By Chinelo Obogo
Women in the All Progressives Congress (APC) have demanded that Local, State and Federal Government implement policies that would ensure women occupy at least 30 percent of elective positions.
The demand was made at a consultative forum held in Lagos on Thursday, with theme: “Inclusion of APC Women in Elective Positions in Lagos State” convened by the women’s leader of the Lagos State chapter of the party, Jumoke Okoya-Thomas.
One of the speakers at the forum, former deputy governor of the state, Dr. Idiat Adebule, in her opening remarks at the forum, tasked women to make themselves available for elective positions.
While extolling the unique managerial skills of women, she said, “The purpose of our gathering is to see how we can come together for the benefit of women not only in Lagos but across Nigeria. Our inclusion in leadership and elective positions is what we must work towards and demand for.
“I carefully chose these words because when we talk of leadership, women are there. The ability to manage is inbuilt in us. Nobody will call us for a leadership or elective position, we have to present ourselves and fight for it.
I am therefore urging our women to strive for self development so that when the opportunity present itself, they can fit into it and also have opportunities to vie for positions. It is only when we develop ourselves that we can be assured of fielding quality, resourceful and capable women.
“It is time for local government elections, it is the duty of our women to support women participants with their votes and funds. One of the hindrances for women inclusion in politics is finance and I want to charge our convener that whenever we are converging here it should be for fund raising to support our women in politics.
“Women are in the majority when you go out to polling booths during elections. This is a good development which we can use to our advantage. We must mentor people. A lot of people see positions of authority as a means of showing off but it comes with a lot of responsibilities which women as home builders are prepared for. We must be ready to listen to others because no one has it all. Women are emotionally and spiritually strong. It is not just for us to converge here but we should be an inspiration and mentors to others and support the goals of other women.”
In her address, the Convener, Okoya-Thomas lamented the under representation of women in politics, saying: “The Local Government election is coming up shortly and there is therefore no better time to fight for our seats at the table. We cannot fold our arms and expect the men to hand down elective positions to us. We are therefore imploring our able , competent women of integrity to rise up and take on the challenge of the election. This is of course with the support of our progressive party that has set an example of appointing over 35% of women in the State cabinet. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has further thrown his support for this forum by mandating all female members of his cabinet to join us today.
“Today is not about speeches but to focus on brainstorming on the practical steps to achieve a 30% representation in elective positions across our local and state governments . Today is about open and honest conversations regarding not only the challenges that currently hinder us, but the opportunities that can be identified to support our ambitions. We must be ready to think outside the box at this forum; this is the reason we have gathered a high powered group of women some who have done it and succeeded to coach us through the process .
“This forum will also lend a voice to the bill sponsored by Nkiriruka Onyejeocha in the House of Representatives and call on President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to both bills before the 2023 elections.
“The time for women to stop complaining and start acting is now. The United Nations theme for this year is especially apt in the Nigerian situation. We must choose to challenge our silence and fear. The time to demand to be heard is now, and as usual Lagos APC women are ready to lead the change.”
In her speech, the national women representative of the party, Stella Okotete, said empathy is what will lead women to change the narrative. “When we shine the light, the men will have no option than to join forces with us. When I came in, I didn’t meet any structure in place but I told myself that I needed to build a foundation that will take us to lead come 2023. The only way this country can get out of this challenges is to give women position of leadership. Every women occupying positions of authority in APC must ensure that they give opportunities to women in the party,” Okotete said.
Speaking on women inclusiveness in politics via zoom, Onyejeocha disclosed that there is no enabling law supporting women’s political aspiration.
“If men cannot give us 35 per cent out of the total number of seats at the National Assembly, we have to come together, strive and mobilise ourselves to vie for elective positions. We are speaking for the generality of women out there.
As we speak, many State House of Assembly in Nigeria do not have women representation. There are many women and daughters out there who are qualified but there is no enabling law that support their aspirations. When you go outside the country, you see 30 to 40 percent representation of women in position of authority but here in Nigeria, we have less than 5 per cent. We are seeking a legislation that will enhance women participation in politics. If we have more women in politics there will be less crime and corruption. It is the women that elect the governors and the president. They have the number but this does not take them anywhere. This is a golden opportunity for us to take the giant leap and if we miss this, we may not get there again,” Onyejeocha said.