Ms. Ebiti Ndok Jegede, a fearless, bold and determined Nigerian woman, who believes in equal representations of women in all spheres of life, was a 2011 presidential aspirant in the April elections in Nigeria. The vigorous and intelligent woman whose concern for the change necessary and needed in Nigeria motivated her to take a stand and offer herself for service discussed in this interview her reasons, her aspirations and the core changes she intended to effect in Nigeria political arena and leadership. Ms. Ndok Jegede whose slogan is ‘unity in diversity’ shares with free2run her journey…
Toyin Ajao : Can we get to know who Ebiti Ndok Jegede is?
Ms. Ndok Jegede: I am from Akwa Ibom, Cross River, married to a Yoruba man who is from Ekiti State. I am a true Nigerian woman and am 56 years old. I am presently the chairperson of United National Party for Development (UNPD) and the only female presidential candidate in the last presidential election. I am blessed with four children- and nine grand children.
‘Toyin Ajao: Can you take us down your career and education lanes?
Ms. Ndok Jegede: My career started back in 1979 here in Nigeria at the Ondo State Broadcasting Corporation where I started work as a programme assistant and became a program officer handling “Women’s Hours”, you can see that have being doing a lot of Women’s things. I was able to do a few other programme such as “You and the Law” and “You and your Health”. From there onward I went to Nigerian television Authority in the presentation Unit until 1983 when I returned to United Kingdom. In United Kingdom I did a Master’s degree in International Relations, I read Law when I was 42; I also did a diploma in Social Welfare.
Over the years since I was in UK, I have being doing voluntary Organization Work what you call here NGO. I coordinated the organization for the wealth of African women which I registered and operated as the chief executive. And my job there was to help the black people being an African voice for the women, the disadvantaged in the UK representing them in a lot of panels so rights have to be resorted. I was also on the campaign trail of Diane Abbott who was the first black female MP in England. As well as that, I also worked on the social services until I came back to Nigeria in 2005/2006, let’s say January 2006. I lived in Nigeria a total of 25 years, also most of my working life was abroad. Since I came to Nigeria, I have chaired the organization which I called Olubunmi Jegede Women Foundation which I ran in Ekiti when I was going for governorship in 2007. I coordinated that until the message came to me that that was no what God wanted for me that the nation should benefit on a larger platform and that was one of the things that led me into registering the political party. I also chaired the Nigerian Women Solidarity which I inaugurated in February 2008. I have being working on those platforms and I also run a management consultancy and Extra Miles Development programme which is educating; adding values to human life. There are certain things people don’t know, things the university will not teaching you that you will not find in any text book. I am promoting adding value to your person and reorienting yourself, packaging yourself… if you have to compete for a job you need to have an edge, you have got to know how to speak right, how to project yourself, time keeping, eat right, dress right, making positive conversation that can attract and impact or impact on somebody else that we make you shine and show and work out of the hundreds. We don’t have that and there is a lot of need for human development. I am into that kind of building people and it is very important for human development of this country.
‘Toyin Ajao: you single handedly registered your own political party, which is an outstanding achievement, how has this been for you in terms of funding?
Ms. Ndok Jegede: It was a struggle, nothing was coming in, registering it, getting an office, manning it and staffing for three years it was not registered until 2009. It is now to go out and talk about the party to people. I can see there is a lot of voters’ apartheid in this country, our people are not knowledgeable enough and they are not even interested to be honest with you. Because we had a target that we wanted to register a million members with a N1, 000 for membership that gives us 1 billion base and we would never need a godfather. With N200 monthly dues, we will be standing on a solid rock and anyone who wants to contest would not need money because the party will fund you and support you from its purse. But because of the type of politics that Nigerians are used to, they didn’t see this feasible…. In another four year what you would have contributed for 4 years would have being N5, 000 for others to have support to contest.
We had to stop that and just asked people to come in and it was a struggle to see people that want to contest under the party because they wanted bigger party. There is a need for enlightenment and reorientation. I even have people around me that wanted to use the party to make money and I don’t like it. This party is for service, to help the people, to create a credible platform for change. But because these people are used to money grabbing they want to do alliances all over the place for people to settle them, I do not agree. This party was not set for that and it kind of created a lot of dissensions in the party. So what we say is if you don’t agree, you can go join other party or join your own.
Toyin Ajao: The political terrain as was shown in the April 2011 election seems to have not much in store for the Nigerian Woman, how can this be reversed in 2015? Do you think there will be a difference, how can women have access to resource for elections?
Ms. Ndok Jegede: Yes, one of my plans is to have a solid capital base for women. As for me, we need to look at merit and not mundane things. If I were in Europe, people will drag me and say ‘waoh this is a material and we will contribute to put you there’. Under the umbrella of Nigerian Women Solidarity Movement, I am trying to float a micro finance bank with 25 billion Naira financial base. This will be an opportunity for women to progress more instead of retrogressing. We as women will not have to borrow or beg with this capital base. Rather than waiting for an international agency to sponsor us, logically taking what is ours in the polity, we will be respected for it. We sponsor ourselves; We are talking about 30%/35% affirmative. We can do this; we can have 12 female governors, 12 female deputies, 224 or so female chairpersons, 33 senators, 120 female members of representation. We only need to sit down and start planning now! 25 billion naira financial base while the women still contribute N500 every month, we will invest, we will have strong financial base and we will achieve affirmative action by the grace of God come 2015.
Toyin Ajao: What are the ultimate changes and development that stands out for you as a leader and that you will strive to achieve if given the support by the people?
Ms. Ndok Jegede: Part of my plan is to have national planning on ground, where we look at education, health and other sectors what exactly do we want to achieve through our nationalistic agenda that would point to the change we want to see in the next 10, 20,30, 40 50 years. So irrespective of any the government that comes into power, you key in into the plans or nationalistic agenda, you don’t come and uproot it. What happens is they uproot what someone else has done; there is a government of vendetta in this country, no. Government of unity, a government of love and development and growth is what we need. Oneness that is what can take us forward… With national planning we have got everything is in place, everybody will have a book to know where we are heading to.
The United National Development Party (UNDP) that I represent is promoting socialist agenda which is talking about consideration, care of the people. If you look back, there are no consideration policies around; no care factor around, where every Nigeria has access to basic amenities in this country. We are talking about child benefit for every Nigerian and Nigeria can afford it and we come back to that National planning, database of every Nigerian, registration of every Nigerian that will help us plan…statistic begins to come in, so many intelligent issues and strategies begin to unfold. Listen, there are many intelligent people in this country but the opportunity to be able to be a part of the great agenda, the great commission is not there. We don’t look at merit, so rather than them wasting here, there is brain drain. People travel abroad and other countries tap them and make better use of them and we who are producing them and making them are losing out. So, we need to talk about ALL HANDS ON DECK! Where are these all hands on deck, when there are only a click of people that are planning (there is even no planning, everything is in commotion) this country. So we can come together, tax ourselves, community development is the key… let’s be home grown!!! We can do better, if we plan better and set targets.
Toyin Ajao: What do you see about the use of social media to promote your party?
Ms. Ndok Jegede: Very soon we will use this medium. Like I said earlier but money has being a great problem for me because I have being the only person single handedly funding the party, pushing it and it is creating problems for me. I am looking for other ways to raise funds and we will be out before the end of July. Since the participation in last election there have being a lot of interest from everywhere and it is now time to re-strategise and move on.
Ms. Ndok and the Dud cheque saga? What is the real story?
Ms. Ndok Jegede: I believe that was politically motivated. Truly, I owed a hotel. Then he went to the other hotel where I moved to create problem, I don’t know why they were after me. I owed two hotels and I was in communication with them up till the day of the arrest. I was asking them even on the Friday preceeding the Wednesday that I was arrested to hold on. I did not run away from the hotel, they chucked me out saying that the debt was too much and I moved to another hotel pending the arrival of the expected money. The hotel owner found out and went to create a problem in the second hotel. This was a political attack.
This was something to destabilize my campaign; it was the following day after my debate. Everything was a kangaroo set up, they went to court till 4pm and it was a bailable offence because I had written the undertaking that the money will be paid on or before the end of April but the deputy commissioner of police asked me to pay N250, 000 before I could go. I said I didn’t have money that I would rather pay the hotel if I had the money rather than giving it to an individual. May be I was too upfront for them; I didn’t beg or go on my knees, he felt offended. By morning my people had gone to find the money but the deputy commissioner of police said it was too late that order from above said you have to go down. Orders from above? I wonder who I know up there except God… Some people went to see the IG, the IG who is now preventing Bankole from being arrested said no it was beyond him and for a 2 million debt, I have to go to Keffi prison for 10 days. I did not present a dud cheques but a post-dated cheques that were supposed to be held onto for two weeks. I involved the man in all my dealings and the money I was expecting, he asked for the cheque and I gave him in good faith… This Onyks hotel owes 900 million Naira at Diamond Bank, I owed him 1.287million and a post dated cheque had been issued.
‘Toyin Ajao: Does this now mean that you have a criminal record and will this have a bearing on your future endeavour?
Ms. Ndok Jegede: No, no, not at all. Because I am not a thief, if Bankole can do all this, no no no we make references… Oh yeah, for sometimes now they have being postponing postponing but now it has now been written off. It makes me laugh that Nigeria sees a material that can be brought to make a difference and change to the lives of the people and all they want to do is to destroy. But because of my background, I mean all my life I have never done anything shady and at 56, somebody is accusing of… all I can do is laugh. They cant destroy my person at all, I have come a long way and am sending that message to them everyday every minute I have the opportunity to, to tell them they cannot destroy me. I have not come for one person but for the whole of Nigeria. And if the Nigerians see me as a material that will alleviate their problems, they will fight for me. A lot of people came out that I didn’t know even my schoolmates who believe am a fighter. I am also a victim of housing in this country where I have to pay 2 years up front unlike a hotel that I can pay daily or weekly, if I have arrangement with them I can pay on Monthly basis as opposed to 6 Million Naira upfront payments for a house rent.