Few hours back, I strolled into one of the key offices under the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a singular matter for constructive dialogue with a friend who is a senior aide of President Muhammadu Buhari.
My concern was on the observed lack of observation by the mainstream political parties of the policy framework that greeted the 1995 Fourth United Nations women conference in the Chinese capital of Beijing which basically recommended certain percentages of women inclusion in all aspects of political governance globally. Under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), out of the seventeen key goals, the number five demanded gender equality in terms of appointments into decision making process.
Given the lack of adherence by the major political parties to the basic imperative of observing gender mainstreaming in deciding aspirants to run for public offices in the forthcoming election, I was worried by the decline in the number of women that emerged from the fratricidal warfare that was termed the party primaries of such major political platforms of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the leading opposition party –the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Of the two mainstream national parties, only the All Progressives Congress picked very insignificant percentage of women aspirants to run for the available slots in the forthcoming elections in 2019. Adamawa has two women who got tickets to stand for office of Senators out of the three slots.
On the other hand, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which over the decade respected the mainstreaming of women participation in governance, unfortunately did very badly.
Take for instance the federal government that was administered by the former university don Dr Goodluck Jonathan between 2011 and 2015, made sure that women got a greater chunk of the top flight federal appointments. Women got 33 percentage of top appointments made by the administration of Dr Goodluck Jonathan according to a statistics made available by the Nigerian Institute of Management.
Women for instance headed both the petroleum and the national economy portfolio for the duration of the President Jonathan’s era. Jonathan also gave unfettered opportunities to his wife to engage constructively in pro-women projects which to a very large extent achieved a lot of mileages for the advancement of the rights of women and children. The current government of Muhammadu Buhari is reported to have offered only a paltry 19 percent of such appointments to women which is like 50 percent decline from the benchmark made by the immediate past administration as claimed by Professor Olukunle Iyanda, the president of the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM). Indeed the NIM accused President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration of sidelining women.
Ironically, the list of those to run for elective offices in the coming election amongst the women members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has significantly declined compared to the All Progressives Congress which is accused of marginalizing women.
The party that is affiliated to the current president known as All Progressives Congress (APC) looks set to present more women to run for offices than any other political party of national significance. For instance the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) schemed out the wife of the renowned South East legend the late Ikemba of Igboland Chukwuemeka Ojukwu. Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu was rigged out of the Senatorial Primary in Anambra state by a political party that rode on the good name of her late husband to gain tremendous acceptance amongst Igbo. These scheming out deliberately of women by political parties preparatory to the 2019 poll is worrisome.
So this friend I met in the presidency also expressed shock and disappointment with the turn of events which according to her will not augur well for the advocacy for gender equity in governance that has gone on in Nigeria for so long. She was rather sad that Nigeria instead of making progress in this area has suddenly declined. She referred this writer to the practice in a place like Rwanda where by in the parliament, women make up over fifty percent representation.
Whilst still lamenting over the unfolding scenario, yours faithfully then flipped through a copy of the day’s newspaper only to behold a very sad story about a couple in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, who sold their week-old baby boy for N200, 000 to a human trafficking syndicate so they can relocate from a part of Ngwa land in Abia State to Port Harcourt or any other urban center.
The couple, who hail from Isiala-Ngwa North Local Government Area of Abia State, confessed to the crime, saying it was hard times that forced them into the decision.
Narrating her part in the deal, the wife said: “I have given birth to four children, one is late. I have two now. So when I became pregnant I told my husband that we would sell the baby and use the money to relocate from my village to township to start a better life. He refused but I forced him into agreeing with my plan.
“My husband is a labourer, he is a wheelbarrow pusher. I owe debts everywhere and I needed to settle them. So, we sold the baby for N200, 000 but I later learnt the baby was sold for N500, 000.”Her husband, Richard said: “We were owing N10, 000 and the hardship was too much for us to bear. I went round seeking for help but no help came. We wanted to relocate to the township for a chance of a better life, that was why we sold the baby to enable us raise money and rent an apartment in the city.”
Parading the suspects alongside other seven child traffickers at the IGP complex in Aluu, Ikwere Local Government Area of Rivers State, the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the IGP Monitoring Team, DCP Benneth Igwe, disclosed that the team rescued six pregnant women and arrested seven child traffickers in connection with the business.
He said: “Based on reliable intelligence about a notorious child trafficking cartel operating in Obigbo-Afam in Oyigbo Local Government Area and Omagwa, Aluu, the operatives burst into Afrique Hotel in Oyigbo and rescued six pregnant women awaiting delivery.
“The hotel is used as a harbinger by suspected child traffickers. Information further revealed that on October 7, the victims, one Richard Benson and his wife, Chidinma Benson, delivered a baby boy at Grace Land Maternity Homes, Afam Obigbo.
The US based Cable News Network reported only last month about the discovery of the forest in France and further reported that the trafficking of Nigerian women for prostitution began in the late 1980s, according to the UN, when women were sent to Italy and forced into sex work. Returning home, they became the first generation of madams. They, in turn, made other young women suffer as they did.
Aurélie Jeannerod, who works with NGO Aux Captifs, la Liberation, which visits and supports prostitutes in the Bois de Vincennes and other parts of Paris, says there are also men involved with the networks.
–Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria