Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said there is need to pave the path for a more equal, safer and inclusive Nigeria where women can optimally and effectively contribute their own quota to leadership at every level. Gbajabiamila, in his remarks yesterday at an intergenerational consultative and strategic dialogue titled, “Paving the Path: Forum for Women’s Participation in Political Leadership in Nigeria; Past, Present and Future, organised by the House Committee on Women’s Affairs in collaboration. She is doing it at the ElectHER, National Institute for Legislative & Democratic Studies (NILDS), with support from the Office of the Speaker, Foreign Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO), Global Affairs Canada, USAID, and UN Women, who charged women to come out to seek political offices as power is never served a la carte, said.”
The Speaker said in communities across the country, Nigerian women have excelled in commerce and industry, academia, and the professional class, to say the least, but added that quite unfortunately, this excellence has not had ample space to manifest in politics, political organisations; nor in the numbers of women who hold and exercise political authority in Nigeria’s three levels of government.” He said it followed therefore, that this is not a women’s problem; “it is a Nigerian problem. It is a problem of a system of culture and religion, of law and political practice, that together, hinder political opportunities for women, discouraging political participation, and excluding important voices from the critical conversations about our nationhood and its future.”
He lamented that the reality of women not participating actively in the political life of the country is that we have been made poorer, insisting that this situation will not change of its own accord as It is up to us to understand why things are as they are; identify strategies to construct a different paradigm, and implement these strategies with vigour, skill, and utmost dedication but we should know that our future depends on it. Also speaking the Country Director of ActionAid Nigeria, Ene Obi said while it can be argued that Nigeria has made progress towards opening the space for women’s participation, but the progress has been incredibly slow. She said the time to truly move the needle is overdue as we can no longer be waiting for tokenistic opportunities. She said it was the right time to answer the critical question of how to shift the needle and open the space for women to participate and contribute to nation building through democratic and elected spaces. Hushed noted that the offices of the Speaker and the House Committee on Women are placed to drive this agenda even as we know that actions towards 2023 general elections have commenced.
In her keynote address, Prof. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo of the Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria and a former United Nations Special Rapporteur in her presentation titled: “Women in Governance and Political Leadership in Nigeria: A Turbulent Journey that needs Paving a new path by Legislative and other Actions,” said despite the suggestions that colonial rule undermined women’s status in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa, she is strongly of the view that we cannot blame the colonialist for all our woes. She said: “Undoubtedly issues bordering on human rights of women are amongst the most topical and contentious in today’s global discourses.” Ezeilo said: “The human rights of women and of the girl-child are an inalienable, integral, and indivisible part of the universal human rights. The full and equal participation of women in political, civil, economic, social and cultural life, at the national, regional and international levels, and the eradication of all forms of discrimination on grounds of sex are priority objectives of the international community.”