Call her one of the Amazons and style matriarchs of our time and you won’t be wrong, Chief Mrs. Kemi Nelson unarguably has positioned herself as one of the dogged politicians around especially in Lagos State within a terrain that is visibly dominated by men. The former Lagos Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation cuts the picture of a man in a woman’s body because she has proved beyond reasonable doubt that she has all it takes to make her mark in the political terrain she has found herself. The beautiful woman whose major interest of going into politics was to render her service to people and the public at large can be dated back to 1992 when she joined active politics.She also got a federal appointment being one of the Executive Directors at Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).
Coming in contact with this amazing woman at the just concluded 2017 National Women Conference in Lagos organized by Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials, COWLSO was amazing as she had no airs around her. Despite her busy schedules, she took time out to accord respect to everyone. Approaching her for this interview was no easy ride because she was practically busy all through. Her praise was in the mouth of all the women present when she stormed the Eko Hotel venue for the 3days conference, the audience went wild with shouts of ” APC women leader”. She has enormous followership within her party and she has carved a niche for herself. Speaking her heart out over how she feels about the conference, she said with a lovely smile,
“I feel particularly happy today because this conference has grown, it started as a very small thing but today it is big. Infact I was so excited when I learnt that they have probably oversold the forms. It goes to show that the women are beginning to understand and to see the importance of what they learnt here in their individual lives”. Being one of the voices for women and most especially as a women leader, she also spoke about how women can prove their worth in any party they belong, ’’Well, I just believe that if you give someone an opportunity, that is when you will know the stuff that person is made of and women are being given a lot of opportunities to be who they are in Lagos state and even in Nigeria so for that I tell you, women will go places. If you belong to the right party, you know what you are doing and what you want to represent, the ladder is there for you to climb”.
She took us into her political world which she started building 25 years ago. ’Active politics started for me in 1992 as a member of the National Republican Convention (NRC)and that was during the IBB’s 2 party system. I was also the party’s flag bearer for Lagos West senatorial election in 1992 and that was when politics for me really started’’.
She shared with us her foray into politics, ‘’I see politics as service to humanity and this has been part of me from the onset. I like to give back to the society because at one point or the other. One has also benefitted from there, one major thing is I have always had a natural flair for service. This I have been doing since I was a teenager, in my primary and secondary school days’’. Having been in the terrain for 25 years, she is not close to quitting politics, “Politics is hard to quit and I have never considered quitting politics. It is part of me and it has become like an addiction.
Her doggedness and active involvement in the rudiment of active politics has stood her out in a male dominated terrain and when asked what has been her staying power, she enthused, Hmmm it has been Gods grace”, knowing what to do and serving the people right is what I am all about.I am a grassroot politician and that was where I started from, I believe in hierachiral system in politics so I rose to where I am today because I started from the grass root. She gave a face to the womenfolk during her service and proved that what a man can do, a woman can do better. Amidst many challenges, she bared her mind on the challenges facing women politicians and how far they have fared, “Women have really upped their game, I think the major challenge of a female politician is to first put her home front in order. A woman should make sure her home front is intact before venturing into politics. She should always carry her husband and children along so they can understand all what is going on. We have been able to tell the men that our role is not bound to the kitchen alone, we have edged out our voices and increased our level of involvement and participation in every level in politics and administration.
Her a reason for background is impressive in her strife for hardwork having being vast in different sectors she found herself’ Well, I went to Anglican Girls Grammar School, Ijebu-Ode and thereafter I started my career as a teaching assistant at Corona School Apapa and from there I went to University Teaching Hospital(UCH) Ibadan where I trained as a professional Nurse and Midwife. After I finished at Ibadan I came to Lagos to become the Medical Representative for Lagos zone of Beecham Nig Ltd, shortly after then I was also doing business on Allen Avenue several years back. Later I did an Executive MBA Programme and a diploma in law at Lagos State University’’.
During her early political era, she was the Flag bearer for Lagos west senatorial district and at a time the Chairman of NRC’s Republican Electoral Committee for the presidential primaries in Osun State. At the dissolution of the two parties, she joined the United Nigerian Peoples Congress (UNCP) and contested for the House of Representatives seat of Ikeja Federal Constituency and won. She later joined the Alliance for Democracy as the dominant party in Lagos and made it to the cabinet of Governor Bola Tinubu as Commissioner for Establishment, Training and Job Creation and later Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.
With a captivating profile of being the women leader in her party, the feat which is not for the faint hearted has endeared her to many of her followers and members of the party. Highly influential, academically and politically sound, Kemi Nelson has become one of the front runners and mentor for many women who have embraced politics and has confidently put her home front in order. Her husband is one of her backbone and she enjoys, the tremendous support he has given her over the years, she says “I have been blessed by God with the kind of husband I have, he has given me a total support in all my political endeavors. So, I thank him for being supportive.
Her 37 years marriage to her longtime friend and confidant remains unshakable and their love story dated back many years ago when they met in high school. After her husband’s education soujorn in the United States of America, they got married in 1981.The beautiful mother and grandmother was extremely happy as she reminisced on it, ‘it’s fulfilling to be a mother and your children get married in your presence and more fulfilling when you see your grand children. I thank God for the kind of home God has helped me to build’’.
My advice for younger generation is to make sure they marry their best friend and put God first. The Yeye Sewa of Lagos (epitome of beauty) who does not look close to 60 is aging gracefully as ever and she could pass for a 40year old. With a glowing skin and well shaped physique to go with it, she has never lost her balance in the style sector. If you run into into her at any party she will never disappoint you with her outfits. One synonymous thing about her is her signature ‘headgear” its one in town and it has never changed for the past 30 years that she has been rocking the social scene. Anywhere, anytime, it is her usual style and when she is not doing the headgear, her low cut hair is her other identity. She has been carrying her low cut hair for close to 40 years. ’’I have had my hair cut this low like 40 years now and it has been like that ever since because I am an active person, I usually can’t be sitting under the drier for many hours so I decided to keep it low’’.
For many of you who do not know she is a dancing queen, watch out for her at any party and I bet you, she will beat you to it. A lover of friends who supports her friends in all they do graces A –list parties and you will always find her wearing the aso-ebi if there is any at all. Chief mrs Kemi Nelson has conquered her world, she has left her legacy on the sands of time and truly a dogged politician whose political clout cannot be de-emphasized within her party. She is an amiable woman you will love to meet any day any time.