Gbajabiamila: To make progress, Nigeria must incorporate women into politics
The Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has declared that Nigeria’s development would remain stifled unless women are given ample opportunity to freely participate in the country’s political process.
The Speaker, who admitted that culture, religion, law and political practice had hindered opportunities for women and discouraged their political participation, said it was time for women to challenge the status quo and change it so as to emerge as the formidable force that would grow the country.
Ghajabiamila stated this in Abuja, yesterday, during the Paving the Path conference organised by the House Committee on Women Affairs in partnership with ActionAid Nigeria among other civil organisations.
He said: “Nigerian women have excelled in commerce and industry, academia and the professional class, to say the least. 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. It follows, 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 called on women to not only challenge the status quo, but also to change it, stressing the need for women to take action and dismantle those obstacles of law and convention, culture and expectation that deny them full participation in the national life.
He added: “We must do this, not out of charity or magnanimity. We do it because the evidence abounds that our country is less than it can be. Our highest aspirations are out of reach and will stay there until the arenas of political power in our country accurately reflect the incredible contributions that women make to every facet of our society.”
Gbajabiamila further urged women to also identify many ways they could ‘choose to challenge and change’ and “emerge with an Action Plan that could be implemented to make this change happen, holistically, practically and sustainably.”
Also, the Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria, Ene Obi, said that as political actors were organising, “we within the women’s rights movement will not agonise but organise ourselves collectively and strategically by working with allies towards opening the space for women’s meaningful participation.”
She said ActionAid would continue to hold President Muhammadu Buhari accountable to his campaign promises of 40 per cent inclusion of women in the political space
She added: “The President must come to terms with the promise; a promise is a promise and he must come to terms with that. It is very unfortunate that in all the 36 states of the federation, only four women are deputy governors. Why is it that political parties don’t find women as deputies? We know that the process is very skewed but we can jumpstart it.”