Born To Play Politics

The first Chairman of Isolo Local Government, Lagos State, Mrs. Mary Modupeola Oseghale is in her second term in office at the council. A former police officer and teacher, she discusses her experience in politics which she joined in the 1950s, and the challenges of her office. MRS Mary Modupeola Oseghale, the chairman of Isolo Local Government, entered into politics because she had something to offer in order to improve the lives of people in the areas of infrastructure, security, job creation and education. This was even more so as women were almost non existent in the field and she needed to work towards reversing the trend.

“When I joined politics, I noticed the presence of few women in the area who never occupied a position. I tried to know why they did not succeed and later realized that they lacked so many things including education, finance, exposure and support. I knew right from time that our society feels a woman should be heard and not seen and I tried hard to prove my worth. Also, the chauvinism of the Nigerian men was another issue I had to contend with then,” she recalled.

As the first chairman of the council since it was created seven years ago, Oseghale started working towards transforming the council from the scratch. Having identified poor roads and poor drainage systems as the major problems faced by the area, the chairman set to tackle them.

After constructing 12 roads and drainages, she has also opened way for more revenue generation in the council. With more focus on roads, the council has also constructed 18 culverts for the prevention of flood in specific areas. It has also built public toilets and boreholes in markets, schools and public areas with generators to power them. The health sector has received a boost with the renovation of various health centres especially in Ajao Estate and Ilasamaja.

A lot has been done in the green initiative of the Lagos State government with adequate attention given to the beautification and environmental enhancement. With a lot of projects to embark upon, the chairman said the council headquarters has been improved in terms of electricity supply, while 10 buses are on ground for revenue generation.

“We thought it wise to improve the welfare of the staff, which was also the reason why we bought brand new cars for the legislators, executives and heads of departments. We also bought patrol vehicles for the police in order to boost security in the area. Apart from these tangible achievements, we have also improved a lot in the area of sports and education,” she said.

Oseghale who is in her second term in office since 2003 said the challenges of running the office remain the constant struggle to meet the needs and expectations of the people of Isolo. Having been exposed to politics early in life, the chairman sees the challenges of running an elective office as a normal challenge faced on other jobs.

“As new generation leaders, we are trying very hard to bring the government to the doorsteps of the people by concentrating on the grassroots. When I came into office, Isolo, being a new council, we had to start from the scratch with little funds to embark on projects due to the denial of federal allocation for the state by Obasanjo’s government.”

A former police officer, Oseghale was born 61 years ago in Ilesha to the family of the late Chief Sylvester Taiwo and Madam Comfort Fafowora and had her primary and secondary education at Ilesha before joining the Nigerian Police Force in 1967 where she met her husband, Chief Vincent Oseghale. They both left the force later in the 70s to establish their own businesses.

The chairman who has just concluded her first degree in Guidance and Counseling at the University of Lagos, in addition to her training at the Police College, decided to join the teaching profession which started from African Church Teachers’ Training College, Ifako, Lagos. The chairman who is also a high chief in her community, later joined the Lagos Teaching Service Commission as a class teacher but resigned in 1982 to establish her own school in Oshodi-Isolo.

In the area of job creation and education, Oseghale has made an impact in renovation of schools and provision of teaching and learning facilities in the various schools in Isolo. That enabled the area to produce the one-day governor in Lagos in 2006 through stiff competition. In order to reduce unemployment, the council has empowered several women and men through skills acquisition programmes and provision of trading materials and motorcycles.

“My second coming into the office enabled me to embark on more projects and also touch other aspects that needed attention. By then, there were funds available unlike when we started. Our sensitization programme on health matters is another programme that has been ongoing because of its importance.”

When speaking on the process that brought her into office and how favourable it was, she said it is for other women to lay foundation for others by contributing immensely to the growth of the area and meeting the expectations of the people. “Women in politics are striving to contribute their quota because we are the major stakeholders in the country’s development. We want our children to achieve success in their education and to become good future leaders. Women are the major participants in this area; that is why we need to occupy positions of importance.”

Oseghale who joined politics in the 1950s said she was born into a political family and that her experience in the police force equally prepared her for the job due to the discipline and the quality training she received there. “I am glad to have served in the force because it taught me a lot on how to handle public affairs and how to treat people with equality and fairness. That is what is expected of our leaders in a diverse country.”

While stressing the need for the Nigerian police force to improve on the quality of training and discipline, she recalled that the training she received then at the Police College was regimented. “The force is now without discipline and the spirit of corporation has been eroded. You can now see a constable insulting an inspector because he or she is not the employer. The need to equip the police through constant training and screening is very important at this stage. Their welfare and incentives should be improved; they should be restricted to barracks with good accommodation so as to avoid corruption.”

As a politician, she aspires to move forward to higher position in future where she can serve the larger society. “If God says I will be the first female president of Nigeria, nobody can stop me. After all, a woman has emerged as president in Liberia.”

On the participation of women in the 2011 elections, she noted that a lot of women are coming out but she cannot assess their capability and their readiness to compete at this point. “I always counsel them to get themselves prepared and well equipped for the task ahead and most importantly, I advise them to ensure that they have something to fall back on later.

“I advise female politicians to be patient and objective. They should have a democratic attitude to issues. They should also ensure that they get the support of their husbands and families; they should not abandon their homes because of politics. I like encouraging only women of middle age and above to go into active politics because I feel it is the right time. Politics is not for women who have young families to care for. They can be part of a party and also contribute to the development and wait for the right time. They should have a business or career to focus on at this time for them to have something to fall on later in future because politics is not a wealth creation arena for any good leader. “

On the issue of a level playing field for women in her party, the Action Party (AC), she praised the leadership of the party for being objective and fair when it comes to selection. She stressed that AC is the only party that has allowed more than 30 per cent participation of women in politics; that is more than the recommended percentage by the federal government.

On godfatherism, Oseghale said she is only answerable to the community that voted her in. “One good thing about my party is that when you are diligent, they will continue to recommend you. I am from Osun State and my husband is from Ondo. Lagosians are detribalized; they want people who can serve them well and that’s all.”

A mother of six children and many grandchildren, the chairman said she has been enjoying the support of her family because she was able to strike a balance between her home and politics. “For a female politician to achieve this, she needs to package herself well. My children have grown and married so I don’t have much to worry about. Although the family has to sacrifice too, but I always oversee things whenever I am around.”

While commending the efforts of the state government, she asked it to help Isolo in tackling the issue of bad road sespecially in Okota where much of its revenue is gotten. Tracing the new face of Lagos to the vision of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, she is proud to have him as a mentor and numerous others who have touched her life.

As a teacher, she associated the low standard of education to the ever-changing educational policies and advised the authorities to adopt one curriculum. She further emphasized the need for proper funding of the sector.

Oseghale urges President Goodluck Jonathan to focus more on implementing his agenda such as electoral reform and power. “Our major problem is sincerity in leadership. If we can call a spade a spade, the country will move faster.”

She acknowledged the increased participation of women in politics and advised them to be good helpmates to their husbands and engage themselves in something no matter how small. She also advised the youths to use their time judiciously. “It’s unfortunate the way our youths are going; their behaviour may be traced to what is obtainable in the society. They should not be influenced by a get-rich-quick society and try to engage in something genuine.”



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