Women politicians drawn from the three dominant parties in Ekiti and Osun states have called for greater intra party democracy to facilitate more participation of women. Rising from a one-day gathering in Ado Ekiti under the aegis of Community Life Project (CLP) and geared towards increasing women’s representation in political offices, they demanded for more representation both at the level of government and the party structure.
Although they noted that there has been more women representation since they started their push in 2013 and that “party leaders have become less hostile” to their angling, the politicians drawn from the All Progressive Congress (APC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party (LP), say women need to “persevere and push harder in order to increase their reach”.
Organised by CLP with support from Ford Foundation, the gathering also called for more collaboration and advocacy by women to ensure the passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill initiated by Senator Biodun Olujimi, a former deputy governor, Ekiti state.
The bill, which has already scaled the first and second reading in the Senate is aimed at eliminating all forms of discrimination against women and provides the girl-child access to education, right to freedom and right against sexual abuse. It will also promote freedom for women to participate in any economic activity as well as guarantee equal opportunity for all Nigerian citizens irrespective of gender
Mrs Cecilia Ebiesowa, PDP woman leader in Ekiti state says, “When we started, it was like some child’s play. In 2011, the political terrain was dirty, rough and nasty but today, we bless God, we’ve been fortunate and lucky. “In our state, we now have many female councillors, one woman local government chairman and two women senators. We’ve never had it so good. We are grateful to the Almighty God for what we’ve done. That affirmative action of 35 percent representation, we’ll get there”, she says.
Speaking in the same vein, Alhaja Bola Olayiwola, Labour Party woman leader, Ekiti state says, “To God be the glory, we now have women everywhere, we’ll continue to push for more”. This view is shared by Mrs Mary Anjorin, PDP woman leader, Osun state who reel that in the past, “we had only woman leader but today we have women everywhere”. According to her, “We hope we’ll have more representation by next year. By the time we start our congresses, things will be better”.
Mrs Omowunmi Otunla, former PDP woman leader, Osun state says, “We need your prayers in Osun state. Women in politics have been interacting and we’ll definitely make significant mark”. Their minds now seem to focus on Osun State House of Assembly, where there’s currently no woman member. “How can we not be represented in a vital organ that make laws that govern our lives?”, Otunla queries.
Alhaja Agbeke Kudirat Nofiu, deputy chairman LP in Osun state says, “We just have to keep pushing if we want results. We cannot give up our struggle”. Mrs Anrike Samuel, one of the special assistants appointed by the APC government of Governor Rauf Aregbesola in Osun state says, “I’m a living witness of SA, we thank God for the life of the organisers of this programme”.
While appraising the achievements in Ekiti, Dr Romoke Edu Ogunlana, Labour Party deputy chairman, west, Osun state says, “I’m so happy for the testimonies in Ekiti. We ask for the grace of God also in Osun. We’ll persevere and keep pushing”. Ogunlana however want women to be economically empowered for them to be able to make significant impact in politics.
Alluding to the calibre of women who were elected senators in Ekiti, she says, “The calibre of women senators in Ekiti are not people anyone can push around. Economic force is therefore very important. We have to get women economically empowered”. She also called for legal support for women who are harassed and molested in the cause of electioneering.
Narrating her awry ordeal when she ran for Senate in 2015, Ogunlana says, “When I contested in 2015, I was molested and harassed, my car was burnt. I took the matter to court but when it was time to give judgment, a nolle prosequi was entered by the Attorney General and that was the end of the matter”.
But Mrs Folashade Faparusi Akinrinmola, chairman, Gbonyin LG in Ekiti state does not believe the strides in Ekiti is as a result of “women supporting women or that we have done the needful” but more because “we have a woman friendly governor”. “We really need to go and educate women at the grassroots if we are serious about increasing women representation. Let’s go to the grassroots, it’s not going to be easy with those men”, she says
Arguing further that “women are their own worst enemies”, Akinrinmola says, “Our fellow women will be the one challenging you and asking you whether you are the only one”. Citing the case of a woman she once helped into political office, she says, “I once helped a woman to become vice chairman of the local government but by the time the chairman toasted her, she turned against me”.
In her response, Executive Director, CLP, Mrs Ngozi Iwere asked the women not to be undaunted in their struggle. “It’s a long drawn struggle in which we must persevere in order to make some strides”. “Don’t forget we are dealing with a largely patriarchal society where the power relationship does not favour women. We know the opportunities are very few but we cannot give up. But we need to prepare ourselves”.
Narrating the struggles of women over the years in which some of the leaders were harassed, suffered great deprivations and even death, Iwere quips: “Don’t also forget that some women made a lot of sacrifices for women to be educated and participate in elections through the universal adult suffrage”.
“When we say men have power, it’s because they fight as a collective. Talking alone cannot do it, we need to mobilise our women to work in harmony. Let’s also learn to pool our resources together in order to make significant impact. We need to push for the 35 per cent affirmative action to be domesticated in Nigeria. Let’s try and push and leverage on it in order to get more appointive and elected positions”, she says.
Ahead of the 2015 elections, CLP started a two-year project in 2013 that was aimed at increasing the participation of women in party politics in Ekiti and Osun States. The objective was also to build a coalition and pressure group of women politicians across party lines and to advocate for affirmative action for women to be better represented in party leadership positions, party congresses and elections
The review of the project at the end shows a tremendous achievement and improvement in women participation in politics in both states. Feedback gathered from the State women leaders of three of the major political parties (All Progressive Congress (APC), Labour Party (LP) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP)) indicate that more space were created for women.
In Ekiti, the number of women holding leadership positions within the party structures went from 407 to 949 out of 8,409 positions and from 533 to 2,173 out of 25,985 positions in Osun in the three major political parties. There was also increase in the number of women contestants for party positions. Data sourced from the women political leaders showed that 1,244 women delegates attended party congresses for the 2015 Elections. At the local government level, we now have a woman who contested and won the chairmanship position in Ekiti state
Before the 2015 elections, Ekiti had 28 women in political offices out of 168 elected and appointed public officers. This number has jumped to 49 women in 2015. Previously, Ekiti had no women representatives at the national level; now, Ekiti can boast of 2 women senators out of 3 senators in the state.
Osun also has 10 women in elected offices while appointments into various political offices are still being awaited.
During the 2015 Elections, 36 women from both states contested for National Legislative offices: 11 women out of 42 candidates ran for the Senate while 25 women out of 92 candidates ran for the Federal House of Representatives. A total of 109 women also contested for the State Houses of Assembly Elections in Ekiti and Osun States.