A former Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Senator Abiodun Olujimi, is representing Ekiti South Senatorial District.
Being member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus, she is also the Deputy Minority Whip, the only female among the principal officers of the Senate.
She tells about her political journey.
For how many years have you been into politics?
I have been into politics since the 90s. So, I have come a long way.
How has the experience been, especially in a political clime where males are dominant?
It has not been bad. There have been highs and lows. Not bad. Some very pleasant. I came in when it was easy for women. There was a particular time when the country was just ready for female participation and, then, there was a trend to look for women who were readily available and fitted the roles being looked for. So, I count myself as one of the lucky ones, even though it has also not been easy.
How was your experience as the Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, being one of the highest elective public offices to be occupied by a female?
It wasn’t a bad experience at all. I had a good time because I worked with a governor (Ayodele Fayose) who knew my capacity and worth, and who appreciated me every time. It was not bad at all.
You have also been to the House of Representatives and now the Senate. How were you able to go this far?
My first coming into the National Assembly was by happenstance. A brother of mine who represented us, – God rest his soul – Honourable Talabi, passed on in an accident and there was the need to fill the position. It happened to be my constituency and the governor gladly obliged that I should go. Then, I was a Special Assistant to the governor. So, I came into the National Assembly. It was not bad. On my journey into the Senate, I once tried (contested) but I didn’t make it. My thought was ‘never say die.’ That is the spirit of politics. You just have to keep trying until when you get it right. I tried again and with the help – again – of the same governor, I am here today.
How do you see the negative perception Nigerians have about the National Assembly, now that you are a lawmaker?
It is a huge misconception because, the truth is, it is just like every other place and there is no big deal about the National Assembly. What we are getting is not fantastic. It is just that you need to share things in secrecy, at least, for you to make it look nice. But there is no big deal there. The only big deal is that there is plenty of hard work and you have to work to project your people and yourself to be able to take something back to your people.
How does the job affect you as a wife and mother?
I believe that is the reason why there are no young people here. Most of the people here are already made; most of them have settled in and their kids are grown. With the workload here, if you still have children to look after, it won’t be an easy thing at all.
How supportive is your family to this cause?
My husband is my biggest supporter and my children love the job. They propel me. My husband, whenever I become angry and don’t want to go on, calls me and says, ‘I am mandating you to go back on the field and show them.’ So, he makes it easy for me to remain on the job. It is not an easy business; it is tough. But with such support, you can’t but be encouraged.
Being, perhaps, one of the most experienced female politicians in the country today, did you aspire to become a politician when you were choosing career?
I never wanted to be in politics. First, I wanted to be a medical doctor. When that didn’t work, I ended up as a journalist and it was fun for me. But at a point, I was inadvertently drafted into politics.
By somebody or circumstance?
By circumstance. My husband was the one in politics and I was just always cooking for them when they returned home from their politicking. But, somehow, I helped the people in the area to do a few things like the hospital which had been abandoned. We revived it and tried to make it work. I also saw children who were roaming the streets and put them in school. I used all the shops at the front of my house to start a school and we eventually gave it to the local government. So, when it was time to contest, the entire community said, ‘We don’t want your husband, we want you.’ That was how I got into politics. Interestingly, I have not stopped (politicking) since then.
Are you considering retirement from politics anytime soon?
I am still a very young lady but I will retire, definitely. We need to mentor people who will take over from us. However, we still need to do a few more years of work so that the people who are coming will just keep following us. Then, we can retire. Definitely, we just must retire because the people looking after us are not there for fun; they are also there to experience what we are also experiencing. And I am not unmindful of that.
Is it true that you’re being tipped to run for the governorship of Ekiti State?
It is for them to speak from their mouths to God’s ears. I am watching the terrain and I am also watching the governor because we have a governor who we love. And I know he will give us a level playing field. Of course, when the time is right, I will test a few things.
As the Deputy Minority Whip of the Senate, what challenges come with being a principal officer?
The fact that one cannot really meet the demands of one’s colleagues because, really, it is not the way it used to be because there is no funding and things are tight. And this particular leadership is very circumspect in doing so many things. So, you will see your colleagues and feel you should be able to help but you can’t. That is a major challenge. Other than that, they are very receptive. I am the only woman among them. And I also try to ensure that I put them first. When you put people first, moving with them won’t be difficult.
You wear African fabrics and styles most times, what inspires your dressing?
I love them. They are very versatile; they have plenty of colours and I love colours. I am a happy person and African fabrics are ‘happy. They have colours and lovely mix, and you can use them to make anything. I love them. I mix them with English clothes and they look good.
Do you wear foreign designers at all?
I do but I always try to make sure that I mix them with Nigerian fabrics. – Punch.