We Don’t Know Tinubu, Atiku, Obi’s Plans – Women Groups

A coalition of more than 500 women organisations under the aegis of Womanifesto movement, on Monday, provoked a fresh controversy over the 2023 elections saying none of the presidential candidates have told them their concrete plans for women and girls in the country.

Although they refused to declare support for any candidate, the women said that plans had been concluded to meet all presidential candidates on Tuesday, October 25, 2022, to table home their demands.

Among the presidential candidates in the 2023 presidential election expected at the meeting with Rey women include Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (All Progressives Congress); Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (Peoples Democratic Party); Peter Obi (Labour Party) and 15 others.

Womanifesto leaders stated these at the national women’s dialogue with the theme, “Electoral integrity and accountability: Towards corruption – free elections,” in Abuja, funded by MacArthur Foundation and Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (Nigeria) in partnership with Affirmative Action Initiative for Women formerly known as National Coalition on Affirmative Action and Gender Technical Unit.

 

According to them, the 2023 elections would not be business as usual, adding that women would demand for the best and hold those contesting for public offices accountable.

Members of the coalition include: Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre; Education As A Vaccine! Enough is Enough Nigeria; Emerge Women; Empowerment and Action Research Centre; Equality Through Education Foundation; Equity Advocates/The Woman FACICP Disability Plus; FAME Foundation; Federation of Informal Workers of Nigeria; Federation of Muslim Women Association in Nigeria! Federation of Paralegal Network, among others.

The Co-Convener of Womanifesto Dialogue and Executive Director of WARDC, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said it was high time the political class stopped treating women as second-class citizens in Nigeria, adding that “our identity and dignity as women matter.”

She said among issues of top priority to women was the declaration of state of emergency on violence against women and girl.

Others, according to her, included increased women’s political participation, empowerment, sexual and reproductive health rights for women, constitutional reform to stop the marginalisation of women and security.

Akiyode-Afolabi said, “We are asking for five concrete issues that the government should attend to. For example, on ending violence against women, we noticed that about 31 out of the 36 states have been able to pass the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Law, which was one of the things we put as a demand.

“But today, looking at the 2023 elections, we are really alarmed with the extent of corruption that is going on, especially what happened during the primaries.

“We realised that the judiciary also has not been supportive of women. Imagine women were been asked by lawyers to bring N250 million to support their candidacy. The Ebonyi case is also there, where the governor who had contested for the presidential primary came back to hijack the senatorial ticket from a woman. We also have a case of a woman in Rivers State who had won governorship ticket but lost the election and lost the case which went to the tribunal.

“We believe it is time for us to discuss what is happening between the lawyers and judges. We want the 2023 elections to be corruption-free. Therefore, this is a campaign that people should vote for women during the elections.

“We don’t want to be second-class citizens in the country. Our identity matters, and dignity as women matters. By tomorrow, we will meet the presidential candidates taking questions from them but from what we are seeing now, we haven’t seen anyone of them speaking for women”.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Women Affairs, Betty Apiafi, recalled how she received an assassination threat from unknown persons due to her position.

According to her, insecurity and bad state of the economy would hinder many female candidates from winning elections in 2023.

While alleging a deliberate conspiracy to sideline women in politics, Apiafi lampooned lawmakers for rejecting five Gender Bills during the last constitutional review.

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She said, “We are all aware of the state of our economy to start with. So of course, when the economy is the way it is, it becomes difficult for you to run an election without spending a lot of money. Then of course, the issue of insecurity that we can’t even begin to discuss. This is because the more you have insecurity in the nation, the more difficult it is for any woman to win an election.

“In fact, the other day, I got a phone call from somebody telling me there’s an assassin looking for me. Insecurity gets bad and worse during elections. So the issue of insecurity and the state of the economy is going to really be a big challenge to contend with during the next elections.”

The Executive Director, International Society for Media in Public Health, Moji Makanjuola, lamented that despite attempts by past administrations to reach affirmative actions for women, women inclusion has dropped from 35 per cent to less than 10 per cent across the nation.

She said aside women been marginalised during political parties’ primaries, the campaign councils recently constituted by parties were short of fairness.

Makanjuola said, “If we have lost out on elective positions, we can still demand for appointment position and we need to start speaking to it until we get it right. You cannot leave almost 50 per cent of the population behind and think that they have nothing to contribute to nation building.

“We are not economically empowered like the men to be able to compete favourably with them.

“It looks like the political class have forgotten that together we will make it when we work together. We are going support women across board, women that are capable. That’s the difference between us and them.

“There is no serious presidential candidate that will want to undermine what the women have. I mean on election days, we are the ones who stay on the queue forever. We want to stop the dancing, you are making demands to be included in nation building. And that’s why we’re so gathered. And it’s not just about our manifesto alone.

“I’m not sure we are very satisfied with it. They have to include us at that table where decisions are made, particularly when it comes to health.”

The National Coordinator, 100 Women Lobby Group, Felicia Onibon, said for the sake of accountability, presidential candidates would be made to commit themselves to the welfare of women by signing a Memoradum of Understanding.

She said, “We haven’t heard many of them saying anything about what they will do for women and we want to engage them with our thoughts, minds and demands.

“Our own demand is that women vote for women wherever you see them contesting. We also look at women voting for people who have clear plans for Nigerian women in this country. And also we are not saying that a woman should come out and just say, because I’m a woman I am contesting and then we will not interrogate those kinds of people.

“We will also interrogate the woman because we know that from experience, that there are some women who do not even have a good understanding of the gender dynamics that is affecting the livelihood of the Nigerian woman. So if any woman is within the range of supporting women issues and within the range of giving women exactly what they want, of course, she will be fully backed but by tomorrow we are going with a clear mind.”

 

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