Founder of Kudirat Initiatives For Democracy (KIND), Hafsat Abiola-Costelo has challenged Nigerian women to demand their political power and rights.
Abiola-Costelo, daughter of the presumed winner of the June 12 1993 presidential election, the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola whose wife, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola was also assassinated in Lagos, gave the charge recently at an event organized by her organization in Lagos.
The event themed Consultative Forum on Women Political Participation in Lagos State featured several facilitators and participants from Lagos and beyond.
The activist said Nigerian women are among the strongest in the world and the most relegated on earth. “Women are not really valued in our society, we are almost like slaves. This situation is not going to change until we demand the power and the right that are ours,” she said.
The rights activist went down memory lane asking women to speak up and demand their rights. She narrated how the late historic Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti mobilised women to depose the then monarch of Egba Land, the Alake of Egbaland, whose policies were detrimental to the women folks.
Abiola-Costelo however lamented the relegation of women under the current administration. “The representation of women in the decision making under this administration in the National Assembly is really the worst we have seen in a long time,” she said, adding that women representation in the National Assembly is less than 8%.”
Former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Mrs. Sarah Sosan OFR, also at the event encouraged Nigerian women to participate in the democratic process. She said the reason for her encouragement is to have more women participate in the politics of Lagos State.
The former Deputy Governor noted that politics is similar around the world and Nigeria’s version only comes with some differences. “Politics is same all over the world. The difference in the Nigerian politics in comparison to other climes is maturity, deep understanding of what politics is by the people of a particular community. The kind of politics observed by a particular community depicts the culture and mindset of the people,” she said.
Talking about the Nigerian politics, Sosan said, “In Nigeria it is about money. How do we fight against money? We should start by telling our children it is not about money but about what the candidate promised to do and how we can hold such person accountable.
“If you take money from politicians they would tell you they have paid you. If you are materialistic about politics you would get it but won’t get anything when the government is formed,” she said.
Also at the event, Acting Administrative Secretary for the Independent National Electoral Commissions (INEC), Lagos State, Mrs. Okey-Igbokwe in her presentation said politics in Nigeria is not as easy as thought.
“It is not easy for women to come to the fore when it comes to politics. History has it that it is only in 1985, that women were allowed to vote in the southern part of the country. In the northern part of the country it wasn’t so it came later,” she said, adding that, “The issue of women in politics is not a favour and we must know that if politics is a game of number. I don’t know why women should be begging men to allow us to be a member of House of Assembly, Governors and President.”
A consultant for the Voice project of KIND also at the event, Professor Aderibigbe Olomola identified the problems militating against women in politics. “Inadequate legislature, insufficient government attention, insufficient interest by women, corruption inadequate financial capacity, insufficient social demand, outright discrimination, level of illiteracy, cultural barriers as obstacles of women political participation,” he said.
Olomola however listed factors that could enable women to fare well in politics. “Sensitization, awareness, legislative initiatives, media campaign, increase cooperation with NGOs and increase financial support are some of the enablers of women participation in politics,” he listed.