By Constance Meju
Women leaders appalled by the continued display of regard for calls for better inclusion of women in decision making exhibited by the near absence of women nominees in President Buhari’s ministerial list to the Senate for screening and confirmation, have been kicking against the development.
A front line gender equity advocate and deputy governorship candidate in the March governorship election, Ene Ede told National Point that a seven women representation in the federal cabinet is not just enough and will slow down development in the country.
Said she: “There is no argument when facts exist. We are fighting against tokenism. Countries have moved since Beijing and Nigeria needs to move forward and do better. If we do not have adequate number of women leading processes. Development shows down.
“We had 13 women at a time, they did well. Amina Mohhammed led MDG office and touched lives of millions and she was recognized internally and became deputy secretary general of the UN. Sharon Ikeazor turned the Pension Office around ensuring pensioners get their entitlements as at when due. Zainab Ahmed ensured our money was well managed with states getting their allocation on time, etc.”
Ene, left at a Women Postmortem on the 2019 Elections in Abuja
Responding to questions on availability of capable women for top leadership consideration, the executive director of Equity associates, Abuja who has served as gender consultant to some international development partners in the country said Nigeria has more than enough capable women and many who have served have proven their mettle.
“Our women have done well and have paved way for our president to see the capacity and commitment of Nigerian women. Seven is not enough. It falls short of his promise and we must let him know we are not happy. He should remember to give women the leadership of a good number of agencies and boards. This can be done if we push harder. Our dear Hon. Talba was cajoled out of her elective position with a promise to get a position at national level, she did not get on the list. If we keep quiet such persons will get nothing. Sixteen percent (16 per cent) of total nominees is not good enough!”, Ene stated.
Equally condemning the near absence of women in Buhari’s in-coming cabinet, Niger Delta gender advocate, Emem Okon says not only does the number of women in the list negate the arithmetic of affirmative action, that it also destroys the years advocates have put in trying to advocate for recognition and respect of women’s right in the country.
The executive director of Kebetkache Women development and Resource Center whose Port Harcourt based NGO has been empowering women to participate in politics said anything short of the 15 in line with the 35 per cent affirmative action recommendation which Nigeria is signatory to is a default.
“Seven women out of 42 ministerial nominees is condemnable. It is bad news for women. It negates the principles of inclusiveness Are there no capable women in Nigeria? Does it mean there were no capable women in president Buhari’s campaign team, if he does not want to look beyond his immediate environment?
“The president has no regard for national gender policy or is it that no one assisted him in calculating 35 per cent of 42? He should realize that we (women) need not less than 15 women on that list. This is why the affirmative action measure is necessary to address the inequality and discrimination. There is need to pass the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill. Besides, female politicians need to learn to negotiate power. There’s need to study what those recycled men did to get nominated”
Lamenting that the political landscape is getting more complicated and difficult for women, the advocate who has won international awards for her work on women in the Niger Delta, called on the Women Affairs ministry and wives of governors to take up the challenge and champion advocacy for the domestication of the affirmative action in the country as well as the passing of the Equal Opportunities Bill.
Hear her: “The political terrain gets complicated every day. With all the campaigns, advocacy, policies and commitment to international human rights framework, we are still on one spot as regards recognition of women’s rights to participate in governance and decision making bodies. The federal ministry of Women Affairs and the governors’ wives should champion the advocacy for the CEDAW Bill to be passed into law. We need it!”
So far only the Goodluck Jonathan administration has offered women needed recognition as partners in governance. For the first time since independence, Dr Goodluck Jonathan brought on board a sizeable number of qualified and capable women into top leadership and changed the development equation. Under him Nigeria had 13 female ministers out of 42 representing 31 per cent, six female special advisers from 18, representing 33.3 per cent and a retinue of sensitive positions which gave women high visibility. He boldly and courageously assigned portfolios to these women. But these gains have been lost under Buhari and more might be lost if state governors follow in his foot-steps.
#Gender and Accountability
*Constance Meju is publisher of Port Harcourt based National Point Newspaper and committed gender equity, children, human right and environmental justice advocate.