Following previous updates on election observations of the Gender and Election Watch (GEW) Room, the Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF) in partnership with Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative with support from Macarthur Foundation, held a public presentation event of the 2019 general elections publication titled “Women’s Participation in the 2019 General Elections from an Accountability Perspective” on Tuesday, 15 October 2019 in Ibadan the Oyo State capital. The event was aimed at revealing milestones on the Nigerian electoral process with regards to women’s participation and accountability of other electoral stakeholders.
Ms. Mufuliat Fijabi, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NWTF stated that the report is compiled in recognition of women’s contributions to the development process and in advancing the course of Nigeria’s growing democracy. While revealing concerns on the accountability of the electoral process, the Chief Executive Officer mentioned that there is a deliberate need to ensure that existing electoral law moderates nomination fees and campaign financing. She noted that this concern is part of the provisions of the amended Electoral Act amended bill that President Buhari did not assent to in 2018. “The reality is that women do not have the matching power to the increasing monetization of the electoral process. We all are critical stakeholders in Nigeria’s electoral process and need to make it work,’’ she submitted.
On vote buying, the CEO recommended that culprits should be sanctioned as this will go a long way in sanitizing the electoral process. In addition, she advocated for the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission (EOC), as a support system for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the prosecution of electoral offenders. “Bringing those who indulge in vote trading and other electoral offences to book will go a long way to demonetizing our electoral process” she stated. Ms. Fijabi further stated that citizens need to understand that vote buying, and the lack of transparency drastically reduce the emergence of women as political office holders and their participation. She concluded by urging women to always uphold the principles of accountability while pushing for the developmental agenda.
The INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu represented by Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola – National Commissioner, Outreach and Partnership Committee lauded the professionalism in the delivery of election observation from NWTF GEW Room. During his speech, the Chairman stressed that the Commission has played major roles to advance the electoral and legal framework in Nigeria in the past and will continue to do so especially in ensuring the conduct of free, fair and credible elections. Speaking further, the INEC Chairman was quick to note that while it is welcoming for most election observation reports to recommend electoral reforms, there is a need to be cautioned on constitutional and legal amendments without attitudinal change of key stakeholders in the process. He added that the change of attitude by major stakeholders such as politicians, women, youths and policy makers is the key to solving the array of electoral crises in the country.
To support this assertion, the Chairman remarked that despite huge efforts made by INEC and other Civil Society Organizations to support the participation of women in the electoral process, this did not translate into any meaningful number in representation as the current statistics show a decline in women’s representation in politics at all levels. The INEC boss concluded by pledging to consider every recommendation in the report and those already submitted to INEC in other to strengthen the electoral process and deepen democracy in Nigeria.
The principal partner of the Gender and Accountability Project, represented by the Secretary General of WRAPA, Hajia Saudatu Mahdi reiterated that the project majorly seeks to raise women’s voices around accountability and transparency in Nigeria and how corruption influences and inhibits the activities and livelihood of women and girls in their contributions to development in Nigeria. Hajia Mahdi stated that while it is confirmed that cultural bias still exists as strong barriers against women’s political participation, women must purposefully participate in governance and leadership and not as a pastime but a responsibility. She further urged that continuous sensitization and coalition building must be encouraged towards the achievement of gender justice in the governance of the nation. Similarly, Mrs. Toun Okewale Sonaiya- Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Women Radio 91.7FM encouraged the media to focus their reportage on women’s capacity and competence rather than paying most attention to their privacy. She emphasized that public decision making is mostly premised on media dispositions and as such the media needs to be gender responsive in their reportage.
Other remarks lauding the report and in support of stakeholder accountability on women’s political participation were gathered from the Oyo State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr Mutui Agboke and the Oyo Zonal Director, National Orientation Agency, Mrs. Dolapo Dosunmu. The event was also attended by notable stakeholders ranging from religious leaders, male political party chieftains, female politicians, media and local authorities who were purposively selected and involved to share experiences, make recommendations and take the process of accountability and transparency in electoral process forward.
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