General

INTERVIEW: I want to bring more youths and women into politics, says Rinsola Abiola

Author:
Samuel Akpan

At a time when women’s inclusion in politics is in the spotlight following the rejection of gender bills by the national assembly, Rinsola Abiola believes she has what it takes to drive inclusivity in the All Progressives Congress (APC). The daughter of late MKO Abiola is a founding member of the APC and has been consistent in mobilising and empowering youths to vie for political office. In this interview with TheCable’s SAMUEL AKPAN, Abiola, who contested the Abeokuta North/Odeda/Obafemi Owode federal constituency seat in 2019, said if elected as the national youth leader of the APC, she would ensure that more opportunities are given to women and youths in the party. 


TheCable: What is your vision as a politician?

Abiola: I decided to join politics because I figured it is better off trying to work from within the system to change it than to just be a critic of the government, constantly pointing out what is wrong without actually doing anything much.

Advertisement

I want to be part of the process of making Nigeria a place that we can all be proud to call home, to be part of the process of making change, meaningful, impactful, measurable and positive change to a large number of people.

TheCable: What change have you been able to drive so far?

Advertisement

Abiola: I have a couple of areas of concern within my current ability and the first is youth inclusion in government and women’s inclusion, particularly looking at young women. So as a member of the party, I have actually been in charge of processes in getting more young women involved in politics and decision making process structures.

I have also done a couple of things in my individual capacity back home in Ogun state where I hail from. I have a foundation that I run— the Derinsola Abiola Foundation. The target is to make a measurable social impact when it comes to poverty alleviation, women empowerment and youth empowerment because I realised that for a large number of our people, the major challenge that we have is economic and for as long as you are unable to solve that problem, it’s going to be quite a challenge getting people to listen to other things.

TheCable: You are vying for the position of APC national youth leader. What do you hope to achieve with the office?  

Abiola’s campaign board on display in Abeokuta.

Abiola: Essentially, the youth leader is supposed to protect the interest of young people within the party. As a youth leader, my primary responsibility would be to protect and promote the interests of young people within the party. In addition to that, the whole point of a political party is to win elections so I will also take it upon myself to mobilise youth votes for my party for the 2023 elections at different levels using different youth engagement strategies.

I have been working in the youth space for quite a while — all of my adult life actually, so it’s demography that I understand. So I understand the issues, concerns, and language that they speak. Mobilising this demography will be of utmost importance and it will take a lot of priority. I’m also very particular about young aspirants and candidates.

We would do what we can to support our aspirants and our young candidates who will emerge eventually. I’m looking at having a centralised system for young candidates on the platform of the APC. Fundraising is a major challenge for young people who are in elective politics and we all know that funding makes all the difference. So an aggressive fundraising campaign to support our candidates is one of the things that I will be prioritising during my tenure as youth leader if elected. And then, of course, beyond just young people in the party.

TheCable: What have you contributed to the APC and why do you think you should be considered for the position?

Abiola picking up her nomination form at the APC secretariat in Abuja.

Abiola: In 2013 when the legacy parties were coming together, that was when we formed the All Progressives Youth Forum (APYF), I was the maiden public relations officer (PRO) of the APYF and if I recall correctly, the very first interview that was granted after the APC was registered, it was me on that programme talking about what the party would offer Nigerians and why youths need come on board to support the APC. So I have been at the forefront of promoting this party since the registration because we had put the youth wing together before the APC was registered.

Advertisement

So I was the maiden PRO and secretary of the APC Young Women Forum. Later on, I became the acting president of the APC Young Women Forum and our mandate was to mobilise young women for the party and to close the gap in young women’s political participation. If you look at the number of young men and women in politics, you’ll find out that the young men really outnumber us. So our mandate as a group was to ensure that more young women come into politics.

At the APC Young Women Forum, we had quite a number of programmes most of which I contributed personal resources to because for me it has always been about passion. I was a member of the presidential campaign council in 2015, in fact, I was subjected to a lot of abuse because I’m MKO’s daughter — he died fighting for democracy. Our candidate then was Muhammadu Buhari. So I had a lot of social media warriors as the opposition who abused and harassed me constantly because of the choices that I had made politically. In fact, my business — my media consultancy firm — suffered as a result, but I didn’t care, it was about my conviction. I believed entirely in what we were doing and I do not regret the decision to join the APC to this day.

I also formed the Progressive Young Women. During the party registration exercise, I spent my own personal resources, anyone can confirm this. I sponsored a media campaign across the six south-western states calling on women and young people to join the APC.

I also sponsored free passport pictures during the membership registration exercise. To join a political party, you need passport pictures.  It may sound odd to people who are well off but in the grassroots things like that actually prevents people sometimes from joining a party because they have to pay for passport pictures. So I didn’t want that to be a problem so I sponsored that personally.

I joined APC due to conviction and throughout my stay at the party, I have made investments within the party.

TheCable: The national assembly, dominated by your party, voted against five gender bills including the legislation seeking 35% affirmative action for women in party administration. Do you think men will vote for you?

Abiola seating second right during an all-female panel session at Hamzat Lawal’s 35th birthday symposium in Abuja.

Abiola: It is true that the APC has the majority in the national assembly, but at the same time, there are other parties that constitute a large number also. Secondly, the speaker of the house of representatives, Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila is a very progressive person, this I can attest to you. It pleased me greatly to learn that the house has rescinded its decision on those bills and would be subjecting them to another vote. I’m hopeful that this time around they would vote in favour of Nigerian women and gender equity.

Now, why do I think I have a good chance with my aspiration? Firstly, my contributions, even my most dedicated detractors cannot deny that I have made worthy contributions to this party in terms of youths and women representation and investments in my own personal capacity. Secondly, this is the role that I’m eminently qualified for and I have done a lot of work not just within the political space but also within the civil society. I’ve held a number of positions, been part of many campaigns all centred around youth inclusion and the elevation of women.

TheCable: In 2018 you left the APC for ADP. Why should you be seen as a loyal party member?

Abiola: In 2018 I wrote to inform a number of close friends, associates and leaders within the party of the decision that I have made. At the time, I was protesting certain issues happening locally in the party in Ogun state and I don’t think there was anybody who was not aware of the circumstances that led to that decision being made.

Talking about loyalty, I worked in the house of representatives as an aide to Rt honourable Yakubu Dogara from 2015 to 2018. At the time we had two factions of the PDP in Ogun state, one was headed by honourable Olatunde Adebutu and the second was headed by senator Buruji Kashamu who’s now late. At the time, if I had wanted to run on the PDP [platform] that was being suggested to me by quite a number of people, it was simply a matter of speaking with people who I know quite well, who I enjoy a very good relationship with, to speak with either of them or even both[Kashamu and Adebutu] of them, so maybe they could come to an agreement regarding my own candidacy.

I didn’t explore that question because one of the key reasons I joined politics was to oppose PDP and going to PDP was not an option for me. I could have gone there, knowing that would have greatly improved my chances of being elected but I chose not to and I opted for a new party despite again knowing that I would have to work extra hard, spend a lot more and that chances of victory were much slimmer running on a new platform.

Then again, I was a member of the board of trustees and I had quite a number of relationships with people on the top echelon of the APC. By virtue of that, I knew a lot of things going on within the party. I don’t think there’s anybody that can come out and say that this is an interview that Rinsola granted lampooning the APC.

I got my membership form back in June 2019. People are being mischievous and saying I only joined the party last year or two years ago.

TheCable: What vision do you have for young people in your party? 

Abiola: My vision for young people generally is a Nigeria where our leadership reflects our demographic distribution or demographic strands. Young people make up a large throng of our population and I believe that needs to be reflected in the government structure of our country.

Young people need to be adequately represented in government and decision making. You know you can’t shave a man’s head in his absence and for as long as young people are not adequately represented in the space where decisions regarding them are made, policies will fall short and it won’t cater to the priorities of the young people. So in running for this office, I want a situation whereby 2023 God willing, we have more young people occupying elective positions at the same time we have more people in appointive positions and we have more young people taking their rightful place when it comes to decisions making generally.

We have a lot of qualified young people and I am very passionate about seeing young people in spaces they are qualified for. As a youth leader, I would work hard to ensure that youths are placed in the right place, they are placed in places where they can make change happen, influence policy, design policy and impact things purposefully, make a meaningful and lasting impact both for those who want to be elected and those who want to be appointed and then of course influence policy within our state, different levels of government both in the executive and in the legislature.

TheCable: How would you convince Nigerian youths to vote for your party in 2023 considering the present economic hardship?

Abiola: Every government has challenges and it is very regrettable that these particular challenges have persisted for so long. But I am hopeful that we will be able to correct the situation soon.

Going into elections, there are quite a number of factors that matter. We recently had by-elections in a couple of constituencies and I believe the party didn’t do too badly.

I understand that there are challenges, but I also know that if there is one thing that we have shown, it is that we do have the capacity to address these challenges. I am very hopeful that very soon have these challenges will be things of the past.

TheCable: If you’re not elected, would you leave the APC again?

Abiola: I am not in the race for personal branding or person aggrandisement, I am in the race for young people. I am in the race for the campaign for young people so the question for me: if I win or not? I have given it my all. I am campaigning and consulting a lot of stakeholders.

If we get to the convention ground and I did not win the election for the position of the youth leader, it is as simple as working together with whoever emerges to ensure that the ideas that we all have are put together and implemented for the progress of young people within the party and for the progress of APC as a whole. The ultimate aim is for a greater party and better representation of young people.

TheCable: In 2019, you vied for a house of representatives seat on the platform of the ADP. Why are you now contesting to be the youth leader of a political party?

Abiola: Party leadership positions are just as important if not more than main elections. Party leadership positions determine the direction of the party. It is the leadership of the party that will set the pace, lay down the rules for every member of the party including our elected officials. So I believe this is the role that I am qualified for, so why not go for it.

Ambitions change, goals change, opinions change and for me, it’s about being in a position where I can offer my service to young people generally. It is about being able to offer service and value.

TheCable: What does the political future hold for you?

 

Abiola: Only God knows what the future holds. We run for youth leader, if we get it, that would be great. The tenure lasts for four years, by the time that is winding down, we will figure out what else I am interested in.

Photos: Rinsola Abiola/Twitter

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies.