“Until the best of Nigeria takes over the leadership of our country, our story will not change.” LLA speaks to Eunice Atuejide, Presidential Candidate of National Interest Party
As the Nigerian political scene heats up in advance of the forthcoming elections; Eunice Atuejide, Founder, National Interest Party shares why she’s also the party’s Presidential Candidate, why a change of leadership is an urgent imperative, and why she doesn’t consider herself a feminist. This LLA interview gives insight to the political landscape in Nigeria and how it impacts women – enjoy it.
From Agricultural Economics, to Business Administration, to Film making, Law and Now Politics; some would describe your career progression as very diverse, what would you say has been your drive?
I am driven by a strong desire to keep improving myself. To keep shattering the roofs. I always measure my achievements in life against my preferred place in society. Many of the courses I studied in my life just happened to me – parents and teachers deciding what you should study, husband deciding what career path is best for you in relations to the family; deciding what career path best suits my qualities etc. In the end however, all of it came together to perfect the me who today feels very confident I can lead Nigeria to much better places than any of her past or future leader(s).
You have five children; what has that taught you about balancing motherhood and career?
Motherhood taught me that love conquers all. That dealing with everyone from a place of sacrifice and love – however terrible they are, or have been to you – is the first step towards bringing out the best in everyone. I live a very balanced life because I ensure I get my me time. I surround myself with people who love me enough to want to see me succeed in everything I do. From that place of love, they give up their own time and resources to support and help me.
Therefore, making my journey a lot less tedious and challenging than if I would have to go it all alone. My first son, Nathaniel is the most committed on this crew, but these days his siblings, my husband, my neighbors, my children’s teachers and caregivers, a lot of my colleagues and friends, and almost the entire NIP contribute immensely to the smooth running of my life and activities.
Why politics and what is it like being a female in politics?
Politics because it is the only way to cause real change in Nigeria. Until the best of Nigeria takes over the leadership of our country, our story will not change.
Being a female politician in Nigeria is very daunting at first, however with time it starts to look doable. Indeed, women must work a million times harder than the men to even make a dent, however I believe it is a journey worth embarking upon because of the progress our country is bound to experience the moment people like me come to power.
What are your takes about the current administration?
I am of the view that the current administration is a huge failure. The most important aspects of society – security, health, education, economy – are at the most abysmal levels ever. Even the corruption fight proposed is not happening as all we see is witch hunting of opposition, nepotism, and promotion of irresponsible governance across board.
Have there been instances where your political aspirations have been shunned because you are female? Can you share some challenges that attends to being a woman in politics?
Yes of course. Many people who requested that I introduce candidates for them to fund towards the 2019 race vehemently refused to fund my race when I decided to run to the Presidency simply because I am a woman. They still ask me to recommend my male counterparts for them to fund.
Most of the challenges women face in politics do not apply to me strictly because I am contesting under the National Interest Party (NIP) where I have quite a bit of influence. Also, the party is structured in such a way as to give everyone equal opportunities. Nonetheless, the challenges of not getting taken seriously are still there and the belief by many that a woman should not aspire to lead our country causes quite some discouragement
How do you balance fighting for Gender Equality and not being feminist?
This is really easy for me because I come from the angle of everyone being humans and by default equal. We must also understand that by law, there is no gender gap in Nigeria, so a lot of our problems are imposed on us by religious, traditional and customary practices. In dealing with issues therefore, I do not approach from the women are the disadvantaged ones point of view, rather I approach clear in my head that there are issues, and that each one of them must be dealt with fairly to ensure results that favour all simultaneously.
Would you describe the way you handled the criticisms thrown at you for your feminism stand as adequate and effective?
I cannot discuss the effectiveness of my approach at this time. I think it is much too soon to do so. Time however will tell.
Following your recent lay off of candidates in your political party NIP, how do you view competition?
National Interest Party (NIP) is a public entity. Yes I founded it, and yes I have directly and indirectly invested over a hundred million naira in the party. Yet, it does not belong to me. I can therefore not layoff any party member – particularly not the National Executive Committee members.
Our members went on a foray – smearing my name and dragging the party through mud for their personal selfish gains. Our BOT and NEC met and we decided the best cause of action was to take the unique opportunity offered us at the National Convention to put it to the entire membership of NIP to decide on how to deal with the offenders. At the Convention, we tabled all their offences, and called for votes of no confidence to be passed on the officers. The votes passed by UNANIMOUS consent that they should all be stripped of their NEC membership, and expelled from the party. The call for their permanent ban from NIP was however rejected by a majority of our members because most believe in second chances.
I did not lay them off. National Interest Party (NIP) did, and it was for the greater good.
Do you think Nigerians are ready for a female President?
What has influenced your thinking the most?
I am mostly influenced by my experiences journeying through life. The circumstances I grew up under, my experiences with people from across the globe, my belief system, and my optimistic nature.
Can you tell us about some women in politics that are mentor figures/major influences to you?
I don’t consider any woman in politics a mentor figure or major influence to me in the strictest sense, however the three women in politics I most admire are:
1. Angela Merkel of Germany
2. Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic of Croatia, and
3. Late Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom.
Accused of autocracy amongst other accusations within your party, coupled with several challenges faced, how have you been able to bounce back?
Bouncing back is inevitable because I stay focused. I do not make decisions alone at NIP, so I am not perturbed by the accusations of tyranny because they are simply untrue. In fact, tyrannical behaviour is impossible at NIP because the platform is designed to operate only with the consent and approval of ALL stakeholders!
Rather than spend time following the stories and trying to defend myself to the media, I concentrated all efforts on doing what I needed to do to keep NIP together, and on the front lines of the political arena of today. Our goal is to bring permanent solutions to the myriads of problems we face in this country, so we are bound to have enemies right within us. I cannot be consumed by the happenings on the outside whereas the real issue is what is going on within. I simply refuse to be distracted.
What difference will your administration bring that we haven’t seen before?
My administration will bring about transparency and accountability on all fronts. We have never seen that before!
What advice do you have for women either intending to go into politics, or already in politics?
Don’t be afraid!
Trust your instincts!
The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series which focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes women empowerment and gender inclusion for women of African descent.
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