•It’s a shame that Ondo State is counted among those owing workers
Mrs. Jumoke Anifowose, lawyer, politician, is the daughter of former Ondo State governor, Chief Adekunle Ajasin. She seemed to have learnt the nuances of politics rather fast through being around her late father in the Second Republic. Mrs. Anifowose, however, effectively joined politics during the rebirth of democracy in the land in 1999. She was Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the state during the late Chief Adebayo Adefarati regime. Later, she emerged Chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria in the state. Today, Mrs. Anifowose is one of the leaders of the All Progressives Congress in the state. Our Correspondent TEMITOPE ADEDEJI visited her residence in Owo, Ondo State where he conducted a revealing interview with her on her background, memories of her late dad, her impression of the state Governor Mimiko’s administration and her take on the ongoing developments in the National Assembly controlled by her party…
Can you give us an insight into your background?
Yes, I am Mrs. Jumoke Anifowose, a lawyer, a politician and daughter to late Chief Adekunle Ajasin. I started my primary school at Owo, and my secondary education at Saint Louis Secondary, Ondo town and my higher school at Oliver Baptist High School, Oyo, Oyo State. I attended University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife where I studied Law and later proceeded to the Law School. Since then, I have been practicing law. We were then the second set of NYSC in Nigeria. I served in Lagos with the Ministry of Justice, Legal Litigation Department. After my service as a youth corps member, I worked briefly with the Ministry, then resigned for private legal practice with S. Ajibade & Co at Ibadan. In between my practice, I got married and shifted base to Lagos where my husband was working. So, since then, though I worked briefly with the Federal Mortgage Bank, I have been practicing on my own. During the late (Chief Adebayo) Adefarati administration, I was appointed Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice. Later, I became ACN Chairman in 2010- 2012. I later contested for the ACN gubernatorial ticket in 2012 but unfortunately, I was not picked.
As a lawyer, what drove you into politics?
First of all, I was born into it and again because I saw my father doing it. I grew up to know him as a politician with a difference as well as a college principal, Principal of Imade College, Owo, Ondo State. This attracted me and haven seen people coming around him for one help or the other. If you have human milk in you, definitely, you will want to go into politics so as to interact with them, to help them in solving their problems, to give back morally or financially from what they have given you; to give them back in return. The basic thing is to empathize with people who are not in the same position with you, which has made me venture into politics. If you are not into politics, you will be limited in helping people, I must confess. So, helping people generally attracted me to politics. Most times, when I move round the town in Owo, people still acknowledge what my father did for them. If he had not joined politics, would he be able to do much for his people?
How do you compare the politics of your father’s era with what obtains today? Are they the same?
I wouldn’t say so because our politicians have monetised politics and why do I say so? During Chief Ajasin’s time, it wasn’t full-time in the parliamentary system where the British model was being followed. Our people have seen politics nowadays as a way of making money. Until governments go back to the drawing board and make it less attractive, else, the jobless will take the advantage and mess the whole system -up. Then, they have their work; some were medical doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. After sitting in the parliament, they would go back home to continue their work. They were only paid sitting allowance, not salaries. People that will not depend on political money should be allowed to be in politics, who have jobs they are doing, not job seekers.
Politics is generally seen as a dirty game. Considering your upbringing, why do you still want to remain in politics?
Well, there is no profession that does not have its bad eggs. It’s not all politicians that are bad. If you can make a difference, that will be profitable for you and your party. I don’t play dirty politics. I am honest with my people and they know it. It depends on the individual and I want to say that, we have good Nigerians and bad heads in the country, so also do we have good and bad politicians. Some say lawyers are liars, which is not true. Just be straight-forward and add value to the system.
How do you rate Governor Mimiko’s performance vis a vis the huge sums that have accrued to the state since he took over?
I am disappointed in Mimiko. It is a shame that Ondo State is counted among those owing workers. Under no circumstance should the state be seen in this mess. We have enough resources, considering the money we receive from 13% oil derivation, coupled with the Internally Generated Revenue. If the funds we have in the state are judiciously used for the people of the state, we will not have this problem. We saw how he spent money recklessly during the last House of Assembly election in the state. The outcome of it is what we are seeing now. No salary, everything is standing still. He has not done anything meaningful since his assumption this second term in office. Our roads are bad.
Do you subscribe to the plea of the Governors seeking President Buhari’s help in paying their workers?
Well, the thing is that, some of them really need help. It has happened before. Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who was the nation’s President then, had to intervene and it was through the efforts of the Nigerian Labour Congress in Ondo State under Comrade Arije that the Federal Government then saw the reason why the allocation of states should be increased from about 24% then to 30%. And they were given grants in order to ameliorate the problems of unpaid salaries. So, it is not the first time that we are having this problem. The Federal Government has to look backwards and see what happened then, how was it solved and see whether it is the same thing that is happening now: not enough coming from the Federal Allocation and the IGR not being strong enough to be added to whatever allocation that is coming, to ameliorate the problem of unpaid salaries. I want to say the Federal Government has to look into it, bail the state governments out and give them like a standing order, like look, this is the number of staff that you will need or so. Though it may cause some ripple effects, I am sure the current position of state governments requires surgical operation in respect of staff and retrenchment of civil servants. Some states cannot but retrench, and our people will have to bear with such state governments that have to retrench. Something has to give way; some people have to suffer in order to smile. I want to say that the Federal Government has to intervene; it cannot leave the states on their own in this critical situation.
The 8th National Assembly is plunged into leadership crisis and APC is in the middle of the whole scenario. As a chieftain of the party, how would you describe the current problem in the House?
I think the leadership of the party is critically looking at every aspect of the problem of leadership in the National Assembly. The National Chairman of the party (Chief John Oyegun) is on top of the situation and immediately the chairman and the president of the country, who luckily is also a chieftain of the party, when everybody is brought to the round table, everything would be amicably resolved because they are all members of the same party. Therefore, there is no need for unnecessary anger. I am positive that what is going on will fizzle out. It is like a full blown rivalry among brothers. So, when parents bring the children together, they solve their differences. It is a family and sibling rivalry, it will definitely be resolved.
As a mother, you would discover that in the last dispensation, during former President Jonathan’s time, he had so many women in his cabinet. Now we have another government, what is your advice to the new president with regards to the inclusion of women in cabinet?
If I want to quote Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in one of his recent interviews early this year, he said women are more honest in politics. So, I want to say, the oracle has spoken. Therefore, President Muhammadu Buhari should key into that statement and make use of women. I want to give an example of our women in Ondo State, the way we worked and worked in order for APC to emerge. We have a group called Ondo State APC Women for Change, and we went round the markets in the state in order for the change mantra to be very effective with our women, men and youths in all the markets. And at the end, we came down to Akure, the state capital, to make sure that all of us from the 18 local government areas. We visited the main market, where we held our brooms, chanted the change songs and campaigned vigorously for the party, and this has significant effects on the voting pattern during the Presidential Election, until the state election, as I said, where the state money was used to manipulate vulnerable voters.
So, I want to say if you put women in charge, there is no reason why women should not be put in charge any way because we have shown it one way or the other. We have precedents; we have women that have done well. I am not saying some women have not done badly too, but majority of the women that were put in position of authority have worked hard and very well to the admiration of the international community and all that they have worked with.
Women generally will serve President Muhammadu Buhari’s positive change and he will find them very helpful in his administration. As I have said, women are more honest in politics.
Apart from the delay in the appointment of ministers, there have been other criticisms including what is happening at present in the National Assembly, with critics now saying that APC is not prepared for governance. What is your reaction to that?
APC is well prepared for governance. Why do I say that? Slow and steady wins the race. If you rush into certain things and you rush back, would they not complain then? It is better to manage the affairs of Nigeria in a gentle and slow manner if you don’t want to run the system down.