and women carry a disproportionately high burden of poverty, all these factors make women to be marginalized because they have no or little opportunity to influence the political, economic, and social processes and institutions which control and shape their lives and keep them trapped in a cycle of poverty. If public services are not efficient, it increases the burden on women, family and the community as a whole.
You are a grassroot person, how important are the people at the grassroot level and how have they received you? Yes I am a grassroots person and my profile shows I have done a lot of community development work at the grassroot level, I have been into community development for over 8 years so am a grassroot person. My work focus on identifying developments gaps in the society and ways of bridging the gaps . My passion for community development is one of the major reasons I decided to run for councillorship position because it gives me the opportunity to relate better with grassroot people and help them to solve their challenges . Members of the party and community often say that am overqualified to run for councillor that I should run for bigger offices but I know how important it is to focus on the grassroots.
You are running for office in Orozo community of AMAC. While FCT is the centre of unity, have you had issues considering you are not an original indigene of Abuja.? FCT is the center of unity and should promote federal character in governance but in Abuja politics is a different story entirely . politics is Abuja is like indigenes versus non-indigenes. The indigenes (the Gbagis and Gwadarasa) who are the original settlers in Abuja before it became the Federal Capital believes political leadership is their right and they have the numbers to get elected in political offices. People like me who relocated to Abuja because of government work or to fulfil our dreams in our career and have lived for more than 5 years or 20 years are often referred to as non-indigenes in politics. My community is often referred to as an indigenous community and all our councillors since 1995 have been indigenes, understanding this fact made me to focus my political movement and community interventions in the indigenous community with the aim of winning their heart and also to help them understand that I have the capacity to meet their needs. The reality on ground is the fact that the indigenous community are the most marginalized community in my ward and in Abuja and their people who have been elected to power for years have been robbing them of their rights and privileges, currently our 3 term serving senator in FCT is an indigenous person , also our house of representatives members are also indigenous people. Abuja should narrate how Nigeria should be but with the current ethnical issues we are facing political we are far away from making it a true Federal Capital.
The commonest language in FCT is Hausa language and the proficiency in Hausa language is necessary in politics but as an individual I don’t understand the language, so I carry an interpreter along everywhere I go for my campaign.
There are a lot of women coming out this time around, what do you think has informed this? The movement for political inclusion has been organized by people in civil society , feminists , and other who have seen the need for gender balance in governance. Also the not too young to run movement has also encouraged more young women to engage in politics and aspire for political positions . Power is not given , it is taken by force. Also the men are also not making it easy for women , in addition to the fact that politics is a patriarchy system . The society at large still believes leadership/politics is a man’s business and they question the characters of women who are doing the politics, it is a worse perception when you are a young woman. Most times my political leaders ask me if I have my husband consents to take part in politics . Currently, I am running against 5 men who are also indigenes , succeeding in my ambition will be as a result of how I have inspire and empower people in my community for a social change in governance.
How are you able to relax and refresh when you are tired ? I relax by taking some time to sleep and eating well. However, since I started my campaign it has been a challenge eating twice a day or even eating good and balanced diet. I refresh by reading books not related to politics but on development studies.
All the best Abiodun!
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