Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, has frowned at the seeming relegation of women to the background in the countryâ€™s political dispensation.
Ekweremadu, who spoke in Abuja yesterday at a stakeholdersâ€™ forum to improve the representation of women in politics. lamented that despite the active participation of women like late Kudirat Abiola, Ayo Obe and Joe Okei-Odumakin in the evolvement of Nigeriaâ€™s democratic dispensation â€œwomen continue to be relegated in the governance of the country.
â€œOurs has been a case of one step forward, two, and sometimes, three steps backward. Our women have been held down by factors ranging from the cultural to religious, economic and political.
â€œOur society wrongly believes that the role of the woman is that of a fosterer and in the kitchen. There is the wrong notion that women are not meant to lead, thus placing a glass ceiling over them. Those who vie for leadership positions are viewed as overambitious and deviants.
Ekweremadu observed that while Nigeria ranked 168th in women in politics globally, Rwanda ranked worldâ€™s number one
â€œWomen representation in parliament where major policies are discussed and given legal backing is very poor. â€œAccording to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Nigeria places a very distant 168th position in women representation in national parliaments worldwide as at May 2018. Nigeria is just slightly better than a few countries like Thailand, Kuwait, Lebanon, Haiti and Oman.
â€œConversely, Rwanda is first in the world, while Namibia is 5th. Ironically also, other African countryâ€™s such as South Africa, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Senegal are among the top 20,â€ he added.
The deputy Senate president recommended an amendment to Section 42 of the Constitution and a change to proportional representation to boost women representation in governance.
He explained: â€œYou cannot confer any special political advantage on women under the 1999 Constitution as amended because Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution clearly provides that you cannot discriminate against any Nigerian by the reason of his or her community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion.
â€œTherefore, the first step is to amend Section 42 of the Constitution to provide for an exception and also a special quota for women in line with the 35 per cent Affirmative Action.
â€œWhat Rwandans did was to amend the countryâ€™s constitution in 2003 to provide for a minimum 30 per cent quota for women in all the decision-making bodies and organs, including the national parliament and political partiesâ€™ leadership. Today, Rwandan women not only control the majority in the countryâ€™s national parliament, Rwanda is also the first country with women majority in a national parliament.
â€œHowever, a constitutional provision for a quota for the women in elected positions will be difficult to achieve under our current first-past-the-post voting system. We need to adopt the proportional representation system in which each political party will eventually be allocated parliamentary seats in proportion to the votes they garnered at the polls. That way, they will effectively be in a position to distribute the seats in a way that honours affirmative actions in favour of women, minority groups, the physically challenged among others.â€
Ekweremadu observed that leading African countries in women representation in parliament such as Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, Mozambique operate proportional representation voting system.
Citing the last constitution amendment effort during which the proposal to reserve 35 per cent of the appointments into the federal and state cabinets for women was defeated, Ekweremadu warned that â€œNigeria may never get to the Promised Land until Nigerian women occupy their rightful place in governance,â€ noting that â€œthey have the integrity, knowledge and empathy to build a better future.â€
In his presentation, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Anambra State, Nwachukwu Orji, said while the retrogression in women representation in Nigeria was quite unexpected, progress was possible if Nigeria adopted the right policies and legal reforms.