I had always wanted to do a piece on the newly elected Speaker of the London Borough of Hackney, Nigerian born Folashade Sobanjo Etti. The opportunity came when I met her at the 5th Anniversary Dinner of the Nigerian Women In Diaspora Leadership Forum (NWIDLK) at the swanky and posh Capthorne Tara Hotel in Kensington, West London. The pleasant well spoken lady didn’t mind being ambushed by yours truly and was only too pleased to spare me a few minutes to answer my questions.
Hon Sade Sobano-Etti, Speaker & Civic Mayor, London Borough of Hackney
What Political Party do you belong to? I am a member of the UK Labour Party.
How long have you been a Councillor and how did you start out in UK politics? I was elected May 2014. I joined Labour party in 2007, participated in campaigns, attended ward meeting, General meeting and was involved in various activities within the constituency. I acted as the Chair and Secretary of Springfield ward before becoming the women affairs officer for the constituency for two years, later a delegate at the labour conference before finally putting myself forward as a candidate to be a councillor.
What made you go into Politics? I was a member of the Rotaract club as a student. This spurred my interest in politics as I was able to participate in community activities. Following this, at the Polytechnic Ibadan, I was heavily involved in the Student’s Union. This led me to join the Alliance for Democracy as a member in Ojodu ward (Lagos State). I attended Justice forum monthly meeting in Ikeja. and later became a state Auditor in Ogun state.
Where did you go to school and what are your qualifications?
I hold a HND from The Polytechnic Ibadan. I am currently in my final year studying Oil & Gas Management at Plymouth University.
Do you have another occupation? Yes. I work part time with Sanctuary housing
*Mayor Sobanjo- Etti with Jummy Ariyo at the NWIDL Anniversary Dinner*
Does anyone need any specific qualifications to practice UK politics or to become a Councillor or Mayor? There is no formal educational requirement. You must be at least 18 years, be a British citizen, or citizen of the Irish, commonwealth or any country in the European community and must have lived or work in the area for 12 months.
What qualities does one need to hold such an office as that of Mayor? As with all endeavours, passion is required as well as good communication skills, team working ability, the drive to engage with your local community, and any skills gained from professional experience is valuable.
Where did you grow up/ what part of Nigeria did you grow up in? I grew up in Ibadan and Lagos.
What is it like being a female politician in the UK? Statistically, worldwide there are less women in politics than men, the UK is no different. From my experience there is more room for growth based on your capability and that makes the system here more equitable than most countries.
As a Nigerian born Civic Mayor/ Speaker, how much involvement do you have with the Nigerian Diasporan community and what Diasporan initiatives do you support? I was formerly the Secretary for Ijebu People Association ( UK) and I am still a member of Isara Association (UK). I also lead the Community Impact team at my church, The Redeemed Evangelical Mission.
What is your chosen Charity initiative and why? I support the Hackney food bank that collects and disburses food items to vulnerable people within the borough. I also support Hestia. Domestic violence is an important social issue that cannot be ignored. It cuts into the root of our community and every one in this cycle needs help. Hestia for Domestic Violence is one of such organisations that support domestic violence victims and that is why I chose to support them so they can carry on their legacy.
The Immediate theatre set up to help children at risk express themselves and to help their mental and social development. I have also chosen to support them as well.
What is your fashion fetish? I simply go for anything that fits and I’m comfortable in.
Do you still cook and do housework? I cook, do all my housework as usual.
How do you spend your spare time. What do you do to relax and unwind? I spend time with my family, play table tennis with friends and love a good massage.
How many kids do you have – what do they do and how old are they? I have four children. My eldest will be 26 in August, she is a lawyer. Second is 19 years studying Geology in University and my 9 year old twin boys in Year 5 in primary school
What message would you give to our young women and girls? Focus on self improvement, there is no harm in failure, it builds resilience. Women and young girls should be encouraged to pursue their passion irrespective of their age.
Copyright Jummy Ariyo
Interview With Hon Sade Sobanjo-Etti,
Speaker London Borough of Hackney