Nigeria is said to have a population of about 200million people with women constituting half of the population.

     What this means is that there are about 100million women in the country. This huge population is a huge resource for all of the country’s sectors.

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It is expected that the country will seek to harness this huge resource for all of its sectors for its well-being. But this is not so especially in the political arena where statistics shows that only 6%  of the country’s women (about 600,000) are active participants.

At present, less than 5% of the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly members are women.

And the expectation that there will be increased participation of women in the forthcoming political dispensation is not likely to be realized because according to a report by Women in Politics Forum, only 18.9% of women make up the party list of contestants for the 2023 general elections, with only the Allied People’s Movement (APM) fielding a woman as its presidential candidate.

Tune to any news network, the APM’s presidential candidate is hardly mentioned. Low participation of women in the country’s politics or governance is therefore a reality.

What factors account for this? Why have women not used their high numerical strength to gain political mileage more so when it is mostly women that vote during polls? What should be done to reverse the trend?

The 4th summit of the Foundation for Wives of Ondo State Officials and Female Political Appointees, FOWOSO, held on Wednesday, December 7 and Thursday, December 8 at the International Culture and Event Centre (aka The Dome) and Arcade Ground Igbatoro Road Akure centred on improving the participation of women in the governance of the country. It also examined other issues on the emancipation and empowerment of women in the country.

The theme of the summit was “Bridging The Gender Gap In Political Arena: A Case Of Nigerian Women”. There were other sub themes such as “Growing A Business From Scratch: The 4Ps Of Marketing”; Sex Education In Schools; Fertility Options In The 21st Century: Can A Woman Decide Alone? and High Level Of Insecurity: Has Nigeria Failed As A Nation”.

In his presentation on ‘Growing A Business From The Scratch: The 4Ps Of Marketing’ moderated by Laurel Ojo Ademola; a marketing guru, Arthur Otouamun regretted that many Nigerians were fleeing the country in search of greener pastures when there are opportunities staring them in the eyes.

Instead of running away, he advised such Nigerians to tap into opportunities at home and make a success of them.

He identified the 4Ps of marketing otherwise known as the marketing mix to be product, price, place and promotion. Otouamun said the 4Ps are not just for large corporations, but also for small outlets, which could leverage on them to grow.

Of course, understanding one’s product is key. This will help one to identify those that need it and why. Are there other similar products already in the market and what edge does one’s product has that other existing brand(s) do not have?

Otuamun said; “The job of the marketer is to define the product and its qualities and introduce it to the consumer. It might be a product like soft drink in the beverage industry or a dress in a clothing store. Or these days, it may even be an App in the tech industry. It could also be services such as consulting or a paid speaking gig or even a therapy session”.

The marketing guru said the logic is to fix a price that doesn’t just drive the most amount of sales but also drives the most profit.

He charged business owners to find locations that suit their products/services. For example, he said that anyone who attempts selling ice to the Ekimos or sunshine in the Sunshine State will be a big flop because he wouldn’t receive any patronage.

In promoting one’s business, he advised choosing the appropriate media platforms that will get one’s product to customers.

The main theme of the summit;”Bridging The Gender Gap In Political Arena: A Case Of Nigerian Women”, moderated by Mrs. Olufisoye Farake Adenitan attracted much interest among participants.

The question: Are men/husbands to be blamed for low women participation in politics? attracted a yes and no answer.

The four panelists namely Funke Kumuyi, Doris Onyinyechi Ogbeifun, Princess Bola Bishop Akhalamhe and Austine Otabor agreed to the fact that there is low participation of women in the governance of the country.

For example, men dominate the country’s bi-cameral National Assembly comprising the 109-member Senate and 360-member House of Representatives. Presently, there are only nine female Senators and 12 women at the House of Representatives.

But Funke Kumuyi insisted that women are their own problem. She submitted that women hardly support or vote for their kind. Again, Kumuyi, a former Special Assistant to the Ondo State Governor on Women Mobilization for South Senatorial District said many women lack courage to swim in the political waters.

Ogbeifun, an activist maintained that limiting women from active participation in politics contributes to the rising poverty in the country. She therefore canvassed for the signing of the 35% affirmative action which entails ensuring women get 35% of the elective and appointive positions at the national and state levels.

She also called for the training, funding and mentorship of women in the rudiments of politics.

On her own part, Princess Bola Bishop Akhalamhe identified low financial capacity of women, low level of formal education and violence that define politics in this clime as factors militating against increased participation of women in the political governance of the country.

She suggested that Nigeria emulates Rwanda and South Africa which have quota systems which have paved way for increased women participation in politics in their countries.

Austine Otabor who joined the conversation virtually identified patriarchy, godfatherism, violence against women, social discrimination and marriage gap as factors encouraging the low participation of women in politics.

He submitted that these factors are either partially or completely perpetuated by men or related to the activities of men.

In his remarks, the Ondo State governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN represented by his deputy, Hon. Lucky Orimisan Aiyedatiwa maintained that economic empowerment was key for increased women participation in politics. He therefore urged women to work for economic empowerment even as he noted that culturally, men hardly believe in women leadership.

The Ondo First Lady and founder of FOWOSO, Chief Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu urged women not to give up or give in but to adopt the Adamawa State example. This model entails a situation where the women teamed up and voted for the emergence of a fellow woman as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress APC in the state. In other words, the women deployed their voting strength to gain a political mileage.

Mrs. Akeredolu also canvassed the scrapping of the office of woman leader which parties dangle before women in a bid to give them a sense of belonging. She stated that women are no longer interested in the tokenism which includes hiring them as hailers to launder men’s ego, insisting that women deserve better.

The first lady disclosed that FOWOSO has every reason to pat itself at the back owing to the litany of successes it recorded within the five years of its existence.

According to her, FOWOSO has been playing major role in enhancing the status of women in the state. She revealed that the foundation participated in the organization of the 2022 BeMore Boot Camp, partnered with Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria, BRECAN, in advocacy campaign against breast and cervical cancer.

FOWOSO, she further disclosed laid the foundation of its multi-million Naira centre on November 7 and championed the maiden edition of Ondo State Skill Acquisition and Empowerment Programme (OSSA-EP).

She listed other achievements of the foundation to include getting government to sign into law the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Bill; frontally fighting gender violations in the state and improving the number of women in appointive and elective positions including facilitating the appointment of the first female Secretary to the Ondo State Government. Ondo State has had 16 SSGs and only the sixteenth is a female.

Earlier, the Chairman, Organizing Committee of the summit, Princess Dora Rose Kayode Aroloye had praised the Ondo State First Lady for initiating FOWOSO with which she had been championing the cause of women, their empowerment and self-actualization.

Describing Mrs. Akeredolu as a gender advocate par excellence, she listed her other initiatives to include Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu Foundation (BAAF), SOLAYO, BRECAN, Tennis Summer Boot Camp, Bemore for Girls and Bemore for Women.

Aroloye noted that due to the first lady’s efforts, the state now has more female appointees, elected councilors and by the grace of God will have four members of the state House of Assembly in 2023. She therefore urged women to use their huge voting strength to change the tide during next year’s polls.

In his remarks, the special guest of honour and governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike revealed that women were faring better politically in his state. Governor Wike who was represented by the Head of Service (HoS), Rufus Godwin said it is a tradition in the state that a male governorship candidate must have a female running mate.

According to him, this rule which started in 2015 was sustained in 2019 and is continuing in 2023. He said the rule was replicated in the local government councils, stressing that Rivers State today has one female chairperson, 22 deputy local government chairmen and four leaders of local government councils, a development unmatched by any other state in the country.

Governor Wike equally canvassed good education and economic empowerment of women to help women in competing favourably for political positions with men. He thereafter donated N200milion to FOWOSO to aid it in building its centre.

More donations were received by FOWOSO at the dinner party held same day. Chairman of the occasion and Chairman of Global Fleet Group, Chief Jimoh Ibrahim donated N10million while a prominent indigene of the state, Chief Olusola Oke doled out N2.5million. Also, the Olugbo of Ugbo Kingdom, Oba Frederick Akinruntan donated N2million to the foundation.

The foundation seized the opportunity to honour Governor Akeredolu, his deputy, Hon. Aiyedatiwa, Chief Jimoh Ibrahim, Chief Olusola Oke and nine others.

Also honoured were Miss Smile Benjamin, Miss Ebunoluwa Igbalaye, the Ondo State indigene who made the highest score in UTME in the state and five others. Two members of FOWOSO namely Mrs. Lizzy Akpan and Hon. Mosun Odukale were honoured with Most Supportive FOWOSITE and Most Valuable FOWOSITE awards respectively while Emmanuel Foundation and Hope Orphanage bagged Community Service awards.

Responding on behalf of other awardees, Chief Olusola Oke expressed gratitude to God for the honour done them. He lauded the first lady for building the capacity of women of Ondo State and pledged that the recipients would not relent in supporting her laudable initiatives.  

On the topic; “Should sex education be taught in schools, moderated by Akinwumi Abodunde, the panelists namely Kehinde Adegbite, Rev Fr Francis Umeh, Malam Surajudeen Abdulazeez, Oluwatoyin Adegbenro and Pastor Bolaji Idowu agreed that sex education should be taught to children to enable them understand the workings of their bodies especially on reaching puberty.

But Abdulazeez differed on where the children should obtain this all-important sex education. He insisted that sex education should be taught children at home by their parents instead of by  their teachers at school. According to him, any parent who fails in this duty should be ashamed of himself. Other panelists submitted that owing to the demands of modern life, most parents do not have the time or are not trained to inculcate sex education in their children and wards.

Fertility has often posed a challenge in marriages. Marriage is often seen as mainly for procreation purposes, but if this could not be achieved within few years of marriage especially when the couple must have engaged in unprotected sexual liaison, concerns are raised. More often than not, it is the woman that is seen as being responsible for the inability of the couple to achieve pregnancy.

Speaking on the topic; Fertility Options in the 21st Century, Can a woman decide alone? moderated by Oby Chukwuemeka-Otti, Dr. Akinyemi Olaleye said ideally the couple should be seen together to ascertain the exact causes of childlessness. But in a situation where a woman wishes to pursue motherhood alone, Dr. Olaleye said it is her right.

He said she could do so through Invitro fertilization process, stressing that she could engage a third-party such as an egg donor, sperm donor or gestational surrogate. Hear him; The fact remains that if a woman has desire to build her family as a single parent, it is her right and IVF treatment is ultimately one of the best options available.

“The process could be done with the aid of a sperm donor’.

The topic; “High levels of insecurity: Has Nigeria failed as a country?” moderated by Lanre Arogundade triggered heated debate. Obviously, Nigeria is having serious security challenges caused mainly by Boko Haram who have since transformed into bandits, Fulani killer-herdsmen and kidnappers. There are also separatist agitators and unknown gunmen in the South West and South East.

One of the panelists, Princess Dora Rose Kayode Aroloye seemed to agree with late General Sani Abacha who was quoted to have asserted that if terrorism lasts for more than one year then, the government has a hand in it. Akogun Ade Adeleye joined in calling for the adoption of true federalism as well as the Amotekun model across the country to tackle security challenges.

However, Yemi Oyeniyi who represented Commissioner of Police, Ondo State, Oyeyemi Oyediran disagreed that Nigeria should be classified as a failed state owing to the intractable security challenge bedeviling her. He insisted that Nigerians were still going about their businesses and government officials were still performing their duties.

The next day, Thursday, December 8, the grand finale held at the Arcade Ground on Igbatoro Road, Akure. Women from the 18 local government areas of the state converged at the venue.

In her address, the Ondo State first lady expressed happiness at the successes of the organization, saying that the initiative has come to stay.

She urged women in the state to key into the initiative more so when it makes the wellbeing and empowerment of women its main goal. 

Mrs. Akeredolu also expressed her profound gratitude to individuals who had been supportive of the foundation.

According to her, with the generous donations from Governor Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State and his Rivers counterpart, Nyesom Wike, the foundation was sure of hosting its 5th summit at its own facility next year.

In her speech, the First Lady of Lagos state, Dr. Mrs. Claudiana Sanwolu congratulated Mrs. Akeredolu for the success of the summit and the achievements recorded by FOWOSO in empowering women in the state.

Dr. Claudiana Sanwolu who spoke through Mrs. Busola Akosile also applauded her Ondo counterpart for championing women participation in politics, stressing that her efforts had elicited the interest of many women to vie for elective positions in the country.

She also submitted that Mrs. Akeredolu’s advocacy has helped to increase the number of women appointed into political positions.

In his remarks, the Chairman of the occasion, Chief Adetunji Adeleye, lauded the Ondo First Lady for championing the advancement of the girl-child through her BeMore Initiative.

Adeleye, who is also the Special Adviser to Ondo State Governor on Security Matters, described BeMore as a nursery bed for the future leaders of FOWOSO.

According to him, the summit was a platform to educate, enlighten and sensitize stakeholders on individuals’ roles toward accelerating the attainment of the idea of equal opportunities for women and girls.

Highlights of the grand finale was a raffle draw which saw women from the 18 local government areas of the state smiling home with sewing machines, grinding machines, hair dryers, bags of rice, generators and kitchen utensils.

The event also featured exhibition of products made by graduands of the recent FOWOSO-powered Ondo State Skills Acquisition and Empowerment programme; elderly women dance and couples competition.

FOWOSO is geared towards promoting the socio-economic advancement of women in Ondo state. This task it has performed creditably since inception. As the curtain fell on the summit and delegates leave for their homes, the zeal and zest to contest and compete for elective and appointive political positions resonates in the hearts of the women. Apart from political offices, the women who were empowered with skills and tools are rearing to set up their own shops and ply their trades.

Participants hinted that they are looking forward to the 5th summit which comes up in December 2023. The 5th summit promises to be bigger, more enriching and rewarding.


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