From Emmanuel Adeyemi, Lokoja
In his inaugural speech on 27 January 27, 2016, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State said his administration would focus on security, health, education, agriculture, women inclusiveness and youth empowerment.
This prompted him to appoint a female Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr Folashade Arike Ayoade.
He did a quick follow-up by appointing a policewoman, Ifeoma Akanya, a Superintendent of Police and indigene of Anambra State as his Aide de-Camp (ADC). Then came Mrs Deborah Ogunmola as the state’s first female Head of Service (HoS).
Presently, there are over 120 women in positions of authority as commissioners, special advisers, senior special assistants, personal assistants, special assistants and heads of corporations, boards and agencies.
Bello also ensured that women were elected as vice chairmen to all the 21 local government areas. Opportunities were also given to women to contest for councillorship positions with others as council leaders in their various local governments.
Mrs Justina Abanida was named to head the State Universal Basic Education Board. Mrs Deborah Osatimehin was appointed after the expiration of Abanida’d tenure. The governor in 2016 appointed the first female Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the Governor in the state, Petra Akinti Onyegbule.
Prof Mariatu Ohunene Tenuche was appointed the first female Vice Chancellor of Kogi State University, Ayingba. Kogi State College of Education (Technical), Kabba, is also headed by another female, Dr. Victoria Ajagboro.
During his presidential bid, Bello picked daughter of the late Chief Moshood Abiola, winner of the annulled 1993 presidential election, Hafsat Abiola-Costello, as director general of his campaign organisation.
A top female politician in the state, Chief Comfort Ojo (aka Iyaloja), told Daily Sun: “Indeed in the last six years, Bello has been an inspiration to us. He is a reliable leader, father, husband and succour provider. We are only praying to God to bring a kind-hearted man like him to succeed him so that the good works will continue.”
The governor’s efforts were appreciated recently when the United Nations Women commended him for ensuring the inclusiveness and greater participation of women in politics.
The UN Women Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms Comfort Lamptey, lauded him for giving opportunities to women to harness their contributions in governance particularly at the local government level:
“The governor is building an inclusive and gender-sensitive local governance system in Kogi State through the appointments of women as vice chairpersons. The governor is pushing forward the global agenda on gender equality and women’s political participation in Nigeria.”
The UN Women and expressed its willingness to partner with the state government.
The National Council of Women Societies (NCWS), recently nominated Bello as the “Most Gender Sensitive Governor in Nigeria.” The council said it is “in recognition of the purposeful and conscious efforts of
Governor Bello’s administration to place women in sensitive and strategic positions in the governance structure of Kogi State.
“The government of Alhaji Yahaya Bello has gone far beyond the 35 per cent affirmative action for women and has made Kogi State a pacesetter and a model in gender inclusiveness.”