By Ebunoluwa Sessou
In March, Womanifesto, a coalition of women groups led by Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, occupied the National Assembly and demanded immediate passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill, GEOB.
Then in April, the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the government to comply with the 35 percent affirmative action for women as demanded by the group, which allows women to occupy 35 percent of all political appointments.
Recall that in delivering the judgment, Justice Donatus Okorowo, said the Federal Government had the obligation to implement the 35 percent affirmative action, while accusing past governments of acting in breach of international treaties on women’s participation in government.
Justice Okorowo added that the National Gender Policy is not merely a policy statement, but one that must be backed.
Against this backdrop, women have been expressing their interest in politics including the lone presidential candidate during the recently concluded APC convention party primaries.
Barr. Uju Ken Ohanenye contested the presidential seat alongside 21 male presidential aspirants but later stepped down in support of a male counterpart.
According to Ohanenye, Nigeria needs a motherly figure. She said at the convention, ”I am pleading with all the delegates to know that their votes are lifesavers. We have our children and nation to think of. Let them try and vote right for the brighter future of our children”.
This singular act has generated reactions from different quarters on whether women are ready for politics or not.
For women in politics, it is critical to understand the structure, build alliances, build capacity, harness potentials, criticize the chances and environment, get more training and be mentored. These were the echoes from the just concluded Women in Politics, WIMPOL Mock Presidential Debate, Mentoring and Graduating Programme organized by Women in Management, Business and Public Service, WIMBIZ, with the theme,” Politics in Nigeria: Lessons and Perspectives”.
Participants corroborated the need for leadership training and mentorship programmes to up-skill before achieving positive results.
Wise decision — Tejuosho
A member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and former Deputy Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Adefunmilayo Tejuosho said nobody would give any woman free position ; rather, women would continue to ask for affirmative action.
Her words: “We continue to encourage more women to be in positions of authority. We should be able to come together as women to say, “No Women, No Vote”. If we do not put women in positions of authority, women will not vote. I think this affirmative action will help to bring women on board.
“Stepping down is not only a woman’s issue. I think we need to re-organize ourselves tomake sure that our grassroots are intact, that the delegates that would vote are those who will vote for women.
“When we look at the population of women in Nigeria, we have more women than men. When we look at the population of voters, we have more women than men, so wej ust need to encourage our women to come out and vote and be voted. For her to have stepped down at the primaries, I think, it was a decision she made.
“Sometimes, you have to make a wise decision especially when you observe that a particular person is more popular than you. It is better to step down and support the other person. And be part of the process so that you can make a difference in your area of expertise”, she said.
A member of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Olumide Thompson also supported the stepping down of the female candidate. “There is a reason for her to have stepped down. She went as far as becoming a presidential aspirant. At some point, you have to listen to your leaders.
Asked what this portends for women, especially at a time like this, he said, “More women need to get involved in running for offices, however, there are different aspects including community organizations, boycotting, protest, petitioning. It is only a matter of time. With more initiatives, it can be better”.
In her reaction, Executive Director, WIMBIZ, Hansatu Adegbite stated that politics is not what one can dive into, adding that there is a need to go back to the drawing board and harness all areas, build capacity and then come back and conquer.
Also, one of the mentors, Rev Juliet Binitie, an expert in women leadership and nation building said the reality is that women need to understand leadership. “They need to understand where their passion lies. The biggest problem we have in Africa is that women have not been taught leadership.
“We need to understand that leadership is not masculine, it is also feminine. For so long, women have accepted that leadership is masculine because of the leadership within the home. Home management is not the same in public space. Every woman ordained by God is called to lead. She must find her sector of leadership and that takes time with training. In order to be in the fore-front of engagement, women must understand that leadership is a human issue and women have been missing in action in many sectors all over the world because of the psyche. Whether you are married or unmarried, you are called to lead”, she said.
Another politician and a WIMBIZ WIMPOL Mentee, Dr. Angel Adelaja-Kuye, APC Ogun State, said, “We have gotten to the point where men must know that politics is not just for them. It is not dirty or dubious. I was lucky to be part of the presidential primaries of the APC. I was part ofthe accreditation committee.
“As we move forward to support women, we want what is best for our country. Agenda does not come above the good of the society. I was happy that the only woman on the presidential list of APC was able to get to the point where she stepped down. She participated as a presidential aspirant and I was happy to see that she believes in our leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
“She decided that standing behind him was a good opportunity for women. We must look at politics that it is a game of numbers. If she had not stepped down, how many votes do you think she would have gotten? Even if all women were going to vote for her, how many women were delegates?
Another WIMBIZ WIMPOL Mentee, Comrade Jimoh Saidat, APC Kogi State said women are naturally home builders and if they are opportune to serve the nation, it will be a better place.
There should be more female delegates —Azeez, Ayo Adebanjo’s daughter
Addressing the Mentees, one of the founders of WIMBIZ, Adeola Azeez, Candidate representing Ijebu Central Federal Constituency, House of Representatives, Ogun State under the Social Democratic party, SDP, said, “We are building a pipeline of ready-made women who will be ready to take the plunge in politics. Everything we do in terms of programming elevates the status of women and their contribution”.
“I want a party that would give room for women to grow and that was the best party that I found that is inclusive and I can see myself growing faster, better and contributing to the party structure.
“A woman in politics program which was initiated by WIMBIZ in 2014 was a result of the poor representation of women participating in politics, particularly from the private sector. Become active, be valuable, become grounded, have a voice. Help other women find their voice; spread the knowledge you have acquired to other women.
“Influence the uneducated women who are grounded and are the Queens in your various parties. Build influence. Have a vision that you are working towards and start at it early. Get all the help you need to fulfill this vision. Politics is not for the faint hearted; however I am confident that you can do it. If you ever decide to run for office, you need people, you need funds.
“So don’t wait, start building your structure now “Work on your personal brand. Who are you? Who do you want to be known as? But also, how do you appear? Many of us watched the just concluded APC presidential primaries. Public speaking is critical. You must command attention when you speak. Do people listen to you; take action because of what you’ve said.”
Azeez said WIMPOL seeks to serve as a platform, to bridge the gender gap in Nigerian politics by training existing and intending female politicians on the required skills, to attain leadership positions.”One of the things I have noticed in my political journey is that there are women in politics however it is certain that we are not as many as the male gender.
Secondly, the qualities of women who represent and are in the race are unfortunately below par. “There is a need for women to rise up in value and standard to this cause of transforming the political, economic and social environment and making positive impact in our dear country.
“The people we eventually vote for at the elections are selected by people who many times are not qualified to run for office. The people who end up being delegates decide to a large extent the future of the country.
“It is who they select that end up being in the final race that you and I vote for. As such, we need more women who have got the 3Cs (competence, character and capacity) to emerge.
“If we have a critical mass of educated, professional, well informed people in politics, Nigeria will not continue grappling with a system that promotes mediocrity. It is for this reason that I am glad that everyone graduating from this program today has decided to become intentional about the future of this nation,” she said.