Abdulmaliq-Bashir: Kwara Women’ll Give AbdulRazaq Bulk Votes
Hajia Mopelola Abdulmaliq-Bashir is the Kwara State Commissioner for Women Affairs. In this interview with STEPHEN OLUFEMI ONI, she bares her mind on sundry issues, including the stand of women in the reelection bid of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, his strides, and contributions of her ministry to the development of the state
What’s your assessment of the performance of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq’s administration in the last three and a half years?
The performance of Governor Abdul- Razaq’s administration has been sterling, superlative and wonderful. To all intents and purposes, it is highly commendable. Name it; health, education, infrastructural development, human capital development, regular payment of full salaries to workers, gender mainstreaming, roads construction, potable water and social investment programmes, the administration has done excellently well in all sectors and the Governor is being applauded by the people of Kwara State for his good work.
Prior to 2019, when Governor Abdul- Razaq came on board, the state was in a mess with lots of rots in virtually all sectors, which the administration has been clearing to the excitement of the people of the state, especially the youths, women and workers. Kwara State is lucky to have a humble, workaholic person like Abdul- Razaq as governor.
My admonition is that the good people of the state should continue to rally round the administration for greater dividends of democracy. For the good work to continue, the electorate, who have seen the difference between this administration and the past ones should support the governor’s reelection bid. You can see mass defections from other parties to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state because the governor has done so much. Definitely, AbdulRazq’s good work will speak for him in the 2023 election and also rub off on other candidates of the party.
Women form the bulk of voters in any election in the country. In view of this, what will you say is the position of Kwara women vis a vis Governor AbdulRazaq’s reelection bid in 2023?
The 2023 election, no doubt, will be a referendum and payback time by the womenfolk in Kwara State for Governor Abdul- Razaq based on his sterling performance and track records in all sectors of the economy, especially for the special recognition his administration has accorded the womenfolk in the state. More so, Kwara women are not ingrates, they will give their votes to the man who has done so much for them.
To whom much is given much is expected. I can therefore confidently say that the 2023 governorship election in the state is a fait accompli for Governor AbdulRazaq, including other candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Nigerian women are praying for the governor. They appreciate him and that is why awards have been pouring in for him because he is the champion of ‘he for she’ in the country.
This will surely rub off on his chances at the 2023 governorship election because Kwara women are appreciative. For instance, if I have a programme and I pick my phone to invite the women groups, by 6.am all of them will be here across party lines. Whatever we do here, we spread it so that everybody, irrespective of party affiliation, creed or religion, can have access to it. They can see that the governor has brought so many new things and he is still bringing. Definitely, women are always rational in their decision making and they will give their thumbs to that man that has done so much for them. The women are with him, and when women are with you, God is with you.
Can you give us an insight into some of the activities of your ministry?
Looking at the vision and mission of the ministry vis a vis the policy thrust of the current administration in Kwara State, we have been able to do our best based on the mandate given to the ministry. I participated as the coordinator for gender for women affairs of Kwara Must Change and I also participated in the public hearing that led to the signing of Gender Composition Law before my appointment as the Commissioner for Women Affairs. The Gender Composition Law is to open the political space in the area of appointment for women, which has now scaled up the level of representation of women in political appointments to a minimum of 35 per cent and maximum of 65 per cent. This implies that no government will come to this state and close the door that the current administration has opened for women.
Presently, males and females are in ratio 50- 50 representation in the cabinet of the state government. We have a 20-member cabinet, 10 of them are women, while men are also 10. This figure for females is even more than what the affirmative action is calling for. This is to the credit and benefit of the Women Affairs Ministry. Besides, I set up a 15-member committee consisting of people from the academia, guardians and counsellors, psychologists and representatives of the popular skills to restructure the Skills Acquisition Centre of the Ministry. I met it comatose. We have now resuscitated it.
Sixty-seven trainees have graduated from the centre. That is what this government is doing to distribute social wealth among the populace. Apart from that, I have also been able to open a new template of engagement with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the state. The usual old practice was to lump everything together. We now have a new template for the over 100 CSOs, especially those that are active. Our relationship with them has improved tremendously. That is why donors, like the World Bank, are coming back to Kwara State.
Recently, the Association for Reproductive Health (ARH) was here to partner with us on the issue of HIV/ AIDS as it affects the womenfolk and children. They are starting their programme to know the number of people suffering from HIV/AIDS condition. They are organising training for our people and assisting those who are suffering from the disease to live a healthy life by taking their drugs, so they can take proper care of their children. We also empower people. Recently, we distributed gas cylinders to people devoid of any political considerations. Beneficiaries of the empowerment, numbering about 4,100, were artisans and interest groups such as the International Federation of Women Lawyers and the Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), among others
What is your take on gender mainstreaming with regards to Kwara State?
The interest of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq is on improving women participation in decision making processes. We have been able to do that now in Kwara Atate. As we all know, we have five female candidates seeking to get seats in the state House of Assembly in 2023. That is the highest in Nigeria based on available record that I have access to. It was not easy to achieve that, but the Ministry had to reach out to stakeholders for the feat to be achieved.
What role does your ministry play with regards to girl-child day celebration and stoppage of use of illicit drugs in the state?
For the day of the girl-child and the use of illicit drugs, we looked at our data in the ministry to know the areas that we have excessive drug abuse. Then we decided to go to Osi in Ekiti Local Government Area of the state. We also went to Offa because of the number of higher institutions that are domiciled there. In Kwara Central, we went to Kwara State Polytechnic and Kwara State University (KWASU), Malete for Kwara North.
Hitherto, the Ministry did not have reliable and accurate data. We thank the governor for the great turn around being witnessed in the ministry. He has done so much for us in the ministry towards fulfilling our mandate. As for the girl-child day, we are celebrating it to call the attention of the society to what are the pains the girl-child undergoes daily. And the efforts of the ministry have been yielding fruitful results as there is now more protection, recognition and care for the girl-child in Kwara State, not only from the government, but also from the civil society organisations and well-meaning individuals in the state. As a matter of fact, the awareness is growing daily.
What about the nefarious activities of child traffickers in the state?
Normally, we collaborate with NAPTIP. Sadly, Kwara State is the transit and recruitment centre for child trafficking. It is a common place in Kwara North and Kwara Central. The rate of child trafficking in the state, given available report, is one of the highest in the South-West, though it is the lowest in the Northern Region of Nigeria. Because Kwara State stands at the recruitment space and the exit point, the attention has now shifted here.
Thank God the state now has its NAPTIP office unlike before that we had to go to Osun State. This has greatly assisted the state in getting many victims rescued, while some traffickers have been arrested and prosecuted. All this is due to the efforts and support we receive from Governor Abdul- Razaq. We are not there yet, but with more painstaking efforts, we will be there. The people should support government, particularly the ministry, by volunteering useful information on the activities of these unscrupulous people. .
What is the take of your Ministry on sexual and gender-based violence?
Sexual and gender-based violence is a major focus for this ministry. Thank God the wife of the governor, Mrs. Olufolake AbdulRazaq, has taken that as her pet project. On that, we have been able to go all out to get Violence Against Persons Prohibition Law signed. As a result, some nongovernmental organisations are coming in to partner with us.
It is now a crime for anyone to abuse their children or wives, and even for husbands to abandon their families. The issue of sexual and genderbased violence is complex. However, there are penalties for any man who abandons his family, ranging from a fine of N500,000 to N1 million.
The law was signed in 2020 and our partners have simplified it for us in Yoruba and English. The Ministry has benefited immensely from the recently signed gender composition law. That is why the Ministry now has Gender Equity Unit. The Unit will be handling issues of interest relating to the womenfolk and the girl-child.
What is your advice to Kwara electorate with regards to the 2023 general election?
I want to implore the people of the state that, ahead of the 2023 elections, they should shine their eyes so as not to fall into the hands of those who ran Kwara State dry and are planning to come back. They have nothing to offer, but to further plunge the state and the people into misery. The people should throw their weight behind Governor AbdulRazaq, who has been tested in the last three and a half years and found worthy in all ramifications of good governance. It is continuity by Governor AbdulRazaq in 2023 that can guarantee more dividends of democracy for the people of the state.
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