By Ken Meju
The place of women has been duly displaced and misplaced in our heavily male dominated environment. Perhaps that has been suggestive of holes and inadequacies that punctured and permeated the political templates which have orchestrated insensitivity, moral loss, decay and nausea in the economy as well as socio-cultural disparities.
The place of women in the Nigerian governance picture has not only been displaced but misplaced by robbing them of the ability to function in grace like their male counterparts who adjudge them the weaker sex.To me, they are no weaker sex but rather,a deprived sex who have enough ability to post a sterling performance in their fields of endeavor in all facets of life who therefore, should be granted a level field of play in the theatre of politics.
Thisshould be so for various reasons them being helpmates, helping the busy manengulfed in engagements of the day. The woman working side by side the manhelps him function more effectively, and efficiently and anything short of thisinclusion, negates the synergy of leadership and is an invitation to chaos.This is the missing factor in the Nigerian heavily male-ruled government andthe reason Nigeria is tilting seriously towards the abyss.
Again,women are an integral part of this country who are statistically anddemographically greater than the men. They therefore have the right like all Nigerians of age, toparticipation in order for their needs and voices to be heard so governmentscan accord them quality and equitable living. Women are practically thegroomers of families, government, managing both husbands, children and theextended families while at the same time, managing the accord system that runsthrough the rope of peace. They shouldtherefore be given room to transform this rare feat into a larger and higher scale that willbenefit the government at every level.
It isnon-negotiable that women entrench moral decorum in children and are oureducation initiators. They build the foundation for children preparing them forwhat they will become in life; thus, natural directors of society.In the areaof finance, women are prudent managers who in spite of constantly dwindlingfamily finance, strive to meet up needs in the home and they usually depriveselves of privileges to do so. They are thus budgetary and financial expertsneeded in these lean purse times to help out in governance to ensure democracydividends stretch to all arms of society especially women in the rural areas,the physically challenged, the orphans and our countless unemployed, nowrestless youths.
It isalso worth pointing out that women are unity coordinators. And the politicalparties cannot help but agree that much of the mobilization of members andvoters are carried out by women and the best way to reward this is to providespace for them in the governance structures to fully exhibit this greatstrength especially as the unity of the country is facing threats fromresistance against continued marginalization by the present and pastleaderships. Diversity is the colour of democracy and women have the threadthat can turn this diversity into a strength.
It thushas become imperative that with the focus being placed on improved delivery atthe local government level, whereincidentally more women reside, deliberate attempts be made to invite asignificant number of women on board to help jointly roll the wheels of thedesired change being promoted by the Buhari administration. Same with the stateand federal government as they put together their cabinets and put down namesfor the multitude of decision making bodies in their parastatals same with thelegislators as they assemble their aids. It is time to pay women back for theirloyalty as campaigners, prayer warriors and voters while the electioneeringlasted.
Beingwomen, they are abreast of the needs of families, the youth, aged and mostvulnerable as well as the general needs of the communities in terms of socialamenities and infrastructures. Asnon-conformists, they will best drive home the goodies and most likely to crywolf in the face of corruption erupting. Their full engagement in thegovernance process especially at the local government level will straighten theknocked-knee joints of the councils and wake up competition for excellence aswell as jettison mediocrity. This presupposes that we bring on board the realwomen; capable women who have served their communities and are committed toservice not just cronies of men in power as the right candidates will spark offa new wave of positive development that will shame those who in the pastexcluded women and herald a respect for women inclusion. The National GenderPolicy demands a 35 per cent inclusion of women in all strata of governance; apolicy not yet respected. In the same vein, the Belgium Conference and theUnited Nations Council Resolution, UN 1325 were enacted to further register theimportance of an all inclusive government which hastens development. They allseek to amplify the voice of women and create space for their equalparticipation in all areas of governance.
In line with numerous conventions promoting good governance, ex president Olusegun Obasanjo had consented to the 35 per cent Affirmative Action on the involvement and participation of women in politics in Nigeria which was reflective to an extent and former president Goodluck Jonathan perfected it with about 32 per cent inclusion of women in his administration These gains were however lost under President Muhammadu Buhari who has put women ‘in the other room’; an omission that may have indirectly helped to fuel the many crises facing the country at the moment as the female voices truly representing the feelings, hopes and aspirations of the varied constituencies have been silenced and disregarded. The peace, caution, wise counsel and frugal financial skills women represent are eloquently missing in governance at a time a country like Ethiopia is allotting 50 per cent of its appointive public leadership positions to women even as the prime minister is a woman and Rwanda is celebrating internationally acclaimed good governance because 35 per cent of her women folk have been in elective and appointive decision making seats over a period of time.
It is my belief therefore, that the inclusion of Nigerian women in governance in all strata as being demanded by the National Council of Women Societies, NCWS, Nigeria League of Women Voters, NLWV, Center for Democratic Development, UN Women and sundry organizations, be acted on by President Buhari as he has promised an all inclusive government. This would help iron out gray areas. Why would women be relegated in spite of their evident achievements in varied fields? Why would they be disdained because of cultural dictates? Why would women not be appointed security chiefs in the Army, Air Force,Navy,Police, even though they are qualified when a country like India has a female as Defence minister? Why are they not local government chairmen or governors? Do they lack the wherewithal to understand or execute intricacies of governance?
Ibelieve it is on record that the Amazons (women soldiers) in Egba/Dahomey Warsalvaged the men who lost their rights to their rights to slave masters. They returned the men to the drivers’ seat which they hadshamefully lost. What about Queen Amina of Zaria and her exploits? And the AbaWomen Rioters? They were able to broke the shackles of colonial masters whichheld their men in bondage,to free them from obnoxious taxation.Women have madehistory with their exploits and have had their names imprinted in the sand oftime. Mother Theresa is remembered for peace, Indira Ghandi and Goldier Meirfor leadership, Mary Slessor for saving humanity (killing of twins). MargaretThatcher, Angela Merkel, Johnson Sirleaf, Hillary Clinton, leaders.
Chief Mrs Olufumilayo Ransome-Kuti, Mrs Winnie Mandela, Mrs Samora Marcel-Mandela, are all remembered for activism,Serena Williams, for sports, Miriam Makeba for entertainment. We also have Dr Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Prof Alele Williams, Zulu Sofola, Chimamanda, Prof Tessy Akeke, on the education scene. The list goes on and we can no longer keep quiet for Nigeria must have present day women on the government seat. Things have just got to change and there is no better time than now to begin. As the SGDs proclaim, leave no one behind.
Ken Meju is a Port Harcourt basedjournalist and gender equity supporter.
#Gender and Accountability