Gbajabiamila Canvasses Special Fund to Support Women Contesting Elections

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Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila yesterday said he would propose creation of a special Women’s Victory Fund at the next National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to support women contesting elections in the party.

Gbajabiamila disclosed this in Abuja at a Women in Politics (WIMPOL) Dialogue organised by the Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WimBiz), saying he believed Nigerian women have a lot to offer in politics and governance.

He explained that the victory fund would allow the ruling party, independent of its other activities, to engage with organisations such as WIMBIZ to identify willing and capable women to contest for elections at all levels of governance.

The speaker said Nigerian women could also engage in more advocacy, lobby, peaceful protests, among others to drive home their point to get into more elective positions.

Gbajabiamila said his experience in politics thought him that elections “are generally won on four things: candidate, ideas, funding and organisation.”

He stressed that if more inspired candidates “are recruited, we fund them and provide them organisational support to effectively manage their political operations, we will get more women to participate in electoral politics.

“The country contends with a culture that has created, and too often continues to encourage and tolerate practices that disenfranchise women, limit educational and economic opportunities available to them and restrict their ability to reach their highest potential.

“Any and all successful efforts at reform must begin because the present circumstances are not a function of statutory obstacles for women who wish to participate in politics or the absence of laws that protect their interest in this regard.

Gbajabiamila rejected the idea of quota as a means to increase women participation in politics.

He stated: “We cannot on the one hand advocate for a new kind of politics dependent on respect for the basic human rights of all people to choose their leaders in free and fair elections without interference and imposition, and on the other hand, argue for the imposition of quotas in elective office.

“This is a fundamentally anti-democratic idea, and the proposition collapses under the weight of its contradictions. The constitution of Nigeria, imperfect as it may be, does not impose any restrictions on women’s participation in politics. In fact, the constitution expressly prohibits any gender-based discrimination.

“If any conversation around gender quotas in political office could not occur outside of a constitutional amendment, the peculiar history of the country is such that it is unlikely to achieve a more equitable society by amending the constitution to accommodate discriminatory practices no matter how well-meaning the motivations might be.

“The fault lines in our society are too deep, our unresolved conflicts are so great that the worst consequences of such attempts will arrive sooner than our best aspirations no matter how deeply held they might be.”

He said the fund would be used to provide women with training, support services and assistance with the enormous funding requirements of electoral contests.

He said: “This fund will be credited from a percentage of the income from the sale of nomination and expression of interest forms by the party. I encourage leaders of the other national political parties to consider and implement similar proposals.”