Saturday, October 24, 2015

Why I Want To Be President of Spain -Helen Umukoro


Nigerian-born Spanish female politician, Helen Mukoro Idisi, made history as the first woman and an immigrant to be contesting for the presidency of Spain. The writer, legal consultant and forensic expert shares, in this interview with DOYIN ADEOYE, her passion, issues with the Igbo in Spain, how more women can be involved in politics, among other issues.

Why exactly do you want to be the president of Spain?
I am a good starting point to build a community based on the principles of respect and solidarity. Broadly speaking, there are a number of key points that make me a model candidate and a healthy unit that works for progress for all. And these points can serve as a self-assessment to ensure in every way that we would promote care of the environment; not act outside the limits of the law; propose many changes as we deem necessary to improve the quality of life in the country with a constructive attitude; avoid violence whenever possible, putting the dialogue as a means of conflict resolution; respect the rights of other living beings; be part of life in the country, its history and its decisions, enjoying their good times and helping to rebuild during its toughest crisis; assess other citizens, respect the role they play and their opinions.

You contested for the Mayor of Denia earlier this year and lost, what went wrong, and how did you bounce back from the defeat?
We lost, but it was expected. We came to understand that our party was only three months old when we contested, and we carefully examined our actions and criticised where we failed. But there will always be politics, and we are aware that our existence in the social organisation and ethical standards is an indisputable fact.

You founded the political party, Union De Todos, what is the mission of the party?
We are a new horizon of political leadership, and our aim is to establish criteria for determining socially useful goals, which is given by the ability to propose a vision of the society that is inclusive of diverse interests and perspectives, which give coherence and meaning and to facilitate the incorporation of all or at least the majority in the various efforts to achieve the goals.

Despite the advanced state of politics across the world, many are still of the opinion that politics is not meant for women, how would you react to this?
There is no real institutional organisation, unless women are part of it. The institutional change will occur when a sufficient number of actors are women and that is when we may begin to perceive that a new and efficient institutional framework can replace the preceding, instead of looking for men saviours.
We should also ask for women leadership, as it is the only way our institutions can face challenges with painless solutions, solve problems that require us to learn new methods. To meet these challenges, we need a different idea of leadership and a new social contract that promotes women’s ability to adapt as active representatives of their interests and needs.

‘She is a woman, she is of African descent, and to worsen the scenario, she is a Nigerian.’ These, among others, are fears of many people who also believe in your political ambition, do you also reflect on this?
The exercise of democratic leadership entails balanced and effective development of political institutions, it has nothing to do with African or no African descent. To be accepted, you must prove a supply to the growing demand of transparency, responsibility and accountability. The Spanish Constitution does not ignore racism and discrimination, and it is the key motivation that channels the will of Spanish citizens of all descents to aspire to become a political leader, the Constitution is doing so with high standards of performance.

Many Africans are hardly fully accepted into the system by advanced countries, probably because of the unfortunate stereotype that Africans are fraud, was it a different scenario for you?
The continuous breach of the law by immigrants ranging from several episodes of organised crimes is a more telling sign of a social protest motivated by unsatisfied vast sectors of the population. In any case, if there is lack of effective responses by the Spanish government in these dimensions, it can lead to the emergence of a total social protest and the emergence of conditions that may threaten the stability of the relationship between rulers and the ruled.
Similarly, in a democracy, no one is exempted from the obligation to enforce laws and all citizens must be treated equally in connection therewith. Both from a political as from a legal perspective, no one is in advance of all people in a democracy.

What influenced your foray into Spanish politics and how has the experience been so far?
Political representation has lost its purpose which is to define and identify the common good or collective interest in national society. I also looked at the growing inequality and social exclusion, widening gaps between minorities and majorities. I believe such extreme polarisations turned identifying common interests and shared projects within the society, impossible.
For all this, I decided to go into politics, to contribute in the best way possible so that those with individual needs can politically be represented; the Spanish crisis is best understood as society crisis, the positive impact our party will provide will be on the conditions of possibility of political representation.

Would you say you have what it takes to be a Spanish president?
To be a Spanish president is to be a politician with principles and values, to be aware of the poor condition of the population and be truthful in his speeches. In this way there will not be spaces for vainglory, false promises or a deliberate lie as a means to deceive their constituents. I’m a candidate who is able to focus her speech on truth and nothing but the truth and on this basis I make my campaigns trying to adjust my arguments on the values of life, which are truth, justice, unity, freedom, peace, harmony and life. This way one will not deceive the people and avoid exaggeration.

You had to renounce your Nigerian citizenship to become a naturalised Spanish citizen in 2013, did you do this because you knew you’d someday vie for the post of the president of Spain, or because you had just given up on Nigeria?
My husband is Spanish, we’ve been together for 17 years and we have a son who is 15. It is the first and only reason why I decided to be a Spanish citizen. It is also noteworthy that a citizen does not mean being born in a place, but responds to two main factors: the documentation and identity. Before the law, a person must meet certain requirements to be considered citizens, including direct or indirect descent from another citizen, with different limitations in each country.

How does it feel being the first African to contest for the Spanish presidential seat?
I am very proud of being the first woman, a Nigerian-born Spanish woman to contest for presidency in Spain and Europe. It is pride for Nigeria and a big pride for Africa.

Unfortunately a larger percentage of Nigerians over there are not Spanish nationals and so cannot vote, do you think this might affect your chances of winning?
No. One of the traits that essentially distinguishes the Spanish system of democracy is precisely the recognition that all citizens are equal before the law; all have the same right to participate in public affairs; originally all have the same power; and all have the same right to freely express  their opinion.

Many Igbos reacted negatively to your book on the corruption at the Nigerian embassy in Madrid, why is this so? What were the allegations and did this affect your political aspiration in any way?
I want to say a big thank you to Nigerians for their support, especially to the Igbo. My technical team and the brains behind me are Igbo who do not want to take glory but to make sure things go well for me.
To the Igbo in Spain, especially to those in Madrid, I’m short of words to say thank you for the mobilisation, the massive love the Igbo are showing towards me did not start today, when Delta State was created, a Delta Igbo gladly gave my family their flat the first two weeks we arrived in Asaba, I’m an Urhobo woman, but I don’t need to come from Igboland to say it proudly here, that I’m proudly Igbo.
The book I wrote about the corruption at the Nigerian Embassy “A Trade of Shame - Our Embassies, Dash Collectors’’ is based on repeated and consistent testimony of Nigerians in Spain and the corruption at the Embassy of Nigeria in Madrid (Spain) and how officials abused its power of state, and violated human rights by hurling unacceptable insults on Nigerian nationals and collect huge amount of money at the gate from Nigerians before rendering services to them.
The work also discusses the causes and consequences of administrative corruption and sociocultural impact. However, the long-term effect of this unholy transaction is often not considered. The fact is that corruption hurts us all. Corruption weakens our institutions, causing ruthless breaks in people’s lives. And I wonder why Nigerian leaders had closed their eyes to the accumulated historical bribery and corruption at our embassies, which often stem from complicated actions that cast the nation in bad light.
The Igbo in Spain are not angry with me for writing the book, they too are also victims, the story is, the Consul is Igbo and gave the Igbo a wrong story, he never told them I wrote a book on the corruption at the Embassy but that I’m against the Igbo, using his position in office to set a wild ethnic fire.
 Another bias notion many Africans have is that the man should always lead, do you agree with this, and how supportive is your husband of your political career?
The notion many Africans have on “man should always lead” attitude involves a set of attitudes, behaviours, beliefs and social practices aimed to justify and promote behaviours perceived as discriminatory against women. This is not to negotiate or to seek for absolute equality or rights, but that both men and women should enjoy the same dignity as people. 
My husband understands my passion for politics and he gives full support. If a husband has too many qualms about his wife’s political ambition, and he does not show his support for her achievements, it will affect her view of things and have less motivation and performance.

How long have you been in Spain, and of all countries, why you choose to go to Spain?
I’ve been here for 23 years. I am here today because of the freedom, good system of democracy, the due process, the rule of law, etc.

Do you think Spain is ready for an African-Spanish president? As some may think that your aspiration is mere fantasy…
In the first place, Spain is a developed country and our institutional structure is to prevent discrimination at all levels. My political fantasy has a current historical background and that future generations of politicians will benefit from my political legacy that demonstrate that gender or immigration is more than ‘escapism.’

Do you get support from the Nigerian/African community?
Yes. Nigerians/Africans celebrate my historical political ambition. I have received messages from all walks of life, from different sectors and different political inclinations.

If you emerge as the president of Spain, what are your goals to make Spain a better country, and how do you think Africans outside Spain can also benefit from your administration?
My kind of leadership is given in the context of democratic institutional arrangements that favour consensus-building and contribute to the integration of all sectors. It is based on negotiation and agreement as a condition for the inclusion of the majority leadership in the political system. In this sense, when we talk of democratic leadership, I’m referring to my profile as leader who meets at least the following characteristics: My actions and activities are based on dialogue and persuasion, not imposition, and I have a knowledge-based organisation and clarity about the mission and vision of the same leadership, I articulate the diversity that characterises all humans, allow the diversity of approaches and methodologies as a factor of growth and learning. I respect the leadership of others. I express particular values. Democracy is not just by what we say or the methodology applied; because it is expressed in human relationships and behaviour, deeply democratic values such as tolerance, pluralism, etc. I’m also interdependent. In this regard, I recognise that others are important for achieving the objectives of the organisation.
What would you say to African women, especially Nigerians, whose involvement in politics is still relatively low?
Women face two types of obstacles when participating in Nigerian political life. Structural barriers created by discriminatory laws and institutions continue to limit the options for women to stand for election. The gaps on the capabilities mean that women are less likely than men to have education, contacts and resources necessary to become effective leaders. Here in Spain, we are the European country with more women in parliaments and regional governments and the second highest female representation in Europe. A report by the Council of Europe on the participation of women and men in public decision-making bodies, places Spain among the top ten in the statistics relating to governments and parliaments. African women should do the same

How was the experience while working in Nigeria, and can you let us into your family and education background?
I am a Spanish politician, writer, legal consultant and forensic expert. I was born in Delta State, Nigeria, to Mr Anthony Mukoro, the late Director General of the defunct Bendel State Government Treasury’s Cash Office, and Mrs Mary Mukoro, a retired Civil Servant at the Governor’s Office, Delta State, Nigeria.
I attended Saint Ita’s Girls College, Sapele, Delta State. I hold a degree in Social Education; professional master degree in Criminology; Superior Professional Certificate in Criminal Law; Postgraduate Certificate in Tax and Labour Management; a postgraduate certificate in Forensic Psychology; a postgraduate Certificate in Immigration and Domestic Violence; studied law. I also have a diploma certificate in Agriculture from the College of Agriculture, Anwai, Delta State.
I worked at the Ministry of Agriculture, Benin City, Nigeria and was later deployed to the Women Affairs Department of the Governor’s Office as the Agricultural Officer, to help the rural women in agriculture.
I worked as a legal consultant at The Red Cross Society, Spain; CEO and President at The African Europe Chamber of Commerce; CEO/President at National Agency of Forensic Experts; Mediators and Technical Professionals of Spain and Europe. I am also an author of many books.

How do you combine being a politician, writer, legal consultant and a forensic expert all together? How do you combine all these with the home? How do you relax?
You will like what you do as long as you’re motivated and it is the only thing that motivates you.  I follow up and develop my potential in all I do. Reconciling work and family life is not working less, but working in a different way, with better quality of life, even if it means lower wage compensation, but with more flexible schedules.
I relax in simple ways to leverage with my family. We programme activities, according to our preferences, small excursions, visits to museums, parks, theatre, beach, day trips to different nearby towns, as a way to meet the region where we live.

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