Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker, House of Representatives, has said there is a need to pave the path for a more equal, safer and more inclusive Nigeria where women can optimally and effectively contribute their own quota to leadership at every level.
Gbajabiamila, in his remarks on Thursday 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, organized by the House Committee on Women’s Affairs in collaboration with ElectHER, National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), with support from the Office of the Speaker, Foreign Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO), Global Affairs Canada, USAID, and UN Women, charged women to come out to seek political offices as power is never served a la carte.
He said: “We have gathered here to start paving the path towards ensuring that our society is more equal; that our women and girls can play their rightful role in decision-making in any level of political leadership they aspire to in our country; and they can do so, without the fear of violence, intimidation or discrimination on the basis of their gender.
“We are here to pave the path for a more equal, safer and more inclusive Nigeria where women can optimally and effectively contribute their own quota to leadership at every level in this great nation. We are paving the path to creating a more inclusive Nigeria, the Nigeria of our dreams.
“The greatness of this country will remain stifled and stunted until we jointly pave the path for women, as we have gathered here to do today. It may be a journey of a thousand miles, but I am delighted and honoured to be a part of these critical first steps that we are taking together, here today.”
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 the 2023 general elections have commenced.
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 strong 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.”
“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.”