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Rinsola Abiola, a frontline aspirant for the All Progressives Congress’ National Youth Leaderhip position has explained her motivations for contesting a position widely believed to be an exclusive preserve of men.
The versatile young female politician and the daughter of late democracy hero, Chief MKO Abiola highlighted her progressive credentials and efforts to achieve social justice for youths and women, two groups which she described as marginalised.
Rinsola while responding to the reservations displayed to attempts by her as a young woman to occupy the position of the national youth leader, stated that young women also belong to the youth constituency and are thus qualified to run for youth leadership positions.
She said: “Young women are youths too. We stand at the intersection of two marginalized groups, namely youths and women, and are often further marginalized within both groups.
“Young women are youths and we can aspire to occupy any youth leadership position provided we are qualified for it and fall within the stated age range, which I do.”
She however cautioned that her aspiration should not be viewed as an affront to men, whom she described as partners in progress.
She .pleaded that rather her desire to occupy the coveted youth position as an opportunity to advance and secure equitable representation and protect the interests of all young people irrespective of their gender.
She said “also, me vying for national youth leader doesn’t prevent young men within the party from doing so. If I clinch the role, then it also doesn’t prevent young men from occupying other positions like the deputy national youth leader and zonal youth leader slots.
“At the moment, state youth leaders are male, even down to the senatorial zones, local governments and wards, and this isn’t viewed by anyone as being discriminatory.
“My aspiration should therefore not be viewed as an affront to young men in the party or a move against them; many of them know me and can attest to the fact that it’s a position I am qualified for, and I consider us all to be partners in progress.”
Ms. Abiola also spoke on what party members should expect if she is elected as youth leader.
She added “I am passionate about enhanced youth inclusion and have done a lot of work to support this, so I’m on a quest to deliver on a better deal for us all as young people. If elected as youth leader, my mandate will be to deliver the youth vote for the APC in addition to protecting and promoting the interests of young people irrespective of their gender.”
Dispelling notions about her loyalty and commitment to the party, particularly over her departure in 2019 when she contested a position on another platform, ‘Rinsola clarified that the decision was due to a local disagreement and at no point during the episode did she make unsavory comments about the APC, contrary to sensational reports about the issue which some are now recycling to undermine her bid.
“At the time I made that decision, there were serious complications in the APC in my home state. All the statements I made then are a matter of public record, and I made it abundantly clear that the issues were local. This is also as many within the party were aware of the circumstances that culminated in that decision.”
Speaking further concerning her loyalty to the party and its progressive ideals, Ms. Abiola revealed that she had the option of joining the opposition PDP but declined.
“Anyone with a firm understanding of our politics knows that your chances of succeeding at the polls are much higher if you run on the platform of one of the major political parties, the APC or the PDP.”
“Back then, the two factional leaders of the PDP in Ogun state were members of the National Assembly. Hon. Ladi Adebutu was in the House of Representatives while Senator Buruji Kashamu, now late, was in the Senate. I had a good enough relationship with people who could have influenced either or even both of them, so that I would run on that platform and have a much better chance of being elected. This was an option I did not explore because my aversion to the PDP is very well documented and my views about the party remain unchanged.”
Affirming her commitment to the party’s growth, especially amongst youths and women, she highlighted some of her contributions since her return, including an expansive drive during the party’s registration exercise to ease the process in her home state and mobilize youths across the South West to formally join the party.
“During the membership registration exercise, I sponsored free passport pictures both individually and in a joint effort with other young people in Ogun state, and sponsored media engagements calling on women and young people to join the party and partner with the government of Ogun state in building our future together.”
“I also sponsored activities by the Progressive Young Women’s Forum across the six south-western states, and these included billboards placed in strategic locations, mini-rallies and media engagements by leaders of the group in each state, all with my own resources.
“This was also as I provided support to many other young people who reached out to me from across the country so they could mobilise youths within their respective communities.”
Ms. Abiola stated that her efforts are appreciated by party officials in her native Ogun state and highlighted some other contributions which she had made to the party.
“In recognition of my efforts locally, I was granted the privilege of nominating leaders into the party exco in my ward; that sort of honour is not granted to people who are considered as not being committed or who haven’t made notable investments towards the party’s growth.”
“I have also invested directly in members of the party through empowerment programmes and similar initiatives, and I have been chosen for assignments by the national leadership of the party; if my commitment was in doubt, I do not think that any of that would have happened.”
Responding to a question on how to enhance women’s representation in politics, she emphasized the need to “work on the social conditioning that makes people believe that politics and leadership are not for women” and the importance of “stop-gap measures like quotas for appointive and elective positions”, alongside the cultivation of crowdfunding to provide access to funds to women.
‘Rinsola Abiola is a media entrepreneur, an advocate for gender and youth equity, and one of the most vocal youths of the All Progressives Congress who combine professional qualities and private sector experience to offer meaningful policy proposals on ways to drive a youth-led growth and transformation process. Her bid, following its public announcement, has drawn country-wide support, instantly propelling her to the lead position as a frontline aspirant.