By ADEBIYI ADEDAPO |
I have listened to arguments in the public space, for and against the bill seeking to create 147 special legislative seats for women in the National Assembly and state houses of assembly.
While some argued from a realistic point of view to support the bill, others, who can be referred to as optimists, advanced the argument that what a man can do, a woman can also do, and even better.
The bill, which seeks to create one special seat to be occupied by a woman from each state and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in the senate, two seats from each state and FCT in the House of Representatives, and one seat in the 36 state houses of assembly, has been passed for a second reading.
The bill seeks to alter sections 48; 49; 71; 77; 91; and 117 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Although it is easy to conclude that since no position is specifically earmarked for men in the political space, women should strive hard to measure up with their male counterparts in politics, after all, some female politicians have, in the past, edged out their male counterparts.
However, speaking to the reality of today’s Nigeria, one cannot unequivocally say women have equal opportunities with men. Although the constitution forbids any kind of discrimination, especially gender, despite this, some notable and unseen hindrances have prevented many women from participating in partisan politics.
For instance, how can one possibly explain that out of the 36 state governors, there is no single woman among them? The few women who had been governors in the past got to the position by some kind of natural circumstance or political error.
This, in my opinion, is right, we cannot continue to put chances of women to uncertainties and still talk about gender equality.
In the National Assembly, women represent less than five per cent of the lawmakers in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Out of the seven women elected into the 9th Assembly, death snatched the vibrant senator, Rose Okoh, from Cross River State and the senate now has six women out of 109 senators.
In the House, only 12 out of the 369 members are women, while in some state houses of assembly, there are no single women.
This is a country where the male to female population is 50.6 per cent to 49.4 per cent.
In my opinion, creating special seats for women will not only increase their level of participation but also create more political awareness among women.
By the end of the first 16 years when the law will be subject to review (according to the bill), the new order would have made more female politicians so much that they will be able to square up with the men in their numbers.
By the way, having a minimum number of 111 out of 580 members, as proposed by the bill, would have increased the percentage of female federal lawmakers from less than four per cent to about 19 per cent. Let’s start from there, the argument about the cost of maintaining a large parliament is a discussion for another time.