Nigeria: Not yet a generation equality. By Issa Aremu, mni

Date: 2020-03-09

Yesterday marked the International Women's Day. The day is celebrated globally annually on March 8 in appreciation of women's remarkable contribution to humanity and society. The day commemorates the inspiring role of women around the world to secure women's rights and build more equitable societies. It was a pleasure to return back to Ilorin yesterday to mark the historic date.

I rounded up my campaign for Governorship of Kwara state on the 8th of March last year during which I stepped down for the APC candidate under the OTO GE/ODOPIN partnership political agenda to liberate the state of Harmony from the hegemony of PDP almost two decade rule. Earlier on that Thursday, I had unveiled a block of twin toilets to the Junior Secondary School Araromi Ayegun, Eyenkorin, (a mixed school proportional males and females) in Asa local government area of the state. The project came into being following a pledge I had made during the Inter-School Science Competition held at Apata Ajele Secondary School, where the female students of Ayegun Secondary School came second.

The competition was organized for selected Secondary Schools in the area by an NGO in collaboration with some British youth volunteers. Prior to the donation of the toilet, the staff and students of Ayegun Secondary school had been practicing open defecation, an appalling and very repugnant act in a public school in the present 21st century. The rationale behind the donation of the toilet was to provide a serene and hygienic environment for both teachers and students of the college.

It was repugnant and socially unacceptable in this present era for government to build a school without adequate consideration for toilet facility and other basic amenities like power and water, basic necessities for learning. It was heart warming to return to the school yesterday to commission another block of twin toilets for use by both the students and teachers in the school as promised last year. The gesture is to make teaching and learning more conducive for both teachers and students of the school.

It also compliments the Kwara State's administration's effort and commitment to improved sanitation and hygiene in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) six (6) which seeks to achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations by 2030. The move also complements the objectives of Executive Order 009 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari which tends to end open Defecation-Free Nigeria by 2025.

The theme of this year's International Women's Day is "I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women's Rights". It aptly compliments United Nations Women's new multigenerational campaign – (Generation Equality) marking 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. The theme is a wake up call towards equal gender representation focusing on the need for all to be involved in the fight for gender equality.

Today we should raise the voice for gender equality in the politics and governance, boardrooms, government, workplace and trade unions. I commend AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, Governor of Kwara State, for forming an inclusive cabinet with the number of appointed female cabinet members and politi­cal appointees. At present, nine, or 52.25%, of his 16-person cabinet picks are women, high­er than the 35% affirmative action sought by the Beijing Declaration. I agree with the late Nelson Mandela in his 1996 women Day speech that: "As long as outmoded ways of thinking prevent women from making a meaningful contribution to society, progress will be slow,".

As a gender equality activist, I am excited that women are being integrated in national development process. I am even more impressed that millions of our women including my late mother earn and deserve their achievements and accomplishment not necessarily through affirmative actions. Indeed it is the society that must apologize for the historic exclusion of women in the past rather than women rolling out praises for leaders who are doing what they should in the first instance if Nigeria must have a sustainable development; women inclusion.

Certainly Nigeria parades first female Defence Minister of state, first foreign Affairs Minister, first Minister of Finance, Ministers for Solid Minerals and Education, first Petroleum Minister, twice times Minister of the Federal Republic and first coordinating Minister (read; Prime Minister!), many Deputy governors and commissioners and a significant number of high profile female advisers on critical success programmes like the old Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of 2020. Even at that Nigeria lacks behind Ghana and South Africa in gender equality in governance.

Certainly it's not yet a generation equality here. However few women in governance must effectively bring a different perspective into governance based on their experiences, rich heritage of struggles, competence, resistance to oppression and marginalization, widening gap between great potentials and miserable reality, mass unemployment amidst idle capacity, vote rigging and insurgency.

Paradoxically most women in governance do not pose the question of their relevance in governance in the way of making a difference but in partaking in the current serial malfeasance. Women must not just be contended with opportunity to be appointed to serve and count gains in personal awards.

The abysmal and scandalous shortages of basics like water and energy tasks women and men alike in governance to make a difference. With trillion of Naira on power sector, Nigeria is still largely in darkness. Industrialization remains a tall order without electrification. A dispensation that throws many women up for national service has further pushed (or has not uplifted) as many women as 70 per cent below poverty.

In fact gender desegregation of deepening poverty and destitution makes observers talk of the new phenomenon of feminization of poverty again in a dispensation in which women political office holders have captured imagination. There are cynics who insist that women in governance have only legitimized bad governance and underdevelopment. The issue here is that female participation comes to naught until Nigeria's existing recurring failure factors, namely education, power, industry and health are transfigured into clear cut success factors. There cannot be celebration as such, until commonwealth is built in place of the present personal aggrandizement of the political elite made up of men and few privileged women. Nigeria is totally imperiled if either by omission or commission, women join in the present obscenely advertised madness of the ruling (read: ruining) male elite! Happy women day!!!

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