Gender rights activist, and former Commissioner for Women Affairs in Ekiti State, Mrs Fola Richie-Adewusi, tells ABIODUN NEJO in this chat that women will create and implement programmes that will be more beneficial to all if in positions of authority
You are involved in advocacy or campaigns to increase the participation of women in politics and leadership; what do you believe the marginalisation or low participation of women in politics has robbed Nigeria of?
Nigeria is being robbed of the opportunity to have the full benefit of all the potential God has endowed the country with. There is a saying that a bird does not fly with one wing.
As a result, Nigeria has been operating at half capacity. Women’s marginalisation or low political participation has denied Nigeria the opportunity to fully realise her greatness.
But really, what do you think has been holding women back from participating in politics?
There are many factors responsible. There is a power relationship between men and women. This power relationship is still embedded in patriarchy, where the man, as the head, is not supposed to lift a finger to assist the woman at home.
So, creating a work-life balance might pose some challenges for women who are interested in politics but need to keep the home front going because the children are young and the man is not providing the necessary support. There is also the aspect of the economic factor. Women do not have the same access to financial resources as men. So this limits the chances of the women.
Participation in politics requires money, even if it is for basic logistics. Political violence, on the other hand, scares many women off the field of politics. Many women are not interested in do-or-die politics.
Looking at these, do you see equity, equality or inclusion as really attainable?
Yes, by creating a level playing field for all, intentionally allocating seats for women, and looking out for and including those who are marginalised, such as female persons with disabilities.
Do you have any appeals for women’s support and encouragement for groups and organisations?
My appeal will be that women are smart and have a lot to offer. So, they should do all within their power to encourage and support them.
Taking a cue from Ekiti, which has a female deputy governor, House of Assembly Speaker, and Secretary to State Government, what do you think the impact of women will be on women, children, and the state as a whole?
The impact on women and children will be positive. Women in positions of authority, because of their nurturing abilities, will create and implement programmes that will be beneficial to all.
For example, within one month of her assumption of office, the first female Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Olubunmi Adelugba implemented a programme to mark the 16 Days of Activism on Violence against Women. The Assembly was involved for the first time.
Within the same month, she led her members for a comprehensive health check at the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital to forestall sudden deaths among the parliamentarians. She even spoke of the possibility of a law to that end, making it compulsory for all government workers to go for medical examinations in the interest of their health.
But if I may ask, do women really have the strength for the murky waters of Nigerian politics, especially looking at it from the angle that violence has been part of Nigerian politics?
The answer is simple: It is that the more women we have the less violence the country will witness in politics.
With the 2023 elections around the corner, the major parties still engage largely in personality-focused campaigns as opposed to issue-based campaigns. Do you think Nigeria can ever get its politics right?
I believe Nigeria can get its politics right. It is all about doing the right thing. I am aware that the All Progressives Congress candidates for the 2023 general elections have been meeting with stakeholders across the board to sell their manifestos and candidacies. So, I believe it is not all the candidates who are not doing the right thing.
What advice do you have for the political parties as they gear up for the polls and the citizens as well?
Let the political parties sell their manifestos to the electorate, and let the electorate review what each candidate has to offer. Allow citizens to collect their Permanent Voter Cards and vote based on their verifiable voting history.
What can you make of the constant verbal attacks on your party’s presidential candidate as the election approaches?
It is part of the game of politics all over the world to look for something negative to say about your opponent to distract him and gain an advantage. However, a serious candidate will not be distracted.
That is why the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima are focused on telling the people what they will do based on their verifiable track record of achievements.
Do you see him winning the 2023 election?
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is one politician who understands politics and has a positive track record of accomplishments compared to others in the race. I believe he will win the 2023 election; he is working hard to win, and he has all it takes to win.
What gives you that assurance? I mean, why do you think Nigerians should vote for him, and what do you think he will do differently?
The Yoruba have a saying that if someone promises to buy you a dress, you will first look at what he/she is wearing so you can judge if he/she can fulfil the promise. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu transformed Lagos under very difficult circumstances, to the admiration of all.
He displayed an uncommon ability to identify great talents resident in Lagos, irrespective of tribe or religion, to create a benchmark that no other state has yet to beat since 1999. I think Nigerians should not gamble with their votes. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and his running mate will make the desired positive difference in Nigeria.
Despite laws, efforts, and implementation, rape and other gender-based violence cases have continued to be an issue in Ekiti State.
What is the way forward?
The implementation of the laws has given people confidence that they will get justice. What we are witnessing is a surge in the reporting of cases, which was not the case before. The other area of gender-based violence that has also come to the fore is female genital mutilation. The FGM Law needs to be revised to give stiffer penalties to perpetrators. Criminalising FGM in all its forms will help curb the practice. Continuous and sustained implementation of the laws will greatly help reduce GBV in Ekiti State.
While the Ekiti State governor’s wife, Dr Oyebanji, is seeking a special court for GBV cases, some people think that they should be settled out of court. What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the two options?
I agree with Her Excellency, Dr Olayemi Oyebanji, on the need for a special court for GBV cases because such a court would provide confidentiality while also reducing shame and embarrassment, which often prevent victims of GBV from reporting.
It will also make for a quick dispensation of justice, unlike the regular courts.
Settlements out of court will continue to give perpetrators power over their victims if they know they can always buy their way out. Perpetrators should be made to face the full wrath of the law!
How has the brain drain in the medical sector (among doctors and nurses) affected women’s and children’s access to quality healthcare delivery?
The brain drain is affecting all sectors of healthcare delivery, not only women and children. However, since one of the indicators tracked to measure the success of a healthcare delivery system is maternal and child mortality, morbidity, and the number of patients to doctor ratio, the brain drain is impacting negatively women’s and children’s access to quality healthcare.
For example, in Nigeria now, according to a statement by the Nigeria Medical Association in one report I read, the ratio is 1 medical doctor to 4,000 patients instead of the World Health Organisation recommendation of one doctor to 600 patients, while for nurses, it is one nurse to 1,160 patients instead of the recommended one nurse to 5 patients. Governments and all stakeholders in the healthcare delivery sector must address this and save the health of the country.
Credit: The Punch