CHIEF (Mrs.) Kemi Nelson is a top female politician in Lagos State. The former Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation in the state has now assumed a new role in the politics of the state. That of a power-broker particularly within Ikeja axis.
The professional midwife turned politician who has been in politics since moribund Second Republic told us in this interview that there is no threat to Governor Fashola’s second term bid in office.
She also told us some other things as you will get to know in this interview.
As a politician, what do you think is the greatest challenge facing the political class?
The greatest challenge facing the political class is the issue of imposition. Until when we all learn to practice internal democracy that is when democracy will be working. If ten people are vying for the same position let them slug it out and whoever comes out tops is the one that has the mandate of the people. Godfatherism must be reduced to the barest minimum.
Not totally eradicated?
It is not likely it can be totally eradicated. But we can reduce the influence (of Godfatherism) considerably. Let us move from Godfatherism to father. If they play the role of a father, then they will allow things to work but if they play Godfatherism then there will be problems.
Do you agree with a school of thought that opined that women make better leaders than men?
I will not totally agree with the opinion that women are better leaders than men. But I will say that women can also be good leaders because there are good leaders amongst the men and there are bad leaders amongst the women. So, it is both ways.
What do you think can be done to change the political class to be responsive to the yearning of the people?
The people themselves must be alive to their responsibilities. They must know what they want and what they don’t want. The moment the people can stand up against buying of their conscience they will have influence over the political class. As long as they are willing to sell their conscience and their votes, they have no reason to complain.
This is less than a year to the next general election and yet not much of political activities has been seen. What do you think is responsible for this lull in political activities particularly in Lagos State?
Lagos State is predominantly AC. We are the government in Lagos. As a party, we want to allow those we put in position to walk their talk before involving them in electioneering campaign. Again, our party, the Action Congress is trying to work with some like minds –merger, associations here and there. Until that is concluded, it will be fool hardy of anybody to say he wants to contest, under which party? We are waiting for the party to make the decision on which way forward before we all start campaigning for one post or the other.
The good thing is that from this week now it’s becoming clearer the way forward for the party. We hope to have our convention very soon where will address all of that. After that, political activities will commence.
How will you assess the performance of Governor Fashola in the last three years?
I thank God that AC didn’t make a wrong selection. Today, we are all very happy, we all are proud that we have put in government a man that is committed totally to Lagos. He believes in Lagos and he has done so much for everybody to be proud of in the area of turning around from the slump that Lagos used to be known for. He has done a lot in the area of provision of infrastructure for Lagos. The zeal and the commitment with which he has carried on, is quite encouraging. I am personally very happy with him and I am sure our party AC, we are very proud of him. If you listen to what people are saying even outside the state, some from other states are saying they want Fashola in their state. Fashola is like a template to the whole country to build on. For me, he has set the pace for others in other states who want to also move their state forward.
What is your opinion on the alleged friction between Fashol and his predecessor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu?
I think Asiwaju himself has addressed that few times. He has said that there is nothing wrong. That there could be disagreement here and there, that is normal even between a father and son in the house, they will disagree to agree. If they don’t disagree that means something is wrong. They must disagree to agree. That is what leadership is all about. You disagree and when you agree, you forge ahead. For me, it is not anything out of place to disagree. Asiwaju has said it times without number that they disagree and all of that has been pushed aside.
But a lot of people are of the opinion that such disagreement may cost Governor Fashola his second term in office. That he may not get the party’s ticket for this reason?
Are you an authority?
No. I am just expressing people’s opinion.
That is their opinion. When the chips are down it will be clearer to everybody if he runs for second term. But he has come out to say he is going to run for the second term.
Yes. He has said it. He may not say second term but in his speeches he has been saying that there should be continuity. The continuity that brought him to office, he also believes that the continuity must continue. And nobody has shown interest. Maybe, they are waiting for the party’s convention. After the convention, let us see what happens. I don’t think there is any threat to his second term.
For someone who has been in politics for a long time now, what will you say you like about politics?
It is the fact that it gives you an opportunity to serve at all levels. I will give you an example. For instance, this my street, the road got so bad and it wasn’t difficult for me to call my councilor that go and tell your chairman you have to do something about this road. They have come to fix the road and the people on the street are very happy. That is one thing I like about politics. You have access to your government, you can reach them and you can call their attention to what you think is right.
For instance, before they started this Iju road, there was a day I was coming from somewhere and I was held up for about three hours on the same spot. That road was very bad, I sent a text to Governor Fashola from my car that Your Excellency, I have been on this same spot for three hours, something has to be done about this road. This is very bad. Three hours on the same spot on a Sunday like that. And he responded immediately that I am sorry about that. We will get all people concerned to do a palliative pending the time that road will be fixed. Honestly, within seven days the council had filled the potholes. It became fairly motorable and now you can see what is happening on the road, it is almost completed. That is what I enjoy in politics, service.
What will you say you don’t like about politics?
What I don’t like about politics is insincerity. At times some people are just there for what they want to get. They are not really committed. They tell a lot of lies. When you see blue they will tell you it is not blue, but grey. But that is gradually fading because more educated people are now coming into politics and they are giving politics a different face. What I also don’t like about politics is the violence. When people see that there is violence they run away. And politics is game of number, you need people. If we can reduce to the barest minimum the violence in politics, it will be good.
What lesson of life would you say politics has taught you since you’ve been in politics?
I have grown more than my age. I have reached a stage where somebody will sit before you and you know that person is lying and you cannot afford to show in your countenance that you know he is lying but you will listen attentively. Even when people come to you for assistance you know that they are lying but you will still do it. So, I have grown more than my age. Politics has made me more mature than my age. Of course, it toughens you. You become toughened and fearless, the only person you fear is God.
Will you encourage any of your children to join partisan politics?
If they want to, I won’t stop them. It is service. That is the way I see politics, as an opportunity of getting into office to serve. So, why should I discourage anybody who wants to serve, I won’t discourage them.
For someone who is now regarded as a power-broken in Lagos politics, will you still go for political appointments or elective post?
I don’t know what you mean about being a power-broker.
A very influential person who determines who gets what in politics?
Determining who gets what is usually a collective decision in our party.
But there is this impression that you are very influential in Ikeja politics?
It is in the hands of God. Political office is service and I believe I still have the capacity to serve. At where? I don’t know yet. That is in God’s hands. I know I have some energy and still want to serve at whatever capacity that I am given.
THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN ENCOMIUM WEEKLY ON TUESDAY, July 13, 2010