Ebere Ifendu is the national president, Women in Politics Forum (WIPF). In this brief interview with ENE OSANG, she speaks on the on-going moves at the National Assembly (NASS) to determine the next President of the Senate and speaker of the House of Representatives. She also advocates gender as a leadership criterion.
What informed the all women rally to the National Assembly?
We can see what is going on at the National Assembly concerning who will be the next President of the Senate or speaker of the House or Representatives and nobody is considering women; so we are asking that women be given the opportunity this time. We have women that are ranking members at both the Senate and House of Representatives who should hold leadership positions because they have the experience and are capable.
If the criteria they are using for these positions are zoning or states and by geopolitical zones, gender should be part of it. There are capable women who struggled to get there for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd time and they have the experience.
We hear men talk about we are zoning to the North-west, North-east and all they are saying is about men, but today we are saying gender should be a criterion.
Do you think women did well in the 8th Assembly to deserve leadership positions?
Yes, the few women at the National Assembly have done so well so far. The chairman of aviation committee, Nkeiru Onyejiocha, for instance, has done a lot and she has been the only one who came out boldly to question the Dana Air crash. Even when those responsible tried to cover up certain things she stood her grounds to say she is a woman, a mother, and people were lost, so we cannot do that.
We are not talking about her just because she is a woman, rather because she has something to hold unto. If I will take it from Abia state where she is from, her constituency projects are things that you cannot close your eyes to. She empowered graduates, gave economic empowerment to women and the downtrodden and helped them set up enterprises. She taught the women to fish and she is running a scholarship scheme for members of her constituency. She impacted her constituents so well and that is why she got the ticket, contested and won again.
You are also now demanding 50% representation in governance; don’t you think this is asking for too much considering that Nigeria is yet to achieve 35% affirmative action?
Demanding 50% is not too much; what we should rather ask is ‘what is the number of women in Nigeria?’ We are half of the population. Nobody, not even the president, could have won elections without women’s votes and it shouldn’t be only during campaigns that the men should know we have the numbers.
Our numerical strength should work for us this time; women must be recognised to hold leadership positions at the National Assembly. So, we are asking to be speaker, deputy speaker, president of the Senate, deputy president of the Senate. However, they are doing the zoning and so gender should be considered.
President Muhammadu Buhari has given the assurance that more women will be included in his cabinet this time and he is yet to be sworn in; don’t you think this protest is coming too early?
Yes, he said so and we are hopeful, but we don’t want to sit and watch until that happens or not because we had that promise the last time and how did it end up?
We are not taking chances this time, all we are saying is, it is time for him to fulfil what he promised and let Nigerian women begin to feel the impact of our population.
This our demand is not coming too early, very soon this cabinet will be dissolved and new one inaugurated, so the president should include women because all on-going discussions are about men, they have forgotten about the women.
At the National Assembly women are seriously lobbying for leadership positions, but the men are everywhere and have the larger population; but we have ranking members who are women and that is why we have come out to make our demands.
As the WIPF president, what would you say about the conduct of the elections?
It was very poor, very bad election and any election that doesn’t involve good number of women is rubbish. I don’t want to indict INEC, but I am indicting political parties and the men because they didn’t allow us to have a smooth transition. The whole election was more of thuggery, imposition, violence and money politics and so they schemed out women.
What then is the way forward for women politicians since these problems keep reoccurring?
We have started lobbying for positions; we are not waiting till after appointments. We are no longer waiting for the men to decide the pace; we want to decide the pace for the men to follow now. Secondly, we are going to have town hall meetings and to begin immediately to work towards 2023. We will begin to identify women that will run for elections, begin to teach them empowerment in the area of funding and how to look for money because we have seen that Nigerian politics is all about money and so, we want to teach our women to create wealth to be able to contest for elections.
Also, women clearly won and were deprived the positions at tribunals and we have the proactive gender initiative supporting their legal processes and we expect to get something out of it.
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