RIP: Success Has No Gender – Funmi Olayinka

April 27, 2013

She came, served and left. That much can be said about the late deputy governor of Ekiti State, Mrs. Olufunmilayo Adunni Olayinka. She gave an insight into what she stood for and her beliefs among other issues in this interview conducted by ADAEZE AMOS two years ago. Excerpts:

You were in the banking industry for 22 years before opting for politics. What really informed your decision to go into politics?

Banking is a very good profession. But after awhile, you begin to ask yourself what next? So, I was beginning to ask myself that question. I made up my mind to go into politics. Of course I have always been involved in politics. Maybe not in the Ekiti polity but in terms of awareness of what is going on in Lagos State and my participation even at the federal level. I remember as far back as late MKO Abiola’s election, the popular June 12 election; I was very much involved in my community. I was mobilizing the women, mobilizing people to come out and cast their votes.

So, I have always been interested so to say in politics. So then, a call came from my people. They looked at me, they looked r o u n d , and I believe they saw in me some qualities that could be useful back home.

And like they always say, all politics are local, which means it’s always better to do your local politics first before you do other types of politics because that is where you are known best. And by local this time, I’m not only referring to Ekiti polity. It could be in my environment here in Ikeja where I live. It could be in Lagos where you live, where you pay your taxes, where you are known. I believe that is where you need to start your politics. Not necessarily in your village. I’m trying to make that distinction.

So, a call came from my people that they would require my services back home and I said to myself they must have seen something in me, they must have liked what they say and they must have had this belief that I had something to offer. So, I took it up, I consulted with God, with my family, my employer too, very important to me because I had just moved to a new organization less than a year when the call came. And as God would have it, I also got a nod from my employer to go ahead.

Weren’t you scared of the danger that appears to be inherent in the kind of politics we play here?

Well, apart from even being scared of being killed, being shot, being hurt, I think there are other things that go with politics beyond even being killed. You look at the financial aspect of it, you look at the image aspect of it, and to me those are even more important. I mean women in politics, what do they think of them? What does the society make out of them?

Did you put these factors into consideration before you opted for politics?

Of course. I considered that but what was important to me was the call to service. It means a lot. Second, if you look at the vision and mission of the people that have called you, of the community that has called you, and the totality of it all and ask yourself what exactly would these people have seen in you, what could they be trying to achieve?

What is their mission? What is their vision? Do I want to be part of that vision? What is their image? How are they perceived and so on? I looked at all of that, and that gladdened my heart that I would be joining the right party. I would be on the part of truth, I would be working for the people, I would be relating with the masses, I would be saying the truth at all times and standing by that truth. That has really informed my joining politics.

What challenges have you been facing as a result of your decision?

Well, the challenges are enormous. I believe in any profession, the challenges are enormous. I believe same goes with your profession. If you must succeed, if you will have to succeed in your profession, there are challenges you have to face.

You start from gender, you start from family, you start from friends, you start from community, and all that. There are challenges all over the place even as a housewife, you have challenges, you play politics all over the place. So, if you have made up your mind to succeed, challenges should not be a road block. In fact, you should look at every challenge as a way of getting to your destination. Take that challenge and say yes, what can I make out of this challenge.

How about your gender as a woman, does that hinder you?

I don’t see myself as a woman or a female when I’m on the field and this has been the secret of my success. Even in my former employment, I didn’t see myself as a female because I did what my male colleagues were doing. After all, we earned the same salary and I think by and large, if more women could see themselves on the field as employees, as workers, with the male colleagues, the sky will not even limit us.

I think we should encourage other females to do so. I think we would achieve success in a shorter time than we think of by so doing. But the minute you begin to see yourself as fragile, the weaker sex, I’m not supposed to do this, a woman is not supposed to do that, you begin to have issues.

Now, by whose law are you defining femininity and womanhood? Who decides what a woman should do and not do? If your employers do not segregate the genders and do not discriminate against women, why must you discriminate against yourself ? I think that is the mistake a lot of us women make.

We look at ourselves and say we are the weaker sex. I should not do this, I should not do that. That is not true. Don’t say you are a female, you are she, you are the weaker sex. Know it that success has no gender. If you are successful, you are successful. In fact, it’s even sweeter when you are a woman; they look at you and say oh she has succeeded in places where males even dominate.

Do you derive joy in what you are doing?

I think the joy for me is actually working with the people and democracy they say is the government of the people, for the people, by the people. The word people, you cannot take away. When your people want you, when you are working with your people, you are touching their lives, you look at their faces, you see the joy, you see the hope on their faces that this person is going to make a difference in their lives.

That alone gives me all the joy, because people have come to identify with you as somebody they look up to, that will make a difference. That to me is very satisfying.

Women who are in politics generally complain about the late meetings and other such things which inhibit the participation of women. What is your opinion on this?

If you talk of late meetings, it is not an everyday thing. Issues would come up that you might need to meet immediately, that you might need to talk about immediately, maybe before daybreak and you will need to do that. If that is what your job entails, so be it. Even in the banking industry, where I came from, we used to meet late.

I used to work late nights. I used to be out of my home a lot of times. I traveled a lot, I worked late, I had late meetings. So what are we talking about? If your job entails that you should stay up and get the job done, I don’t see anything wrong with that and it is not an everyday thing.

There is the general belief that most women in politics are morally bankrupt. How true is this?

Well, are you saying that women in politics should not be trusted with men? Again I will go back to the banking industry because that is where I had my working experience. I think if you look at the banking industry today, you will see that they have a lot of males.

So, are you also saying that women in the banking industry should not be trusted or that they are morally bankrupt? And I will tell you that that is not true. Again in your professional field, the moment you begin to compromise your emotions, you are not going to get to your destination. Because sooner or later, people are going to find out the kind of person you are. In other words, every woman should be disciplined in whatever profession t h e y find themselves.

Do you think nursing mothers should be involved in politics?

It is pretty difficult to advise a woman to be or not to be a politician. What I would say is that every woman should look at herself and ask herself what she wants. Such a question is important. I wouldn’t say a nursing woman should not join politics. If you are a nursing mother and that is your ambition, if that is your vision, go for it.

Nothing says you cannot get competent hands to carry your baby with you wherever your attention is needed. So, I’m not going to discourage a pregnant woman or a nursing mother from joining politics. If that is what she desires, if that is what her community wants her to do. But first discuss it with your family. It’s a family affair. You discuss with your spouse. I think your spouse plays a very important role in whatever your decision will be.

 This article was first published in the National Mirror

Last modified: April 27, 2013

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