2019: Why Women Matter Matters

Few hours back, I strolled into one of the key offices under the office of the president of the federal republic of Nigeria with a singular matter for constructive dialogue with a friend who is a senior aide of President Muhammadu Buhari.

My concern was on the observed lack of observation by the mainstream political parties of the policy framework that greeted the 1995 Fourth United Nations women conference in the Chinese capital of Beijing which basically recommended certain percentages of women inclusion in all aspects of political governance globally. Under the Sustainable development goals (SDGs) out of the seventeen key goals, the number five demanded gender equality in terms of appointments into decision making process.

Given the lack of adherence by the major political parties to the basic imperative of observing gender mainstreaming in deciding aspirants to run for public offices in the forthcoming election, i was seriously worried by the decline in the number of women that emerged from the fratricidal warfare that was termed the party primaries of such major political platforms of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the leading opposition party of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Of the two mainstream national parties, only the All Progressives Congress (APC) picked very insignificant percentage of women aspirants to run for the available slots in the forthcoming elections in 2019. Adamawa has two women who got tickets to stand for office of Senators out of the three slots.

On the other hand, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which for over the decade respected the mainstreaming of women participation in governance, unfortunately did very badly.

Take for instance the Federal government that was administered by the former university don Dr Goodluck Jonathan between the year 2011 to 2015, made sure that women got a greater chunk of the top flight federal appointments. Women got 33 percentage of top appointments made by the administration of Dr Goodluck Jonathan according to a statistics made available by the Nigerian Institute of management.

Women for instance headed both the petroleum and the national economy portfolio for the duration of the President Jonathan’s era. Jonathan also gave unfettered opportunities to his wife to engage constructively in pro-women projects which to a very large extent achieved a lot of mileages for the advancement of the rights of women and children. The current government of Muhammadu Buhari is reported to have offered only a paltry 19 percent of such appointments to women which is like 50 percent decline from the benchmark made by the immediate past administration as claimed by Professor Olukunle Iyanda, the respected President of the prestigious Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM). Indeed the NIM accused President Muhammadu Buhari's administration of sidelining women.

Ironically, the list of those to run for elective offices in the coming election amongst the women members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has significantly declined compared to the All Progressives Congress which is accused of marginalizing women.

The party that is affiliated to the current president known as All Progressives Congress (APC) looks set to present more women to run for offices than any other political party of national significance. For instance the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) schemed out the wife of the renowned South East legend the late Ikemba of Igboland Chukwuemeka Ojukwu. Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu was rigged out of the Senatorial Primary in Anambra state by a political party that rode on the good name of her late husband to gain tremendous acceptance amongst Igbo. These scheming out deliberately of women by political parties preparatory to the 2019 poll is worrisome.

So this friend I met in the presidency also expressed shock and disappointment with the turn of events which according to her will not augur well for the advocacy for gender equity in governance that has gone on in Nigeria for so long.

She was rather sad that Nigeria instead of making progress in this area has suddenly declined.

She referred this writer to the practice in a place like Rwanda where by in the parliament, women make up over fifty percent representation.

Whilst still lamenting over the unfolding scenario, yours faithfully then flipped through a copy of the day’s newspaper only to behold a very sad story about a couple in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital, who sold their week old baby boy for N200, 000 to human trafficking syndicate so they can relocate from a part of Ngwa land in Abia State to Port Harcourt in Rivers State or any other urban center.

The couple, who hail from Isiala-Ngwa North Local Government Area of Abia State, confessed to the crime, saying it was hard times that forced them into the decision.

Narrating her part in the deal, the wife said: “I have given birth to four children, one is late. I have two now. So when I became pregnant I told my husband that we would sell the baby and use the money to relocate from my village to township to start a better life. He refused but I forced him into agreeing with my plan.

“My husband is a labourer, he is a wheelbarrow pusher. I owe debts everywhere and I needed to settle them. So, we sold the baby for N200, 000 but I later learnt the baby was sold for N500, 000.”Her husband, Richard said: “We were owing N10, 000 and the hardship was too much for us to bear. I went round seeking for help but no help came. We wanted to relocate to the township for a chance of a better life, that was why we sold the baby to enable us raise money and rent an apartment in the city..”

Parading the suspects alongside other seven child traffickers at the IGP complex in Aluu, Ikwere Local Government Area of Rivers State, the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the IGP Monitoring Team, DCP Benneth Igwe, disclosed that the team rescued six pregnant women and arrested seven child traffickers in connection with the business.

He said: “Based on reliable intelligence about a notorious child trafficking cartel operating in Obigbo-Afam in Oyigbo Local Government Area and Omagwa, Aluu, the operatives burst into Afrique Hotel in Oyigbo and rescued six pregnant women awaiting delivery.

“The hotel is used as a harbinger by suspected child traffickers. Information further revealed that on October 7, the victims, one Richard Benson and his wife, Chidinma Benson, delivered a baby boy at Grace Land Maternity Homes, Afam Obigbo.

“The maternity is owned by a quack nurse called Grace Daniel. After delivery, the parents were paid N200, 000 by one Mrs. Rose Onyia and the baby was later sold to Mrs. Eucharia Jaja of Omagwa for N500, 000 and thereafter, the baby was resold by Mrs. Jaja to her potential client in Lagos. Operatives are on a trail to recover the baby.

“The cartel pay N150, 000 for a girlchild and N200, 000 for a boy to the mother. The baby is later trafficked to an unknown destination for amounts between N1 million and N1.5 million,” he said. Meanwhile, another couple, Eucharia Ihunna, aged 48 and her husband confessed that they have been in the business for four years and have sold over four babies.

Not long ago an ugly story also trended about the sexual slavery of Nigerian girls to some European nations just as international news channels found a notorious forest in France whereby Nigerian girls who are trafficked into sexual slavery are engaged in forced prostitution.

The US based Cable News Network reported only last month about the discovery of the forest in France and further reported that the trafficking of Nigerian women for prostitution began in the late 1980s, according to the UN, when women were sent to Italy and forced into sex work. Returning home, they became the first generation of madams. They, in turn, made other young women suffer as they did.

Aurélie Jeannerod, who works with NGO Aux Captifs, la Liberation, which visits and supports prostitutes in the Bois de Vincennes and other parts of Paris, says there are also men involved with the networks.

Happy Iyenoma, aka “Mama Alicia,” the head of a Paris-based network called the Authentic Sisters, was jailed along with her husband Hilary in May.

They were both sentenced to 10 years in prison for charges including human trafficking. In total, 15 members of the network were found guilty of trafficking roughly 50 women.

A charity that was a civil party in the case said one of the victims claimed the network assaulted her parents in Nigeria in 2015. She claimed her father died of his injuries.

In France, the maximum sentence for human trafficking is life imprisonment. But their juju oath forbids the women from speaking to authorities, making it more difficult for police to take down the networks.

And some of the women on the streets have asylum documents, says Jeannerod. Being a prostitute isn't illegal in France, only paying for sex is. “What do you want [the police] to do with the girls?” she says.

Besides, says Nadège, “The people who are doing the real business, the real human traffickers, they are in Africa.”

The head of the Paris police department in charge of prostitution and trafficking described the difficulties in fighting the crime. “As soon as you dismantle a network, you see the effect in the street,” he told CNN, “but that only lasts, at most, 24 hours, because we create a vacuum for another network to set up.”

What the two stories relayed above show is that Nigeria is experiencing unquantifiable degree of problems associated with promoting, protecting and nurturing the human rights of Nigerian women and babies.

This therefore dovetails into the next area of concern which is the necessity for demanding from all aspirants to political offices in the coming election to swear to a court affidavits explaining to the electorate what programmes and achievable projects and timelines they would implement in the next four years if they are elected with specific and unique reference to addressing the fundamental developmental issues affecting women and children.

If truth be told, the current government has not done well in the area of protecting the human rights of women and children.

Women and children have in the last three years suffered the most from the numerous criminal acts of terrorism and bloody violence unleashed by armed bandits including armed Fulani herdsmen.

Also, the different levels of government administrations have yet to vigorously implement and enforce laws against human trafficking and the emerging phenomenon of babies’ factory.

On the issue of healthcare for women, it is a notorious fact that most public hospitals are dysfunctional even as Nigerian women have become victims of maternal deaths.

The British Guardian recently reported this ugly incident of high maternal mortality of Nigerian women.

According to the latest UN global estimates, 303,000 women a year die in childbirth, or as a result of complications arising from pregnancy. This equates to about 830 women dying each day – roughly one every two minutes.

The majority of deaths are from conditions that could have been prevented had women received the right medical care throughout their pregnancies and during birth. Severe bleeding and infections after childbirth are the biggest killers, but high blood pressure, obstructed labour and unsafe abortions all contribute.

Accurate maternal mortality figures require strong in-country data collection, which is often unavailable in developing countries, so the number of deaths is likely to be underreported.

The overwhelming majority of maternal deaths occur in developing countries. About two-thirds of all maternal deaths take place in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria and India alone account for one-third of global deaths.

The maternal mortality ratio in the world’s least developed countries stands at 436 deaths for every 100,000 live births, which is in stark contrast to the corresponding number – just 12 – in wealthy countries.

In 2001, UN member states agreed the millennium development goals, which included a call for the number of maternal deaths to be cut by three-quarters by 2015. While the MDGs boosted efforts, the goal was not met in the countries with the highest death rates.. In fact, it was the target that made the slowest progress. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 1990 and 2005, maternal mortality rates decreased by an average of 2.3% a year – way below the 5.5% needed to achieve the MDGs. And now the decline seems to have plateaued.

The electorate in Nigeria should therefore demand clear pro-women agenda from candidates running for all offices in the 2019 poll and the presidential candidate who has the most convincing pro-women agendum should be considered and voted for by the majority of Nigerians who are youngsters. Women by the way constitute over 50 percent of Nigeria's current population computed by standardized agencies locally and internationally. Women therefore should exercise their powers during the election to elect candidate whose blueprints include the issues of women and Children.

This is precisely why civil society groups should mobilize Nigerian youngsters who have already enrolled to vote to resist the tendencies to mortgage their votes to the highest bidder but should look at the developmental blueprints of each candidate before casting their votes in 2019.

Recently, the United Nations population agency told us that majority of Nigerians are youngsters going by the current statistical evidence. These youngsters must demand from political office seekers for a clearly implementable agenda for women and children.

The United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, said that Nigeria’s population is 195.9 million at the moment.

UNFPA also stated that 76 percent of Nigerians are between ages 0 to 24.

In its UNFPA state of world population report themed “The power of choice: Reproductive rights and the demographic,” the UN agency further said that 148.8 million Nigerians are under the age of 25.

The UN report goes in contrast with National Population Commission, NPC, figures, which claimed that the country’s population was at 198 million as early as April 2018.

The UNFPA report added that 44 percent of Nigeria’s population is aged 0 to 14, while 32 percent are aged 14 to 24.

The UN agency also revealed that Nigeria has one of the highest fertility rates in the world, with less than 20 percent of married women in urban communities using a modern contraceptive method.

In rural communities within the country, less than 10 percent of married women use a modern contraceptive method, UNFPA added.

“No country can yet claim to have made reproductive rights a reality for all. Choices are limited for far too many women,” the report read.

“And this means that there are still millions of people who are having more—or fewer—children than they would like, with implications not only for individuals, but also for communities, institutions, economies, labour markets and entire nations.”

These are exactly why women matters must matter in the year 2019 elections.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko heads the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs @ www.emmanuelonwubiko.com ; www.huriwanigeria.com ; [email protected] .


SOURCE :The Nigerian Voice (opinions)

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