‘I am in politics to serve the people, their needs are my core mandate’
Adaora Onyechere is an award-winning TV personality, humanitarian, media and policy development consultant. Having served as a broadcast Journalist with African Independent Television (AIT), host on a TV programme titled, Kaakaki, she is set to contribute her quota to the growth of her community as she is aspiring to be a member of the House of Assembly, representing Okigwe constituency in Imo State, under the Action Alliance Party. Onyechere’s passion and commitment to human rights, championing youth and women driven policies has earned her recognitions and awards both locally and internationally. She is the coordinator of Deep Talk a Mentoring Group which reaches out to young women between the ages of 15 – 35 and founder of Yellow Jerrycan Save a Child Foundation, a platform advocating for the rights of IDPs. Onyechere speaks to IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA on her debut into politics, her drive and work.
What informed your decision to transit from journalism to politics?
Being involved in bringing daily issues as such to the fore as a broadcast journalist, I anchored Kaakaki The African Voice on AIT and also dug deep into communities with my program, gender agenda, it felt tough daily advocating and bringing the demands of those without voices to the fore and not seeing intentional efforts at resolutions by those at helm of affairs. The interaction with policy makers and understudying what the missing link is for those in office and the beneficiaries, and also interacting with people from both my locality, having seen the lack of communication and the attention given to the led and the citizens.
What will you be doing differently?
I am in this to serve the people, their needs and their voices are my core mandate, I have dedicated my life to reach out to those who have not the strength, the voice or ably represented, to help bring solutions to the desperate needs of my people. I will be that leader who is reachable, available and hands on, that creates synergy between the people and the action plans, as they will be part of the major decision processes that concern them across board.
How actively involved are you in your grassroots?
Being devoted at the grassroots has been my key focus because, for me, leadership should start from the bottom up, those at rural areas are key stakeholders to the economy and the development of Nigeria, I have held youth summits and dialogues to look at issues bothering on the minds of the youth, form quality education and most importantly employment. I have also seen from the interactions and the interventions that the level of orientation and self development especially or knowing who they are is key, living a purpose driven life having a core mandate to reach out to those around them. Currently I am embarking on my next project which is the ‘back 2 school’, to ensure that at least 2000 children are equipped to go back to school, aided by teaching aids and school packs.
With your broad knowledge and reportage on women and children issues, what are the common problems you can identify?
This issue is very close to my heart because it is a need that urges me to keep advocating for mainstreaming women into governance. Over the years especially as a broadcaster the most intense part was looking at issues bordering on women and the girl child, especially in giving voice to the trauma of problems bedevilling women especially at the grassroots. I found that there was a huge disconnect between women and leadership, a disconnect between the policies and the key issues at the core, a lack of representation at the lowest level thereby disenfranchising women at the bottom from being part of the decision making. Policy development, social innovation and mentorship is quite lacking amongst the three levels of governance amongst women. There are intentional, consistent policies that looks at mentoring and leadership training at the rural level and for me that is what encourages my decision to run for the state assembly in order to give back, bring about new interventions that opens up the space for women in decision making and literacy.
There is little or no capacity development in Owerri metropolis for young people as part of where you seek office, what changes are you bringing to the table?
For the youths in Imo state the issue had never been lack of energy or willingness, but rather the energy for the right things and the right way, the willingness to unlearn the stereotypes embedded in the understanding of leadership. There’s a lot of work to be done as I am already doing especially in the areas of social and mental reorientation. Leadership have failed in leaving the right footsteps in the sand, very few, the exemplary template for what should become the normal has been confused. So the first point for me is social reorientation, self discovery and self development, when we have qualitative human capacity, development is more impact full, when we have youths who are a brand for honesty and Integrity then we are able to develop and sustain development.
What has been the influence of your foundation advocating for the rights of IDPs?
The influence has been enormous, we have been able to have more women speak out issues of sexual abuse especially at the camp and get help, we are big on Advocacy and sensitisation and that for me is the most essential part of my work as most women in these camps, children and men alike lack a voice to represent their needs. The core mandate of looking in between the lines and finding out the real problems was one the focal points of our foundation. As of this year June, we reached out to over 2000 women from across 18 IDP camps, we have also set up a guidance and counselling centre for the women at camps coordinated by women in the camp who are trained listeners and counsellors and a lot of problems have been able to get quicker response this way, there is confidentiality and there is help.
In your years of journalism, what memories do you have?
Bringing hope to people everyday through the shows I anchored, Kaakaki The African Voice on AIT and helping to shape the minds of many women across Africa through a gender agenda, this made me understand the need for indigenous television for issues concerning women especially in the area of policy making.
What is your advise to women on governance?
Know your purpose. Mentor other women and expand the space for women to become part of the decision-making population in the country, so as to enhance development at all spheres. Women for women, we can only be strong together. We have the population, we have capacity and we have the drive, every woman should decide that, at every election, only political parties who have women as part of their agenda and at least one woman who emerges at the primaries would have the vote of the Nigerian women.
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