By Bukar Bolori
Former Nigeria’s President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar has supported the ongoing call for the revisit of the gender bills rejected by the National Assembly.
Speaking at the UN Women Officially Launch of New Women’s Political Participation project and Advocates for the Gender Bills in Abuja on Thursday night, both leaders said the bills would further the development plans of Nigeria and should be supported by all and sundry.
Obasanjo, who was represented by the Iyalode of Egbaland, Chief Alaba Lawson at the occasion said Nigeria as a regional and global leader has a standard of setting role to demonstrate democracy and good governance and this must not be jettisoned.
The former president added that: “Sadly today Nigeria has the lowest representation of women in elected office in Africa, under 5 percent in national and state assemblies and this is contrary to African Union standard prescription which is 50/50 representation of women and men in political office.
“The ongoing constitutional review process is an opportunity to revisit this and remove the gender based discrimination that impede women and girls from accessing and enjoying their full rights as citizens in Nigeria.”
He insisted that the five gender amendments proposed in the constitution are very pertinent and should be supported by not only the lawmakers but all Nigerian who want the country not only to maintain it’s position as a regional and continental leader but also want development for Nigeria.
He said this bills will raise a more level playing field for women to participate in politics and public life, noting that: “Nigeria needs all hands on deck for this deep seated development challenges. Evidence confirms that increase women participation in the political sphere and leadership helps build safer and more stable society, and when women are in decision making position more inclusive and innovative decisions are made.”
Lawson said on her part she would want to add that women are not competing with men but rather want to cooperate and collaborate with men to ensure things are working well.
The Sultan of Sokoto who was represented by the Emir of Keffi, Alhaji Shehu Yamusa III said the Holy Koran granted women and girls rights and also outlaw cruel and unlawful practices against them.
He said there are verses in the Holy Koran and in the books of the Prophets that guarantee rights for women. He emphasized that in the Holy books women are seen as partners to men.
The Sultan, who is the spiritual head of Muslim in the country also noted that this partnership is above matrimonial and extend to the public sphere.
To buttress his point, he said “one of the longest chapters in the Holy Koran is dedicated to issues of women and girls”, asking “why not in Nigerian constitution?”
He said: “I am calling on members of the Senate and the House of Representatives including the general public to support the bills for they are in our interest and the interest of our country.”
Earlier in her welcome address, the UN Women Country Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms. Comfort Lamptey, said the SDG Goal 5.5 on promoting gender equality is to: “Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life”; requires Member States to ensure implementation and achievement of the set targets of this goal by the set deadline of 2030. Nigeria is signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals and UN Women as part of the United Nations stands resolutely behind Nigeria towards fulfilling the 2030 agenda.”
Lamptey noted that: “The objective of the ADVANCE project is to strengthen Nigerian women’s inclusion and representation in decision-making and public life. Building on the groundwork laid by UN Women and partners in support of legislative reforms, including the constitutional review process, the program will intensify efforts to pass gender-progressive legislation and strengthen the capacities of women aspirants, candidates, as well as women elected to political office. The project will further apply lessons learned from previous political and electoral cycles, to support effective coordination among multiple stakeholders and partners to enhance this work agenda.”
She said: “Recognizing the breadth of Nigeria as a nation and the need to ensure all women and girls are actively engaged in decision-making, particularly as we approach the 2023 elections, the project focuses on six target states: Borno, Cross River, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Kaduna, Kwara as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“The significance and timeliness of this program cannot be understated. Nigeria has a standard setting role to play as a leading democracy in Africa. This means that half of its population must have an equal voice in steering this country toward economic, political, and social stability.”
She lamented that: “As it stands, and despite the tireless efforts of women and some critical male allies, Nigeria lags severely behind other African nations for women’s representation in democratic governance. Nigerian women constitute less than 5% of elected members at the National Assembly. In State Assemblies, the figure is 4.43% and for ministerial appointments it stands at 16.2%.”
She said: “The action taken by the House of Representatives under the leadership of the Speaker of the House, to rescind its decision on three gender-related bills is the correct course of action. The bills in question are around: citizenship, indigeneship and, as it relates directly to women’s representation, the bill on affirmative action.”
Lamptey noted that: “Indeed, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Tunisia and Senegal have all adopted constitutions and other national laws that provide for equal rights and opportunities, including the Special Seats or Proportional Representation System.”