Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye was the only female presidential aspirant of the All Progressives Congress at the APC convention in Abuja in June. The legal practitioner cum businesswoman shares her experience with ADEBAYO FOLORUNSHO-FRANCIS
Aside from politics, which endeared you to many Nigerians, what else do you do with your time?
First, I am a legal practitioner with vested interests in other areas. I run a TV show, Kenuj Showers of Love, which airs on AIT every Saturday. It is a show that focuses on helping people and where I touch lives. Being a business woman, I have never been interested in government funds, contracts or supplies.
I have never had a court case or been involved in any dubious scheme. This is a good example to prove to young people that you don’t need to dupe people to be successful. Making money is as easy as ABC, as long as you can cut your coat much less than your size, so that the extra materials can be saved for rainy days.
At what points were you convinced that you needed to give politics a trial?
It has been well over five years now. I have been in active politics since 2016. That was when I convinced myself that I was going to run for president. I didn’t need to start from the bottom and build my way up like most people. Haven’t you seen how some governors are disgraced up and down the country over the common N2.9bn?
Some time ago, another governor whom I can’t name for obvious reason, was kept in a cell for a while over a mere N20m. Why, then, do I need to vie for the seat of a governor? What this tells you is that they don’t make much money outside of stealing. I can’t stoop to stealing or be limited to a particular region like most governors. My experience in business has empowered me enough to embark on money-making ventures.
If I decide to run for governor, which is difficult but achievable, I will be limited to only one region. I love Nigeria as a nationalist and I love my people. I look beyond people hailing from Awka, where I am from. I don’t even look at the sentiments of who is a Yoruba, Igbo, or Hausa person.
You often compare Bola Tinubu to the late MKO Abiola in terms of ideology. Can you elaborate?
Definitely! The fact remains that they share so many similarities in terms of touching lives and helping people into government and political offices without coming for appreciation. They are the people the masses can easily relate to because of their “man of the people” posture.
Left alone to me, I would probably say Tinubu did more than the winner of the June 12, 1993 election. Asiwaju is known across the length and breadth of the country. We know that he has prepared himself for this for so many years and sown seeds in different areas across the country.
You have seemingly shown support for the contentious Muslim-Muslim ticket. Why?
I don’t hide it. Nigerians should learn to focus on the competence and capability of candidates instead of this obsession with religion and ethnicity. Tinubu’s wife, for instance, is a Christian, but he remains a Muslim.
To me, the Muslim-Muslim ticket doesn’t matter. The truth is that you will require a Muslim ticket if you hope to get massive votes from the North. Even the late MKO Abiola chose a Muslim-Muslim ticket and he won convincingly.
The margin was awesome as both Christians and Muslims voted for them because they knew that the masses would be touched by his philanthropic lifestyle.
Many Nigerians, particularly women, were disappointed that you stepped down for Tinubu without a fight. Do you have any regrets about your actions?
There are some battles you know that you can’t win when you weigh the options, hence the need to come to a negotiation table. I watched as certain aspirants stubbornly fought on only to be humiliated with zero votes at the end. I wonder what was going through their minds at that time. What were they thinking?
I read how they trolled me and six other aspirants who withdrew for Asiwaju.
That’s because we were wiser. We did not wait till the last minutes to be disgraced in front of millions of Nigerians, including those watching from home.
In the end, even a sitting governor got 38 votes. Who did his state delegates vote for?
Look at Yahaya Bello. He didn’t get up to 20 votes despite the huge number of delegates he brought to the venue. What does that show you?
People no longer refer to me as Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, or Fulani. We have to be dynamic in what we are doing because, at the end of the day, we are all brothers. When you know you don’t have a chance, show love to the person who has it. Tomorrow could be your turn.
Does that explain why you stepped down?
I have no regret for taking the honourable approach.
Many people alleged you seemed to have more talent for dancing than politics when you were caught dancing “Buga” before your speech at the APC Convention. How will you react to this?
I have always enjoyed dancing, even in public places. When you share what you have, you invite happiness into your heart. You probably didn’t see me when I was leaving. When I got to the front of the glass house, I danced again. That was when the disc jockey put on “Buga” music. I danced so hard and enjoyed my time at the convention before all the women started rushing to meet me. That was when I stopped to hug them. Wetin concern me? I am a happy woman. I boogied down all the way. Even when they were counting the votes, I would stand and dance. I advise every other person to learn to be happy. That is the key.
Wait till we win the 2023 general election. Nigerians will see me dancing all the way. I will wear my dancing shoes again.
Were you not intimidated by being the only female contestant contesting against Tinubu, Amaechi, and 26 other male presidential aspirants in the presidential race?
Never! That was because I didn’t see myself as a woman when I was with them.
On the contrary, I saw myself as a fellow man like them, especially when it comes to addressing certain issues. Even as a woman in my profession as a lawyer, we don’t address the feminine gender differently, everybody is a gentleman. I often took charge of our meetings and told them, as a mother, they had to listen to me. Let’s think about Nigeria. I wasn’t even seeing myself as a woman in their midst.
There were speculations that you were among a few aspirants paid by Tinubu to withdraw from the APC primary. How true is this?
Please ignore the rumour that Asiwaju gave me money. I didn’t receive anything, not even a dime from him. If not for that we all came together as co-aspirants, I would never have known Asiwaju all my life.
However, I have heard and read a lot about him. I have also been following him in his good deeds. That was why I concluded that he would be the man to whom I would give my support. Whether he fails or succeeds, it doesn’t matter to me.
How did you raise the money for your nomination forms and campaign then?
The money I spent on the form and campaign was what I budgeted. In fact, I had already forgotten about it the moment I procured the nomination form. I actually planned myself on time for it, and it would be an insult for me to lobby for anybody to give me back that money. I am a hard-working woman, who is content with what she has. I am not at that level.
Let’s be specific. Did you spend N30m or N50m to purchase the form?
I paid only N30 million. I know that many people don’t believe I could raise that money. Being a female aspirant, I was only made to pay for the expression of interest form while the nomination itself was given free. I’m sure they raised the fee to discourage too many of us.
Even the N100m for the men was to discourage people, yet many Nigerians paid it. I am sure with what they have seen in terms of aspirants’ turnout this year; the leadership of the party may be forced to shift the bar when another election comes. Perhaps, they might ask the ladies to pay N80 million this time.
This article by ADEBAYO FOLORUNSHO-FRANCIS was first published in Punch Newspaper on 20, July 2022