London Training for the wives of Oyo state House of Assembly members: a
I just want to put something quikcly together on my recent visits to Custom House Hotel, the venue for the 'training' organised for the wives of Oyo state house of assembly members. Hopefully I will come back and edit and add a few things, but here is a preliminary report:
I was there first on Tuesday 17th July, and the day was not without its drama. There was a threat of police from one of the assistants and Madam speaker itself, on the impression that I had entered the hotel lobby illegally and started filming with my camera. This was ultimately found to be baseless, as I reported at the front desk and asked specifically for the speaker who was at the head of the delegation. After the receptionist tried in vain to call the room numbers requested, they advised me to have a look in the lobby and see if I could find Madam speaker or any of the delegation. After a lenghty back and forth with Madam speaker, the discussion became more amicable in the end.
In deed, as I found out, she is quite happy to talk, and so easily move between opposite ends of emotions: very nice and pleasant when you agree with her views, some of which are at least agreeable, and very damning and vociferous in the face of the mildest contradiction. No middle ground. She was particulary incensed at internet warriors, many of whom, she said, had "written false reports about her on facebook and other online blogs", intermittently invoking God's curses on them. I was only too keen to say Amen to such peddlers of 'false rumours', whoever they may be, saying I agree that judgement, one way or the other, will come upon those who propagate lies. I have absolutely no problem with that, I said, and I do not represent any political party. I have come in the interest of truth, to seek the truth and publish it, nothing added, nothing taken away.
We spoke for more than 1 hour, but some of the discussions was not related to the subject matter of the training programme, but some of the good things she had done in her constituency, including her single handed provision of the state hospital based in Oyo town with two trailer loads of of supplies and medical equipment, including ECG machines and change of all the beddings. I assured her I am really impressed with such efforts and similar ones. We return to the matter at hand presently: the training programme for the wives of legislators.
At this point she did not appear keen to hide any information, which made the initial threat of police all the more curious.
She explained that she became concerned because the women- the wives of legislators- were already becoming jittery with all the attention and visits and calls by Nigerians, and this morning many of them were saying they wanted to stop, that they were no longer interested in the programme. As she spoke I saw about 4 of them reneter the hotel with bags of KFC take-aways, which asked me to note, saying it contradicts the report that the women were living large in London.. In the end she affirmed and sought to clarify the followings:
1. The training programme started last thursday, and there were sight-seeing trips during the weekend.
2. It is false that the hotel was booked for 10 days, or that each room cost £100. A room cost £75, she said, and two people stayed in a room.
3. No principal officer of the house was involved. Only their wives. She is the only legislator.
4. Oyo state is not the only state doing this. Some other states had been around before
5. They are trying to secure the support of the state's opposition legislators, and they think the support of the wives will be crucial, so the government can achieve their goals
6. The training sessions ends tomorrow, during when a final lecture will be delivered and certificates issued. She invited me to come along with cameras and all to cover the sessions.
I was back on Wedsay 18th July, few minutes before the session- the final session- was being concluded. Together with another lady member of Oyo Global Forum, we requested and they readily agreed that we take the pictures as the session was concluding, and interview some of the ladies after the session ends. I'll try and give more reports later on the parts we saw, including the collection of certificates, but at the end of the session I had a brief chat with Madam speaker and one of the ladies.
She said, among others, that "everywhere in the world, leaders get paid from public funds, and that the only thing is to ensure that money is judiciously spent." When I suggested that is the question many are asking, for example whether it would have been more judicious for the event to hold in Nigeria, she brushed aside the suggestion, saying many Nigerians, especially those in diaspora like to run good things down, and that face-book "detractors", in particular, are ultimately not the ones that will vote in elections.
I also spoke with the wife of Segun Olayele, the assembly member representing Ibadan North and a former UI student union president. She said among other things, that stealing on the parts of politicians is the major reason Nigeria is backward as a nation, and that wives can influence their husbands positively after coming to London and seeing how things are done here. When I pressed her on whether they needed to come here physically to be motivated about how thing should be run, and whether it was impossible for the ladies to gain the same level of understanding and training in Nigeria, she hesitated, and eventually said she thought it was not possible, that they needed to come here and see. Finally, pressing her on the issue of stealing and wastage in government, on which she had earlier made her comment without prompting, I asked her if she thinks the Oyo state government is wasting resources. She said she didnt think so. When I asked what were her suggestions on how best Oyo state government can manage resources, she said that is one question she dosnt want to answer, that she would get back to me on that.