• Sunday, July 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

HAFSAT ABIOLA-COSTELLO

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During the struggle for political independence for the peoples of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, the most prominent advocate for the cause, challenged Ghanaians to “seek…first the political kingdom, and all else shall be added unto thee”. Ghana went on to gain its independence in 1957, causing a domino effect that saw independence gained by most of the countries of Africa by 1965. For Nigeria, for whom independence came in 1960, the “all else” that was to come, such simple things as quality education and healthcare for all, decent jobs and housing and peace and prosperity, became more of a mirage with each passing decade.

Now, after marking the most recent military-to-civilian handover date of May 29, political parties are preparing yet again for the next round of elections in 2015. Perhaps for the first time since the historic presidential election of June 12, 1993, the forthcoming election looks to be set for a contest between two strong parties, the Peoples Democratic (PDP) and, if registered by the INEC, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Yet, one question requires an urgent answer from the parties: will the parties recognise the full rights of citizenship of Nigeria’s women or not?

For perhaps more than the other sex, women in Nigeria have borne the brunt of the hollow political pact that the post-colonial state has been able to fashion out with the Nigerian people. In terms of social services, access for women and girls are worse than that of men and boys. In some parts of the country, as many as 1,500 women die for every 100,000 babies that are born, more than five times the global average. And while only 10 percent of the six million graduates coming out of the universities each year will secure jobs, only 30 percent of this already low figure will be women. Consequently, of the 54 percent of Nigerians living in poverty, 60 percent are women and children.

Conversely, Ernst&Young recently reported a positive correlation between women’s participation in government and good governance. This finding is also supported by the Mo (Ibrahim) Index on Governance. So it seems fitting on the anniversary of the assassination of Kudirat Abiola, wife of MKO Abiola, pro-democracy activist and winner of the June 12, 1993 election, that all lovers of democracy rise up to demand that women be given their rightful place in Nigeria’s democracy.

Come 2015, there can be no democracy if women are left behind.

Kudirat Abiola: 17 years after – democracy, women and 2015

Nkpubre is a former president of Oron Union in Lagos.