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Nigeria’s ruling party: Gender disparity still a big question

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Aisha Buhari

By Ebun Sessou

The recently-concluded national convention of the All Progressives Congress, APC, held at the Eagles Square in Abuja, had 21 members of the National Working Committee, NWC, and 32 non-members of the National Working Committee elected, making a total number of 53 members of the executives of the APC .

Surprisingly, only two positions were allotted to women. The National Woman Leader among the members of the NWC and Deputy National Woman leader among the non-members of the NWC; while the remaining 51 positions were allotted to men.

This gender disparity kicks against the United Nations report of the fourth world conference on women which took place in September 4-15, 1995 in Beijing.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to take part in the government of his/her country.

According to the report, the power relations that prevent women from leading fulfilling lives operate at many levels of society, from the most personal to the highly public. The report also reads that, “Women’s equal participation in decision-making is not only a demand for simple justice or democracy but can also be seen as a necessary condition for women’s interests to be taken into account.

“Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspectives at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved.

Unfortunately, APC that preached gender parity in its manifesto has not lived up to its promises.

Against this background, WO engaged some politicians to have their thought on the issue. Speaking on this issue in a phone interview, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi said that if the positions the women contested for were only what they (women) wanted, there is nothing the party could do about it.

According to him, the positions were elective positions and those women that showed interest took the form and contested. They were elective positions, people collected forms, they went through screening and were voted for.

Asked, if other positions were meant for men, he said, in the APC constitution, there is no position restricted to men or women. He added that aside the position of women leader and its deputy, there is no other position that is restricted to any gender.

Meanwhile, the National Secretary, Gender Balance and Youth Development, Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party, ANRP, Mrs Christiana Ojo, said that in this era when people are clamouring for women participation in politics, it is pathetic that the ruling party, APC, is still into gender disparity.

According to her: “The given criteria is 30/33 per cent of women but right now, we are advocating for 50:50 per cent participation and if the ruling party is giving a representation of 3 per cent participation to women, it is quite low and it is not good enough.

“It is not echoing the voice of women nationally and worldwide. Women should be given enabling environment to get involved and if all the positions are only women leader and deputy, it is not good enough.

“Women are being shortchanged. Women are marginalised economically, socially and culturally. We are always at a disadvantage due to socio-cultural basement. But, if a party or an organisation decides to work deliberately towards achieving something, they can achieve it.

“The first thing is to give enabling environment to women, and one of the ways to encourage them is by inclusion. If women were deliberately included in the decision-making, they will come forward and participate”, she explained.

Ojo noted that over time, the body language has been discrimination against women. It is expected that the women keep quiet while the men do the talking. “Aside the fact that we are economically, socially and culturally marginalised, the organisation does not encourage women participation,” she said.

Also, the National Chairman, Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party, ANRP, Mr. Tope Fashua, in his reaction said his party’s national working committee comprises 27 members out of which seven are women.

His words: “Our thought was that APC as a ruling party would improve on its gender parity. But, the moment President Buhari came on board, we saw an anti-female and anti-youth movement, so, within his government, only a few women managed to be brought on board, the same with the Senate and House of Representatives.

“One would have thought that APC would be able to redeem itself but it was all disappointment. If after the national convention, the party could produce such a gap of women participation in politics, it is pathetic,” he said.

He then advised that Nigerian women and youths should start a movement for gender parity and bring out a better party that could champion the cause of women.

On the contrary, Mr. Tunde Braimoh, chairman, House Committee on Information, Security and Strategy, Lagos State House of Assembly, argued that women are not coming out as expected to take part in the political sphere of the country.

His words: “I think, it is important that more women come into politics and that is the starting point. If there are more women in politics, they will be given fair share especially the young ones.

“APC as a party takes care of women more than men. Women only pay for special interest form which is N10,000 while men pay a fortune starting from N500,000 and above. Women are encouraged to come on board freely.

“In the Lagos State Council, there are more women in the state executive council of the party”, he said.

On the aftermath of the national convention, Braimoh said women contested some of the positions and won. “I believe the positions were appropriate for women. The positions were keenly contested and if people are not interested in other positions, I do not think they should be forced.

“Those positions are not financially remunerated and so, you do not force anyone to do what she does not want to do.

He then advised women to show interest in the decision- making of the party. According to him, “Interest is very important in politics and anyone who wants to contest relevant positions should consider all the intrigues before contesting. I would not want us to politicise the issue.

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