OKEY CHRIS, in this write-up, assesses the calls for engagement of more women from the South-east in leadership positions, with the aim of bridging the gender disparity
Against the global recognition for development of the female gender and active participation of women, or gender equality as a fundamental aspect of modern democratic governance.
It is also needless to say that women have intimidating populations at almost all the public and private institutions and sectors, yet available records show leadership disparity or imbalance in those institutions as women are been led by men who may or may not be at the same academic pedestal, expertise or qualifications with them.
In the 2007 general elections, only one woman contested for the office of the President; 33.9% for governorship positions; 13.5% for Senate, 15.6% for House of Representatives, and 15.8% for Houses of Assembly but at the end, only about 7.5 per cent occupied key leadership positions in the country.
Perhaps banking on the euphoria, the late President Umar Yar’Adua, who came into power that year, promised to give 30 percent of political appointment to women (less than the 35 per cent in the National Gender Policy), although an assessment conducted by ActionAid, a nongovernmental organisation, after one year indicated that women appointment was only 11 per cent.
In a similar vein, in the 2011 general elections, official records released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) indicates that a total of 809 women emerged as candidates of different political parties against 692 who were candidates during the 2007 elections. However, results of that election shows that women’s representation at national level relapsed from 7.5% in 2007 to 7.1% in 2011. President Goodluck Jonathan, made it possible for women to occupy 33 percent of cabinet positions.
But in 2015 general elections, the number of women participating in electoral system decreased to 7 in Senate (6.4 percent) and 19 in House of Representatives (5.2 per cent), and further decreased to 19 per cent in the cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari led administration. In all, from 1960 Nigeria got independent till date, no woman has been a vice president, president, Senate President, Deputy Senate President or governor (except Dame Virgy Etiaba, former Deputy governor of Anambra State who occupied that seat from November 2006 to February 2007 while her boss, Peter Obi was impeached in office). Similarly, only Rt. Hon. Patricia Etteh occupied the office of Speaker House of Representative as a woman although it lasted for five months as a result of a protracted crisis over N628m contract scandal.
Statistically, out of the 109 senate member in Nigeria senate chambers, women were 7 in 1999, 4 in 2003, 9 in 2007, 7 in 2011 and 7 in 2015. In the house of representative comprising 360 members, in 1999, 7 are women, while in 2003, 21 were women, 27 in 2007, 25 in 2011 and 14 in 2015. Also, out of the 990 seats in the State houses of assembly nationwide, only 24 women were there in 1999, 40 in 2003, 57 in 2007 and 68 in 2011. For local government councils offices, in 1999, out of the 774 councils chairmen only 13 were women, 18 in 2003, and 27 in 2011; while in councillorship position, out of the 6368 councillorship seats, 69 were women in 1999, 276 in 2003, and 235 in 2011.
To make the matter worse, recent research findings published by Department of International Development (DFID) show that only 71 Nigerian women are in leadership positions in the country as against 4000 available political offices. The report enumerated these offices where women are at helm of affairs to include political and non political appointments such as Head of Departments (HOD), Directors and Permanent Secretaries in federal, state and local government civil service; public and private schools, political aides at executive, legislative and judiciary (at National, States, and Local government Areas); pointing out that they have little or no presence at communal level (Town Union and traditional rulership cabinets).
This could be what gave rise to formation of Idikacho Women in Governance (IWIG), a Non-governmental Organisation with a focus on educating the women, public enlightenment campaign and advocacy in the Southeast geopolitical zone. Idikacho (Idik’acho) is an Igbo word for an exceptional wife or what the Holy writ described as a virtuous woman. IWIG, which claimed to had trained and still training Igbo women on how to engage and convince their men folks to support them to actively participate in governance, policy making and implementation, recently organised two days train the trainers it otherwise called knowledge sharing workshop in Awka, Anambra state capital.
In the workshop which drew participants from six women states representatives; two each from three Senatorial zones in Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Abia and Ebonyi states, the women were trained on leadership, engagements, advocacy, and communication skills needed for effective political participation. According to Professor Mercy Anigbogu, founder of IWIG, the group came to assist women from the zone and Nigeria in general to scale through the several factors preventing them from participating in governance namely, lack of skills and information, social-cultural and religious barriers.
“Women have the capability and abilities but need to acquire more skills through training and enlightenments that will empower them to be the champions they are created to be. The training and interactions will help them to become the real women. Most a time they are neglected and cry and cry. If you don’t train them they may become worst to what they are before. These people will go ahead to train others as well to engage their community and political leaders at local governments, states and national level,” she noted.
Anigbogu, who was optimistic that women are agents for societal growth, contends that giving them voice would help in addressing issues like domestic violence, anti-societal acts, immorality, decision making and implementation, environmental, ecology, political and religious.
“The objective is to increase I-WIG-N capacity for effective political participation through tutoring, coaching and mentoring in 5 Southeast zone in 2019. The purpose of this training is to empower I-WIG-N political aspirants with leadership skills for effective training of political aspirants, strengthen participants confidence and ability in speaking in the public debate on issues of politics, increase their abilities in presenting manifesto and engagement, and to build strong and vibrant20 I-WIG-N from each state to participate effectively in 2019 general elections and beyond,” she maintained.
On her part, Pastor Mrs Ifeoma Chukwuma, the Regional Team Leader, Partnership for Engagement Reform and Learning (PERL) funded by Department for International Development (DFID), while commending Anambra State for providing enabling environment for women to progress in politics, attributed the reasons why there are less women in politics in the country to cultural, lack of information and data and general perception that women should not be in the governance.
Female leaders in executive
Anambra state has produced female leaders in executive, legislative and judicial arms of the government at all tiers of government, including the leaderships of other governmental and nongovernmental organisations, associations and currently, the only state in the country whose State House of Assembly Speaker is a woman, Rt. Hon. Rita Maduagwu. Also, Speaker Maduagwu succeeded Rt. Hon. Chinwe Nwaebili, who was the second female Speaker of legislative chamber in Anambra State. The first was Rt. Hon. Eucharia Anazodo, the current member representing Aguata federal constituency at green chamber.
Pastor Chukwuma, while acknowledging that nagging nature of women often throw them off political realm as men try to avoid them, said that her group decided to partner with Idikacho Women in Governance (IWIG) in order to give women voice, whom she believed had culture of data collection and management.
She also tasked Southeast leaders on fact and data documentation and publication, which she saw as one of the reasons several international donor agencies are shifting their intervention and grants to other parts of the country.
Growing illicit drugs consumption overwhelms Jigawa
Last year, Jigawa state emerged as the nation’s hotbed for drugs production and abuse, in that part of the country. BAYO ALABIRA reports that many youths now consume syrups and over-the-counter (OTC) medications as sedatives and stimulants in Dutse, the capital
In Dutse, Jigawa state capital, high rate of drugs and substance consumption in in the open, is commonplace. But what role is the state government playing towards tackling the problem is difficult to ascertain. Hence, there is increasing cases of mental illness among youths and women, noticeable in the streets. Concerned residents, sometime last year, called on the state government to address the situation urgently, before it gets out of control. But from the look of things the state government may not have found solution to the ugly development. However, sources said it had set up a committee to search for solution.
According to Blueprint checks, recent revelation by experts on drug/substance consumption by youths in Jigawa state, has it that illicit drug use in the state is said the highest ever in the whole of Nigeria.
According to reports, youths’ involvement in illicit drug/substance consumption in Jigawa state is reaching alarming proportion compared to other states in the federation. Before now, Kano state was top on the list of illicit drug/ substance use. How did Jigawa state get to this mess? Going by the reports, if the drug/substance consumption among youths in the state is not tackle with the immediate effect, it would definitely go beyond the imagination of any right thinking human being, and will overwhelm the state government.
Recently too, it was reported in the wider circle of the society that the consumption of the illicit drug/substance within Kano/ Jigawa states was pegged at over three million on a daily bases. And it quite exasperating that youths who are the future leaders of any nation are terribly involved in this dangerous act.
Although disturbing, if this report is authenticated by rating and research institutes, then, policy makers in Jigawa state have a hectic time ahead in fighting the ugly trend which need to be controlled and the addicts rehabilitated.
NDLEA fact sheet
Recently, Mr Oko Michael, Deputy Commander Operations in Jigawa state Command of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) said that in their End of the 2017 Annual Report, 646 suspects were arrested by the command.
Michael disclosed that among this number, seven were females while the remaining were men arrested in various places within the operational areas of the command across the 27 local government areas of the state respectively.
Type of substance
In handling the situation, the NDLEA has confiscated 973.49 Kg of Sativa Cannabis “Hemp”, Psychotropic 310.05 Kg as exhibits. And the total of the substance confiscated in 2017 was 1,283.54 Million Kg. All these arrests were made randomly and most of them were not in areas where such activities were even expected, like the beer parlors, and hotels or hide outs of hoodlums, but along major and local roads or routes.
Although Psychotropic substance he said was just one third of the entire arrest made in 2017, Michael explained that young people both males and females are usually found with Tramadol and cough Syrup. “The highest catch made of these substance so far was that of 389 bottles of Tramadol along Birninkudu high way. It was suspected to be from Bauchi to Kano, because the other high ways from Kaduna to Kano were highly secured by various security agencies. So sometimes the peddlers usually take roads that have less security operatives”.
The NDLEA boss also stressed that considering the danger involve in this business, the Jigawa state command has spread its tentacles in every nooks and cronies of the state with a view to arresting and bringing to book all the offenders. “So 112 were convicted and sentenced to various years to serve as deterrent to others who may have similar mind set on drug abuse”
Again, concerned residents have cried out over the dimension of illicit drugs consumption in Jigawa state, saying that it is worrisome that the state government has not demonstrated commitment to deal with the development.
Last year, the Senate decried the rate of drug abuse in the country. They did not stop at that, but 38 Senators went ahead and co-sponsored a motion, “The Need to Check the Rising Menace of Pharmaceutical Drug Abuse Among Youths Especially in Northern Nigeria.” Of course, this was a fallout of the alarming consumption of hard drugs in the country, most especially in the northern part of Nigeria. Over the years, the northern part of the country has been adjudged the highest consumer of illicit drugs/ substance.
Rubber ‘solution,’ lizard excreta
Presently, in Jigawa state, the new dimension to the act according to Blueprint checks, include; resort by addicts to the use of rubber ‘solution,’ lizard excreta, cough syrup containing codeine and tramadol tablets, rather than the conventional hard that were lawfully banned.
A critic of the trend was reported as saying: “many youths now consume syrups and over-the-counter (OTC) medications as sedatives and stimulants mixed with or disguised as beverages that could be consumed even in public without attracting attention. For instance, the rate of abuse of Benylin cough syrup, which contains codeine, has positioned the state on top of a ticking time bomb that will sooner or later explode”. Adding “Findings in Dutse, the state capital, showed that illicit drug consumption has been on the increase for many years”. And this is coupled with its attendant cycle of crimes masterminded by youths in the state.
Continues the critic: “These addictions have gone beyond the male youth populations to include teenage girls and young women and even older married women who also see it as a lifestyle that should be explored by ‘real’ and ‘strong’ girls”.
Rampant mental cases
Similarly, observers note that mental cases among youths and middle age are rampant in Jigawa state. Speaking to Blueprint, an observer who craved anonymity maintains: “It is a common to observe young people walking the streets displaying mental disorder. In other words, cases of madness are high in Jigawa”.
Critics of the state government said the rate of young people going mad in the state was disturbing, stressing that, it has never been like this before, since the creation of the state. Still, critics say the state government is largely responsible for the development and blamed the government for not being proactive to tackle joblessness among the youths, which is the cause of the addiction to hard drugs.
High rate of youth unemployment in the state, according to experts is a major cause of youths taking to illicit drugs consumption.
But answer to the problem appears to have eluded the state government. Attempts by Blueprints to get official response of the state government on how far it has gone on its search for solution to the problem, were futile.
State government response
However, the Jigawa state deputy governor, Barr. Ibrahim Hassan, was reported as admitting that: “The use of hard drugs, according to the especially among the youth, has become a real social menace and cuts across all social strata, with children from both rich and poor backgrounds deeply into it”.
According to the deputy governor, more unconventional drugs are also being used, not just codeine-laced cough syrup, which has become popular among married women, but also solvents and powerful horse stimulants.
He said: “Until we begin to look into reforming our laws that prohibit such illicit activities and make clear-cut agreements, we would not be able to prosecute a person found with cartons of rubber solution in his shop, even though there are very few bicycles plying the roads in the state; or a chemist that predominantly sells cough syrup more than other drugs, who should be examined and prosecuted, if there is the enabling law for that.”
What is the state government doing as a way forward beside the seeming self- indictment, as could be inferred from the deputy governor’s remarks?
It is a wait and see situation, even as the hard drugs consumption in Jigawa state thrives inexorably.