Benin City — Former National Woman Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mrs Josephine Anenih was in Benin City last Monday for a sensitization training on rights of persons living with HIV/ AIDS. She spoke passionately about the rights of victims and women in politics. Saturday Vanguard in this interview discusses the rights of victims. She also speaks on the PDP crisis and other national issues. Excerpts:
Let's talk about this training programme
It is important to have this seminar. What we are doing is actually to inform the general public that it is wrong to discriminate against those living with HIV/AIDS. That is abusing the rights of the victims. They have rights like every other human being.
We are also introducing the national Human Rights Commission, we are trying to tell people that they are not just there to bark, they have been empowered to bite. So if they get complaints from people living with HIV/AIDS, they are going to take it very seriously.
We are also encouraging those living with the ailment to come out and if they are being discriminated against, they should make complaints because we are aware that the National Human Rights Commission has not received any official complaints from victims even though a lot of people talk about discrimination but no body has officially complained. We hope that with this sensitization, the level of discrimination will come down.
HIV/AIDS is like cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure that people manage. Yes, there is no cure for now but the virus can be managed in such a way that it will not affect the lives of the people affected.
But what are you doing to sensitize girls in our higher institutions who take to prostitution in order to survive in school?
What we are doing is training the trainers and we have people from all spheres of life participating in the training. We believe that as they all go back to their various states, they will carry the message to our schools.
We are also appealing to the media to help sensitize the people because the media is more powerful than any other organ in terms of sensitization of people.
We are coming back in few months time to assess the impact of this training and we will also evaluate the level of complaints that have come up.
Talking about women, are you impressed so far with the policies of President Goodluck Jonathan as regards women empowerment?
President Jonathan promised us that he was going to give us 35 per cent in his cabinet which he has done. But I want to say that there are other areas that the 35 per cent has not been achieved. I am worried about the recent trend where we are losing women we have in the organizations by the day.
Let's start with the BPE, she has gone; FIRS, Omoigui, she did not do her full eight years tenure , she was dropped and replaced by a man. Immigration was also replaced by a man. Just start naming them, they are so many.
So, we are fast losing all our women, we are losing the count. We used to count the number of women that are in top positions in this country and it's very worrisome and I m telling you we are not happy about that.
If you must remove these women, we expect that they should also be replaced with qualified women. We have many other qualified women in this country, it is not that we don't have the pool of women to choose from. So we are saying that if you remove a woman , replace her with a woman.
I am a founding member of the PDP and from my experience, I know all about the PDP and its mode of operation. So I can tell you confidently that I am not moved with the current crisis in the party. The PDP is an organization that has an in built mechanism of solving its problems.
It may sound crazy to you who is an onlooker from out side but at the end of the day, PDP has the answer and they have the solution because in PDP, you find every body, you find all the experts.
They are in PDP and for us, we don't see PDP only as a political party, we see it as a family. Even when there is a problem ,we also find solutions to it. So we are not scared at all.
But are you not worried that with the formation of the proposed mega party, the PDP may be kicked out due to its internal crisis?
I have been praying for a mega party because we are democrats and I know that for our democracy to be strongly entrenched, we need a viable, constructive opposition because they say power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
So we don't want to fall into that trap of being the only national party. We need a strong opposition to keep the PDP in check but that will not stop the PDP from being incharge.
We will still be incharge but we want all hands on deck to help sustain our democracy. We want people who will correct our mistakes, who will serve as a check. The mega party is good for our nation and it is healthy for our democracy.
Woman President in 2015
I have not heard of any woman that has interest . If a woman comes out, we will look at her. If she is acceptable, why not? There are so many women that are qualified to be president of this country including myself but we have to show interest and declare first and once they are cleared and acceptable to the party, we will present the woman.
Agitation between the North/ South and the President Jonathan quest for a come back in 2015
My take is that this North South, West ,East thing is a sad creation and it's a very very sad situation. We should be thinking of Nigeria and see ourselves as Nigerians and so any body who is a Nigerian citizen and he is acceptable should be voted for as President.
This North South dichotomy is encouraging and entrenching division, raising up invisible boundaries that are not there but are just made up in our minds and it is a sad thing for this country .
I want merit and acceptability to be the yardstick and not where you come from, that is what I want. If we say we are copying American presidential system, then we should copy it properly.
Have you ever heard the American people say that this person is from North Carolina or Washington during elections?
It does not happen. We are all Nigerians, that is why a Kenyan boy Obama is President of America . I mean we should grow out from this primordial ethnic mentality and be more progressive .
If we find any body that is worthy whether man or woman, it does not matter where they come from.