By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja
Former Minister of Women Affairs, Iyom Josephine Anenih, has urged young women to mobilise and make it tough for old men to continue dominating party politics in the country.
She stated this during her virtual presentation at a town hall meeting organised in Abuja by Dinidari Foundation in partnership with the Heinrich Boll Stiftung, with the theme: “From the Streets to the Parliament: Empowering Women’s Political Power in Nigeria.”
Anenih, who was the National Women Leader of the People’s Democratic Party between 1999 and 2005, claimed that political parties had been insincere about women’s participation in politics.
According to the ex-Minister, politicians of her generation paid lip service to create a level playing field for women to be involved in party affairs, but the youths can change the fortunes of the country by taking over leadership positions within political parties and the government.
Many people have lamented Nigeria’s failure to achieve the 35 percent affirmative action for women’s participation in governance as only 12 women won seats into the 360-member House of Representatives, seven women into the 109-member Senate, and four females elected as deputy governors in the 2019 general elections.
Responding to a question by a youth during the town hall meeting, Anenih said, “I have always told young women: ‘You have got to be a rebel, you cannot succeed, if you are not a rebel in politics. You have to rebel against the situation. Fight them (old male politicians) and you will make it.’
“We should not deceive ourselves and think that the men would willingly yield political power to women. It has been a struggle and we have been struggling”
Iyom Anenih also said if women would be mainstreamed into politics, the political parties must be restructured.
She highlighted some of the reasons for the low participation of women in politics to include gender-based violence, lack of sponsorship, and heavy financial requirements.
She said, “Our political parties have tried on paper and in their lips to empower women and give them a level playing field. But in reality, it does not happen.
“If women must get this political power we are talking about, we need a restructuring of the parties. The political parties have been, and are male-dominated. The hierarchy is also done so.”
Speaking also, the National Women Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Hon. Stella Okotete said the party has developed strategies to mainstream young women into national politics.
According to Okotete, the APC national caretaker committee has approved more leadership positions in the party for women.
She said, “It is possible to have a woman as the National Chairman of the ruling party, because, at the party level, we are working to ensure we have more women, in fact, above the 35 percent affirmative action, in leadership positions.
“We are working with critical stakeholders across the states. We have set up a lobby group of women who are going round to meet the state governments, critical stakeholders, and party faithful to canvass for more women to participate in party politics.
“The APC Caretaker Committee has also approved that, going forward, we would have more women occupy more positions beyond the post of ‘National Women Leader’.”
Ms. Okotete also revealed that the APC women’s wing has moved into campuses to recruit young female activists as participants in the political processes of the party.
While acknowledging that lack of money was a problem for females seeking to succeed in politics, she called on women to show solidarity to one another as a way of overcoming the challenge.
“Without money, women cannot actually have a fair space in the political scene, but going forward, we need to change the narrative. Women have to come out and support women. We have been saying that, but beyond talking, what are we doing as women to actualise what we have said; backing it with action. The only way we can back it up with action is to gather ourselves, lobby the men, because like it or leave it, we are all critical stakeholders in governance and national politics,” Okotete said.
Other speakers at the event include Hauwa Shekarau, the first female chairperson of the Nigerian Bar Association (Abuja), Ayisha Osori, the Executive Director, Open Society Initiative West Africa, and Rinu Oduala, a young activist who played an essential role in the recent #EndSARS protests.
They also discussed how the leadership roles women occupy in the civic and business spaces can translate into more political capital as well as how a value reorientation can be brought about to weave gender equality into the basic fabrics of Nigerian society.