By Kemi Busari
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on Wednesday pledged to work to ensure that more women are given the opportunity to vie for offices at the 2019 general elections.
Mr Saraki made this promise when the Conference of Nigeria Female Parliamentarians paid him a courtesy visit at the National Assembly on Wednesday.
Details of the visit were contained in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu.
Mr Saraki said there was nothing to fear about having more women occupy political offices, saying such a development will strengthen the nation’s democracy.
He lamented that the present statistics of women in governance in the country is not encouraging, while pledging efforts to change the tide.
The statement quoted him as saying, “Anybody in this country today will agree that from the statistics you have given out here today, it is clear that definitely, we are not doing enough in the inclusion of women in politics and governance.
“We must change and turn the tide in this direction. We cannot continue with this low level of participation.
“What I want to assure you is that you have my full support and the full support of the National Assembly to see what we can do to ensure that as we go into 2019, it will be a year that we will change the level of participation of women in politics in this country.
“The challenge we have is that such an action is something that must be done collectively. We will champion it but it is something that requires all of us to work very hard for it to happen.
“I believe that what we will do is to make it clear that it must happen. It has to happen and it is in the interest of this country for it to happen.
“We want to reassure those that have fears about it that there is nothing to worry about. It will only strengthen our democracy and make our country better.
“I am convinced that your visit is timely that in this 2019, we must make a difference. We must see a real change in this area,” he stated.
He commended the group for its advocacy and commitment to ensuring more women are voted into offices.
He added that it is imperative to support women groups to push for greater political inclusion.
“Political parties are now gearing up for election, this is the right time we must begin to demand from political parties and candidates that they must tell Nigerians what their policy is on gender affirmation.
“You have the votes, at least you have 46 – 48 per cent, let your votes do the work and if your votes do the work, then you will make the work easier for all of us.
“It is time for you to mobilize and work for it because it is important. A lot of us who have had the experience have found out, without any bias, that generally female politicians/parliamentarians are very committed, hardworking and more importantly very consistent and loyal.
“I think when you build a country and you build a political space, what is important is consistency and sometimes loyalty,” the statement further quoted him as saying.
Earlier, the Chairperson of the group, Elizabeth Ativie, decried the low level of women participation in the nation’s governance since 1999, in terms elective and appointive offices.
Saraki with some members of the Conference of Nigeria Female Parliamentarians
Mrs Ativie, the member representing Uhunmwode Constituency in the Edo State House of Assembly, commended the Senate President for influencing the nomination and election of five women into the Kwara State House of Assembly during the 2015 general elections.
“Nigeria needs to invest in women’s participation in politics by creating an enabling environment for women to thrive and tackle perceived systemic and cultural hinderances to women’s inclusion,” she was quoted as saying.
She sought the support Mr Saraki for the quick passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill, implementation of 35 per cent affirmative action strategy and the abrogation of laws that infringe on citizens’ rights of women, among others.
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