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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition party in Nigeria recently organized its National Convention. The conventional political horse-trading was typically obvious. The governors who in the political landscape wield what some political analysts see as excessive power were not found wanting. There was no delegation of duties to their deputies. Ironically, other state events that require their presence often have them send their deputies or Secretary to the governments.
As it were, everything was at stake. There was power-show, there were negotiations, influence-peddling, coercions and outright bullish attitudes. In politics they say there are no permanent enemies but permanent interests. The governors and the other leaders and members of the party pulled out all stops. The party leadership positions were zoned to different parts of the country. Individual zones came up with strategies for selection. While some had agreements for consensus candidates, others were open to contests.
The disturbing news is that nothing seems to have changed for the women in the PDP. At the end of the convention, women were still confined to the office of ‘Women Leader’ and deputy. Professor Stella Attoe was a consensus candidate and was presented by the Cross River state PDP the post having been zoned to the South-South. Deputy Woman Leaders, Hajara Wanka was elected unopposed.
So of the 21 seats filled at the convention, women got just two positions – that of Women Leader and the deputy positions. The National Convention Organizing Committee was headed by governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa state. It seemed like the leadership had pulled out all stops to get consensus candidates across regions. The North had chosen former Senate President, Iyorchia Ayu as their consensus candidate for the Chairmanship position.
Even though the women were disappointed at the tokenism they were handed, Hajia Inna Ciroma had contested for the deputy National Chairman (North). Reports had it that there was pressure on her by the men to step down but her fellow women who reportedly contributed money for her to purchase the required form insisted she must go ahead with the contest because democracy is not always about winning or losing . In every contest in a democracy, the beauty is the freedom to contest. She impressively got more than two hundred votes but lost to Umar Damagum.
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Another woman, Chibuogwu Benson- Oraelosi was to contest for the position of National Auditor but surprisingly stepped down last minute. Her action was a surprise to many. Many women felt she ought to have contested having come that far. However, in a democracy, there is freedom of choice. She made her choice.
The Roundtable Conversation spoke to some of the PDP women about the convention and its outcome as it concerns women and ur democracy. Some of them believe that because democracy is a game of numbers, the men still have the upper hand as they are more in number and with the levers of power firmly in their grips, the women seem to have very little chance at the moment.
Sadly though, the PDP leadership seems to be foot-dragging about the 35% affirmative action. Ironically, there seems to be more female presence at the BOT level than the NWC level. Iyom Josephine Anenih, a foundation member of the party and a former Woman Leader and Minister of Women Affairs and a veteran gender rights advocate believes that even though the pace of inclusion is not as fast as the women wish, they have made great strides given the history of the party. To her women must continue to push and small wins will be big wins very soon.
Iyom Anenih recalls that when PDP started off as a political party, there was no woman BOT member. She actually started the advocacy for the inclusion of women. So the party started with one woman per zone and they all joined her as a founding member of the party bringing the number of women to seven. Subsequent amendments to the party constitution has seen an increase in the number of women and there is hope for progress but women must be steadfast and never waver no matter the pressure.
The election of Prof. Stella Attoe as a Woman Leader seems like a moon coming full cycle. She had been an active party member for decades. But given the age of the party, The Roundtable Conversation wonders why the tokenism for women persists in the political party.
As always, the men came with ‘soothing’ words for the women in PDP at the convention. Governor Fintiri thanked his fellow governors and the leadership of the party, “…for the spirit of sportsmanship in the party and the governors for being handy at all times in matters of collective concern… I am particularly happy that the governors and the leadership of the party have met with the great women of PDP. We have collectively agreed on the best way to implement the provision of the 35% affirmative action as required by our constitution in the next convention. Besides the Women leader, the next constitutional amendment must clearly state the positions that would be reserved by way of statutory consensus to the women. This is to guarantee that the fight put forward by our women is not lost after all…”
The governor sounded extremely triumphant and justifiably so. At the convention, men got 90.5% of the party positions and women got a paltry 9.5%! So the monopoly continues. If not to work for votes for men, we wonder if there would even be a Women Leader position?
It is quite intriguing to the Roundtable Conversation that the PDP was not considering the intellectual and social contributions of women. The Leader of the Convention Organizing Committee, a governor of state in his speech sees whatever constitutional amendment they intend to make just merely because the women in PDP have been fighting for it! This idea of what gender parity means to our male politicians must be thoroughly interrogated by Nigerians.
It is sad that in the last 22 years, the party that came in to break the military interruptions of our democracy since independence is still not very willing to understand that leadership is a shared responsibility and capacity and merit rather than gender must define our democracy. While we want to believe that we are practicing democracy, intra party democracy is a forerunner to all other democratic processes.
The convention has come and gone and we have seen again, the power and influence of the governors even though we believe that with little or no ideological divides across all political parties big and small, this gender exclusion is surreptitiously achieved across party lines. Today it is a convention, tomorrow it would be party primaries. The records of what women suffered across parties at state and ward congresses are stil staring us in the face.
The Roundtable conversation worries that the mentality of Nigerian male politicians as regards leadership and our democracy seem not to be giving any room for progress in the 21st century with women proving their worth in all fields; the academia, corporate bodies, financial sector, civil service, global institutions, entrepreneurship etc. The Nigerian political doors are still being shut on the face of women. Men still assume that allowing true democracy and level playing field is a favour to women and so they attach dates and percentages.
Being the poverty capital of the world must show us something very profound about the role women are prevented from playing by men whose patriarchal inclinations seems not ready to wane any time soon. Sad thing however is that the same women being stylishly excluded from governance and leadership positions are home managers and the same men depend on them but are considered not good enough to provide leadership. Women are always the greater victims of poverty, insecurity and other social ills of bad governance.
The men in PDP may have a wry sense of victory at the convention but the world has moved on from the entitlement mentality of Nigerian men. Some of the best economies in Europe and Asia are led by women. Their GDP and general stand in world economies do not come as surprises. Nigerian political parties must begin to adopt more progressive democratic values and allow the political space blossom with our best irrespective of gender.
On the other hand, there are female politicians that are not working very hard for gender inclusion. Unfortunately, they keep empowering the men to the disadvantage of development. They must be reminded that they found spaces in the political fields because some other women either dead of still living created the ladder they climbed with their hardwork and sacrifices for their today.
Time, said Euripides is a babbler that speaks even when not asked. Each individual’s actions and inactions are documented by history for posterity. As in all liberation struggles of all hues in global history, actions and inactions of individuals form their epitaph whether living or dead. Democracy can only grow when all players in the political field through their actions show vision and passion for development. Individual ego trips and influence peddling has never lifted any player to the hall of fame.
While the PDP procrastinates about their seemingly elusive Constitutional amendment, the Roundtable Conversation assumes that the APC and the plethora of other political parties would take the road less travelled. There might not be an immediate equity but changes can be made in areas not legally bound to upturn the system.
The political parties must realize that developments in global technology and politics have changed the way economies operate. Leadership is key and not gender sensitive and everyone becomes a casualty of a male dominated system. Nigeria is a good case study.
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