Interviews, Politics

‘How I hawked fruits during Ramadan in my early years’, ex Ogun Deputy governor, Salmot Badru reminisces on life @ 60

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+ MY RELATIONSHIP WITH DANIEL, OTHERS

 

Amazon and erstwhile Deputy Governor of Ogun state, Alhaja Salmot Makanjuola Badru will today, Tuesday, May 16, 2017, gather high society in Abeokuta, the state capital in commemoration of her 60th birthday.

ENCOMIUM Weekly had a birthday interview with her few days back at her palatial residence in Abeokuta where she opened up on her rough beginning, entrance and rise in politics as well as the death of her husband at an early period into their marriage.

 

At 60, how has it been?        

We thank Almighty Allah for His mercies. At 60, I have gone through so many things but today here I am. I’m from an area that you can tag one of the rural areas of Ogun State. I later proceeded to Lagos to stay with an Uncle where I had my primary and secondary education.

I attended Badagry Grammar School for my post-primary education. I later proceeded to Ansarudeen Teacher’s Training College in order to be a trained, professional teacher. But later, I decided to change career from teaching to the nursing profession. I did general nursing and I got married. After my marriage, I went to the University of Lagos where I got a Diploma in Community Health and I proceeded in life with my nursing profession. As God will have it, I rose to become the Chief Nursing Officer at the Ogun State Local Government Service Commission before I retired. After my retirement, I felt why can’t I also serve my people and that was why I went into politics.

How was your growing up like?

I left Tube in Ipokia at the age of six to move to Lagos. Growing up, I stayed with my uncle who was a teacher alongside two other ladies, and that was in the late ’60s. There was little he could do to support us because he didn’t earn much. We were three staying with him apart from his wife and children.

So, growing up was tough. Sometimes we do go hawking. We hawk fruits, especially orange, banana during Ramadan period. From Lawanson we go to Mushin to buy the fruits and we take them to the Mosque to sell when they are breaking fast. My uncle didn’t collect proceeds from us but we use whatever we get from hawking to ‘support’ our pocket money.

How did you enter politics?

From just being a member of the Elders’ Caucus, I rose to become an appointed Supervisory Councilor in my local government, Ipokia. I later became the State Women leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and from that position I became the running mate to Otunba Gbenga Daniel in the 2003 election. And when we emerged victorious, I became the deputy governor of the state and I served Ogun State in that capacity for good eight years before I left. Today, I am happy serving my people and children.

What lessons has life taught you in 60 years?

Life has taught me a lot of lessons.  The fact that I am alive today is a lesson because when I was born I never imagined that I could grow in age, education and everything as I am today. So, it has taught me that once you hold on to your God, the sky is the limit.

How did you cope as a woman among many male politicians?

I feel it is by the grace of God. Yes, a woman, but there is nothing a man can do that a woman cannot do, even better than a man. At that period that I was called to serve, my children were almost grown-up. I had only two in Secondary then, the rest were already in the university.

So, on the home front, I happened to be a bit free. So, it was easy for me to cope. When you talk about nocturnal or night meetings, why not. There is no problem because the security men are there to keep and support me. Also, I worked with a governor who is reasonable, so the challenges were not too much or beyond what I could surmount.

The truth is that I don’t see myself as a woman because it is a call to serve and I put in everything to make sure that there won’t be a mistake or deficiency somewhere and someone will attribute it to my gender. I was struggling and putting in all my best to ensure that I even performed more than the men. So, the challenges were there but they were surmountable.

So, you were not intimidated by men while serving as deputy governor?

Not in any way, maybe I even got men intimidated. When I was picked, a lot of people felt this woman is too quiet and gentle for that type of job. But you know on the job, you have to pull up to balance the level. As the deputy governor of a state you can’t still keep that timid attitude, an attitude of someone who cannot hurt anybody. You need to step on toes when there is need for it. So, I don’t think I was intimidated while in office, the men will try it but you know women always try to make up.

Could it be said that your unalloyed loyalty to your ex-boss, Gbenga Daniel, earned you a second term?

I think understanding matters between a governor and his deputy. When I came in the first term, I studied my boss and I knew what he wants and what he won’t tolerate. Having studied him, I ensured that I moved at his pace because he’s the governor.

For me, I also tried not to talk on everything that happens; you don’t react all the time. There are times you keep quiet instead of talking. I think understanding matters in every relationship, not only in politics. In all my dealings, I try to understand people and it has been a good tool of relationships for me.

Also, all through my eight years I deliberately ignored sycophants and whatever they tried to do or say never had any effect on me.

You must have missed your husband so much while serving as deputy governor…

I even missed him before becoming deputy governor. He died very early because we got married in 1981 and he died in 1998, just when we should start to enjoy each other. It was one of those things that I really cannot comprehend. He was a father figure to me, a very loving and supportive husband. He was very caring to the children and we had a very lovely family.

We met immediately after my School Certificate and he literarily pushed me to go to Teacher’s Training School and I went. At some point, I heard him say he would prefer to marry a Nurse to a Teacher. When the opportunity came, I just picked Nursing instead of being a teacher.

At a point, he was solely responsible for the care of the kids because I had a maternity home that was taking a chunk of my time, but he was always there to see the children on their visiting days at the boarding house. When he left, all the responsibilities fell on my shoulders and it was my first daughter that had entered into the university then. But I thank God today because He was with me and still with me. To the glory of God, two of my children are medical doctors, One is a Pharmacist and I have two computer gurus.

Was your husband aware of your interest in politics before his demise?

Yes! Before he died he was supporting me, I had started then. That was when Mrs. Iyabo Anisulowo was trying to become the governor, and he told me that a woman is aiming to become a governor in Yewa, you need to go and support her. That was how I started politics with Anisulowo. If he had been alive, he would have supported me.

Why is it that the highest position a woman can attain in a state is the Deputy Governorship status? What is wrong and the solution?

The thing is even in the Bible and Quran that is how women are wired, they have a complementary role to men. For us to rise above that, we have to work and that is what we are not doing. Yes, we have the number but are we maximizing it? When you talk of election, it’s the women that will go out to vote most. But even at that, women don’t support each other.

That is so because the financial capacity is not there aside other factors too. Also, look at the political organ of parties, aside for the Woman leader position and one or two other, out of 28 exco, women are just three and the rest are men. You can influence the outcome of any decision by that. So, how do you go beyond the opportunity given to you because becoming a deputy governor is an opportunity given to us (women) by most of these contesting governors?

They are the ones who insist that they want a woman. Lagos State started it and other states in the South West took after it. Some also did it in the South East but the North never did that. So, it’s a societal issue. They see us as somebody who should support everything they are doing and not holding on to the mantle. The issue is not about capacity of women but a societal norm.

Is it part of the societal norm that some people believe that women in politics usually get position after having an affair with the men in the party?

That is a very wrong notion. In my own case, when I was picked as running mate, I wasn’t even close to Gbenga Daniel. I don’t think we met more than two or three times and at big gatherings, before I was picked. He usually addressed me as Women Leader or Alhaja. So, when people tell you that men and women in politics sleep with each other, they are saying so because they heard your boss asking you to do something and they are not privy to the conversation between you both, they start insinuating things.

So, you don’t even need to have an affair with men in politics because those who do that are seen as useless women. I learnt this from service. It’s better to hold on to yourself than getting yourself messed up.

How is your relationship with your ex-boss, Gbenga Daniel?

Very, very cordial! We still met at about two weeks at Shade Okoya’s party with his wife.

You are a stakeholder in the PDP. What is the state of the party in the face of the current crisis threatening its existence?

The PDP is a big party across the country and it will be out of place to rule out crisis in such a large platform. But this present one has gone beyond crisis. The founding fathers of the party have gone, those we are seeing as fathers have gone. Now, there is no father, no mother, the party is now an orphan. Apart from that, those who are still there are only after their own, what they want to get out of the party.

For me, I won’t say it’s dead but I pray God will help us. I really don’t know what we can do but there are some people in the PDP that can’t work together. I’m sure with this Supreme Court ruling coming up, if A takes it, B will go away and vice versa.

There are some people in the present PDP who can’t work together, so I don’t see any reconciliation that is coming up. That is why I decided to stay away for the mean time. Let’s see what will happen after the apex court ruling on the matter.

The agitation for Ogun West for governorship is thick in the air again. Do you think it will be realised this time?

There is nothing bad in us agitating; we’ve been agitating for a very long time. I said it earlier that my late husband said I should go and join Anisulowo who was trying to become governor, that was many years ago. My interest has always been Ogun West for governor.

When PDP broke into two in 2011 and some of us moved to PPN, it was because of this interest. Same for the last election, I was in thick of demand saying it must be Ogun West. My being in PDP at the last election was for Ogun West and I insisted that the leader of the party at that time, Senator Buruji Kashamu, must give the ticket to Ogun West.

Interestingly, we had a lot of Ogun Westerners in the PDP then, Omoba Segun Adewale was there, Biodun Akinlade was there, Gboyega Isiaka was also there. But we were happy that we got the ticket but the support wasn’t there for us. As I am here today, if there is an opportunity for Ogun West, I will still support the aspiration. So, it’s not our fault, we have been struggling since even before some of us were born.

What do you think is the problem?

The first thing is that the way the state is structured, Ogun West is already at a disadvantage. The way it is now, Ogun West has five local governments, Central has six and East has nine. If we are contesting on the level of local government, if East and Central decided to come together, they become 15 local governments; automatically the zone will lose out.

We could also make similar deductions in populations and others. Also, the wherewithal to run the election is not there. And those who have the finances, by the time the election is coming you will see them divide us, share our parts and hold on to it and they will leave us fragmented.

You still look very agile and active. Are you still going to throw your hat into the ring for an elective office if the opportunity comes?

Not at all! Yes, I will still be in politics but won’t contest for anything again. I have tried as a woman, though some women don’t believe that at a certain age there are some things one should just pass on and let go. I am busy with my children and grandchildren. But I am supportive of the cause.

As a Deputy Governor for eight years, was there a time you disagreed with your principal, the governor, over any issue?

The truth is that a deputy governor only plays an assisting role. Whatever idea or concept you have, pass it to your boss. There were some projects that I conceived then, but when they were commissioned, my name won’t be written there. This is what is called teamwork.

So, I don’t see where we can disagree because like I said we have studied each other and I don’t go outside what he doesn’t like. But when I genuinely strayed and he called me to order, I say sorry to him and we move on. He’s a very understanding boss.

That is why I was able to pass through all those challenges when I was there. I remember someone said to me that Deputy, they are saying that you were the one behind all these House of Assembly people, that you are the one asking them to impeach your governor for you to take over his seat, I said me ke? How much do I have with me? Do I even relate with most of them, why would I do that? The person said but you are not talking and they are accusing you. I told the person that I have told the governor that I am not the one. For me, I know that I am not involved in whatever is happening.

If anybody is trying to draw me in, then that is the person’s headache. And I think that is exactly what is also happening now with VP Osinbajo and the President. I’m sure that was why Tinubu quickly came out to say something. Whereas the VP does not know anything about what Baba Bisi Akande and Femi Falana wrote but some people are taking it as coming from a particular quarter. For me, I have never in my life thought of taking Gbenga Daniel’s seat. He is the one who picked me, Ogun West people didn’t want a woman, they preferred a man but it was OGD who said he wants a woman and that is the woman that I want. As God would have it, I had the opportunity, so why would I ever think of unseating him. Never!

How did you feel when you were picked as the running mate?

It was Otunba Gbenga Daniel who called me and asked me to return to Ipokia from Lagos State and meet the leaders. He said I should tell them, that he had already told me that I will be his running mate. That was how I entered into politics. I was excited because I wasn’t aiming so high, I was thinking the best they can offer me after the election was a commissionership post, which was my thinking.

How were you able to carry on as widow for the past 19 years?

You see, whatever we want to become, it is destiny. When I lost my husband I sat back and asked myself what I wanted from life after his exit. I became a widow and single parent through destiny and I needed to just carry my cross. I looked back and front, I saw that there’s nobody except God, I pulled up. I had already resigned then from service voluntarily because my husband said I should resign in 1996 to face the clinic and we also had a cold room where we sold frozen foods. I was handling those two things before he died.

Upon his death, I had to close the frozen foods aspect of business and I faced the maternity squarely. The thing is once you become a single parent, you need to really weigh your options. Is it your own satisfaction or the care of the children? Once you decide which out of the two, it is that decision that will guide you. I decided to take care of my children and hang my own satisfaction, so all along my attention has been and still on them.

Does hanging your satisfaction also include wading off men?

For even men coming around to say they want to marry you as a widow depends on the way you too carry yourself. If you bring pity on yourself and present yourself as needing somebody, they will come. But when they don’t see any atom of pity around you, such attraction will be limited. For me, I decided to face my children and that is what I have been doing in almost 19 years of losing my husband.

– DAYO RUFAI

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