Francess Olisa Ogbonnaya, popularly known as Tabitha, is an award winning broadcast journalist. A political analyst and much recently a politician who has declared interested to contest in the Local government elections in her state, Abia, she heads News and Current Affairs Desk at Kiss Fm Lagos. Ogbonnaya attended National College Gbagada and proceeded to University of Nigeria, Nsukka where she studied Archaeology and Tourism, later on to Anambra State University and Fernwood Business College Braunfointein South Africa where she bagged degrees in Political Science and Human Resource Management respectively. Through her organisation, Mandiba Media, she has empowered hundreds on youths with basic skills. An advocate for good governance and Women Inclusion in Politics, she shares with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, her passion for empowering young people and why more women should embrace politics.
Take us through your career journey?
MY Career has been characterised by acts of providence. I started off as a runway model as a teenager, then into Journalism, writing for a couple of newspapers. Upon leaving Graduate School, I joined the Automotive Industry where I spent time in the Communications and Customer Relations section. I would then return fully to my first love – media, this time Broadcast Journalism where I currently work with 98.9 Kiss FM Lagos as its Head of News and Current Affairs, and chiefly into Political Analysis.
You are an advocate for good governance and women inclusion in politics, what informed this passion?
My Advocacy for Good Governance dates far back in the Universities; I have not stopped. Rather, I think it is not enough to be an armchair critic, so I decided to not just seek for good governance, but be ready to offer this good governance myself. Talking about women inclusion in government, I cannot say it’s enough; women have been poorly represented in this country. Maybe that’s why Nigeria has not made the kind of progress expected of it. Following my demand for women inclusion, I had set up platforms like Women4Women NG where we enlighten Women on the need to take active part in the political process of this nation by seeking for elective positions, becoming members of political parties amongst other things.
You have declared your interest in the local council election in Abia state, what are you bringing to the table?
Yes, I have declared interest to contest in the coming Local Council Election in Abia State, billed for December 18, 2020. This is because I think it is not enough to talk, but also walk the talk. And my decision to take part is informed by my love for my Arochukwu people, especially the need for women and youth to be represented this time.
I hope to run a joint ticket as will be deemed fit by my political party, The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), but definitely, I will be bringing to the table my experience from the private sector. I am also coming along with programmes tailored solely to lift at least 1000 Arochukwu women out of poverty.
I recently took an assessment tour around some clans in the Local Council; I found out that so many women are living in very bad conditions, inhabitable homes. So, on that backdrop, I hope to come up with low cost home projects, which will be solely sponsored by brands and foundations. We will be partnering with to put quality shelter over the heads of some of these women because housing is a fundamental right and not a Privilege.
Local Council chairmanship requires grassroots participation, how much of the grassroots are you familiar with?
I intentionally wanted to start from the L Council elections because, just as you rightly asserted, it is grassroots based and I want to impart directly in the life of the people. Local Council should be the closest government to the people and the Populace should feel government at that level properly. However, I don’t need grassroots familiarity to tell me that primary schools needs to be fixed properly and to a certain standard.
The issue of women’s participation has continued to be an issue with its low representation, what is your take?
As you have rightly said, it is an issue; that is why I must rightly applaud the government of Ebonyi State for encouraging women participation as all the Deputy Chairmen are women and about 40 per cent of the Executive Chairmen are women too. Abia State has also promised to follow suit as stated by wife of the Governor, Mrs. Nkechi Ikpeazu who has promised that all women who declared interest must be supported. Even though it seems a little bit too lofty for a state like Abia where all 21 House of Assembly members are men and only three out of 25 commissioners are women. So, we are hopeful that the Local Council election will be a clear paradigm shift from where women in Abia are seen as lesser Leaders. That Abia State has not produced a female Deputy Governor since creation shows the level of low representation in our dear state. All that is about to change, as we will also be investing massively in political education of women and youth.
Do you consider your femininity a strong advantage or disadvantage to emerging winner?
Well, I really don’t like playing gender politics, but it is only right for our party PDP to nominate a woman as running mate. So, that way, I will say my gender will be of an advantage. But my gender is not all I am bringing to the table and the PDP stakeholders in Arochukwu vis-a-vis the state know this.
What issues do you consider a hindrance to women’s participation in politics?
There are many issues hindering women participation in politics, which includes money; politics in Nigeria gulps a lot of money. Then, there are cultural cum religious factors in places where women are not expected to be heard or seen. Then, there is general apathy, which has been as a result of years of poor performance.
Take us through women’s participation in grassroots politics in Abia State. Do you see an improvement?
Women participation in grassroots politics in Abia State has not really improved, sometimes it looks like taking one step forward and another five backwards. There was a time we had a female Senator, two female House of Reps and a couple of women in the state assembly. And then the next election, we lost all and we are currently left with just one female House of Representative member, who is even of the opposition party. The PDP in the last election did not produce a single female legislator both at the state and Federal level. So, I am appealing to the Governor, Okezie Victor Ikpeazu (PhD) as the leader of the party in the state to correct this abnormality in the coming Local Council Election.
Tell us about Mandiba Media and your drive to empower youths?
Empowering youths and others is something I derive joy in doing. So, through my organisation, I had to create a programme themed, Rediscover Yourself, which is usually a free five-day Media Training And Workshop where I bring facilitators who train about 100 youths on basic media skills including Graphics designing and Photography. We have been doing this for some time now and the results have been amazing.
What message do you have for women who consider politics too strong to delve into?
My Advice to Women who want to go into politics but consider it too tough or strong to delve into is that they should be of good courage. There is nothing as tough as child bearing and we as women survive it. If we can survive child labour, I think we are strong enough to survive in politics. And I want to also urge them to stop running away; we as women should come together and salvage what is left of this country.