By Sola Jacobs
It was a gathering of women from three major political parties, namely All Progressive Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party in Ekiti and Osun States respectively. The mission was to appraise how women had so far fared in their parties, either as political appointees or as elected official in government.
Launched in 2010, the coordinating platform is the Community Life Project (CLP), a non-governmental organisation concerned about women participation in governance as a whole via all-inclusive participation in governance.
Majority of the women assemblage in Ado Ekiti for the workshop had been interacting in the last seven years under the umbrella of CLP and it has fostered the bond of sisterhood and friendship which transcend party line to forming a common front. The objective was to demand equal participatory of women in government not only to seek and contest for political offices, but also to participate in good governance by demanding from political office holders how public funds are utilised for the betterment of all and sundry.
As the slogan of the NGO, “Reclaim Naija” is echoed the chorus “Na we get am” also reverberated in the air. The moderator set the tone for the women leaders in the three major parties that were represented at the workshop to give account of how far the women had been able to fare in the male-dominated arena of the nation’s politics and what can be done for the womenfolk to increase their participation in politics.
The coordinator of the CLP, Mrs. Ngozi Iwerre set the tone, that in 2015, it was on record that in Ekiti State, the number of women holding leadership positions with party structures went from 407 posts to 949 out of 8,409 positions.
She added that in the State of Osun, the number had risen geometrically from 533 posts to 2,173 out of 25,985 positions, saying, though women are gaining grounds but there is still the need to do more.
She said, “Nevertheless, in the nation at large, there is a decrease in women participation in politics, as statistics showed that there is 2 per cent decrease from eight per cent to six per cent in the number of women holding political offices nationwide, a trend that must be reversed, saying that though, there is increase in the number of women seeking political offices and this shows that women are not only enlightened but they are equally aware of their role in nation building.
Iwerre however noted that though, Nigerian women have not been given full opportunity due to many factors militating against their full participation in democratic governance which hinged more on cultural, religious and economic values and belief, but believed there is hope for the womenfolk, if they do not relent and if they believe that no matter the party affiliation, voting women into elective posts is the panacea to corruption and decadence that have engulfed all facets of the nation’s life.
Mrs. Sade Faparusi Akinromola, the Chairman of Gboyin Local Government in Ekiti State in her own remarks said that the increase in the number of women in elective posts cannot be associated with political parties’ ideologies in the nation but rather, the interest of the leadership or that of the leaders in those parties.
She adduced her success, as chairman of a local government to the womenfolk in the state, as the nation remains patriarchal in nature and politics is regarded as an undue exclusive right of the male, not minding that there are more women in the nation.
Honourable Romoke Edu Adewoye of the Labour Party in Osun State said that the economic recession had impacted women negatively, as most of them have no financial strength to vie for political posts.
The women leader of the All Progressive Congress in Ekiti state, Mrs. Omolara Bakare lamented that the male dominance at the National Assembly had stiffened Gender Equality bill and the 35 per cent affirmative action plan for women is a mirage.
Reports from the State of Osun, seem to be the most cheering of all, as the women leader of the APC in Osun, Alhaja Kudirat Fakokunde said that women participation in politics had increased tremendously since the assumption of the leadership of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola in the political landscape of the state.
She remarked that in 2015, Osun had 10 women appointed into various political offices in the state, but as at today, 720 women are appointed into various political posts at the ward level; while they occupied 29 posts at the state level; 808 posts in various Local Governments and Local Council Development Areas and 13 posts at the Federal level, as political appointees.
She continued that women had not fared better in political history of the state than now and it is the interest the leadership of the party had in the womenfolk and the commitment to compensate them for their contribution to the development of the state that triggered the development.
Alhaja Fakokunde said, though women still want more, but it depends on the premium the leadership of the party placed on womenfolk and their development.
For women to fare better in the nation’s politics, particularly when the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections are approaching in 2018 and the nation’s general election coming up in 2019, women at the workshop agreed to network with other female politicians across political divides to exchange ideas and strategy on how women can use their numerical and mental strength in all political parties across the nation to secure elective positions for women in any of the political parties.
The gathering also discussed about seeking financial assistance for women who are seeking elective positions. It was also advocated that more workshops and seminars for women at the grassroot level will increase their participation, not just in seeking political positions, but as well pull votes for women who are seeking political posts.
The group also advocated mentoring for young girls and women who want to serve through elective positions, while calling on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to intensify voters’ education as a means to educate women aspirants and others women in politics. The participants also tasked political parties to intensify education of women on party ideologies and the need for women to be involved in nation building through effective participation in political activities by seeking to hold elective posts.
At the end, the workshop revealed that aside Lagos state, Osun and Ekiti states had taken the lead in ensuring increase in women representation and participation in political activities and appointments into various offices, which is not premise on party ideologies but the intuition and the interest the leaders have in the women development for nation building. This, they all agreed should be sustained and encouraged by all and sundry.