Welcome Address Delivered At The Women In Governance Summit By Otunba Dr Basirat Nahibi – Niasse, Founder/President Of WAELE/ARCELFA On October 27th 2006, At International Conference Center, Abuja
It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you to this Summit which is intended to beam the deserved searchlight on how the nation can use the immense abilities, passion, intellect and commitment of the Nigerian Woman in nation building. The organization of this summit cannot come at a better time because as we March towards the 2007 ELECTIONS it is imperative that the Nigerian Woman offers herself for Service and that the nation must encourage her to do so.
A cursory look at our current political environment shows that Nigerian women, have not been treated fairly in spite of their hard work, commitment and support for nation building. The scenario still shows the domineering role of men in positions of authority, in a country where its majority are women. The political language in Nigeria is male. The politics as it currently exist in our Nation has not been favorable to women, the agenda setting is male; even the sitting hours reflects men’s time table rather than women. In spite of women having made in-roads into traditional male domains, the question still remains, why aren’t there more women in politics? Specifically, why aren’t there elected women leaders? is there something wrong with women? The statistics of women elected into various offices from the Local Government Councils to the national level clearly shows that Nigerian Women need to be more involved in politics.
It is no longer news that many well qualified women who have indicated interest to contest for certain elective posts have experienced brutal intimidation, and often rigged out in preference to unqualified male contestants.
This is so, because more often men constitute a larger percentage of Party executive and this affects women when it comes to selecting or nominating candidates for elections. Since men are the majority in Political Party executive, they tend to dominate the Party hierarchy and therefore influence the Party’s Political direction.
Women constitute a smaller percentage of Political Party Leadership because of social, cultural and religious attitudes of different Nigerian societies which most often tend to relegate women to the background. As a result, only very few men even among the educated allow their wives to participate in Politics. Another problem facing women is lack of adequate education. Women constitute a larger percentage of illiterate groups. This could be attributed to the fact that most parents prefer to send their sons to school while closing the door of that same opportunity permanently to their daughters.
Lack of adequate finance is another crucial hindrance affecting female politicians. Large numbers of Nigerian female population is not as financially strong as their male counterparts. The issue of security is another problem militating against female political aspirants which we would want the Inspector General of police to urgently look into.
Women definitely enjoy our God given role as mothers and all we are asking for at this stage is another opportunity to mother, nurture and rear the nation as well. At this junction, we have to commend our illustrious President His Excellency, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and other state governors especially the executive governors of Ogun, Osun and Anambra States. For in our 46years as an independent nation, women have never had it so good politically. For the first time women are leading the crucial sectors of finance, education, foreign affairs, stock exchange, NAFDAC and as deputy Governors in the three (3) states listed above. All these women have performed beyond expectations; what we are therefore asking for is to be given the chance to do more.
We are yet to see a consolidation of the letter and spirit of the UN convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women which Nigeria signed and ratified on the 13th of June 1985.
We thank the Political Parties for making nomination forms free for women but they need to do more, they have to reserve at least 30% of the elective positions for women only to contest. By so doing, more women will be elected. This is what has happened in South Africa and Tanzania that is already being copied by Yobe state governor who has graciously reserved three local governments and a senatorial seat to be contested by women only in his party.
I am convinced that the future prospects of Nigerian Women in Politics are bright, if only our leaders can emulate President Obasanjo and the governor of Yobe state. Nigerian Women have proven to be more than mere bench warmers in the challenging fields of even male dominated professions, as could be buttressed by happenings in the Nigeria Medical, Engineering Associations and the Institute of Chartered Accountants which have all been led in recent times by Female Presidents.
As we move towards 2007 ELECTIONS, I will like at this stage, to use this opportunity to call on women elites, particularly the rich women among us to participate fully and actively in politics by sponsoring campaigns and supporting women aspirants rather than complaining of bad leadership after election. Nigerian women should register en-mass during the voter registration, because our registration card is our bargaining power. We also want to assure our husbands, our brothers, our fathers, that this summit is not a crusade against them but an action plan from us. We feel the pain they feel as they battle to move the nation forward and all we ask is for them to partner with us, for in us you have a caring help mate that will reduce the burden on you and in the process lift our great nation to greater height.
Women have ruled in several countries like Great Britain, Pakistan, Indonesia and India. Currently in Gambia, South Africa, Mozambique, Burundi and Zimbabwe women are Vice Presidents, while our sister Her Excellency, Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is doing a wonderful job as president of Liberia.
Great women of Nigeria, the era of clapping and dancing is over. Let us be aware that from the number one position of the President to that of the head of service, (that is: eight positions) none is a Female. Our Country as a leading light in the continent should not be left behind. The time has come and the time is now for us to have a Female President, 10 Female Governors, one Female senator from each state of the federation, 30% of Federal and State houses of assemblies and not less as local government chairmen and councilors. Wherever a Female can’t get nomination the running mate of the candidate should be a Female.
Let women be our prime constituency. Let us forge our political, cultural, ethnic and religious platforms to create meaningful synergy for the overall progress and development of our beloved fatherland. Let us harness and deploy our rich socio-political diversities in the light of our numerical strength to march together as a team towards the attainment of our noble goals and political objectives.
Finally, let us remember that united we stand, divided we fall.
On behalf of members of Women Advancement for Economic and Leadership Empowerment in Africa WAELE/ARCELFA, and all other NGOs that come together to support and organize this summit, I welcome you and wish you a fruitful deliberation.
Thank you and God Bless.