Kwara's Landmark in Breaking Barriers of Gender Parity in Governance
Hammed Shittu reports that Kwara State reached a landmark with the Political Offices Bill 2021, which was passed into law as arguably the first legislation of its kind in the country that places a ceiling below which the government cannot go in appointment of women gender for public offices. Recently, in the ancient town of Ilorin, an event which was tagged “Cracking the Glass Ceiling: the story of Kwara Women”, was held to commemorate the new record in gender inclusion in Nigeria
The ancient town of Ilorin, in the North Central Zone of the country recently went agog when the women from all the strata of the society converged on Ilorin city to be part of the historic award of recognition to some of the deserved women and to witness the assent to the bill on women parity passed by the state lawmakers that removed the ceiling on their full participation in the art of governance so as to add more value to the growth of the nation.
The event which was organised by the present administration of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, was meant to exhort women of timber and caliber on the role they play in the socio well being and development of the state.
The development is not far fetched as the role of the feminine gender in the socio economic growth of the nation cannot be isolated in the day to day running of affairs of government.
Thus, organising such event would serve as impetus to them to be more committed to the political and economic growth of the nation.
The event which was tagged “Cracking the Glass Ceiling: the story of Kwara Women was also meant to set a new record in women gender inclusion for Nigeria.
The law, cited as Political Offices (Gender Composition) Bill 2021, is arguably the first legislation of its kind in the country that places a ceiling below which the government cannot go in appointment of women gender for public offices.
The event was attended by creme de la creme from Kwara and beyond. They include representative of the wife of the President, Dr. Rukayat Gurin; Kwara First Lady, Ambassador Olufolake AbdulRazaq; Women Affairs Minister Dame Pauline Tallen; Ekiti First Lady Mrs. Bisi Fayemi and several governors’ wives.
Others include, the first lady of Ogun State Mrs. Bamidele Abiodun, the First Lady of Lagos State Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, the first lady of Taraba State, Barrister Anna Ishaku; the first lady of Osun State, Mrs. Kafayat Oyetola and the first lady of Oyo State Engr. Tamunominini Makinde.
Also present were Senators from the three senatorial districts of Kwara and House of Representatives members from the state; the Ilorin born business tycoon, Mrs. Bola Shagaya; former acting Governor of CBN, Sarah Alade; National Missioner Ansar-u-deen Muslim Society of Nigeria, Dr. AbdulRahman Ahmad; Founder/CEO Sokoa Chair Centre and keynote speaker, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika.
Kwara Speaker, Yakubu Danladi-Salihu led members of the House to the event, which was also attended by cabinet members.
The State Traditional Council Chairman and the Emir of Ilorin Dr. Ibrahim Zulu-Gambari led a legion of first class emirs and Obas to the event that also attracted global audience such as the United Nations Women Representative to Nigeria/ECOWAS Comfort Lamptey; ambassadors; and others.
The event also saw the conferment of outstanding awards of excellence on Kwara women who have achieved huge feats in their respective fields: former Chief Judg, Raliat Elelu-Habeeb; Mrs Sarah Jubril; financial guru and former Lagos Finance Commissioner, Mrs Foluke Abdulrazaq; Mrs Sarah Alade; business woman Bola Shagaya; Senator Khairat Gwadabe; first female HOS in Kwara Zarah Omar; former Deputy Vice Chancellor of University of Ilorin Prof Sidikat Ijaya; media veteran Hajia Eyitayo Mairo Mustapha; and the Onila/Agindigbi women who built schools; among many others.
Speaking in Ilorin at the state government-inspired conference themed ‘Cracking the glass ceiling: the story of Kwara women’, the governor said it was only fair that women be given a fair space in the decision making process whose outcomes have far-reaching consequences for them and their families.
The governor said the recognition and the step to mainstream women in public service was the least the administration could do for the hardworking women as a way of inspiring the girl child.
“Women are so critical to human civilisation. They are just as brilliant, innovative, and smart as men. They are the largest voting demographic in Nigeria. Yet, they are often absent or unfairly represented when policies and programmes that shape everything concerning them and their families are designed,” he asserted.
“This needs a rethink. In Kwara, we have recently taken unprecedented steps to involve more women in the decision making process. We appointed 56.25 female cabinet members and about 50 per cent female permanent secretaries. Many key government positions are headed by women. We do not have regrets making such decisions.
“Nevertheless, the gains we have made in Kwara in mainstreaming gender parity in appointments could easily be reversed by anyone. We have therefore decided to give a legal cover for gender parity in Kwara State, no matter what party is in power. I have therefore assented to the Kwara State Political Offices (Gender Composition) Bill 2021.
“A unique feature of this legislation is that no gender class shall henceforth have below 35 per cent representation in the State Executive Council. This opens a new chapter for inclusive political system in Kwara State and Nigeria as a whole. It is our bold contribution to the Nigerian political culture.
“We feel strongly that no segment of the society should be absent or underrepresented in the decision making process. This law could well encourage our major parties to officially mainstream gender parity in their activities.”
He recalled that many heroic efforts of women have contributed to the growth of the state, saying the conference was organised to single them out for special commendations.
“This is a moment to specially appreciate all of you Kwara women for the great things that you stand for,” Abdulrazaq said.
“From farm to market place, community work, national service, and their sweats that go into building our homes, the Kwara woman is simply great.
“Early this year, I read the inspiring story of some women in Onila and Agindigbi communities who pulled resources together to build schools. No commitment to community growth can be greater. I visited these women in appreciation of this sacrifice. We have also reimbursed their expenses, and completed the schools. The Onila/Agindigbi phenomenon reflects the character of the Kwara woman.”
Nigeria’s First Lady who was represented by the Senior Special Assistant on Administration and Women Affairs, Dr. Rukayat Gurin, called on all states in Nigeria to emulate AbdulRazaq in promoting the welfare of women for overall development of Nigeria.
“You are a true partner to women and you are doing well for advancing the course of women. We are all testimonies to the historic story of Kwara women under you,” she said.
She commended Governor AbdulRazaq for giving opportunities to women to thrive.
Kwara’s First Lady, Olufolake AbdulRazaq, on her part, explained that the event is to inspire the average Kwara woman to leverage the women-friendly initiatives of the state government to chart progressive course for themselves and be active participants in the processes of governance for the development of their immediate communities and the nation.
“While today’s event is essentially to bring to the fore the impact women can make when given a fair competitive chance in all spheres of endeavor, this convergence also provides the opportunity to celebrate women, especially Kwara women, who have carved a niche for themselves in their respective callings while giving assurances through the gender inclusive disposition of the Administration of the Governor of Kwara State His Excellency Abdulrazaq that there is no limit to the dream and aspirations of every woman and girl, irrespective of their religion or socio cultural leanings.”
This event also stands to commemorate the United Nations 16 days of activism against gender-based violence which started on the 25th of November,” she added.
Dame Paulen said the formation of AbdulRazaq’s women-dominated cabinet is remarkably unique, adding the event further underlined the governor’s efforts at improving the lot of women in national development.
She lauded the governor’s wife for supporting her husband to cause a meaningful change in the history of the state.
She added: “It is most gratifying to join this event organised to celebrate the socio-cultural, economic and political contributions of women in Kwara State. It is on record that Kwara started cracking the glass ceiling in 2019 with the landmark appointments, where he appointed nine women out of 16 commissioners into the state Executive Council.”
In her keynote address, Founder/CEO Sokoa Chair Centre, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika congratulated the governor for being exceptional and a pacesetter in allowing the girl child to be major part of the political and economic aspect of the state.
“Kwara State is a good example of states that understand the value inherent in women. Kwara has shown that it has women who have gone through many fields and every corner of this state and Nigeria,” she said.
“Nothing is wrong with you being a girl or woman. We need to appreciate and use every resource that we have to our advantage. We must educate every girl and empower women. I want to call on every young girl, as long as you have brain and you are educated, there is nothing you can’t do because of your gender.
“Women are compassionate and care more about community. We need women and men to work together collaboratively. Women are not seeking to replace men but to work together for the development of the society.”
Also speaking at the event, the First Lady of Ekiti State and Chairperson Nigerian Governors Wives Forum, Mrs. Bisi Fayemi, congratulated Kwara women and thanked the governor for making the welfare and development of women the core concern of his administration.
The UN Women Country Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms Comfort Lamptey described mainstreaming of gender inclusion in the state as the right way to go.
Meanwhile, commenting on the outcome of the women event, a pro- democracy group in the state, “Kwara Must Change” lauded the new giant stride of the present government in the state for signing into law, political office gender composition bill, at a landmark event, Cracking the Glass Ceiling to celebrate women achievers in the state.
The convener of the group, Comrade Rasaq Hamzat said that, “The political office gender composition law mandates it on successive governments in Kwara State to ensure both male and female have a minimum of 35 per cent and maximum of 65 per cent representation in government and we are glad that the governor introduced this law to institutionalise gender parity in the state, which is an advancement of the advocacy by our organisation, “Kwara Must Change”.
“We would like to use this opportunity to commend the Kwara state governor and the Kwara State House of Assembly, led by Hon Yakubu Danladi for towing the courageous path of doing the right thing, despite its seemingly lack of political correctness.
“It is important at this juncture, to refresh our mind about the origin of this new wave of advocacy for gender parity in Kwara State.
“On May 27th, 2019, precisely two days before Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq took over government of Kwara State as the executive governor, our organisation, Kwara Must Change, which is a leading Pro Democracy group in Kwara State held the first Kwara Women Summit in the history of the state, to set agenda for the new administration on gender parity in governance.
“Being one of the leading organisations that spearheaded the Otoge political revolution, which swept godfatherism out of the state of harmony, our aim for hosting the women summit was to ensure that in the new and liberated Kwara, women will not only enjoy the dividend of Kwara political liberation, their position should also change for good and they must be part of creating the new political and governance culture in the state.
“It was with this vision that women from across the length and breadth of Kwara State were brought together by Kwara Must Change in Ilorin, the state capital, to provide context for the need for women involvement in governance and serve as Kwara Must Change launching platform for advocacy for gender inclusion.
“At the end of the first Kwara Women Summit, a communique was released on May 28th, 2019, the recommendation of which demanded for at least, 50 per cent women cabinet positions in the state.
“From that day onward, Kwara Must Change championed the advocacy for women to have at least, 50 per cent of cabinet positions, an advocacy that we not only took to the highest authority, but became a major talking point in kwara polity and provided needed sensitisation to the public”.
He explained further that, “The purpose of our advocacy, before the formation of the new government in 2019 was to ensure that the issue of gender inclusion was placed at the forefront of governance consideration.
“Upon assumption of office as governor and in the magnanimity of his excellency, Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, the governor forwarded to the Kwara State House of Assembly, more than 56 per cent women cabinet members, which is the best in history of Nigeria, Africa and indeed, one of the best in the world.
“What governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq did is well above what we requested for and the governor proved to us that, whatever good we are seeking for the society, he’s prepared to do more and he will not only do what is within his capacity to make the society better, but will also try, as much as possible, to right the many wrongs, even if it is not politically correct”.
Hamzat noted that, “the advocacy which started like a child’s play gradually grew into a landmark achievement and we must express our profound gratitude to his excellency for cracking the glass ceiling for women.
“Many women, who were part of the historic first Kwara Women Summit in 2019 are now office holders in various capacities, ranging from Commissioners, Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants, Chairmen and many others and they are contributing their quota to governance and shaping the new political culture in the state”.
He therefore said that, “Kwara Must Change is glad to be a part of this historical accomplishment and we are specially thankful to all stakeholders who supported governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq to elevating the status of women beyond mere rhetorics.
“Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq did not only demonstrate his love and admiration for women capacity, he has also shown his determination to promote justice, equality and fairness and we urge the federal government and Nigerian Governor’s Forum to adopt the bill on political office gender composition and replicate same across the federation”..
By and large, with this new initiative of the government at setting an agenda for women participation in the governance in the state affairs, it is will provide them more chance to offer ideas and opinions that would take the state into a greater heights and also set a move to bring more women into the art of governance as God makes no rigid distinctions in what success that people can attain, no matter their gender.
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