• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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How experience in first political contest in Ogun fired up my passion, by Akinrinde

How experience in first political contest in Ogun fired up my passion, by Akinrinde

Florence Funlola Akinrinde, the African Democratic Congress (ADC) House of Representatives candidate for Ifo, Ewekoro Federal Constituency of Ogun State in the recently concluded National Assembly election, opened up in this interview with OBA MICHAEL SOYEBO about her first time experience in political contest and plans for the future. Excerpts:

Can you share with us your experience as a first time contestant in the just concluded 2023 general election?

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The women were really excited to see a female candidate campaigning for a seat in the House of Representatives, the position I contested for.  Their excitement actually encouraged me to push further.

I feel very fulfilled because my people accepted me; they are not ashamed of me despite the way the outcome of the election. It was an awesome experience for me.

Though I won’t say that there weren’t some few challenges being a first-timer, now, I have made myself known to the people, let them know who FFA is, my mission, and my objective for representing them.

How would you rate the performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) in terms of the general conduct of the election? What’s your verdict on the polls?

I will rate it fair, not excellent and that is because what I witnessed at my polling unit with INEC wasn’t a fantastic experience at all.

A lot of things went wrong in most of the areas I considered to be my stronghold. For instance, we couldn’t get the material on time. I remember I got to my polling booth after 1 pm, and at that time, voting was yet to start. ‘What happened?’, I asked. They said there was no ink, which was actually surprising. Do you mean people will not cast their votes because there is no ink?

I must tell you about the conduct of the INEC and that wasn’t the only place. In other places too, the BVAS didn’t get there up to about 3 or 4 or 5 pm in the evening. I kept calling the INEC officers and they saying ‘it’s okay, what we are going to do is that, whenever the material gets there, they will start voting till whatever time the last person cast his/her vote.

Do you expect people to leave their house as early as 9 am to go and cast their vote and they will be there till 4 or 5 pm waiting for voting materials? That is just a few of the many terrible experiences we had on that day.

Going forward, what would be your suggestions on how to get it right with our elections in the future?

How to get it right with our elections in the future is very simple. I think INEC needs to work harder to conduct free and fair elections. If the new electoral law says we are going with the BVAS, the results are supposed to be transmitted instantly as it is stated.

I was in my constituency during all the elections (the House of Representatives and governorship, assembly election) and did not notice the presence of anybody there to investigate the election or to monitor the elections. That’s not right; we should have an external body to monitor the elections.

In addition, awareness shouldn’t be by the candidate alone, INEC itself should create awareness, especially in the rural areas on how to cast votes. In the rural areas, there were lots of void votes that were not properly cast. It shows that our people in rural areas do not have knowledge of how to vote. For forthcoming elections, INEC should try to teach voters in rural areas on how to cast exercise their civic duties; all these are very important In an election. 

To have a better election, we have to look into the inadequacies and shortcomings, make proper arrangements for electoral materials to get to where they should be at the right time, and the issue of the snatching of ballot boxes should be addressed as well. Also, there should be an independent body to monitor the election because I didn’t see anyone.

In summary, we should learn from our mistakes to set things right because if you don’t do something differently or if you keep repeating the same acts, you will keep getting the same results.

Let’s talk about your performance in the election; how did you react to the outcome of the election results in your federal constituency?

Well, I am proud of my performance as a first-time candidate that people just got acquainted with. I think I did very well, and we did very well as a party, despite the fact that we faced an incumbent who has been in power for eight years and in the system for 20 years. He also had the power of incumbency; of course, you can’t rule that out.

Nonetheless, we gave them a run for their money. Within the Ewekoro constituency, I made a lot of impact within that short period of time, and some people were actually finding it difficult to believe that was my first time contesting.

This encouraged me and I know I can do better next time.

Would you say the result was not favorable because you contested on the platform of the African Democratic Congress?

If I say the results were not favourable because I contested under the African Democratic party called (ADC), it’s far from it. The ADC is a known party, especially in Ogun State and it has nothing to do with the outcome.

Though ADC is not one of the two most popular political parties in Nigeria today it’s not doing badly at all. So, I don’t think it’s due to the fact that I contested under ADC, there is nothing wrong contesting under the ADC, there are no regrets just like I said earlier, the ADC wasn’t a factor, while going into the election at all, that is far from it.

In the course of this contest, did you have any regret?

Well, I did and pulled in my best. There are no regrets even though there were lots of inadequacies within the party. We had some shortcomings that unfortunately gave my opponent an edge in that area. Although things went the way they did, it wasn’t a bad try.

What’s the major lesson you learned in your participation in the Nigerian political space?

I will say it’s a mixed bag. In a situation like this, you will learn the good and the bad lessons, I won’t call it bad. This is not my first time in politics, don’t let us mistake that for the first time I am contesting as a candidate.

I have been in politics for some time; years back, I was in AD in Abuja but I took a break due to some personal reasons, and before coming back again fully. So, the lesson so far is how to be more tolerant; to never give up; hard work pays, understand that you don’t trust anyone in politics, and then there are no friends or enemies in politics, so you just have to be on top of your game.

The fact that people are close to you, and they are pledging their loyalty every now and then doesn’t mean they can’t sell you out at dying minutes. So, anything can happen in Nigerian politics overnight; so you expect anything.

As I said, it’s not a wasted effort, it’s something I would do over and over again, it’s something that I actually thank God I was able to give a try, and then the acceptance from my people was amazing and this is one of the drives that keep me going.

So politically what’s next for you?

We did a lot during the campaign period, and we are not stopping; it continues.
The relationship has already been established between me and my people; it will continue.  We look forward to doing more for widows, orphans, children, and the youths especially.

On top of my agenda list are the women, the children, the widows, and the youth of my constituencies and across borders even within Ogun State.

I have a fantastic relationship with the youth of Ifo/Ewekoro and now even extending it to around Ogun State. I will continue to keep that fire burning, reach out to as many people as we can, affect as many lives as possible, and do our best to create a more positive impact in the rural area.

As a big player in the real estate sector of the economy; can you assess the growth or otherwise of the sector?

If I have to assess the real estate business in Nigeria; it is not doing badly. The business is growing at a rapid pace, giving credence to the fact that people are beginning to know the importance of investing in real estate or properties.

Do you have plans to invest in your home state of Ogun considering your passion for your people and your recent involvement in Ogun politics?

Basically, my real estate investments span Abuja, Lagos and Abeokuta.

Additionally, there are some projects I am putting up in my constituencies, Ifo/Ewekoro by the grace of God. I am setting up a vocational center where we can be training our youths on skills programmes for free. Also, having sponsors and more hands on deck will go a long way to make the project more inclusive. I want to start from my constituencies and probably extend to other parts of the state.