21 October 2007

Nigeria: Women Better Politicians Than Men - Senator Zainab Kure


Senator Zainab Abdulkadir Kure, represents Niger South Senatorial District of Niger state. As wife of the Niger state Governor for eight years, she supported her husband's administration. Earlier on, she was in the Niger state civil service, where she rose to the position of a permanent secretary.

In 1999, when her husband became governor of the state, she was advised not to continue in the service. So she went on leave of absence. She bagged Degree in Political Science from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. Her marriage is blessed with eight children. Six are alive and she lost two. She now has four boys and two girls. The major complementary role that I played in my husband's administration was in the area of youth empowerment and development," is what she counts as her achievement. In this interview with our Senate reporter, AbdulRahman Abubakar, Senator Kure spoke on her vision for her constituents, her approach to debates and other activities in the National Assembly. Excerpts:

What are you out to achieve as a Senator?

I personally came to the Senate to ensure a better Nigeria. It is my aspiration to improve the lot of the people of this country. I want to see a Nigeria where all of us, including the generations yet unborn, will have hope and see hope and enjoy hope. I want to see a Nigeria where each and every one of us will be our brother's keeper. Personally, that is what I've set out to achieve.

I want to be part of legislations that will impart positively on the lives of majority of the people of Nigeria. I look forward to a better Nigeria.

And I want to say that majority of my colleagues in the Senate are thinking the same way because we have interacted. It is good that most of us are coming from very strong backgrounds with great wealth of experience. Most of us have contributed in one way or the other in the past to the development of this country. We have past governors as Senators; we have experienced Senators who are serving their second or third terms. There are Senators who came from the House of Reps, we have captains of industries and retired military officers and also businessmen who have made it big; they are all here to contribute to the development of this country. So we rob minds and share experiences on how to build a better place for all of us to live.

How do you intend to tackle prob-lems associated with what people refer to as the Nigerian Factor?

Are we not the Nigerians? We simply have to start from somewhere. If we don't do it, who will do it for us? Talking about the Nigerian factor, let us tackle it the Nigerian way. Let us give whatever problems we have a Nigerian look and tackle them in a Nigerian manner. Talking about development, you cannot use indices used in other countries for us, you have to come down to our level and allow us to tackle our own problems at our own level, so that we can view development from our own perspective.

There is still women apathy in politics especially in most parts of Northern Nigeria where you come from, what propelled you into it?

Politics is all about us. Sometimes it is ignorance that makes people to feel that women do not have a stake in politics. Even our men that have been in politics; if they don't have the support of their spouses at home, if their spouses do not create the conducive environment at home, how would they fare? Sometimes if you are a spectator, watching others performing an activity from the outside, you tend to see better than those participating. A spectator will be able to easily see faults of a participant much more than how the participant could see. So women have been spectators, so to speak. I believe that the time is now for us to come out and partner with our men so that we can together tackle the problems of our country.

I read Political Science in the university, but I always say that politics is different from the study of Political Science. Of course, in Political Science, we study the science of politics but if you want to play politics you must do so in the natural way that politics is played. And I believe women know how to play politics much more than men because we are more diplomatic than men and politics, has to do with diplomacy. Nigeria has come of age whereby women's participation in politics is like a must, not sounding antagonistic or trying to claim equality with the men, but it has come to a stage where things must be put in their proper perspectives.

If Nigeria and governance must move forward, then there must be no issue of a particular gender not being affected. Talking about that, I would like to encourage our womenfolk that are interested in politics to come out and participate. And that does not mean coming to play around, because prior to now, there has been that notion that female politicians are loose women. I am a politician and I know without any fear of contradiction that I am not a loose woman. I conduct myself the way a woman should, and since I started participating in politics and since I came here, I haven't seen a situation whereby a man will want to take advantage of me. It is all about how you present yourself.

By numerical strength you are only nine compared to 100 men; do you think you would be able to make much impact?

The environment is very conducive for us because the Senate as it is now is very gender sensitive. Whatever they do, they consider women despite that we are only nine and they are hundred. Not only the leadership but all the other male Senators consider the position of women. Just as I have said, it is left for us to conduct ourselves the way we should and then to deliver as representatives of our people. A time will come when there will be no scenario of whether you are a man or a woman. That time is coming, because sometimes it is only out of ignorance that people think that a woman cannot do what a man can do. We are lucky to have some of our female colleagues that are serving their second terms and they carry us along, we ask them how things were done previously.

My personal experience is that I relate with the women and men in the Senate as if we have known each other years back. I have not seen any sign from any of the men or even the women because you know sometime prior to now they use to say women are our own enemies; honestly I have not experienced that in this Senate. We try to assist one another. We the new senators seek clarifications from our female colleagues and they have never refused us.

So, I am confident we will make impact than was made in the previous sessions. Now we are more in number than during the last session. All the traditional and cultural beliefs hindering women participation in politics have started to come to terms with reality. So my advice to women now is that wherever we find ourselves we should double our efforts to be noticed. And we must conduct ourselves as women of integrity so that we will be respected.

You said women are diplomatic in politics, how would you describe Madam Speaker's action in the crisis rocking the House of Reps?

I want to say that Madam Speaker has lived up to her office as leader in terms of what has been happening and in terms of the way she comports herself. When this whole thing started if not because the woman is courageous, she would have stepped aside immediately. That would have sent wrong signals to the men to think that a woman has chickened out. So to me I will like to say that I respect her for that courage of standing up to now.

There was a panel set up to investigate the matter, now that the panel's report is before the House, it is left for members to debate on the findings. No matter the camp that members belongs they should have calmed down to debate on it for everybody to see and then take a stand. But the way most of them rose to the situation, they will not allow the facts to come out because I have had cause to ask some people if the money in question has been spent by the Speaker already and they said not yet, that the money has not been released, so if that is the situation she cannot be referred to as a thief.

So what I expected the members to do is to allow the process to be concluded by deliberating on the report and looking at the whole people who have a hand in making the thing to happen so that they could resolve their differences. It is unfortunate that the situation has become so unfortunate so much so that a life has been lost. No matter how one feels about it, the matter is no longer funny at all. But I think that due process should have been followed and then rule of law upheld.

This is not a disgrace to women and it doesn't discourage us. It is not only a woman that can make such a mistake. It is not a woman thing; it is just because she is in the leadership. Even when the whole matter is resolved it will either be a mistake or fault of the leadership and not that of a woman. At the meeting where the contract was awarded she was not the only one there, but of course she would be blamed as a leader. So, whether a man or a woman the leader will normally take the blame. She is only the major focus because she is a leader not because she is a woman. So as far as I am concerned women are not deterred by that and that should not discourage any woman. If you look at it categorically, men always believe that we are more prudent.

You were one of the Senators that voted for George Akume on June 5, 2007, how do you feel about the allegations against him on the floor of the Senate?

You now that the matter in question is before a committee, so I will not like to comment on it until the committee presents its report. Personally I first thought it is just a kind of media scandal but we are waiting for the report. But I feel it should not be allowed to degenerate, it could be local politics because both of them come from the state and if it is local politics they should go and play it at home in Benue. Nigeria is greater than Benue State. We are waiting for the report to come because we are in support of the matter being investigated. I don't want to believe that the whole thing is about the Senate Presidency election that they both contested because I believe that if you go for something and you don't get it that does not mean you should feel bad. I just want to believe that it is their own way of playing politics which they can resolve.

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