Dame (Dr) Blessing Nwagba, bold and courageous grassroots politician, has represented Aba North Constituency twice in the Abia State House of Assembly on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). She later moved to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and was the governorship candidate of the party in the 2019 elections. In the 2023 elections, she ran for the Senate on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, battling it out with the state governor, Okezie Ikpeazu (PDP) and Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (APGA) former minority senate leader for the Abia South Senatorial seat. In this illuminating chat with selected journalists, the down-to-earth woman leader speaks on the travails of women in politics, Gender-based violence, and assessment of the 2023 election, among other critical issues. Excerpt:…..CONTINUE READING
Most women lost their bid to go to the National Assembly. Why?
The number of women who won the National Assembly election is very discouraging. As a female politician I am worried because the figures keep dwindling. It will shock you to know that out of eight female Senators in the 9th Senate none of them will be returning to the 10th Senate. And out of 92 female Senatorial candidates that contested the last election only three won their election. They are Dr. Ipalibo Harry of the PDP – Rivers West District, Ireti Kingibe of the LP -Abuja FCT, and Mrs Idiat Adebule of the APC – Lagos West. Only 15 women out of 286 women that contested in the last House of Representatives election won their election. This is an improvement to the number of female legislators in the 9th House of Representatives which was 13. In the 8th National Assembly there were seven female Senators and 22 female House of Representatives members. The number of female Senatorial candidates in 2019 election was 235 as against 92 in the last election. In the House of Representatives election in 2019, 533 females won their parties ticket as against 286 in the last election. Recall that in the 6th House of Representatives a female in the person of Rt. Hon. Patricia Etteh was elected the Speaker though her tenure was short-lived, but it is on record that she was once a Speaker of the House of Representatives. We have had the likes of Senator Biodun Olujimi from Ekiti State as the Minority Leader of the 8th Senate when Senator Godswill Akpabio resigned from that position having joined the ruling party. More shocking in all these is that no female lawmaker was elected in Abia State both at the state and the national level. In fact, I was the last female lawmaker in the state House of Assembly and my tenure ended in June, 2019. At this rate, can you say that, women have achieved the 35 per cent affirmative action in elective and appointive positions? The 35 per cent affirmative action is a National Gender Policy, which was formulated in Nigeria in 2006. The policy demands 35 per cent involvement of women in all governance process. Despite the fact that in 2020 about nine Civil Society Organizations approached a federal high court to sought the implementation of the 35 per cent appointment of women into public office, Justice Donatus Okorowo of the Federal High Court, Abuja in his judgment ordered the Federal Government to enforce National Gender Policy by allotting 35 per cent of appointments in the public sector to women. So, as an answer to your question, one can rightly say that the 35 per cent affirmative action is perhaps seen as a mere policy statement. President Muhammadu Buhari has 44 cabinet ministers only seven of them are women; 35 per cent of 44 should be approximately 15. The situation is even worse in elective positions, in my state (Abia State) there is no woman elected in any office in the last election, it was only APC amongst the three major political parties that gave a woman its governorship ticket (Adamawa State). Women are not allowed to hold certain positions in party hierarchy, and it ought not to be so. At present there are many women who are chief executives of banks and some other multinationals in Nigeria and they are performing excellently well, standing tall on competence, but when it comes to elective and appointive positions, the issue of gender will come into play. The joke is on our men. The president-elect, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in the past, entrusted women with some sensitive positions. I have the belief that he will correct this anomaly when he announces his cabinet ministers and other key appointments.
2. MegaMillions – MPU
What do you think it will take to have women on the decision-making table?
There are many women in position of authority both in the private and public sectors. What women are demanding for, is that they shouldn’t be denied of positions they are eminently qualified to occupy because of their gender. In fact, God created women specially; they are created with the ability to multi-task. The women have all it takes to occupy any office. Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is currently the Director General of World Trade Organization (WTO) and there are many Nigerian women occupying high offices in international organizations, if the opportunity to be the governor or president comes Nigerian women will perform excellently. We have the capacity, competence and credibility to lead on our merit. We do not need to be discriminated against, but we need to be seen as partners in nation building.
Do you think our laws are strong enough to stem the tide of violence against women?
Yes but we are lacking in strong institutions. As at December 2021, 30 out of 36 states have enacted laws prohibiting gender based violence just like in other areas there are adequate laws, but the compliance level is what matters.
What informed your decision to contest for the Senate after being in the House of Assembly?
The legislature is like an old wine, the older it gets, the better it becomes. Having served in the House for eight years with a great record of performance by way of effective representation, lawmaking, oversight, and provision of “stomach infrastructure” for my people, I felt I would do better by a representation at the national level and in a national party, like the All Progressives Congress (APC). Having seen the level of underdevelopment, unemployment, infrastructural decay in Abia South and dividends attracted by APC members in other constituencies, I was sure I would do even better if given the opportunity under the platform, APC. The election was, however, marred by corruption and was initially declared inconclusive having had over 30,000 votes from Obingwa, Aba South and North not cast. How the returning officer came back after less than three hours to announce APGA as the winner surprised all.
Given the complaints from your quarters that your election was rigged, could we say it’s a reflection of the 2023 election?
Every election has its peculiarities hence it will be wrong for me to generalize the conduct of the 2023 election. Members of my campaign council and I did conduct a post-election examination or analysis of my election. We observed there were intimidations of our LGA collation agents in some LGAs and the people who did that did it for a purpose; however, I wouldn’t want to go into further details of the conduct of 2023 election and the election results. I didn’t go to the tribunal but there are candidates in the same election who are at the tribunal; it will be subjudice discussing a matter that’s already in court.
Most Nigerians seem to be dissatisfied with the governance of your party, APC, under President Buhari. Do you think the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, can salvage the country?
In 2015, when President Buhari was elected into office the expectations of Nigerians were very high and based on that many people are judging his performance based on the target they set for him and some of the promises made. President Buhari may not have gotten it right in all indices, but in the area of infrastructure he did very well. It is on record that Buhari’s administration has invested more resources on infrastructure than any other administration since 1999 with visible projects in all the geopolitical zones. Just two weeks ago, the Special Adviser to the President on Media, Mr Femi Adesina, said that some of the promises that people claimed that President Buhari made were not from him rather from some pro-groups. According to him, the president heard some of those promises while he was already in office. His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has a record of working with the best of hands in his cabinet. He is a strategist. As a governor in 1999 to 2007 some of his cabinet members then are occupying one position or the other in President Buhari’s administration. The Bola Tinubu I know is going to hit the ground running immediately and as usual I trust he is going to select the best hands across the country into his cabinet. He is also known to run gender inclusive governance. His deputy governor was a woman. We are quite optimistic and strongly request that he brings in capable women, especially those that contested various elective positions and strongly supported his campaign into his government. He should employ an affirmative action as a way of encouraging women in politics. Government is a continuum. It is expected that he builds on the achievements of President Buhari and where the current administration didn’t perform as expected; he is expected to improve on them. My wish is that God will strengthen him and give him the enablement to carry on with the arduous task ahead…..CONTINUE READING