Tuesday, March 27, 2018 7:02 am
Women politicians across the three dominant political parties in Osun and Ekiti states have kick started their strategies,weaved around a massive grassroots campaign, to ensure they get more positions both in their respective parties and government. “Our vision is to start from the ward congresses and fight our way up. We are going to use our bigger number to get more positions and get a bigger voice in pushing more women for elective positions”, says Mrs Omowunmi Otunla, PDP women leader, Osun state.
As part of a deliberate effort to advance the cause of women in politics, their mechanics will focus largely on identifying and putting core women issues on front burner and striving to build consensus to push it through. While underscoring the girl child as a major plank of their campaign, they resolved to float a neutral platform on which to reach out to women.
Critical amongst issues confronting the women is the country’s high maternal mortality rate which according to former world’s richest man, Bill Gates, ranks Nigeria ahead of only Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and Chad,making it “one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth”.
They also finger girl child education and the need to strike down the law of inheritance and widowhood practices which are unfriendly to women.
Rising from a two-day gathering in Ado Ekiti under the aegis of Community Life Project (CLP) with support from Ford Foundation, the women have resolved to hone their advocacy skills and collaborate with other women in different facets to achieve their aim. They have also vowed to galvanise other women and other gender friendly forces to ensure the review of all laws that promote discriminatory practices against women. They have also admonish that “successful women should mentor other women”. They reason that the elite and professional women must work in tandem with those at the grassroots if this drive is to be taken seriously.
Drawn from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Labour Party (LP), the women have also struck a chord to set aside their political differences and work as a collective to jointly push the interest of women at different levels. “We need to push for more positions and show that we can do it better. We have the time. We have the acumen. We are not clappers or singers. We need to sensitise our women that we are the light of the world. We only need to change the psyche of our womenfolk and use our bigger number to advance our interest”, Otunla explains.
Reflecting on the view by a frontline gender activist, Mrs Josephine Anenih that women need to get themselves into the National Working Committees of the political parties where the major decisions are taken, Dr Romoke Edu Ogunlana, deputy chairperson, Labour Party, Osun state argues that “We need to understand that politics is an alternative to war and be prepared to engage with all the resources we can muster”, noting that “women who are opportune to get into positions should endeavour to push other women”.
The women were particularly irked by a “Fact Sheet on Women’s Political Representation in Nigeria”, prepared by CLP which reveals that women representation in the legislature at the state and national levels that peaked in 2007,has been on the downward slide. From 3 women members in 1999 out of the 109 member Senate, to 4 in 2003 and a jumpto 9, in 2007. This however dropped to 8 in 2011 and 7 in 2015. The total number of women in the House of Representatives which was 13 in 1999 rose to 21 and 27 in 2003 and 2007 respectively but took a nosedive to 25 and 22 in 2011 and 2015. The figures for the House of Assembly, areequally dismal. Although women membership rose from 24 in 1999 to 40, 57 and 68 in 2003, 2007 and 2011, it took a downward slide to 51 in 2015. Women representation from Ekiti and Osun states in the Senate and the Houses of Assembly since 1999 has also not been cheery. While 2 women won Senate seats in Ekiti in 2015, Osun has not voted a woman senator since 1999. No woman was voted into the Osun state House of Assembly in 2007, 2011 and 2015 while Ekiti got 4 and 2 respectively in 2011 and 2015.
Not too happy at this declining representation of women, Mrs Ayo Awolowo, a PDP adherent in Osun state is of the opinion that “We cannot afford to slip back from our gains. From 1999 and now, the men have failed us, we need to strategise on how to move forward”. Alhaja Bola Olayiwola, a Labour Party candidate in the Osun State House of Assembly in 2015 wants women to be “patriotic and show some respect in their engagement”. She also wants them to pay their party dues regularly while charging women to be bold and strategic and focus on their goals, advising them to take active part in party programmes. “We need to discuss and engage the women at the grassroots who say each time they vote for the educated women, they are usually neglected after their victory”.
Mrs Olubunmi Omowunmi Ogunlola, a contestant to the House of Assembly, Ekiti state under the APC in 2015 callson the women to build on the favourable laws that have been passed by the legislature in Ekiti. “We must exploit those laws to advance our campaign. Let’s try and be involved in the issues of women around our locality and not restrict ourselves to our high walls. Let’s speak out on women issues. We appear to be too complacent unlike women in South Africa and Rwanda that have been to war. Until we learn to say no, we’ll be dancing around a motionless path”, she says.
Alluding to the enviable pace set by Senator Biodun Olujimi who has presented 13 women friendly bills since she got to the Senate and the glowing period of Professor Dora Akunyili at the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration Control (NAFDAC), Edu-Ogunlana, also a lecturer at Federal College of Education (Special), Oyo is of the view that “the success of women will inspire others”.
“Women should speak with their positions. We must work to get more quality women into political power. We need to get more representation on the basis of law or affirmation. We don’t want our husbands to think that we are going around lobbying our man friends for appointments”, she says.
Speaking in the same vein, Alhaja Mariam Ogunlana, running mate to the Labour Party candidate in the 2014 governorship election in Ekiti state, decry the prevailing situation where many women prefer to abandon their fellow women in position of authority. “When we see a woman in a position of authority, we don’t support her but we are envious. The strength that we have, we don’t use it for ourselves, we prefer to support men”, contending however that “Women who are voted into power need to share their experiences so that other women can learn from their mistakes and prowess”.
She also identified paucity of funds as a major factor inhibiting the performance of women in politics. “If you don’t have money, you can’t do well in politics. You are expected to throw away funds stupidly. If you don’t have money, you can’t do ward rounds. The electorate is very demanding. The men also believe it is their birthright. The prevalence of violence tends to scare away women. In one of the elections, they macheted one of my agents”.
Mrs Fausat Aderinlewo, APC woman leader Osun state says “we need to show love to ourselves and encourage women to vie for positions at different levels. “Women can contribute funds to support each other. We need to discard the practice where women gravitate to the men and neglect women. It’s also important that we employ the right communication style to engage people on women issues”.
But Cecilia Dada, a PDP member, Ekiti House of Assembly says she’s mobilised the women to virtually take over the leadership position of the party at her Ilejemeje local government where the men have only three positions. “We have done well, we have been able to push the women to take over control”. “We have the brain, we have the pedigree, we should ensure we mentor others. If a woman is up there, she should sponsor other women as councillors, LG chairman, or legislators either at the state or national level”, she says.
Particularly worrying for Mrs Lanre Fajuyi, a former councillor representing ward 10, Ado Ekiti under the PDP is the identity crisis weighed against married women from aspiring to positions in their husband’s places. “When I contested for councillor, they told me I was not qualified to run because I was not from Ado Ekiti. The issue was resolved by the Kabiyesi in my favour and I won. But when I tried to contest for the House of Assembly in 2015, they also used it against me and I lost”, says Fajuyi, who is a member of the House of Assembly Service Commission.
Responding to the suggestion by Mrs Oluremi Balogun, an APC stalwart in Ekiti state that only credible women candidates should be supported, Mrs Feyisayo Omotunde Fajuyi, a former special assistant on Women and Politics under the APC government of Governor Kayode Fayemi does not share what she perceived as “the obsession to support only quality women” querying “how many of the men candidates are credible?”.
“After supporting women to political office, our mission thereafter should be to ensure that they deliver to the people”, says Fajuyi, a pioneer secretary of women in ALGON, 1999 to 2003. What’s heart warming for Mrs Funke Owoseni, a member of the APC is that all the women who have been chairpersons in Ikole local government, Ekiti state have proved their mettle. “Their work have radiated like shining stars”, she quips.
Reviewing the gains of the project to empower women politicians started since 2013, CLP’s Programme Officer, Francis Onahor says “the women at least, now appreciate the need to work together and exploit their larger number to advance their interests”.