A former Public Affairs Officer at the United States Consulate in Lagos, Nigeria, Dr. (Mrs) Atim Eneida George has charged Nigerian women to brace up for the inherent challenges in a democracy in order to maximize their full potentials and enjoy their rights. Speaking at a public forum on Voting Rights to commemorate Black History/Women’s
A former Public Affairs Officer at the United States Consulate in Lagos, Nigeria, Dr. (Mrs) Atim Eneida George has charged Nigerian women to brace up for the inherent challenges in a democracy in order to maximize their full potentials and enjoy their rights.
Speaking at a public forum on Voting Rights to commemorate Black History/Women’s History Month, organized by the International Press Centre on Friday, Dr Atim George while tracing the different historical phases women had gone through to attain their voting rights in America told the women that “your vote is the key to the treasure house of democracy; it is your key to government”
Urging women to be more involved in politics, she said that is the way to influence government policies and make them more people-oriented. Relating her narrative to the situation in the United States, she said it is only “when black people vote that policies that can solve problems of the people are implemented”
She further explained the tortuous journey traveled by the black women in America in order to break the ceiling and attain voting rights. “The country used to practice conditional voting; at a time you could vote only if your father voted before 1886 or if you owned property to a certain value. But all that changed with the 15th amendment to the constitution which gave the black man ability to vote”
Commending the Nigerian women for being politically informed despite all odds, she counseled that the media has an important role to play in supporting the women and the electorate in general by embarking on rigorous research to educate the people with incisive analysis of the happenings and developments in the polity to enable them make informed decisions.
Responding to a question on the issue of popular votes against Electoral College in the American system, she said it would take a constitutional amendment to change the policy and that could take decades to achieve. She noted, however, that there is a proposal to seek a way round it. There is a move to have all the Chief Electoral Officers also known as Secretary of States to get them to report the votes to reflect the popular votes.
She said, generally, “America is in the midst of change”. Many things are about to change given the realities of the Trump presidency. There would be need for more transparency. She gave the examples that a presidential candidate would need to show his tax returns as well as medical records for the people to see before being voted for.
Contributing to the discussion, Professor Stella Williams of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife harped on the importance of education urging parents to educate their children because education is power.
Responding to a question on the expensive nature of the Presidential system of government when compared to the parliamentary system, the Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate General, Lagos, Mr. Russell Brooks said Nigerians are free to choose whatever system of government best suits its people.
It was a general consensus of speakers and participants at the forum that women have to shake off apathy and bargain for elective position in government. The role of women in politics should go beyond singing and dancing at political gatherings and rallies.
The Chairperson of the National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) Lagos state chapter, Mrs Adeola Ekine said women and especially female journalists should lead in voting in every election at all levels.
The forum was moderated by the Chairman Lagos NUJ, Dr, Qasim Adereti and was attended by senior journalists from print and electronic media as well as the academia.
Welcoming participants to the forum, the Executive Director IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade urged the media to ensure gender balance in their reports and even in constituting panel of discussants on topical issues in the country.