In 2014, Ifeyinwa Maureen Okafor (IMO), a lawyer, chartered accountant and administrator decided to bring her experience into politics. She ran for IMO State governor under the PDP.
She graciously granted an interview to sabinews to talk about her experience as a fresher in politics, what losing the primaries taught her and what the future holds.
Sabinews: Why did you decide to run for office?
To serve my people, by offering a new kind of leadership. We are the change that we seek: a new generation, a new kind of politician, a new kind of leader. I love my country and I want to serve my people. I believed that the time for change had come and I had hoped that the electorate would have matured enough to realise that you cannot continue to do things the same way and expect different outcomes. I want to deliver so much more than they could have ever hoped to get from their past and current political leaders. I strongly believe that we will when the time is right.
Sabinews: Why did you choose the PDP?
We do not yet have parties based on ideology. Therefore making a choice based on ideology was not an option. We had to use other considerations. Yes, the PDP is a great party founded on a great constitution of ideals of equality and progressive change. But it was also the opposition party in my state at the time and still is and I saw it as the most formidable platform to use to remove the incumbent government who in my opinion is not doing well in serving the people.
Sabinews: How did your family react? Was politics something you’d always been involved in?
My family was very supportive. No, politics was never a career option for me when I was younger. But now it has become a call; my life’s purpose. I have always loved people and serving was at the core of whatever I had always done. Politics allows you to do this; to serve your community but on a larger scale.
Sabinews: Did you believe you stood a chance, as a woman and as a ‘newcomer’ to the political scene?
I knew that the odds were stacked high against me. I was young and I was female in a new terrain. I had hoped like the Arab spring that the electorate would have been daring enough to want someone totally different from what they had always had. I offered and ran a campaign of real change!
I believe that we have a lot of work to do in terms of voter education and we have a long road ahead of us but we are up for the challenge.
Sabinews: What was it you believed you had that IMO state needed?
So much, so much. I don’t even know where to begin. IMO needs the most basic things like good roads, housing, and transport. The state is one of the least developed in Nigeria. There you have free but not quality education and so we are turning out mass illiterates because we do not have the teachers. Education is more than brick and mortar classrooms and it would have been the main thrust of my government. The state is one of the poorest. Its Internally Generated Funds is one of the lowest in the country. We had a plan to empower, measure and rework our employment and entrepreneurial policies to create wealth for our people. We had a plan that would have attracted our talented pool in the Diaspora to come home and rebuild. We had a plan to offer real healthcare and not empty shells of hospitals.
Our manifesto as found on my website www.ifeyinwaokafor.com was designed to address the needs and challenges of Imo State holistically.
I think in summary, what I had or have is that I truly love the people and would have made governance all about them. That is what Imo needs. A leader, that truly cares about the people.
Sabinews: What did you learn from failing to get the ticket from your party at that time?
It was an amazing journey into the minds and souls of the electorate. It was emotional for me to watch them make poor choices because of food infrastructure as they call it. We need so much and our people deserve so much better. I hope one day we can deliver it to them.
The biggest lesson is therefore to be better prepared. The best man does not always win; victory goes to the most prepared.
Sabinews: Are you still a member of the PDP and if you decide to run again will it be under the same umbrella?
Funny that you use the word umbrella; this is the symbol of the party. Yes, I am still a member of the PDP. Will I run on the same platform again? We will have to wait and see. Four years is a long time in politics. Anything can happen and as you probably know has begun to happen already.
Sabinews: What do you think about the present administration? There has been a lot of discussion on social media about the speed of the administration as compared to campaign promises. What are your views?
I congratulated Nigerians on the outcome of the presidential elections and we all celebrated the peaceful transition. The new and the out gone Presidents are both winners.
On the speed of this government, as a keen watcher I would say that they were not fully prepared to take over. Hitting the ground running is easier said than done. This could be attributable to many factors. But in the long run, it is better to take the time to study and make informed decisions for the growth of the country. This is how you will be judged; not by how fast but how well.
Sabinews: Do you see Nigerians voting in a female president in the next 8 years?
Realistically, I don’t. We are closer to a female Governor than a female President. I think we are at least 30 years from a female president. And it is unfortunate because women have a lot to offer and there are many examples to buttress this point. Having said this, I encourage women to continue to serve in whatever capacity that they can. Some of the most influential women in the world do not hold political office.