Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: The Dream of a Female President Still a Long Journey - Odumakin

interview

The large presence of women in President Jonathan's government cannot be attributed to moves to meeting the Beijing's women declaration in China which sought 35% affirmative action in both elective and appointive positions.

Renowned human rights activist, Joe Odumakin in this interview with CHARLES ADINGUPU dashed the hope of an emerging women's president in Nigeria despite the large number of women's participation in politics.

Are they enough women's representation in Jonathan's government?

Well, in elective position, NO, but in appointive position YES. The increase in numbers of women ministers did not come by accident; it can be attributed to political will on the part of the present government to ensure women are adequately represented in governance.

One of the campaign promises of President Jonathan was to implement 30% affirmative action once he is elected.

While he was unable to achieve this in elective positions he ensured that women were considered in appointive positions.

However, the political will was fueled by years of consistent and unrelenting advocacy and awareness created by women organizations and development partners for more women in governance.

There have been various initiatives and programmes by women organizations to bring the issue of increasing the numbers of women in Political and appointive positions to the front burner of political discourse since the beginning of the present democratic dispensation.

Women have over the years advocated for the inclusion of 30% affirmative action in favour of women in the Nigerian constitution.

While they are yet to achieve this during the various constitutional review processes, they were able to achieve this through the Nigerian gender Policy in 2006.

The Nigerian gender policy which was adopted by the government in 2006 provides that 35% of all elective and appointive positions in Nigerian should be reserved for women .

Does the number of women ministers already meet the Beijing' women's declaration?

No, the present situation does not satisfy the Beijing's position. The position from Beijing was 35% affirmative action in both elective and appointive positions.

The Nigerian Gender Policy which was adopted in 2006 also provides that 35% of all elective and appointive positions inNigeriashould be reserved for women.

So we cannot say that the number of women ministers in Jonathan's administration have met theBeijingrecommendation.

How will you assess their performance so far?

Well, so far so good, I do not think they are doing badly but the challenges of the system are still there. So these challenges in the civil service may affect them here and there but from what we are have seen so far as regards the women in the cabinet I think there are pulling their weights.

Any hope of a woman emerging as President of Nigeria in the nearest future?

From the look of things that may not happen in the immediate, but I am sure that with the several efforts by women groups this time around, a woman president may emerge inNigeriasooner than expected.

The move by women organizations under the National Affirmative Coalition (NAAC) and the More women group (MWG) are initiatives which has boosted the political will of the present government to increase the number of women ministers.

The NAAC is currently working with the national assembly and almost all the states houses of assembly of the federation to ensure the passage into law of Gender Equality and opportunities Bill.

This bill if passed into law will give legal teeth to the affirmative action provisions in the National gender policy.

The More women group is on ground to continue the awareness creation, build capacity and support women to continue to aspire to political positions. The more women group maintains a continuously updated list of qualified women who can be appointed into any political positions.

Do you see the women ministers as being dominated by the men?

The women ministers cannot be dominated by the men, each person has been appointed into positions with portfolios so I do not see how a man will dominate a woman.

The women who have been appointed are experts in their various fields. They are women who have proved themselves, they are well educated and intelligent so how will men dominate them?

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