Setting Agenda: Nigerian Women Desire A More Inclusive Government
IT is only natural that Nigerians generally would have some expectations, wishes and hopes, which the incoming administration of Muhammadu Buhari is expected to address. The Nigerian women are also not left out, as they join in the call for all embracing and inclusive programmes and policies that are capable of turning the fortunes of the country around. While acknowledging the remarkable efforts of the Jonathan administration in appointing more women to key positions, they urge the new government to take this even further.
‘President Jonathan Tried, But More Still Needs To Be Done’
Mrs. Marcella Iyitor
CEO, Niche PR
WHEN you do agenda setting for an incoming administration in our political environment, you are simply looking at good governance in the fundamental sense. Under this, we can accommodate the no less important issue of women inclusion. So, looking at the big picture, the challenge for all societies is to create a system of governance that promotes, supports and sustains human development. Good governance, which involves a web of networks, including public and private sectors, institutions, organisations and individual actors, essentially influences the development journey. Good governance can also be seen as the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a state’s affairs at all levels.
Moving forward, inclusive good governance requires that women be key participants in this journey. Women bring a unique perspective, authority and leadership to governance and this is demonstrable in many progressive countries today. Societies that aspire to greatness can simply not navigate otherwise. This perspective has also guided my trajectory and driven the successes I have recorded as the CEO and managing director of two successful companies.
Given the deluge of governance challenges that confronted the out-going President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, one can say he tried his best. History will remember him most for presiding over a transparent presidential election and graciously conceding defeat. Some have argued with considerable merit that this should put him in contention for the Mo Ibrahim Leadership prize in the continent.
As to how his administration impacted women’s welfare socially and economically, a stressed socio-economic environment does not discriminate between men and women, but affects all. But because of women’s peculiar psychological needs as homemakers, they tend to come off worse. It, however, must be noted that certain specific programmes of Jonathan’s tenure addressed women issues.
Using statistics, it could be said that Jonathan’s tenure had the most women participation in the nation’s political history. I am talking about participation from direct cabinet appointments to the number of women in the national and state parliaments, military, sensitive government parastatals and others.
The biggest room, as it is commonly said, is the room for improvement. The central mantra of the incoming administration of His Excellency, General Muhammadu Buhari is “Change.” To give justifiable meaning to this flagship tune, his tenure will need to step up on women inclusion in governance. In the news recently, women are for the first time becoming fighter pilots in some Arab countries. The message here is simply that the world is moving on. The unique energy and society-building resources of women must be exploited and brought to bear in changing society. Nigeria must not be different. From the arena of anti-corruption war, education, economic planning, security, health and more, the space for women participation should be widened.
‘Empowerment Is Answer To Vulnerability In Women And Children’
Mrs. Abosede Oyeleye
Executive Director, Children Emergency Relief Foundation (CERF)
FRANKLY speaking, a lot of people, including myself, are on the lookout for the response of the incoming administration of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd.) to the plight of women and the opportunities that will be given to them.
President Jonathan’s administration should be given kudos for the opportunities afforded women. With a cabinet made up of 32 per cent women, that administration should be commended. And the women were not just given the opportunities for statistics sake, but they were appointed to sensitive posts, which portrayed having a lot of confidence in the Nigerian woman’s ability. A lot of firsts among the women folks were recorded. These included first female chief Judge, first female Petroleum minister and the first woman chief judge of the apex court in Nigeria among others.
I expect that the incoming administration will not only measure up, but also surpass this by trying to meet the 35 per cent affirmative action of the African Charter protocol. The Nigerian woman should not be judged by her sex, but rather by her ability. Female representation at the legislative arm of government, which is about six per cent, is still too low compared to her male counterpart. My belief is that with time, this will also improve.
To my fellow women in whom a lot of confidence is being reposed, by being given elevated platform to administer, they must prove their worth by all means and not give excuses.
The issue of the Chibok girls and kidnapped women remains a stigma to the present administration. The incoming administration has a duty to rise up to the protection of our children and women. I believe that a lot can still be done to rescue those in captivity.
I am especially concerned about women empowerment. This is still low where it is most needed in the rural areas and where low-income earners abound. Empowerment is still the answer to vulnerability. It is the single key that shuts out vulnerability in children, women and the family as a whole. When women are empowered, the effect is felt immediately in the family and is far-reaching. The nation needs to put in greater support for its vulnerable women and children beyond lips service.
‘We Want To See More Female Participation In Governance’
Mrs. Obioma Agoziem
Executive Director, Centre for Correction and Human Development (CCHD)
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan’s administration visibly expressed reasonable commitment to the welfare and economic wellbeing of women than anybody else in previous governments. Nobody can deny the wind of affirmative expression blowing across the world, lending credence to the fact that women have come of age and possess all the required qualities for administrating an organised society, whether corporate or public. Following the 1995 Beijing Declaration, a platform for Action adopted by 189 countries and to which Nigeria was signatory, the wind of change has continued to blow across the globe.
The executive arm of the civilian administration under former president Olusegun Obasanjo began to show some interest in encouraging women in this regard. That administration fished out such worthy technocrats as Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili and Prof. Dora Akunyili (God bless her soul) among others and the testimonials are there that they did not disappoint.
In Nigeria and indeed several other African, Asian and Arab countries, women are seen as mere adjunct to the men, whose role is confined to tending homes and looking after the children. They are meant to play little or no role in the administration of state affairs. They have always been treated as inferior to the men and generally seen as secondary, their professional competencies notwithstanding.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration has actually pushed up the position of women somewhat towards the recommended level of participation in government, but that is only from the angle of the Executive. The elective and legislative offices have not been so positively impacted, however. Available records show that out of the 42 ministers in his administration, 13 are women. There are also only four women out of the 18 advisers, which is about 34 per cent.
These appointments can easily be seen as having raised the bar and a paradigm shift towards attaining the mark. He allowed women to oversee some critical ministries such as Finance, Petroleum, Aviation and Education among others. Although there are slips here and there, but the thrust seems encouraging.
In the area of business, his administration introduced the Women Fund for Economic Empowerment and Business Development Fund, as well as establishing Skills Acquisition Centres all over the country. The political terrain is too strong and tough and needs a lot of money. Perhaps that accounts for the low turnout of women participants, given their weak financial capacity, which has been foisted by both the society and the multi-tasking nature of their responsibilities.
I think Jonathan’s administration has been able to notch up to the 35 per cent Affirmative Action. His gender policy has resulted in an increase in women’s representation in government. From 10 per cent representation of women in 2011 to 33 percent in 2013, and now even above the 35 percent mark, his administration seems to have a clear pass mark although more needs to be done.
In a recently published research, it was discovered that out of the 188 countries studied, Nigeria is 23rd in terms of mobilising women, appointment into positions, participation in governance and women empowerment. So, I think his government delivered satisfactorily the 35 percent Affirmative Action. It should, however, be noted that this positive move is not equally visible in the states of the federation, as they are they still largely dominated by men.
It is hoped that with the political trust fund established to support women aspiring to participate in general election and the creation of data base of women political aspirant will increase women’s participation in elective offices. This can happen only if the proper level playing ground is provided and the funds are allowed to get to the genuinely aspiring women.
The incoming administration both at the centre and the states should key into the current tide and move it even further. The federal Government under General Muhammadu Buhari should strengthen the political trust fund to enable more women to actively participate in elective offices at all levels. Having noted that women have greater propensity for transparent and effective performance, he should have confidence that they will not fail. More women should be encouraged or at least not be discouraged through the unbearable financial demands of our political environment. They should also be supported both financially and morally. Politics in Nigeria is a very expensive venture accessible to just a few women with the financial muscle.
Women are more prudent, multifaceted and purpose driven in nature, and so should be encouraged to put these qualities to use. May be it could just be a woman that will eventually turn things around in this country. They should, therefore, be given a chance. The incoming government should place more emphasis on the rural women, create different avenues to support them and relax policies for working mothers, especially nursing mothers. It can really be challenging.
“Nothing Short Of 50 Per Cent Representation At All Levels”
Corporate wellness coach and spa director, Venivici Health Club
I AM very happy that Nigerian women came out en-masse for the last election. Not minding the harsh weather, they turned up in large number to register their vote. So, now is the time to encourage them by lending ear to their agitations and grievances. Women have shown commitment, ability and that they’ve got what it takes to lead. Therefore, they should be given a better deal than ever before, as they have shown that they are interested in good governance. Nigerian women want change. They want progress. Progress and change in the new dispensation cannot be discussed without taking into cognisance where Nigerian women are coming from. For a long time in our nation’s history, Nigerian women have been marginalised and kept behind the scene. They have been discriminated against and prevented from taking centre stage.
The first administration to ever give Nigerian women some chance was under former President Obasanjo. President Jonathan came and surpassed what Obasanjo did by giving women about 35 per cent representation in elective positions. What Nigerian women want from President Buhari is bigger than what they had under the two previous administrations before his.
We want nothing short of a 50 per cent representation from the incoming government. This means 50 per cent representation at all levels of our national life. Nigerian women want a level playing field in every key sector. They want a responsible and responsive government that will listen to their demands and grant their expectations. Women want a fair representation in all the issues that concerns them. They want to be heard in all the issues that concern them rather than letting others represent them wrongly. Nigerian women want good education for their children. They want improved and constant power supply so that businesses can boom and life will progress naturally. We want good roads. We want this government to meet the yearnings and aspirations of health workers and teachers both at the primary and tertiary levels.
There is also the issue of security. Nigerian women want protection from robbers and their children protected from kidnappers and Boko Haram. We desire that Nigerian workers get a better deal and not be exploited, as is the case now. We want to be able to realise our dreams and aspirations without any hindrance. Above all, we want peace to reign in Nigeria.
Today’s world is changing and favouring greater women representation. Nigerian cannot afford to be different. So, the new president should know that governance is not about him alone. Rather, it’s about the people because democracy under which he’ll be operating is for the people. Nigerian women are at the point, where nothing short of 50 per cent representation will be deemed worthless. But in the case we are not able to get that 50 per cent then, we shouldn’t get less than the 35 per cent, which is where we are coming from.
Because women are more enlightened and aware of their rights and privileges, I don’t see them settling for less.
‘We Are Watching To See If Buhari Is A Promise Keeper’
CEO of JessylsCharm Nigeria Limited,
THE world and Nigerian women are watching to see the kind of president that Gen. Buhari will be. Nigerian women are waiting to see whether the president-elect is a promise keeper or not. We are asking him to keep his promise to us, if APC wishes to continue enjoying the support of Nigerian women. What we want is for the incoming president to uplift the living standard of Nigerian women.
President Jonathan kept his promise, as he delivered on all the promises he made to Nigerian women. Given the fact that women had a good deal during President Jonathan’s administration, they would not settle for less since things should be getting better and not retrogress. During the last four years, so much was achieved on women development. President Jonathan empowered and identified with the women. And they all performed credibly.
In the last election, a lot of women came out to vote and what we have seen so far outweighs our expectations. We are not expecting anything less than what obtained in the last few years, which was why the women turned out in large number the way they did.
Many things changed when Dame Patience Jonathan took the center stage, as the First Lady, by championing a crusade for a better deal for Nigerian women. Today, Nigerian women are celebrating the 35 per cent affirmative action, as notable representatives from their rank presently occupy offices regarded in the past as the exclusive preserve of men. And this is why we are insisting on an even better deal than what we have now. What women want is support to enable to us realise our God-given potentials and life goals.
What Nigerian women actually want is 50 per cent affirmative in appointive positions. And if we cannot get precisely that, then we should be able to get a better deal than what obtained under President Jonathan, given APC’s gender friendly stance. Nigerian women want the president to be committed in the fight against insurgency and corruption. We want him to free communities in the North- eastern part of Nigeria from Boko Haram activities. We also want him to empower women in every way possible and to lend an ear to our cries. We want employment for our young graduates. We also want him to fight corruption to a stand still. Above all, the women want him to guarantee freedom of worship, regardless of one’s religion without fear or intimidation. This will go a long way to make Nigerians know that they did not vote in error.
‘Restore Our Dignity As Nigerian Women’
Group CEO, Poise Nigeria
AS we stand at this cross road of history, the eyes of the world are once again upon us. Nigeria women are watching to see what the President elect, Rtd. Gen. Mohammed Buhari will do with this opportunity given him to steer the nation on the right path. We truly desire genuine change from the rot we are presently in. His being elected the president is a great privilege, so he should use it judiciously for his name to written in gold. For in our hands lies the ability to shape our country for the good of all.
The President-elect also recognises the fact that he is at the “crossroads of and the “tremendous burden” placed on him. It is an awesome responsibility that he must strive to execute to the best of his ability. To be able to evaluate President Buhari’s ability to lead, we must first examine the rhetoric of presidential expectations, which I argue has grown more heroic in character since the return to democracy in 1999.
As a Nigerian woman, I would like to commend the previous administration for breaking the record and appointing more women in positions of authority than any other government. This is good, but I dare say it is not good enough. If as statistics has said women constitute about 60 per cent of the population of Nigeria, it only stands to reason that they should be given more recognition in government. That women are not enjoying this right is not for lack of sound education, exposure or knowledge.
Indeed, Nigerian women have been applauded as being more hardworking and conscientious than their male counterparts. What has eluded women is the opportunity occasioned by sociocultural colorations of the decision makers, and even the women themselves. A major expectation of women, therefore, will be to see more women holding political offices in the incoming administration. Nigerian women have what can be regarded as healthy and robust expectations from the president-elect. We expect him to combine many roles together to achieve the best result. He should act as the Chief Administrator, Chief Diplomat, Chief Legislator, Chief Magistrate, Commander in Chief, Chief Executive, Manager of the Economy, Party Leader and National Leader all at the same time and much more than the Nigerian Constitution prescribes.
Up till now, nothing has been said about the missing Chibok girls. We expect President Buhari, as a matter of urgency, to restore sanity to the country. He should bring back the girls, not minding the state they may be in and restore the dignity of Nigeria in the comity of nations. We expect him to use both his political and military might to put an end to terrorism, including Boko Haram and such other pockets of insurgents and terrorist attacks across the country.
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, so they say. It won’t be easy because the problems have been accumulating over the years and so cannot be solved overnight, but he should just do his best and place the country back on the right track. Some urgent issues we would like him to address urgently are:
Corruption, which is on a very high scale.
Collapse of government institutions
Building of a National Identity devoid of tribalism, ethnicity and party cleavages among others.
Job creation and diversification of the economy.
Others include reduction in crime rate, restoration of quality education and social values.
The job is indeed arduous, but it can be done with sincerity of purpose and determination. There is a huge gap between expectations and the president’s capacity to deliver. Nonetheless, he should just try to deliver and enable Nigerians enjoy the dividends of democracy.
Indeed, our expectations bear little relationship either to the constitutional limits on the President or to his abilities to fulfil such expectations. In a way, these constitute a burden to the president, but this will be turned to admiration if he is able execute the task placed on him by his office. He will be expected to control every facet of the political and economic sectors and he must do so regardless of the situation and the circumstances prevailing in the country.
Just as Richard Neustadt famously demonstrated that presidential power lies in a chief executive’s persuasive abilities rather than in any positive legal tool, President Buhari’s ability to influence the change of action will determine the extent of his success in office. A purposeful and vital democracy must rest on a belief in the potency of choice; on the conviction that individual decisions do affect the course of events.
In Schlesinger view of Presidential greatness, the great president is a hero, who protects human freedom and democracy by changing the course of history. These are not small expectations to be sure. One might wonder how much influence polls of Presidential greatness might really have in constituting the public’s expectation of the presidency. After all, how many Nigerians read these polls and how much weight do citizens and political class give to the musings of our historical past?
It is certainly a difficult question to answer with any certainty, but I argue that by providing a consistent standard by which to judge presidential “greatness” those polls helped to constitute, if not the Presidency, then at least expectations about the Presidency. President Buhari should also know this:
People identify with a president in a way they do no other public figure. Potential presidents are measured against an ideal that’s a combination of leading man, God, father, hero, king with maybe just a touch of the avenging furies thrown in. They want him to be larger than life, a living legend and yet quintessentially human— someone to be held up to their children as a model and someone to be cherished by members of the community. Reverence goes where power is.