Chief Mrs. Aisha Audu [nee Emeje], the former first lady of Kogi State has made her ambitions public as she recently announced her intentions to join the upcoming gubernatorial elections to govern Kogi State as the first female governor. In this interview, she argues that as a former governor’s wife, she had no specific function in government that would have assisted the people the way she wanted. She spoke about her plans for Kogi State.
What motivated you to join the race in which your former husband, the former governor Prince Abubakar Audu is one of the major contenders?
I am compelled by the socio-economic reality in the state. A group of youths called “Kogi Youth Vanguard” and a host of other civil society called me and state their plight, they encourage me to join the process to liberate them. I wept for my people. Go to Lokoja, the state capital, and see a glorified village. Up till now, our people even in Lokoja have not gone beyond rudimentary existence. They have a static life.
They are held hostage by poverty and ignorance. I weep for them. We want to re-brand the state. The state
They are held hostage by poverty and ignorance. I weep for them. We want to re-brand the state. The state deserves more than what it is getting. We want to attract visitors who could be potential investors. We need investors to grow the state.
But it looks more like a waste dump. It is lamentable that we have not been able to use the symbolism of the state as the first capital of Nigeria to boost tourism. The myriad of tourism attraction centres in the state is yet to be harnessed. Tourism provides 60 percent of revenue in most advanced countries. It is a tool for education relation and it is better than revenue from oil. We will showcase the rich tourism potentials in the state.
Though Kogi may lack the attractive pull of Lagos and the sophistication of Abuja, its historical antecedents can make it a tourist haven. When visitors come to the state they come with a lot of expectations but leave disappointed.
Available statistics have proved that women in Nigeria prefer to support the men in the race for elective position, especially that of the president and governor, for instance, it happened during the last PDP presidential primaries where the only female aspirant in the contest, Mrs Sarah Jubril, lost to the incumbent president due to lack of support from the women folk. What magic do you think will work in your favour in the December poll?
It is only in Nigeria that eligibility for political offices takes the colour of gender and tribe without consideration for the content of character, blueprint for development, and vision. We are in an era of increased agitation for more visible role for women in governance all over the world. But in a place like Kogi, they are locked
Kogi State is faced with serious underdevelopment since its creation in 1991 due to lack of good leadership, poverty, ethnic mistrust and youth restiveness. What do you intend to do when given the mandate to salvage the people?
The problem starts with lack of vision. Many never prepared for the position they occupy. They lack the required vision. A governor of a state is like a driver of a luxury bus. It is not just enough that you can drive, but do you have a good sight? Without a good sight, your driving ability is zero.
Another question is, do you know the road? Vision is very important. That is why the Bible says without vision the people perish. Governance goes beyond tarring of roads.
Those are normal responsibility of government and should not be seen as achievement because after all why were you elected in the first place? The vision sets you apart from the crowd. That is what set me apart from some people whose reasons for contesting is to display their wealth, or on a vengeance mission. If you have a compelling vision like the one we have, you will definitely be dissatisfied with the status quo.
Going by the public opinion, it was widely believed that your former husband, Prince Abubakar Audu performed credibly during his tenure as governor and you were part of the government, now that you have decided to throw your hat into the ring, are you saying his achievements were just a media hype?
If I have my way I would not want to speak on individuals. We are around to enrich the quality of debate in the polity. Having said all this, I want to say that there is too much hype in our politics in the state and propaganda has helped to make heroes out of mediocrity and our people to see hell as paradise.
You are a journalist and you should know that there are universal indices for leadership assessment. We do not need to go to the political graves to exhume political ghosts to come and govern us in the name of experience when we have vibrant youths. C. S. Lewis said no rearrangement of bad eggs can ever make a good omelette.
It was rumoured that you are in the race to spoil the chances of your ex-hubby. Are we saying the crisis that led to the dissolution of your marriage is irreconcilable?
My brother, I naturally do not respond to rumours. But I think it would be extremely uncharitable for anyone to reduce my governorship project to spoiling the chance of another person. I think I and my party deserve more than that. What we are saying is, our elections in Kogi do not reflect the best that Kogi could offer
What if your party, Justice Party, as one of the opposition parties in the state endorses Prince Abubakar Audu, what would be your next step? Would you support his candidature?
How much do you know of the published report by the World Bank on women investment in the growing global economy, and how can you tap into that to improve the lot of women in your state and also improve its economy?
Yes I have been very much involved in most World Bank activities in the past one year; I was actually a delegate in the last IMF/WORLD BANK FORUM. I am aware the women deserve more assistance in many areas, such as health, discrimination in the workplace, lack of rights at home, land rights, education, more opportunities to enter the job markets and control over their lives, and many more areas.
In this year report the World Bank made significant progress with narrowing the gender gaps especially in the labour markets and education. As a woman I will increase opportunities for women and girls by increasing social enterprise development. Except we want to deceive ourselves, investing in women is an economically sound strategy, if women were given opportunities the overall development prospects would improve for all. Mind you women are the 40% of the global workforce. I will encourage women entrepreneur and involve them in all areas of governance.
Who is Aisha Audu Emeje. What makes you think as a politician, I mean your background and political network in the state?
I attended primary schools in Lagos and Calabar, which saw me through the prestigious Queen of the Holy Rosary Secondary School, Gboko in Benue State. I went to Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo for my Ordinary National Diploma (OND).
Then, I went for an online degree in Accounting and Finance from the American International University (AIU), Illinois, United States. Even though I lost my father (Chief W A. Emeje), a Chief Petty Officer in the Nigerian Navy when I was 13 in 1984, my mother was my role model.
She never gave up on us. All the grace I am enjoying today were the principles of life that my mother inculcated in me. I started from a humble beginning by selling cashew nuts. Through sales and dealership in automobiles, I now preside over a vast business empire that cuts across telecommunication, real estate and agriculture.
While I was the first lady, I ran a pet project known as Family Advancement and Care Programme (FACAP), which aimed at advancing family life. Though I had no specific function in government that would have assisted the people the way I wanted, I did not fail my people. I handled issues that were brought to me as the First Lady of Kogi State. Though I never had an office allocated to me. I never went to any.
I did not know what the office of the First Lady looked like. I was running my businesses from the house. Being a First Lady, I am not a politician rather a business woman. I believe that when you occupy a political office, a lot is expected of you. I do not know if I can meet up with those challenges.
I prefer to deal with everybody and not just the political class alone. I am very passionate about improving energy and the power sector.
I am also working with some foreign technical partners to provide 1,000 megawatts of electricity. I hope to partner the government or eventually go into Independent Power Project (IPP) to meet the needs of our society.
Kogi Politics is known to be Violent. How do you Hope to Tackle it?
. The fact is, it is not only in soccer that you have hard tacklers who deliberately leave the ball and go for the legs of opponents so the opponents can be stretched out of the field of play. One, I have divine coverings because the project is not mine. So, even if I walk in the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil because He is with me. If a small boy looks straight into your face and challenge you to a fight, you will know that he has a backing. If God is with us, who can be against us. We will play according to the rules, and live the rest to God, the police and INEC
How do you rate the quality of campaign in the state?
Poor! Many are just out to deceive the electorate. Many are saying they will do this and that. But a discerning mind would know that you cannot build something on nothing. The people of the state are unhappy. They are disenchanted and hostile. Experiences have shown that the pillar of democracy must first be erected before we can obtain benefits of responsible government. From there we will enhance the performance and service delivery capacity of civil servants. in a civil service state like Kogi, the welfare of the civil servant is very crucial.
Many believe you should have waited for four years to enable you do a thorough mobilization before you contest.
I am not new to the people and their challenges even if the party is. And let me tell you, if you wait for a perfect condition you will not get anything done in life. One thing is certain in life; what isn’t tried won’t work. inches make champions. It is from a little spark that you burst a mighty flame. And you should know that I can do all things through Christ. The sixth lessons in Collin Powell’s leadership primer says, “You don’t know what you can get away with, until you try”.
Why do governments fail?
The problem starts with lack of vision. Many never prepared for the position they occupy. They lack the required vision. A governor of a state is like a driver of a luxurious bus. It is not just enough that you can drive, but do you have a good sight? Without a good sight, your driving ability is zero. Another question is, do you know the road? Vision is very important. That is why bible says without vision, the people perish. The road to development can take a lifetime in the hands of a driver who does not know his way. There is great power in vision because our future is in our picture. Vision comes from visual ability to see beyond the immediate
Governance goes beyond tarrying of roads. Those are normal responsibility of government and should not be seen as achievement because after all why were you elected in the first place? Vision is a mental picture of a preferable future. Vision is not what you can see with your physical eyes. It is what you can see with your inner eyes. As people are blind physically, so it is in the inner eyes. Observe the artist or architect it is what they are seeing that they draw. If you can’t see you can’t lead. Jer. 33.3 “says call upon me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things that you know not”. What drives governance is the vision. If you have vision it is not every contractor that can work for you. He must build according to what you are seeing. The vision sets you apart from the crowd. It is the vision that determines your manifesto, your staff and other things. That is what set me apart from some people whose reasons for contesting is to display their wealth, or on a vengeance mission. If you have a compelling vision like the one we have, you will definitely be dissatisfied with the status-quo. You have to pity them, because, it is not that they are unwilling, it is just that they are unable. You can’t give what you don’t have. Many lack capacity for intellectual projections.
Your plan for the state
We want to re-brand the state. The state deserves more than what it is getting. We want to attract visitors who could be potential investors. We need investor to grow the state. But it looks more like a waste dump. When you lack vision you can’t project accurately .And that is why they wait for problem to come before solving it. You build one road this year and later you expand it. No, you should have seen it through intellectual anticipation and visual projection in the 21st century; you anticipate and plan.
Many believe that women are not strong enough to withstand the rigor of governing a state
Governance is not about brawn it is about brain. And governance does not need a strong personality. Instead, it needs strong institutions. It is not a one man show but collective efforts and collective responsibilities
Do you have enough money to actualize your goal?
Positioning is greater than cash. I don’t know why our media put so much emphasis on cash? Positioning is the key thing in life. It helps a great deal to determine the height one eventually attains in life. It is your position that determines your connections while your connections determine your contacts. And a man is as rich as his contacts. There are people, they don’t have cash but they don’t lack what cash can offer.