International Women’s Day: Women Strategise for More Political Leadership Positions

International Women’s Day: Women Strategise for More Political Leadership Positions

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. A day set aside to celebrate the progress made towards achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment and to critically reflect on those accomplishments and strive for a greater momentum towards gender equality worldwide. This year’s theme is “Breaking the Bias” but several obstacles in the form of discrimination

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. A day set aside to celebrate the progress made towards achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment and to critically reflect on those accomplishments and strive for a greater momentum towards gender equality worldwide.

This year’s theme is “Breaking the Bias” but several obstacles in the form of discrimination are on the way for the Nigerian women. These have made breaking the ceiling a little more difficult and conscripted women positions in the political landscape. Just last week, Nigerian womenfolk suffered another major setback when five gender sensitive proposals (Bills) towards amendment of the Nigerian constitution were rejected by the bicameral National Assembly.

Despite all odds, however, some women who have been given opportunities to participate in political leadership keep proving their mettle and are excelling. Today, in commemoration of the International Women’s Day, we present an interview with two women parliamentarians: Hon Olubunmi Adelugba representing Emure State Constituency in the Ekiti State House of Assembly and Hon. Dr. Charity Ido representing Ukhanafun State Constituency of Akwa Ibom.

This interview is an excerpt from a documentary Women in Politics being put together by the International Press Centre which facilitated a workshop on Capacity Building How to Use the Media for the women shortly before the 2019 elections.

It was conducted by IPC Executive Director, Lanre Arogundade: Omolola Arogundade; Deola Olanrewaju; Ayo Ayoade; Sanmi Falobi; David Adeleke and Consultants Edmond Enaibe; Mr Adeola Soetan and Mr Austin.

We are having this for two or three reason. The first is that I thought that we should be having regular engagements with female candidates that the International Press Centre engaged by way of the capacity building workshop before the election and especially those of you that got elected in that process across the country, about twelve of you were elected, eight for the first time. It is good for us to share experiences, to know how you are faring.

Secondly, we are having this zoom session because we want to produce special documentary around the issues of female participation where again, we want to project your voices in terms of how the capacity building training you received from the International Press Centre, as part of the European Union support to democratic governance project in Nigeria, enabled you to win the support of your constituents, the contribution that all that capacity building helped you.

But again, we are looking at 2023, there would be fresh elections we felt that with your experience you will be able to encourage other women to run for political offices to encourage voters, the electorates, Nigerians to support female candidate based on what you believe that you can offer. This zoom session is part of the process towards the production of that documentary. Apart from this zoom, it is possible that we may still reach out to you if we feel it is still necessary. That is why we are having this.
– Lanre Arogundade, Executive Director IPC

Casting your mind back to the capacity-building workshop that IPC had with you before the 2019 elections, where we discussed using the media to advance your issues, campaigns, etc. Looking back at that time how much impact did that capacity-building workshop have on your campaign and your subsequent election as Honorable Member?

Hon Olubunmi Adelugba
Good morning my name is Olubunmi Adelugba Honourable member representing the Emure Constituency in the House of Assembly of Ekiti State. I am favoured to be part of the people that attended the International Press Centre workshop and I am happy that we are meeting at this time to get feedback on the success of the workshop. For me, the workshop has been eye-opening but the most important thing that I learned is to make ourselves known in the public space.

Before the workshop, whenever the team that publishes on my behalf posts anything, it is either I tell them to take it down or I don’t allow them to publish it at all but after the workshop, I always remember that we should make ourselves available in the public space, so I give them the go-ahead to post. And I also want to be in the space. It is important because we always see women as someone who should be modest sometimes.
Also, I have been able to reach out and use all the things taught during the workshop at the National Assembly.

Hon. Dr. Charity Ido
Good morning my name is Dr. Charity Ido representing the Ukanafun state constituency in Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly. I want to say that the capacity by the International Press Centre that we attended before the elections of 2019 was very rewarding because I was told what to do with the media and thank God the president of NAWOJ was there with whom I worked closely. And going forward I will also say that working with the media is very important, though the media can make or mar you. That is what I have noticed over time but all in all the workshop was rewarding and I pray that people coming in would also be taught and also use your good office to educate the people coming into politics.

What I am saying is that the conference is very rewarding because we have people we are mentoring and we are teaching them what you taught us. Like in Akwa Ibom state so many women are coming into politics and by the grace of God, they are using the media effectively. I also want to encourage you to do the same thing you did to us for them going forward. I want to say that the conference was rewarding and the conference contributed to my being here.

Let us know the committees which you either head or you are a member of in the Akwa Ibom Assembly and how your membership or leadership of those committees have enabled you to make contributions especially when it comes to women issues and apart from the committee itself as a female member of the Akwa Ibom House Assembly what contributions would you say you have made to advance the cause of women?

I am the chairman House Committee on Public Accounts and I belong to so many other committees like Committee on Local Government, Economic Development, and Lands.So many committees, about ten or so. But I am chairing the House Committee on Public Accounts as a female member of the House Assembly in Akwa Ibom State, by the grace of God we have been able to pass bills that pertain to women’s development, we have passed Bills on People Living with Disabilities and we have also passed a bill concerning Kidnappings. Generally, we have passed so many bills that pertain to women and the Governor has attended to them. Because Her Excellency the wife of the Governor of Akwa Ibom State Dr. Martha Udom Emmanuel is taking issues on women seriously, so we don’t joke with them.
The Deputy Speaker and I attended the Workshop and she is the Chairman of the House Committee on Women Affairs where I am the Deputy Chairman of women Affairs. So, everything that pertains to women, PWDs, children are handled by our committee, and we are making progress.

We want to know which other committees you belong to and as a member of those committees what kind of contributions would you say you have made in the House of Assembly?

HON. Olubunmi Adelugba
I am the Chairman of Finance and Appropriation Committee and also the Chief Whip of the House of Assembly. My job as the Chief Whip is to maintain orderliness in the house and organize debates. Because it is a woman that is occupying the position it has come to the fact that there is no role a woman cannot play in the House of Assembly or anywhere depending on how you handle the role. Apart from being the Chief Whip of the House, I am also the Chairman of Finance and Appropriation by hearing the name you know that the whole budget of the state would be given to this committee for review and report back to the House and we have been able to bring in a lot of new ideas into the budget and I particularly want to note that the House of Assembly in Ekiti State is a dynamic one. We have a dynamic leader and we also have a dynamic Governor all of us working together have made us vibrant and I am sure you have heard that within these 2 years we have been able to pass about sixty-two laws and about six of these laws are gender-based issues.

Talking about Appropriation, immediately we resumed we did five plus seven and since then it has been real work and we have been able to bring in the issue of Public Hearing to the Assembly budget. We have been able to bring a lot of people to speak about the budget of Ekiti state and also hear and their views would also be accommodated in the budget. One thing I think is key in Ekiti State House of Assembly is that most of our committees are headed by professionals. So, the issue of budget in Ekiti State might look very tedious but we have been able to pass through the nitty-gritty because we know what it entails and know what we are supposed to ask.

So just two of you with your involvement have been able to mobilize your members to achieve some of these things, how easy was it or how tough was it to pass these bills that promote gender and issues of people living with disabilities?

Hon. Dr. Charity Ido
What it entailed was lobbying, and Her Excellency supported us always. And most of the members are gender-friendly because their wives also put in pillow talk, so the combined effort from all of us made it easy. And then we have many “he-for-she” in Akwa Ibom state Assembly, so many of them are for us.

With just two of you in the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly you have been able to achieve this much, would you then say that if we have more women elected into the Legislature, it would lead to more law or empowerment for Women and People Living with Disabilities?
Yes, I think so and we are currently working towards that. Come 2023 we expect that we should have at least Six members because if just two of us can achieve this much, I am sure if we are up to six, we would be able to achieve more and that is why we are coming together to form a formidable force so that we can speak for one another and work for each other. So that achieving the aim of having six members in the House would be realistic.

So, there is a target to have at least six members?

In Ekiti what is your target? And what message would you be passing out to other women who want to get elected? From your own experience, what would you be advising them to do, how would you encourage them to ensure that they get elected?

Hon Olubunmi Adelugba
To start with you know the Governor of Ekiti State is a gender person and the wife of Ekiti State Governor Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a super gender person. She is the kind that would not hesitate to populate the whole of Ekiti State House of Assembly with women if she has the power to. A few days ago, we had a hall full of women appointees, women in political leadership. And we also organize trainings for young women in politics in our constituencies so we can have more women in politics.

But you know that it is always challenging for women to be in politics, for them to get selected as a candidate, and even for them to get elected. So as you are encouraging these other women who want to join you while you retain your position, what message of hope are you going to be giving them. Despite the challenges based on your own experience. What are you going to do to assure them they can be successful?

Hon. Dr. Charity Ido
First of all, I will keep saying that power belongs to God, so in all that you do let God be with you first and then you speak to our male stakeholders. We have told them it is not really by just strength because if you talk about finance, we are not as financially buoyant as the men. Also, His Excellency the Governor and his wife help a lot so, by the time you speak to the stakeholders in that particular state constituency they can be of help if the woman is accepted and the woman that is coming in must have the attributes of a good leader, they must see in you that you would be able to lead because without those qualities, they might not give you an opportunity. But the ones we are trying to raise are the people that can speak and who the people in their constituencies would accept. Presently, we are trying to groom some people on our own and with the help of Her Excellency we are believing God that they would sail through.

Can you specifically tell us to what extent has the gender-sensitive budgeting been implemented across the state? Can you tell the percentage of regular participatory in their state?

HON. Olubunmi Adelugba
Our budget is very participatory, so we invite the whole state we sit in a hall to debate and ask questions. The budget even from the Executive is bottom-up, that is Dr. Kayode Fayemi goes to all the communities to ask them what they want and in that process issues of religion, market, places of worship, People Living with Disabilities come up and when these these issues come up it is those sectors like PWDs, Women empowerment that are always the first to be addressed. We also have some Development Partners that are actually in that realm, so it is not an issue to tamper with at all.

Presently we are four Women in Ekiti State House of Assembly, we have two Legislators and in the last election of Local Government by the grace of God, we had three women as Chairpersons of three Local Government as well as fourteen women as Vice chairmen. When you talk of parastatals like Sports and others, we have women that are Chairmen. In Ekiti state, there is no hindrance on women issues in the State. In the House of Assembly, we see ourselves at per with men and they give us respect. Even the men in Ekiti are afraid of the Law we enacted because they know the Attorney General will execute the law and the First Lady of Ekiti State Bisi Fayemi will follow up to make sure the person is prosecuted.

Hon. Dr. Charity Ido

I would talk about the statistics of Women’s participation in Akwa Ibom Politics. As I have said we are two out of twenty-six, I think that is the lowest I can say. But coming to participation generally, we have so many women State Commissioners. Like I said my Governor is gender-friendly, we have up to four local government chairpersons out of thirty-one, many Vice-Chairmen, we also have many women as Chairmen of Boards and Commissions, generally, women’s participation is okay but the only one we need to improve on is elective positions. The appointing positions is very fine but when it comes to election
that is where we really need to work on. I said earlier that Her Excellency Dr. Martha Udom Emmanuel is working on it and we believe God that we are going to be more than two in the House of Assembly come 2023.

So far, what are the problems and challenges you have been facing in terms of getting this modest achievement done on gender-sensitive issues?

Hon Olubunmi Adelugba
The challenges female legislature face are so many challenges because we are in the midst of men; though they don’t look at us like women just like my colleague from Ekiti State has said: If you say you are a woman they would say women are not supposed to be here, we are all men, so we are equal. In my own case I have done like three empowerment programs for the widows, youths and the elderly. In fact, after doing the three aspects of legislature successfully you find out that they would still prefer a man despite all what you have done. And the people that are standing by you are doing it because they know that you are qualified, if not for that they would have preferred a man, some people would not want you to rule over them just because you are a woman. So there are so many challenges.

In 2023, we are going to have another general elections, if I ask you why should Nigerians vote for more women to go into House of Assembly, National Assembly even the legislative positions, what would you say?

Hon. Dr. Charity Ido
I would say if you are looking for a way forward in Nigeria you should vote for more women because we have integrity, vote for more women because they have the passion, empathy and human sympathy. Women are the people that if they see anything or say anything they make sure they follow it to the end. If you vote for women they can change the entire politics scenario, for me women can make full use of the opportunity given to them positively.

Hon. Olubunmi Adelugba

My colleague has actually mentioned some but what I will say is women are very consistent, we are focused, some women are very multi-tasking and our own multi-tasking is always positive because we can do so many things at the same time and be able to manage it. Women are moved by compassion. Men can’t multitask they keep procrastinating and they end up not doing it but women can do up to three to five tasks at the same time and it would be done diligently, all I am saying is that women are very focused and not easily be influenced.

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