The recent developments at the National Assembly, in which 5 bills seeking affirmative action and inclusion for women were vehemently shut down by members, is most regrettable and unsettling.
This is because the legislature is the bastion of democracy and a critical platform for fair representation and inclusion in government.
It is therefore painful and unconscionable that these bills which provide a fillip for accomodating women who make up about 50% of the voting population, are subjected to such sorry fate, which:
– Deny citizenship to a foreign-born husband of a Nigerian woman. (It allows Nigerian men’s foreign-born wives to be awarded automatic citizenship);
– Deny Nigerian women indigeneity through marriage;
– Deny 35 per cent appointed positions for women and settling for 20 per cent;
– Deny women affirmative action in party administration and leadership; and
– Deny specific seats for women in the National Assembly, among others.
In Edo State, we have a healthy mix of women in our cabinet, as they occupy more than 30 percent of positions of commissioners and Special Advisers in government. They provide invaluable service to ensure the proper functioning of the engine of government. At the senior cadre of the civil and public service, women make up more than 50 percent of the Permanent Secretaries, which provides them with ample opportunity to serve the people. Our experience has proven that women bring a rare knack of committment and sense of service to drive change and engender progress like never before seen in the civil service.
Edo people hope that their own representatives at the National Assembly did not vote along the lines of disenfranchising their women population because to do so will mean that they do not care about those who sent them to represent them at the Assembly.
It is heartbreaking that the National Assembly members missed a golden opportunity to redesign Nigeria’s political landscape by enshrining landmark legislation that promotes inclusion and provides women with the legal backing to gain equitable representation at the apex level of lawmaking and political participation.
Our administration has continued to provide women with the opportunity to take up important roles in governance and they have proven to be excellent managers of human and material resources.
I, therefore, lend my voice in calling on the National Assembly to reconsider its decision and take proactive and affirmative action in providing more opportunities for women to participate in politics, governance and all spheres of human endeavour.
Governor Godwin Obaseki
Governor, Edo State.