Thursday, June 16, 2011

Emerging Women Leaders in the State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria

Emerging amazons in the State Houses of Assembly

Thursday, 16 June 2011 00:00
By Seye Olumide and Joe Adiorho
Nigerian Guardian

THE elections of Monsurat Jumoke Sumonu representing Oyo East/ Oyo West constituency under the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and her counterpart, Princess Chinwe Clare Nwaebili, representing Ogbaru II Constituency on the ticket of All Peoples Grand Alliance (APGA) as Speakers of the Oyo State House of Assembly and Anambra State House of Assembly respectively have been perceived as a compensation for what the women folk lost in the April polls.

For the first time since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1999, the female candidates had their poorest performance in the April polls, but are making the best use of the opportunity in the Houses of Assembly.

This is against the backdrop of the serious awareness campaign launched across the country for active women participation before the election. The failed bid of Mulikat Adeola-Akande, a female member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) representing Oyo North in the House of Representative to become the Speaker, increased the level of serious losses the women folk suffered during the current process.

As a matter of fact, the election of Sumonu and Nwaebili as Speakers came as a soothing relief.

Sumonu, who is the only female lawmaker in the 32-member Assembly was nominated by Ibrahim Bolomope of the Accord Party (AP and supported by Ganiu Adekunle of the ACN.

Until her emergence, she was an Immigration Officer and a civil servant, elected unopposed. David Olaniyan of the AP, who represents Ibadan North 1 State Constituency, became the Deputy Speaker. Her election signals an alliance between the ruling ACN and the AP in the assembly.

Sunmonu holds an LLB intermediate of the London University. Before her election, she is an astute member of Oyo Defender Union, UK- a town union in the Diaspora, which supports development projects in Oyo Township.

One of the reasons she adduced for venturing into politics was the adverse effect of government’s neglect of infrastructure, which often leads to fatal accidents on Nigerian roads especially those in her areas in the state. She was also pained by the total neglect of the under privileged members of the society.

She promised and pledged to assist underprivileged people, small business people and get employment for the youths. Her concern also is in the area of the cardinal manifesto of her party, which includes free education, infrastructure provision, agricultural development and environmental sanitation.

Nwaebili in Anambra state is a two-term legislator representing Ogbaru II Constituency on the ticket of APGA. She is the second female Speaker of the House. Her predecessor was Mrs. Eucheria Azodo, who has since become a member of the House Representatives representing Aguata Federal Constituency.

Her journey to the House started in 2007, when she was elected into Anambra State House of Assembly on the ticket of the PDP. Few years later she became a legislator, she decamped from PDP and joined the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), where she re-contested for the Ogbaru II Constituency seat during the April election and won. Her emergence as Speaker was made possible by the fact that the Fourth House of Assembly led by Anayo Nebe had amended the standing rules of the House to the effect that only old members of the House, with not less than Four years of legislative experience, shall now lead the House as Speaker.

Furthermore, her emergence as Speaker of the House was also made possible by the fact that she was backed by a key-serving Commissioner in the Peter Obi’s administration, Dubem Obaze, who is in-charge of Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, and has the ears and support of his governor. The present 30-member House of Assembly has five old members, three of which belong to APGA. PDP and AP have one old member each.

In Adamawa, Wale Fwa was elected the Deputy Speaker of the 25-member State House of Assembly. Giving reasons for the lawmakers unanimous support foe her, one of them said, “It was part of their desire to assuage the clamour for stronger women participation in politics,”

Fwa also happened to be the first female to be elected a legislator in the state, in 2007.

The emerging women are making strong promises to stamp their authority in the political scenes by ensuring that bills that would facilitate the provision of dividends of democracy are expeditiously passed into laws. They are also pledging personal contributions to the provision of infrastructure and the welfare of the people

For instance, in her acceptance speech, Sunmonu assured of cooperation and collaboration between the legislature and executive in addition to fostering a good relationship with her fellow lawmakers.

Her words: “I shall not disappoint my colleagues, the good people of the state and myself. I shall not shirk in discharging all necessary duties. We shall be proactive in promoting the course of this administration and improving the living standard of the people of the state. We shall ensure the best for our society and bring the dividends of democracy to them. We shall welcome the inputs of the public and I promise that all our campaign promises will be implemented.”

The Speaker stated that the House would make laws for the good governance of the state, adding: “We shall amend all existing legislation to suit the people of Oyo State. We shall cooperate with the executive arm of government. We shall be proactive in promoting all government agencies to serve our people and improve their standard. We shall do justice to all our people no matter the party they belong.”

Meanwhile, a female member of the House of Representatives on the ticket of ACN, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has commended the election of the women Speakers in the State Houses of Assembly, but she still wants more women participation and recognition in politics.

She urged non-governmental organisations to re-strategise and plan ahead of 2015 elections if there is going to be any improvement. While harping on the need for the President to stand by his promises of retaining the 35 per cent appointment for women in his cabinet, she said, “that in itself will not make any difference because that percentage will not give more than four slots to women.”

Dr. Yemisi Ransome Kuti, a senatorial candidate on the platform of the Social Democratic Mega Party (SDMP) for Lagos Central also commended the emergence of female Speakers but felt that more could be achieved. “We should embark on how to educate Nigerians that women leadership is as good, if not better than men’s because it will reduce corruption, encourage development and bring about more discipline in governance.”

Ransome Kuti lamented that the Nigerians society is still not gender friendly, while the long dominance of men in politics has not help the situation.

On her own part, the Convener of More Women Movement, Dr. Keziah Awosika, is sure that the elected women will perform, but enjoined them to be a worthy ambassador for the country.

She called on President Goodluck Jonathan to keep his promise by ensuring that 35 per cent of all appointive positions at the national and state governments levels are reserved for women.

“Our position was based on the unprecedented regression recorded in the number of female candidates in the April polls in spite of the spirited efforts and advocacy mounted by several none government organizations and other stakeholders,” she said.

Explaining ways through which the president can give honour to women, Awosika urged Jonathan to, as a matter of urgency, “establish an effective mechanism by which the Curriculum Vitae (CV) of all credible women will be collected, screened and appropriately fitted for the appointive positions.”

A founding member of the PDP in Lagos, Chief Amos Olayinka, said the decision of the Oyo and Anambra State Houses of Assembly members was an indication that men did not plan any coup against the women politicians in the last election.

While encouraging the elected female Speakers to put in their best and ensure that they did not work at cross purposes with the Executives in their various states, he admonished that, “they should also remember that their first commitment is to the electorate. They must do everything that will result to good development of the people who gave them the mandate to the House before they were elected Speakers,” he said.

Olayinka called the attention of Sunmonu to the crisis in the immediate past House of Assembly and how such really retarded growth and development of the state, “I don’t expect her to be cut in the web of such party politics, which destroyed the former House,” he said.

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