Mrs Arinola Oloko is the woman captured in a viral video objecting to being called a ‘thug’ by Senator Oluremi Tinubu at the venue of the public hearing on constitution review.
In this interview with a journalist, Oloko, an educationist with a master’s degree in Public Health who veered into politics, speaks about her encounter with Mrs Tinubu
My name is Arinola Oloko. I am an educationist and a politician. I like to say that I am the new face of politics.
Explain ‘the new face of politics?’
I’m a younger version (of politicians), a more vibrant version that brings transparency, accountability, responsibility, responsiveness to the table. I am not the version that tells people I want to empower them; rather, I want people to be part of the government, knowing that they are the ones in charge of governance. I want a Nigeria that we have not had in the past. Gone are the days when people have power and feel like they can do anyhow they want. So, I am the new face of politics; this is what politics is going to look like going forward. It is not going to be like before.
When you say you are the new face of politics, are you saying the faces we see in politics today are old faces and should be pushed out?
If they are not prepared to do things differently, they should start thinking about it because the world is evolving and right now, Nigeria is evolving. Nigerians are tired of the same thing; they are distressed.
There is so much poverty in the land, so much insecurity, they are tired, and they want people (politicians) that are ready to represent them, people that are ready to serve them, and people that are interested in making a difference. Nigerians want people who are in touch with reality. For instance, women and youths are the most valuable assets that we have but what are we doing with them?
What was your intention for attending the Senate constitutional review hearing in Lagos?
I ran in the last election in 2019 and I know all the discrepancies and the things that we saw. I know for a fact that we are never involved in what is happening and that was what led me to the review. I made concerted efforts to be at the review with my colleagues so that we could present a paper to contribute to the national public consultation on constitutional reform.
Can you tell us what really transpired at Marriot Hotel in Lagos between you and Senator Oluremi Tinubu?
Well, I do not want the issue to overshadow the major issues confronting us as a country. The issues we have in Nigeria are greater than what happened on Wednesday. It is not a personal thing. Let us leave it and let it go to sleep but we need to concentrate on the fact that every process must be thought out thoroughly.
You cannot invite people to certain things and you do not sort it out; you need to make it (environment) conducive and accessible. If they cannot, on their own, manage it, they should have employed the services of those who do that for a living, to create and manage the process. Marriot Hotel was not an appropriate venue for a public hearing.
250 seats do not represent Lagos, Oyo and Ogun. It is a South-West hearing and not Lagos only. Even if it was Lagos only, Lagos has a population of 20 million people and counting and what percentage is 25
What venue would have been appropriate for the hearing?
It was advertised as the TBS (Tafawa Balewa Square). It was at the last minute that it was changed to Marriot Hotel and the excuse for changing it to the place was that they were trying to observe COVID-19 protocol.
I do not see how they were trying to observe the protocol when the seats were arranged closely, (with) no social distancing and the place was enclosed. TBS is an open place and we would have been able to observe social distance and it would have been better.
Senator Oluremi Tinubu is my senator and I respect her as my senator. I have tremendous respect for authority.
We were at the venue, standing in a queue, only for us to get to a point and they said registration had closed.
They did not say from the beginning that they had a certain number that they were restricting the hearing too.
If so, they should have made us register online, so that we would have known that on getting to the centre we wouldn’t bother trying to enter.
Also, we saw (other) people coming in; senators were coming in, governors, local government chairmen, government officials and a few other people who came to present papers (we’re coming in) but it didn’t look like a proper representation of the people.
Everybody says the constitution is faulty. They (government)said we cannot get a new constitution, but we can get a review.
Now, to present our contributions, we can’t. I was expecting a proper hearing for the Senate constitutional review.
I was genuinely interested in the hearing. I was talking with those at the entrance, asking them to be fair and allow us to enter.
I don’t know what happened but the Senator came out and started saying, ‘Call that woman! Come here!’
By default, I responded and went to her (Mrs Tinubu). I told her my name and told her I am in her constituency and that she is my senator and that we had been in the queue for like forever.
I tried to recount everything that had transpired to her. In my mind, I thought she would say, ‘Oh, this is wrong and all of that.’ But she said, ‘Shut up! Shut up! Call the security to take this thug away.’ At that point, I told her, ‘Ma, I am not a thug; I don’t look like a thug. I am not being violent and I don’t look like a criminal. That’s the qualification of a thug. That was all that happened. They acknowledge the fact that I was not rude; I was only assertive. That stood out.
In the viral video clip, some people at the hearing asked the senator to apologise to you but she said she was not going to apologise. How do you feel about this?
Actually, you cannot make someone do what they don’t want to do. If she feels it is not necessary to apologise, it is really up to her. I know who I am and I know the way I was brought up. I know the right thing and I will do the right thing. It is a lesson for everyone to learn to be humble, to understand that even when you are in power, you are there to serve the people.
Has the senator reached out to you after that encounter?
No, she hasn’t. She has said she was not going to apologise.
Were you eventually able to make your contributions at the hearing?
No, and my colleagues were not able to make our contributions at the hearing on Wednesday. And I did not bother going the following day (Thursday).
People were already calling me not to come. Some told me to lie low while some said I should have come and made my presentation, but I have submitted the document containing our presentation.
What is the content of the document you submitted at the hearing?
First (point) is that we do not believe in a review or an amendment. What we want is a new constitution that is borne out of true consultation with all Nigerians; we want everyone to be represented in the constitution, especially with respect to certain areas like power, accountability, universal right to basic education and we want the girl-child to be well-educated and that the government must respect the rule of law. These are some of the things in the document.
Do you feel threatened after that encounter with the senator?
Nobody has threatened me and I don’t want to be threatened. I feel I have not stepped on anybody’s toes; I only stood on my rights as a citizen and I have demanded accountability from those in government.
You said you are a politician. When did you start your political journey?
I joined politics in 2018. I am a member of the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere. I attend meetings and contribute my quota. Afenifere is non-partisan and not based on any political party; it is a group that wants the best for the citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Afenifere is passionate about social welfare, education, amongst others.
After being a member for a while, I decided to put my money where my mouth is. It is just like watching a football match at home and you say, ‘Oh, that footballer didn’t kick the ball well,’ when you are not on the field. I registered with a party then but the registration was short-lived. I later joined the Social Democratic Party. After a year or so, I decided to pick up the ticket contesting for Lagos State House of Assembly, Eti-Osa Constituency 2 in 2019. I won at the primaries. I got the ticket but I didn’t win the election.
Why do you think you lost the election?
The 2019 election took almost everything from me; it was the most difficult thing I have ever done aside from childbirth. That is the problem with women and politics. The people are hungry and there is so much poverty in the land. People are ready to sell their votes for whatever it is. On the day of the election, people were saying, ‘Mama, even if it is N500, give me.’ I went from door to door during my campaign and rally. I met people and spoke with people. Throughout my campaign, I never gave anyone money and I told the people until we change the narrative, our children won’t be able to contest election in this country. We cannot continue to use the money to contest elections in this country because you do not stand a chance and your children do not stand a chance. So, I lost because I was not from the ruling party and because I didn’t give out money to the people.
The mindset of the people is that election comes once in four years and they need to get all that they could get from you. Also, they can’t read your mind and they cannot differentiate between you and the others.