By Hafsat Abiola-Costello
This year marks the twenty-third anniversary of June fourth, the day on which my mother, Kudirat Abiola, was assassinated on the (alleged) orders of Nigeria’s military ruler, General Sani Abacha.
I celebrate the life of a committed wife, who was willing to stand with her husband, Chief M.K.O. Abiola, for the right of Nigerian people to choose their government.
I celebrate a doting but strict mother who set such a clear example with emphasis on such qualities as compassion, integrity, and patriotism, that today my siblings and I continue to find in her the best exemplar of how we should live our lives.
I celebrate a woman who understood that it falls on us, enlightened citizens, to work for the country we seek to live in. Thus, she and other civic-minded women and men, chose not to agonize but to organize to bring about the democracy Nigeria has today.
However, even as I celebrate my mother, I feel concerned by the paucity of women in decision-making positions in Nigeria’s democratic governments. Following the recently concluded 2019 elections, the proportion of women in elective positions, dropped from the measly 2015 level of 5.65% in the national assembly to the alarmingly low 4.17%.
As we prepare to shift our Democracy Day to June 12, let us shift away from our conservative mindset that restricts women to specific roles in our society. Nigeria should join countries like South Africa and Ethiopia, where 50% of the federal cabinet is female. We should also adopt a quota, without which the proportion of women in elective positions may yet drop below the current 4%, already the lowest level of representation in Africa.
It isn’t democracy if half the population is systematically excluded. Nigeria has come a long way in twenty-three years but there is still so much more to do to ensure that women’s voices are heard in shaping the democracy that women like my mother helped bring about.
*Hafsat is the founder of Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND)