It is indeed a pleasure for me to welcome you all to this opening ceremony of the Convention of the League of Women Voters of Nigeria holding here in Abuja. The League is a Nigerian Civic Organization that was formed to educate and mobilize Nigerian women to enable them play a larger role in Governance, Public matters and Public Affairs in our country, Nigeria and to defend and perfect our Democracy.
The league is non-Partisan, non-Sectarian, non-Religious, non-Ethnic, non-racial and non-Profit making. Our aim is to attract all females of voting age i.e. 18 years and above so as to educate and enlighten them on their civic rights and duties within the context of our present day Nigeria.
The League brings women together to collectively explore ways of empowering them both politically and economically through creating awareness amongst them of their rights as citizens of this country, sensitising them on the power of their votes and their place in the Nigerian economy.
Our objective is to promote, in all its ramification, the empowerment of women, explore ways of encouraging and assisting them to develop economically by stimulating them towards entrepreneurial skills and hands on, as well as accelerating their participation in all arms of Government and Corporate bodies.
We seek to improve Government and impact public policies through advocacy, education and research. The League has a global network as it seeks to reposition and empower women and perfect Democracy. We are dedicated to making our Democracy work through Voter education, registration, advocacy on citizen participation and election monitoring. We encourage informed and active participation of women in Government.
We organize Seminars and Workshops aimed at educating Women and young girls on the power of the Voter’s Card and making them more assertive in voting out bad leadership especially realizing the suffering of the Nigerian families that comes with such bad leadership. We also try to create in them the awareness that the Nigerian Woman has an equal right in governance as her male counterpart.
That is, bringing women from their relegated background to the forefront in governance for a better economy with the aim of raising women participation in governance from its present less than 10% to the 35% or more already negotiated even at the UN level.
As at date the League has a total of 5150 Individual Members drawn from the 36 States of Nigeria and FCT, and the Diaspora chapters in the U.K, USA and Europe. In addition, the League has a total of 21 Affiliate Organizations prominent amongst which are the Northern Nigeria Women Initiative, the Niger Delta Women Forum, the Peace and Good Governance Initiative and the Women in Extractive Industries to name a few.
However, knowing the size of Nigeria and the hundreds of NGOs in Nigeria we want as many women Organizations as possible to affiliate or Associate with the League for a more robust achievement of our goals.
With the end of the 2019 Elections, we can say that in terms of gender performance, the election was not good for women. Very few women got elected both at State and National Levels.
In fact, in many cases their performance was less than in past years though we are still collating the actual figures before we fully comment. It seems obvious that Nigeria is at the bottom of Parliamentary ascendancy for women in Africa.
A little survey shows that Nigeria is so far behind most African States in Women participation in Parliament and Governance. The case of women ascendancy in Rwanda is well known not withstanding its peculiar not recent past and circumstance. Women in Uganda were able to get the provision of a female Vice President in their constitution.
Kenya is said to have 4 elected female Governors and 26 elected female Deputy Governors out of 47 States. In addition, Kenya’s Lower House of Parliament reserves a seat for Women per State i.e. 47 Seats for only women to contest, in addition to seats won by women contesting on their own merit in non-reserved seats. A bird’s eye view of the percentages of female performance in Parliament in some African Countries shows that while, Rwanda – 61.3%, Senegal – 42.7%, South Africa – 42.1%, Namibia – 41.3%, Mozambique- 39.6%, Ethiopia -38.8%, Angola – 38.2%, our Country Nigeria boasts of 5.9%.
It appears that Nigeria is declining rather than improving, yet Nigeria is signatory to all UN documents calling for 35% Affirmative action for women in Governance. Nigeria has a Gender Policy that guarantees 35% affirmative action for women. Also most of the Political Parties in Nigeria have crafted the same affirmative action into their Constitutions and or guidelines yet none is observing it. Even INEC has a Gender policy but we are yet to see it put to work. We believe that it requires a political will to make this happen.
We believe that the Executive must work with the Legislature to ensure that the 35% affirmative action is not only on paper but is put into action. We are appealing to members of the National Assembly especially the incoming ones to craft and pass a law to this effect – a law that makes it mandatory for a number of seats in each State to be reserved in rotation for women in addition to the seats they can struggle for and win by themselves.
We believe that INEC also has a big role to play in this regard and working with the Political Parties, they should be able to produce a robust Guideline in line with such a law that should guarantee this access and right for the women.
The League in due course will submit a memorandum detailing the ways and means to make it work and engage the Executive and Legislature as well as the Political Parties and INEC to achieve this purpose.
To all women, our message is that we must work together, support ourselves and synergize so that we can be in a good position to dialogue and negotiate with the men. Our number is our strength and we must use our number to negotiate.
We must not demean ourselves in order to get any position. We are bigger than wearing Aso- Ebi, dancing and clapping for the male Aspirants and relying on their bags of salt and rice or Cloth to get them elected yet on getting there, many of them forget that they were able to get there because of your votes. At the last Election the Women formed the large queues and they cast the majority of the votes in all the elections yet only very few women got elected.
We believe that together with the youths we can bring about the required change to our Democracy and our Country, Nigeria. Yes we can and together we can.
Going forward we are going to reshape, reorganize and re-strategize for the future. In fact we shall start planning right from now for the next time by God’s grace. This Convention has been organized to review the performance of women in the last elections and work out effective strategies for improvement and the way forward for women to progress and contribute to the development of Nigeria.
Amongst other things, the Convention will fill through election all existing positions and consider plans for the future. We shall mobilize and educate our women at the grassroots from now to ensure that at the next Local Government Council Elections in Nigeria, about 50% of the Councillors, Chairmen and Vice Chairmen in all the 774 Local Government Areas will be women.
We enjoin our State Chapters to carry out an aggressive advocacy and mobilization to ensure that this is achieved. We must start at this level and seek to use them as Springboard to get more women elected into Parliament and State Government. This however can only be possible if the Elections are free and fair and if the elections at the local level in particular are removed from the hands of the State Governors. At whatever level, however, the elections will only be fair and just if the Umpire body is appointed not by Government but by independent bodies and in all cases we advocate that Women should be allowed to have a great input – they should nominate their representatives on the Commission rather than Government nominating for them.
It is our recommendation that at whatever level, whether Local, State or Federal, our Democracy will grow better and our elections will be sanitized only if the system of appointing Electoral Umpires is reviewed and Democratized and in all cases Women must have a great say.
We ask all women who are interested in helping to reshape our Democracy and Voters rights as well as Women participation and development to join hands with the League in this crusade.
To all women who have had the opportunity of holding high offices and positions in Government or the Corporate world, and have been celebrated either in retirement or still in active service, who are not yet with us, we appeal to you to make a commitment to get involved in assisting and or mentoring the millions of young Nigerian girls who are capable but do not have the opportunity to show their talent at all levels.
Let us join hands together to lift womanhood in Nigeria to greater heights for together we can do it. Yes we can.
To our male counterparts, colleagues, husbands, brother and fathers we ask for your cooperation and understanding so that together we can all lift up the standard of development in our country Nigeria and raise the bar of development for no country can rise beyond its womanhood.
Finally we appeal to donor agencies and philanthropists to partner with the league to address the issues of women and their role in governance and public affairs in Nigeria in order to attain the minimum level expected of women by the Comity of Nations. Once again I welcome you all to this ceremony and thank you all for your presence.