Speaker of the House of Representatives Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila has said that with the right candidates with good ideas, funding and organisation, more Nigerian women would get elected into political offices.
Gbajabiamila said, as a politician, he believes that Nigerian women could also engage in more advocacy, lobby, peaceful protests, among others to drive home their point to get into more elective positions.
In an address as a keynote speaker at a WIMPOL Dialogue organised by the Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WimBiz) on Saturday in Abuja, Gbajabiamila said he believes Nigerian women have a lot to offer in politics and governance.
“In my experience, elections are generally won on four things: candidate, ideas, funding and organisation. I believe that if we recruit more inspired candidates, fund them and provide them organisational support to effectively manage their political operations, we will get more women to participate in electoral politics.
“I have heard it said that we can achieve increased gender participation in politics by imposing quotas and allocating elective political office. We cannot on the one hand advocate for a new kind of politics dependent on respect for the basic human right of all people to choose their leaders in free and fair elections without interference and imposition, and on the other hand, argue for the imposition of quotas in elective office.
“This is a fundamentally anti-democratic idea, and the proposition collapses under the weight of its contradictions. The constitution of Nigeria, imperfect as it may be, does not impose any restrictions on women’s participation in politics. Infact, the constitution expressly prohibits any gender-based discrimination.
“Therefore, any conversations around gender quotas in political office cannot occur outside of a constitutional amendment. I worry that the peculiar history of our country is such that we are unlikely to achieve a more equitable society by amending the constitution to accommodate discriminatory practices no matter how well-meaning our motivations may be. The fault lines in our society are too deep, our unresolved conflicts are so great that the worst consequences of such attempts will arrive sooner than our best aspirations no matter how deeply held they might be.
“The bulk of the work of getting more women to participate in politics and ensuring that more of them can win electoral office will happen within the political parties in the country,” the Speaker said and encouraged women to register and belong to political parties and participate fully for their voices to be heard.
Speaker Gbajabiamila also said that he would recommend to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the All Progressive Congress (APC) the creation of a special fund for women to sponsor their political activities.
Gbajabiamila, who said he owes his participation and success in politics to his mother who stood doggedly for him, added that Nigerian women should also strive towards addressing the issue of cultural impediments that tend to discriminate against them.
“I will at the next National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the political party to which I belong, the All Progressives Congress (APC), propose the creation of a special Women’s Victory Fund to support efforts to recruit more women who will contest elections on the platform of the party. The Victory Fund will allow the party, independent of its other activities, to engage with organisations such as WIMBIZ to identify willing and capable women from all works of life to contest for elections at all levels of governance.
“Through this fund, we will provide them with training, support services and assistance with the enormous funding requirements of electoral contests. This fund will be credited from a percentage of the income from the sale of nomination and expression of interest forms by the party. I encourage leaders of the other national political parties to consider and implement similar proposals.
“In Nigeria, we contend with a culture that has created, and too often continues to encourage and tolerate practices that disenfranchise our women, limit educational and economic opportunities available to them and restrict their ability to reach their highest potential. And it is here, that any and all successful efforts at reform must begin because our present circumstances are not a function of statutory obstacles for women who wish to participate in politics or the absence of laws that protect your interest in this regard.”
He said the 9th House has made gender equality a cardinal point of its legislative agenda, which was unveiled on Friday, adding that he would personally champion the course of women in the House, including spearheading constitutional amendment.
“My participation in politics is a legacy of my mother and I owe my achievements in this arena to her. Now, I am a father of daughters for whom I hold the highest ambitions. At the end of my career in politics, it is my hope that I would have contributed constructively to the achievement of a society where my daughters and all our daughters can live up to their highest aspirations, freed from discrimination on the basis of their gender, and protected from the worst consequences of our patriarchal society.”