OMOWUMI Olubunmi Ogunlola’s can-do spirit and strong desire, even as a little girl, to be the best in whatever she laid her hands on, has always put her in good stead in all her endeavours. And as the Representative of Ijero Constituency and Chairman, House Committee on Information as well as Civic Orientation and the Chief Whip of the Ekiti House of Assembly, these values are aiding her achieve set goals. Although she admits it’s tough handling women and men, she is no doubt equal to the task of maintaining discipline and propriety in the House. She believes that politics has largely remained the men’s domain because women have allowed it. She, therefore, urges them not to feel intimidated or discouraged. Rather, they should rise up to the challenge and take their place beside the men.
But how does Omowumi do it? Perhaps it’s because she doesn’t see herself as a woman. Rather, she does the job to the best of her ability. The issue of being a man or woman does not arise at all, so long the task is done.
A visit to the House will convince a visitor that discipline is the watchword here, as she has succeeded in working hand-in-hand with the Majority Leader to maintain peace, orderliness and tranquility at all times.
“It’s been both challenging and exciting for me. It has been interesting coordinating both the men and women and making relevant laws that affect the lives of our people.
“My colleagues know I don’t take nonsense. I am a focused, straightforward person that loves to play by the rule always. And I expect others to also fall in line. I don’t tolerate distractions because it hampers progress. Generally though, our members are well behaved. Sometimes it’s tough, sometimes it’s easy but in all, we must subject ourselves to the rule of the law.” she says.
In her view, one of the outstanding achievements of the present administration in Ekiti State is giving voice to women in the running of state affairs. With this, women are being given the chance to prove themselves strictly on the basis of merit. “It has never been so good. This is the first time that four women have emerged in the Ekiti Assembly. Before now, there was just one woman. So far so good, things are better than they used to be,” she says.
This perhaps explains why the expectation in the state is so high that more women will emerge not only through appointive positions but also through popular elections.
Tactful, tough, compassionate and hardworking, Omowumi’s one desire is to make a difference in her generation and reach the peak in the business of law making. This has always been her one dream all along anyway— to be successful in whatever she does whether personal or official.
SHE attended the Ikosi Methodist High School, Agbowa Ekiti and finished her secondary education at Ansarudeen College, Lagos. Afterwards, she began a career in the Judiciary in 1983 as a clerical staff. Convinced that she needed to take her career to the next level, she started an LLB programme. With this, she was able to delve into the nitty-gritty of law, what it entails and how it impacts the lives of the citizens. At the completion of her course, she proceeded to the Law School.
Has her desire of impacting the lives of people in all strata of society been actualised now? “Yes, I believe I’m making a mark in this regard. In my relatively young life, I think I’ve done my best to touch as many lives as possible in my own modest way and the desire keeps growing. I have made a lot of impact and I am trusting God to achieve even more. I see myself as a humble person who is ready and happy to put in extra efforts to achieve positive results,” she says.
Omowumi’s attitude of ‘yes, we can make a difference’ is all about making a positive and verifiable impact on the lives of those around her and in the society at large.
Handling tough assignments and achieving success is not new to her though. While in the Judiciary, she had it tough and rough but with perseverance, honesty and hard work, she was able to sail through and hold her own with the support and understanding of her family. “It wasn’t easy juggling my roles then because of family responsibilities and all. But I managed my time well. I learned to do things in moderation. I’ve also learned to put God first and this has helped me establish and direct my thoughts and will,” she says.
IS the judiciary still the last hope of the common man? This statement connotes a whole lot of things she says and these include the expectation that the judiciary be fearless, fair to all as well as being responsive to the plight of the people.
“And yes, the judges are still the last hope of the common man. What will be the fate of the poor if there is no system where they could get justice and seek redress? Although, this may not always happen given the fact that the Nigerian society has been corrupted and justice is sometimes given to the guilty party because money has exchanged hands.
“This is, however, condemnable. It is expected that justice must be dispensed on the platform of discipline and the fear of God. But men are fallible; so also are the thoughts of men. This fallibility of men is what is affecting the quality of justice delivery in Nigeria and elsewhere in the world today.”
For the judiciary in Nigeria to improve, she says Nigerian government must fashion out a way of granting it full autonomy in terms of funds and other requirements. For instance, it should ordinarily not be the function of the executive arm to build courts for the judiciary.
So, how does Omowumi see herself? “I believe that service is superior to reward. And it was this desire for self-actualisation and service that motivated me to go back to school. I have always seen myself as a work in progress,” she says.
OMOWUMI has a long list of individuals who have helped her actualise her dream of serving the people. Notable among these are Mama Aderonke Okunsanya and Erelu Bisi Fayemi and the good people of Ekiti who believed in her capacities. “These two have left footprints in the sands of my life and political career. Working with them has helped me see how true service can make a real difference in people’s lives,” she says.
She is an advocate of people not displaying hunger or greed in whatever position they find themselves. Rather, she thinks people must moderate their appetite for material gains and benefits. “Show me a satisfied man or woman, and I will show you a failure. The biggest window in the world is that of improvement regardless of current position. We must be constructively dissatisfied with current status in order to make further improvements,” she says.
Women, in her view, have as much stake in politics and governance just as the men and nothing should prevent a woman from pursuing her dream.
To her, politics should not be about domination, oppression and aggressive power play. Rather, it should be about providing quality service, good governance, care and support for the people and building the people’s confidence.
Since Nigeria is a country of equal opportunities, she believes women should build strong platforms and apply themselves more to be able to achieve more fruitful results. And if women had equal access to education just as the men, she simply can’t understand why the former should demand for extra when they can work hard and get what they want. There is no reason women should be left out in the nation’s march to greatness.
By Bisi Alabi Williams
This article was first published in The Guardian on 16 December, 2012.
Last modified: December 17, 2012