Hon. Adewunmi Oriyomi Onanuga is the lovely lady representing Remo Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives. A few days back, she spoke to City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE about her new role as a lawmaker at the House of Reps.
Otunba Onanuga had always endeavored to make a positive impact on the well-being of one and all, by advocating the inculcation of habits, lifestyles and promulgations that would exhibit a sustainable and healthy environment, advocate the embracing of our cultural heritage, encourage the recognition and support for the participation of professional women in politics and an increase in human capital development.
Let’s tell you a bit more about her. She was born in Hammersmith, London to Architect & Mrs Albert Awojebe who were brilliant students on a scholarship funded by the Western Region. Prince Albert Awojebe, her father, was born into the Agunloye Ruling House in Isote and Areke village both in Makun, Sagamu while her mother, Princess Comfort was born into the Olukokun Ogberegede L’oba and Eerikokunsa Ruling Houses in Agbowa Makun, Sagamu.
Otunba ‘Dewunmi on return to Nigeria started her primary school at Yewande Memorial Nursery and Primary School, James Robertson, Surulere, Lagos. In 1977, she started her secondary education at Remo Divisional High School, Sagamu and finished in 1982 after which she went in for her A’ Levels at Ahmadiyya College Lagos for 2 years.
In 1984, she went to the Ogun State Polytechnic, finished her OND in Mass Communication after a 2-year stint and then moved to England to work and continue her education. It was during this period that she bagged a HNC in Business & Finance, Certified Novell Administrator CNA and Microsoft Systems Engineer MCSE In 1999 Dewunmi moved back to Nigeria where she furthered her studies with a Post Graduate Diploma in Public Relations & Advertising from the Nigeria Institute of Journalism and recently an MBA at the Business School of Netherlands in 2013.
After moving to England in 1986, Otunba ‘Dewunmi got her first white-collar job with Barclays Bank in 1987 for 2 years and then moved to the Abbey National Building Society in 1991 before working with the Quaker Oats Plc as a Systems Administrator until she moved back to Nigeria in 1999.
In Nigeria, she worked with Southgate Technologies as the Head of the Systems & Engineering department before being taken on as the Pageant Manager at the Daily Times of Nigeria Plc in charge of the Miss Nigeria Pageant. After the sale of the Daily Times to private owners in 2005, Otunba Dewunmi started her own Events Management and Environmental Advocacy companies.
She has been actively involved in politics for a few years now, till when she contested and won elections into the House of reps where she represents Remo Federal Constituency, made up of Ikene LG, Sagamu LG and Remo North. It covers Remo towns like Ode Remo, Ogere-Remo, Ilisan, Sagamu, Isara, Ipara, Akaka, Ogijo, Orile Oko, Ode Remo, Irolu, Iperu and Ikenne. Below are excerpts of her interview.
How has it been settling down to work at the House of Reps?
I am still trying to settle down. We have had a lot to do. I am in the Adhoc Committee on Welfare. It just so happened that when we came in after the inauguration we sat for about 2 weeks, then there was a break for us to go and get accommodation and everything sorted out. But fortunately or unfortunately for me, I couldn’t go on break because I was in adhoc committee for welfare. I had to be at work every day trying to see to the welfare of all members. So, I worked all through recess. A week before the week we are in now I had to travel abroad to go and see my children. By the time I came back, everybody was on recess. Then came the Sallah break. I then I had to go back to work after Sallah. I haven’t settled down properly.
You have been asked to head the Committee on Women Affairs and Social Development. What should we expect?
It’s a blessing because it tallies with my desires whilst I was campaigning. That was part of my campaign promise, that I will agitate a lot for the aged, the youth and women. Those are like my 3 point agenda. Now, to be in that committee will help me.
All I need to do now is to roll up my sleeves and get cracking. Whatever I think has been lacking, now, I have the opportunity to correct it.
As you settle in what are the possibilities? What are the possible things that could come out of this experience?
A lot. I think positive things will come out of it. Now, you wouldn’t be working from outside like before. You will be working from inside. You can sit down with the various agencies to ask for their challenges. Lots work on these challenges. And get the right results.
How easy was it emerging as the lawmaker which you are today?
(Laughs) Oh my goodness. By asking that question you are going into the problems most women face in politics. And that is for the male folk to recognize that the potential is there, the passion is there, the capacity is there. Those are the challenges that women face.
But you are an accomplished woman so why should it be difficult for you?
Oh, yes. But it is difficult when it comes to politics because there are seasoned politicians who, unfortunately, may not have the requisite to stand up and say you know what, I can represent the people. I am saying sometimes it is Education-wise, sometimes it is financial capacity wise. They have political experience. They know everything, politically. They know all the permutations. They know all the things that need to be done politically to get themselves to where they should be. But there are somethings that will hold them back. In most constituencies, the people who are political juggernauts are not usually educated. I am not saying everybody is illiterate. I am just saying the people who have the biggest political sense sometimes are not interested as well. They are not interested in holding those positions. So they do the permutations, they tell you how it is going to pan out, but they are not interested or they don’t have the education to back it up or the finances to back it up. So, they just push other people forward.
In pushing other people forward, some people who have the same capacity that you have or the desires that you have begin to knock you down because you are feminine or you are of a lesser gender or capacity to them. These are the things that the womenfolk face. And we are going to try as much as possible to increase the percentage number of women who will be participating in politics.
In your own case what was the attraction that politics had for you?
For me, it was the fact that a lot of my people in my constituency were not where I expected them to be. Let me tell you a little of my story. First of all, I went to school in Sagamu. I am from Sagamu Local Government. My grandparents both maternal and paternal are all from Sagamu and my parents themselves. When I was in Secondary School, at Remo Divisional High School, Sagamu, I was in the Boarding School. I had a lot of experiences. Even coming from the background of my primary school in Lagos and secondary school in Sagamu. It was a different ball game for me. At the same time, there were somethings that as a child you grow up to enjoy and experience. I finished high school and then I went back to Lagos to do my A level before I went back to Ogun State Polytechnic to do Mass Communications. I did all that. I left the community, sojourned in different states and different countries and I came back on holiday. I was married with children and looked at my community and I realised nothing had changed. And I asked myself; has this community been stagnant? Are we back in time? It’s not moving anywhere. And I try to juxtapose it against even other states I have been to in the country and other countries I have been to and I wasn’t happy.
But of course, I was married. I was living in Lagos. It wasn’t for me to jump up and move back to my community and say I want to do this and that. So, I looked for opportunities that will make me better the lot of many of people.
But I soon realise that no matter what you do, personally, you can’t reach a wider range of people if you are not in governance or politics. I asked myself: am I willing to roll up my sleeves and experience all the myths and the stereotypes about politics, especially as it concerns women? And, I still went on. The burden was there, in my spirit, that you are not doing the right thing. You can’t be comfortable and feel that you are doing what is right. So, you need to get it sorted out. So, I started playing politics from Lagos, I started attending ward meetings, learning the ropes of politics, understanding how it works, and as it went on I will take political materials, campaign materials back to my community, align myself with the people. Even though I was living in Lagos, I was going back and forth to Sagamu and other parts of Remoland to see my people. As time went on I decided to give it a trial. I went into it fully. Thank God, all my kids had grown up. They were doing A levels and in the University. So, I didn’t have a baby I am nursing anymore, let me just try and live my life for the people at this point in time.
When you started playing politics when you came back home to Sagamu, what was the experience like?
The truth of the matter is that all politics really & truly is local, all the experiences I garnered in Lagos and the political work I did in Osun State, were different to the kind of politics I met in Ogun State, especially in my local government. So, there is no terrain you get into, you have to learn the ropes because politics will always be different. It wasn’t about the experience. In some cases, it would work because you will have that knowledge and experience but you have to get in and learn the ropes.
Of course, when I came in 2013, I started doing all my groundwork, going round and telling people my intention and my desire to contest for House of Reps in 2015. I came in 2013 and told them I intended to contest in 2015. Of course I was greeted with all the cynical remarks like Welcome back home. Yes, why not. Give it a trial. Only God knows who will win. I heard all sorts of political language. I knew at that point in time, being a woman it may not work out for me, no matter the amount of work I did. But I knew that I was not going to be deterred. I was determined to go for it. My take was, if it happens, it happens. If it does not, so be it, I will try again. My philosophy is when you do something and you fail you don’t fail unless you refuse to learn from it and move on and repeat the process. You only fail when you give up. I knew I wasn’t going to give up. I just kept at it.