■ As women seek VP slot
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
As the 2019 general elections approach, President Muhammadu Buhari has said the position of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is threatened. He said this at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Friday while hosting a delegation of the Conference of Nigerian Female Parliamentarians (CONFEPA), led by its President, Hon. Elizabeth Uyinmwen Ativie.
Buhari who on April 9th declared he was seeking re-election, is yet to officially confirm whether he will run with his deputy. Responding to the demand of the group for a female vice president of the country, Buhari jocularly said: “It is a pity the VP is not here, but I believe the Secretary to the Government of the Federation will brief him that his position is threatened.”
He added, “It is only the vice president who is threatened. And if we win the next election, he may lose his election.” Buhari who expressed his appreciation to the women for the support they have given him in the four times he ran for president, said he was as powerful as they think.
He recalled how pregnant women queued to vote for him, asking them to extend the same support since he has declared for second term.
On their request that he should make a pronouncement that out of every three senatorial seats in a state, one slot should be ceded to a woman and out of every nine slots in the House of Representatives, at least three should be given to women, the President responded, “as powerful as you think.”
Buhari said he lacked the powers to make such pronouncement and that the request could only be made by a military head of state, but, he had already dropped the uniform for “agbada”. He said, “I am not all that powerful that when I talk it becomes a decree. As I said it is only the Vice President that is threatened.”
Buhari allayed the fears of the women that the men were already regrouping to suppress and marginalize them in the forthcoming elections, saying that there was no such plot. He further told the lawmakers that they were fairly treated, adding that if there was a plot against them many of them would not have been elected.
Buhari asked the delegation to disabuse the minds of other female politicians from their belief that men are aggressive, adding that the men were being fair to them by allowing them to participate in politics.
Ativie had earlier told the President that though Nigeria has gone through five elections since 1999, she added that the political transformation was still male dominated as women are still marginalized in politics.
She said, “Your Excellency, all over the world, the issue of twinning is being advocated. Currently, many African and European nations are daily finding ways to include more women in governance. Some have elected or appointed women as Heads of States, Prime Ministers, Heads of Foreign Ministries and other key positions of decision-making.
“It will not be out of place Your Excellency for women to be given such opportunities in our dear nation. Even God created them male and female.”
She added that the role of women in national development cannot be over-emphasised.
“Women have the ability to direct and coordinate the home to benefit all members of the family and this brings stability, peace and progress. This same ability no doubt can be used by women to bring about national development.
“There is no gainsaying the fact that even few women who have been given opportunity, has done extremely well in all fields of human endeavours.
Politically, women account for over 50 percent of voters in any election. They are very loyal politicians and do not cross-carpet. They wait patiently to cast their votes under the rain and even in the scorching sun.”
The CONFEPA president, regretted that Nigerian women have not been given their rightful place in the scheme of things. She said despite the fact that Nigerian women account for 50 percent of the population, they hold less than eight percent of principal positions at the Federal and State levels. She added that women political empowerment in Nigeria ranks a lowly 111th position of 145 countries according to the 2015 Global Gender Gap Report.
Ativie, who commended state governors who have come up with deliberate policies and have increased women representation in their states, urged others yet to do so to follow suit.
She said, “Your Excellency, kindly ensure that the few women presently elected or appointed are retained, promoted to the next level and the number of female representation increased in the Federal, States and Local Government levels.”