It is very interesting to note that probably for the first time in our nation’s history, the relevant authorities in Nigeria are beginning to prepare for an event that is still over a year away, that is, the next general elections in February 2019.
INEC is getting ready and the politicians are also aligning themselves for the various political positions available.
The question, however is, ‘is the average Nigerian ready for the 2019 elections’? As citizens, we need to start changing our attitude to politics. As long as we continue voting along tribal and ethnic lines we will always continue to have disastrous governments. It’s not too late to decide to vote ideologically and not along tribal or ethnic lines in 2019 and supporting gender equality is a good place to start.
The reason we keep getting one bad government after another is because, as ordinary citizens who actually hold the keys to power, we hardly make adequate preparations for elections in Nigeria. On the day of the election, we simply troop out and vote for the candidate we hope is the least corrupt of all those running.
There are several people in the country who feel marginalised (and rightly so too) but in my opinion, in Nigeria, the female population is by far the most marginalised demographic group in the country.
As one woman after another accused disgraced Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, of sexual harassment, I wondered aloud, ‘if such a thing could be happening in 21st century USA only God knows to what extent it is happening in Nigeria?’ (Yeah, by now you must have figured out that the writer of the article is male). A female friend of mine, who also happens to be Nigerian, told me that unfortunately such situations and even worse ones are commonplace in Nigeria but almost all go unreported partly because the Nigerian society would only turn around and blame the victim. That is beyond sad!
In another development, in far away New Zealand, there was tremendous boost for female empowerment with the emergence of 37-year-old Jacinda Adern as the new Prime Minister of a country whose currency is the 11th most valuable in the world. Personally, I think it is actually a shame that we are still celebrating the emergence of female political leaders in the 21st century. By now female leaders, be it in the political sphere or in the corporate world should have become a norm not a rarity.
The time has come for us in Nigeria to start putting women in positions of power and influence because it’s the absence of women in positions of power that makes certain men think they can touch women inappropriately and get away with it. There aren’t enough laws in Nigeria protecting women from sexually harassment. Now, sexual harassment is only one of the numerous challenges facing women in Nigeria. The reality is that there aren’t enough laws protecting women or guaranteeing gender equality in Nigeria and that is as a result of a dearth of women in positions of authority or politicians fighting to bring an end to discrimination against women in Nigeria.
The irony, however, is that Nigeria is a signatory to various international treaties that guarantee gender equality. One of them is The African Charter on People and Human Rights. Article 18(3) of that Charter states specifically that “The State Shall ensure the elimination of every discrimination against women…” Furthermore, S.17(1)(2)(a) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 states that “every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunity before the law”. What that constitutional provision implies is that when the Nigerian Senate opposed the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill (2011) they were acting unconstitutionally. The constitution of Nigeria already guarantees gender equality the purpose of the bill was to spell out the details.
We cannot continue to pretend sexual harassment of our mothers, sisters, daughters, aunties, friends and colleagues is normal in the 21st century because sexual harassment is an act of injustice and one act of injustice breeds another. If you think it’s okay for a man to touch women inappropriately or it’s okay for a widow to be kicked out of her husband’s house without any inheritance then you must also think it’s okay for a governor, who is living rent-free in the governor’s mansion, to be owing civil-servants working in the state for 11 straight months or for the same governor, who served the state – poorly for that matter – for only four years to be guaranteed a life pension when civil servants, who put in decades of meritorious service, die without receiving their pension.
Is it okay for politicians to be going abroad to check their blood pressure and cholesterol levels while doctors in the country are going on strike due to non-payment of salaries? No, I didn’t think so either. Or is it okay for these same politicians, feeding fat on the country’s resources, to be sending their children to school abroad while universities in the country are grossly underfunded? One act of injustice breeds another. They are not isolated from one another.
The 2019 elections give us an opportunity to start redressing certain issues in Nigeria but remember, only those who have registered are allowed to vote. If you feel strongly about any of the issues discussed in this write up, please go and register to vote if you haven’t.