By Toun Okewale Sonaiya
Your Excellency Sir,
On behalf of Nigerian Women, home and abroad, who are lovers of peace and believers in democracy, I say congratulations on your victory at the just concluded Presidential Election of Febuary 23, 2019.
It is indeed not an ordinary achievement for the majority of the Nigerian people to decide to keep faith with you despite our renowned reputation of impatience. This speaks of the uncommon faith reposed in you as a person of integrity. While I do not want to soil your victory celebration, I want you to know that your victory is not a referendum on what could have been achieved for Nigerian women in the area of representation and inclusion, rather it is more of a reflection of our belief in the great things you still have up your sleeves.
Your Excellency, you will recall that even your opponents agree that your 2015 victory was a watershed in our history and signaled a new beginning of great possibilities. Unfortunately, we have had less to celebrate in the area of women representation in your government, and the feminization of poverty in Nigeria. Amongst other not so impressive statistics in the last four years, you nominated only six women out of 36 ministerial positions. This represents a paltry 16% as against the 31% of women representation in the administration before you.
Particularly worthy of note, are the millions of women across ethnic, religious and even class divide, who voted for you in 2015 and have done same in the 2019 elections.
While the data released by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on collected PVCs for the 2019 elections is not broken down according to sex, available 2015 presidential election voter turnout data shows that housewives were the third highest group out of the nine groups that voted.
In 2015, three million, six hundred and sixty-seven thousand, and seventy-six (3,667,076) housewives voted in the presidential election, placing next to students (4,480,708) and civil servants (4,628,433). Similarly, housewives rank third on the list of registered voters by group in the 2019 election. That fraction out of women’s vote represent 14.10 per cent of the total registered voters by group, next to farmers/fishers (16.23 per cent) and students (26.57 per cent). This figure does not include the millions of women across the various other groups who make up the total votes from women.
I was privileged to attend and speak at the Women Political Aspirants Advocacy Summit last year. It was organised by the National Council of Women Societies in partnership with The National Centre for Women Development, Women in Politics Forum and the Office of the Wife of the President of Nigeria. We were honoured and elated when you honoured us with your presence and a speech, and despite the cynicism of a few that sat beside me about the timing and sincerity of support for increase participation, most of us believed you when you declared your support for the 35% affirmative Act policy. 2019 is that time for you to deliver on that promise.
Mr. President, as we anticipate your swearing-In ceremony for the second term, history beckons that you rise to the occasion and walk your talk by ensuring you lead the way in the implementation of the 35% affirmative action. You must be INTENTIONAL and DELIBERATE; to foster good governance and show that you’re accountable to true democracy by appointing more women.
A gentle reminder your Excellency; Ethiopia under a man had a 50/50 gender balance cabinet to the applause of the global community. Today, a woman is steering that ship. Rwandan women make up 64% of its parliament, 50% of its cabinet & 44% in Judiciary. Under your renewed leadership, Nigeria must reclaim and maintain its position as African Giant.
It is said that uneasy lies the head that wears the Crown, but we will continue to pray for the Almighty God to grant you the wisdom, knowledge and understanding to stir the ship of our country, Nigeria.
You must, sir, acknowledge and embrace at least 35% Women in your government.
Sonaiya is the CEO, Women Radio 91.7