The recent charge at the Anambra State 2018 Women’s Summit by wife of the vice president, federal republic of Nigeria, Dolapo Osinbajo was a wake –up call for women in the country irrespective of their political affiliations, to be more pragmatic and be more conscious than ever before, to be involved in party politics.
Notwithstanding, some political pundits might dismiss it as a mere political gimmick to eulogize the women and win cheap popularity. On the contrary, the statement shares some similarities with the “I have a Dream” message by Martin Lurther King Jnr. and “I Can” in the Barack Obama sloganeering ideology in America before he was elected President. This can only be achieved if the women grow above petty women politics and embrace the spirit of oneness.
The lucid point I am making is that as the 2019 general elections get closer, it is imperative for Nigerian women including Rivers women, to participate in politics with total zeal, vigour and charisma, definitely on a full scale. That was the marching order of the Vice President’s wife. It is important to mention that women in politics must find alliance and collaborators that will sensitize the male counterparts in the manner that will not jeopardize the idea. We are aware of male egoism and the domineering tendencies which are embellished in his greediness. The fact will not always see men as counterparts but as political jobbers.
To boost their political profile, women must pass through the crucible of political baptism and be versatile in current socio-political issues around the world as a pre-condition and prove that they know more than the men. In many climes, women have shifted from their early domestic prowess to supper political gurus in their own right. Most of them are now political leaders and presidents of countries, organizations and associations to mention a few. In fact, this is rather becoming a women’s world, whereby they embrace challenges to become pilots, engineers, doctors, divers and geologists. The world is on a fast lane of development and the women of Rivers State cannot be left behind.
Sarcastically, our women have been trained to be airport visitors welcoming guests without being welcomed. They are left with the option of singing beautiful songs at political rallies and at the receiving end of getting cups of salt, fertilizer, rice, wrappers as their reward for political participation. This nonsensical and poverty infected behavior must stop. However, many believe the political juggernauts who are men have consistently designed this metaphor to suit their purpose.
Therefore, Rivers women must be extra –vigilant and not be intimidated by the male counterpart or surreptitiously excluded on a mere fictitious accusation that women are not ready to play the game of politics, since politics is not the exclusive right of any of the gender to be manipulated or extinguished by the other.
Over the years, Rivers women have been politically deprived, excluded and placed at kindergarten level of our political space and this marginalization has in no small measure continued to shrink the already narrow space for women and in the process, encumbered development in the 23 local government areas of the state.
Research has shown that women exclusion from political activities in the various states and local governments levels have resulted into economic strangulation, social dislocation, poverty and stagnation. These have rather compounded and narrowed the space of their contributions to societal development in the political sector. Men who find themselves in this exalted political offices often based the allocation of political offices on flimsy excuses like, school mate syndrome, political loyalty, member of the same association, sometimes members of the same confraternity. Others are based on nepotism, tribalism among others, without considering the essential element of merit.
Apparently, Nigerian women across the various states and local governments are both physically and mentally strong to move the nation to a high level. For instance, the Aba women organizing in 1929 during the colonial era was a strong indicator of such political will by the women. It is the bitter truth that women manage resources in every strata of life than their male counterparts, which will help to encourage frugality and reduce spend drift excessive primitive accumulation by the men in politics. Apart from political depression of women in Rivers State, the issue of multiple tax injustice has also crippled local businesses especially at the popular “Oil Mill” Market in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
In the political setting in Rivers State, some women have inadvertently jettisoned the idea of political contestation based on intimidation, harassment, name-calling, threat, lack of financial muscle, out –right rigging and the “step down syndrome”, leaving politics to be a men’s affair. There are doubts whether the women do fund raise to support their fellow females as men do. This has left indelible questions on their attitude, love for one another and the quest to be at the top.
Furthermore, most women are threatened by political hooliganism, god-fatherism, political patronage and sometimes, victimization arising from refusal to serve as “Mistresses” to some political bigwigs. In all these, youth restiveness and political violence continue to serve as nightmares to a lot of women who are supposed to be encouraged. Moreso, the men bracingly tell the women that politics is a men’s affair either in words or by action.
However, some ray of hope might be in the offing. Here in Rivers State, in 2015, a woman was given the deputy governorship slot under the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and the good news is the current ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party has on board a female as deputy governor of Rivers State, Dr. Ipalibo Harry – Banigo but that is not adequate, because in the State House of Assembly there is only one female legislator.
In the political calculation of how many women are elected into political offices especially, the Senate, House of Representative member, state Houses of Assembly and as local government chairmen, and appointed into political offices, women are not there yet. The recent visit by the National Council of Women Society led by the president, Gloria Laraba Shoda to Aso Villa to demand political inclusion and 35 percent affirmative action from President Buhari was timely. The automatic ticket given to women as vice chairmen of local government councils in Rivers state by Governor Wike is out of sympathy and a fall-out from their forceful exclusion from participation in internal democracy.
It is sad to note that political appointments have also not favored women even in the major political party offices as only a few women are allowed in with the nomenclature of “women leader”. It is important to note that putting the right women in positions of trust is not too cumbersome. Most often, men use cultural practice as a tool to disempower the women from playing their God-given role in the political landscape of their states. Therefore, women of Rivers State must jump – start from the shackles of cultural negativity that have perpetually imprisoned them to a high pedestrian of political positivism and participation.
In conclusion, the gains of women inclusion in politics are very enormous and gamine as this will reduce rate of political assassinations and corruption in the political circle. Having more women in politics will bring the desired change and proper accountability system since they are natural care –givers even in their homes, and inflation of contracts bracingly displayed by men will be put on check. Most women protect their character and image especially when in political office, therefore indiscriminate unjustified political appointments must be corrected as merit will promote stability, integrity and progression in the country.
– Pius Dukor writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State Nigeria.