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If women lead productive advocacies, time for political inclusion

Published by The Nation on Sat, 17 Oct 2020

Nnedinso OgaziechiOn a daily basis, the world sees but wryly pretends to be blind to the voice and role of women in leadership and socio-economic productive lives that keep the global wheel grinding. The organizational power of women is often ignored by men when core leadership issues are at stake and the world often pays dearly for such negligence.The new instinctive socio-political mono-genderization of leadership especially in a developing economy like Nigeria has been a burden on the male population even if they refuse to acknowledge that. If a problem shared is a problem half-solved as the popular saying goes, the problem of leadership can be lightened if it is made inclusive and fully representative.Given the state of the nation today, the protests and advocacies as can be seen are being led in most cases by women, young vibrant women who bring their power, energy and strong strategic plans to the fore in advocating for good governance, equity and justice. In all these, their efforts are applauded, commended and valued. How then is it that when it comes to political and elective positions, these same women are often encouraged not to raise their voices'The Roundtable Conversation hosted Ndi Kato, the Convener of Abuja Discuss and Executive Director or Dinidari Foundation and one who has been involved in several advocacies for good governance and justice and gender issues in Nigeria. She traces her awareness about the values of good leadership to the foundational influence of a lecturer/poet and writer mother whose association with fellow writers pointed her towards what values one can bring to ones community and nation.Being around her mothers fellow writers and reading her own writings have been invaluable assets in making an Ndi conscious of leadership advocacy and the value of history and the roles we all need to play for our societies from the community to the national levels. To her, she grew up reading and observing how writers like her mother and fellow writers like Niyi Osundare, late JP Clark, Nnimo Bassey etc. led their regular lives of service and leadership. These writers documented history and wrote about governments and leaders in prose and poetry and from a young age, Ndi was made to ingest such noble attitudes of care and concern for lives and community from a very early age.To Ndi, her writer/lecturer mother and all her writer colleagues were the beacons she looked up to as a child. Growing up therefore for an Ndi in Southern Kaduna was a lesson in observation and in leadership and the attitude of the led. To her, the meekness displayed by the writers she saw around was energizing and prepared her for leadership in every way including political participation.To Kato, she has always known that leadership was not gender-sensitive. Reading her mothers writings and observing how her fellow writers wrote with patriotic vision was an eye opener to her about being a citizen that can care for others effectively in any form she could including raising her voice about and participating in leadership at all levels possible.For Nigerian writers to have documented the culture and history of the country in ways that were appealing to the young minds means they have played their roles as citizens. It was at that early years that her young mind was influenced to add her own voice in any way she can and that is exactly why she decided to not sit on the fence. To her, governance is call to service and not the gift as is often perceived by most Nigerians. Accountable leadership is a plus for all citizens.However, as a woman, the struggle for leadership in a Nigerian setting can be arduous in the sense that when it comes to all forms of struggle, women are accepted and co-opted, however, contradictorily, the political space even at the rural level seems closed to women because the people often assume, wrongly though, that leadership is a male exclusive. Nigerians do not think women should provide leadership even when they know the capacity of the women to provide nurture and leadership at all levels.Ironically, as soon as it comes to partisan politics, the people recoil and assume that a woman cannot bring the same competences deployed on other levels to the political space. Its quite strange to come from a background that was almost gender blind to observe rejection based on gender not only in her locality but across the nation and even somewhat globally.To Ndi, the task can be quite daunting for women, from fighting for women inclusion, to good governance and so many distractions and push backs, looking at the #EndSARS protest, women were pushing for Fight Against Gender based Violence (FGBV) shortly before the #EndSARS agitation , it was seemingly not taken serious and now the #EndSARS protest is still being pushed by women making the fights hydra-headed.The problem is that the Nigerian political party system must be corrected. As one who contested for a seat in the Kaduna state House of Assembly, she has experienced what women in politics go through given that the political party structure is almost out of the reach of most women. To Ndi, the men own the political structure and she wants a situation where women can be protected by laws in all spheres so that the country can benefit from their input. It is a task to be achieved.The women leaders in political parties are encumbered because they do not own the political structures . When we realize that most women are not literate in ways that can power any political awareness and active participation, we must work harder.To her, the narrative of women not helping fellow women is flawed because the real fact is that men are the highest percentage of voters even though in terms of disadvantaged voters, persons living with disabilities and illiteracy women are greater in number. Women are the most disadvantaged voting bloc according to the Head of UN Women who is working with data.So Nigerian women must begin to work towards pushing for laws that can eradicate those issues that put women in disadvantaged position like some women cannot even leave their houses to go and vote, the implication is that their voices cannot be heard in the ballots. Illiteracy for women is a disadvantage. So education must be availed the girl child.As one who has gone to contest for a spot at the Kaduna state House of Assembly, Ndi advises younger men and women is to realize that everyone ought to be politically conscious right from the home. To her, everyone can participate in leadership at any level of action. Partisanship is good if you can but if not, just lead from anything you are passionate about as long as it enhances human flourishing.To an Ndi, every young person must contribute to build a better country as everyone benefits when there is inclusivity in governance. The young women must not be dissuaded from participating in politics by societal stigma and other tactics used by some people to discourage women. The idea of chickening out because some people tag women in politics prostitutes should be discarded as the country belongs to everyone and the capacity of women to contribute to development is enormous.The Roundtable believes that it is time to re-evaluate the way we run politics in Nigeria. The men and women are almost exhausted on different fronts. The men cannot handle politics and governance alone seeing the problems in the global community . Education for all must be done in ways that are liberating both through home-grooming and nurturing and formal education.We must as a country retrace our steps for the better. The value of leadership must begin to change in ways that governance is not seen as a favour to the people but a call to service. Women are exhausted fighting too many ways and the lives of men are being negatively affected due to too many burdens of governance that could complimentarily be shared.It is instructive that the frontiers of advocacies for women is increasing by the minute, women are fighting against domestic and gender-based violence, illiteracy, maternal and child mortality, child-marriage, rape and all forms of violence that ultimately affect the men that live under the illusion that power is absolute.The complimentary kind of leadership that Africa had in pristine times must be brought back for the prosperity and development of the continent. If women led the Aba Women Riot of 1929 for the good of all, if women were path of the independence struggle even if due credit is not always given, it is time for better representative democracy and that has to be done with laws protecting the rights of everyone.Advocacies by women are always the cheapest because they fight for all. When women lead protests and advocacies and are applauded, it just shows that leadership at that level can as well be transferred to the political arena and other sectors of human life.According to Ndi Kato, it would be valuable to extend the appreciation for womens advocacies especially for issues of general interests. Getting involved in leadership must be a right of everyone. The idea of highlighting gender differences only when women come out for elective positions must be stopped if we must make progress.The labour of Nigerian women must have a holistic appreciation and must not be limited to those periods that they are at the frontlines fighting for rights both for themselves and others. Power is a call to service. We prefer that women fight only a few wars instead of all the pushbacks when it comes to the an inclusive political role.Women are leading and providing the needed support for #EndSARS movement and getting applauded, would it not be nice to make laws that make political parties in our democracy to have a level playing field instead of monopolizing the structure' All nations with inclusive gender participation seem to be doing better and the life expectancy of both genders longer.The dialogue continues
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