Former consultant at the United Nations, Christina Eligwe-Ude is the Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate for the Oru East/Orlu/Orsu Federal Constituency of Imo State. In this interview, she speaks on her aspiration, the reversal of the gains made in increasing the percentage of women in public office and how far Nigeria has gone with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
You are vying to represent Oru East/Orlu and Orsu at House of Representatives under the Social Democratic Party (SDP) 2019. Why didn’t you go for either of the two major parties?
Well, I was once in the ruling party, I worked with a lot of APC members at the time I joined the APC. My ideas about government’s role in people’s lives did guide my decision on which political party to join more than anything else. However, I left APC because of some decisions that were being made in my state, which I considered ‘undemocratic’ and were at odds with my principles. I read SDP’s constitution, read their manifesto, their party beliefs, did further research and found out that SDP is a credible alternative to Nigerians.
What makes you think you can represent your people better?
Having ample experience is very important, a lot of people don’t know this. But without experience, there’s no way you would be able to handle any job efficiently. I have a lot of experience under my belt, both international and national experience and I will be ready from day one once I resume as a legislator. I strongly believe that education, dedication, integrity and experience in service are some of the determinants we require to run for office, not how much money you have or how good you can talk. I’m educated, the wisdom and knowledge that I gained in the financial, insurance, and educational sector, National Assembly and the United Nations uniquely situates me to understand my geopolitical situations and solutions. I have ideas that will reinvigorate Orsu/ Orlu/ Oru East Federal Constituency. I’m relying on the people I intend to serve, for them to understand that I am bringing progressive change to our constituency and hopefully, they’ll vote wisely. I’ve come home and I’ve connected with the people. I have been speaking to my people, I will continue to speak to my people until election day, letting them know I’m here to change the narrative. I will bring to the National Assembly a proven commitment to any task I embark on, and a unique understanding of economic development, diplomacy and partnerships that are essential to our constituents growth. I’m not worried about the incumbent, I’m more concerned about the constituents I intend to serve and how I would work strategically to replace the legacy of poor representation with real leadership.
What new things do you aim to do differently for your constituents that has not been done before.
So much! I will bring a unique mix to the National Assembly, both personally as well as professionally. The welfare of children and the concerns of families would be my top priority. The priority of my leadership would be bills focused on education, child nutrition, disability rights, jobs, access to clean water and sanitation. I plan to introduce more legislation affecting women, children, families, education and healthcare. One of the things l will do differently that haven’t been done before, transparency of monies allocated to my constituency and a breakdown on how it will be spent or was spent will be published in my quarterly newsletters.
You’ve worked as a consultant on SDGs in the National Assembly, what was your experience and how are we faring with the SDGs in the country?
It was a great experience which I’m grateful for. My experience at the National Assembly is the main reason I’m running for office. That position enabled me to build my own network, it also led to a broader understanding of Nigeria’s different cultures and work that touches every challenge humanity faces, from security and peace to development and more. It also made me more driven to be part of a bigger purpose in the service of humanity. I’m passionate about the SDGs because I was there abinitio, I participated in the zero draft at the UN before the goals went into effect three years ago. Nigeria is committed to achieving the SDGs, which are fully aligned with our national planning to end extreme poverty and build shared prosperity in a sustainable manner. The office of the Special Adviser to the President on the SDGs is devoting the full measure of our capital and knowledge to achieve the SDGs. The SDGs agenda is an ambitious one and we cannot afford to obstruct any path to achieving them.
The number of women in politics is dwindling drastically, what should be done to reverse it?
I have been asked this question many times in the past and my response remains the same. I believe we should have electoral and political party quotas like other countries have. Quotas have worked in Austria, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Guyana, Mexico, so why not Nigeria? The United Nations has also identified different ways to increase the participation of women in politics, among them is the introduction of quotas like l said earlier and marshalling grassroots community organisations to empower women. Any nation that does not empower women to participate in the electoral race will not flourish.
Politics in Nigeria is expensive, where are you getting your funding from?
Yes very expensive. Everybody wants money before they can support you because they believe you are going into politics for financial gains, only few ask about my experience and economic plans for the constituency. Finances so far have been a combination of donations and personal funds. I have a website that has detailed information on how people can volunteer or donate to my campaign. All donations are welcome.
How do you intend to combine being a mother, wife and a politician successfully?
Well, my life in politics will be an extension of my role as a mother. It’s not easy at all and that’s one of the many reasons why we don’t see many young women joining politics. A lot of women and few men tend to join politics when their children have grown up and are in college because of how much time they would have to spend away from the family. I have a young family, I have sufficient help at home, so combining work and family won’t be that difficult for me. I will try as much as possible to strike a balance according to priorities. The needs of my family are important just as much as the needs of the people that l stand to represent.