We don’t know the plans of Tinubu, Atiku, Obi

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A coalition of more than 500 women’s organizations under the aegis of the Womanifesto movement sparked fresh controversy over the 2023 election on Monday when they said none of the presidential candidates had told them their concrete plans for women and girls in the country.

Although they declined to declare support for any candidate, the women said plans had been finalized to meet all presidential candidates on Tuesday, October 25, 2022 to put forward their demands.

Presidential candidates in the 2023 presidential election expected to meet Rey women include Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (All Progressives Congress); Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (People’s Democratic Party); Peter Obi (Labour Party) and 15 others.

Womanifesto leaders made the statement at the National Women’s Dialogue on “Electoral Integrity and Accountability: Fighting Corruption – Free Elections” in Abuja, funded by the MacArthur Foundation and Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (Nigeria) in partnership with Affirmative Action Initiative for Women, formerly known as the National Coalition on Affirmative Action and Gender Technical Unit.

According to them, the 2023 elections would not be business as usual, adding that women would challenge the best and hold accountable those running for public office.

Coalition members include: Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre; Education as a vaccine! Enough is enough Nigeria; emerging women; Empowerment and Action Research Centre; Foundation for Equality through Education; Equity Advocates/The Woman FACICP Disability Plus; FAME Foundation; Association of Informal Workers of Nigeria; Federation of Muslim Women’s Association in Nigeria! Federation of Paralegal Network, among others.

The Co-Convener of Womanifesto Dialogue and Executive Director of WARDC, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi said it was high time the political class stopped treating women in Nigeria as second-class citizens, adding that “our identity and dignity as women matter. ”

She said one of the top priority issues for women is the declaration of a state of emergency on violence against women and girls.

Others, in their opinion, included increased political participation of women, empowerment, sexual and reproductive health rights for women, constitutional reform to stop women’s marginalization, and security.

Akiyode-Afolabi said: “We call for five specific issues that the government should address. For example, in ending violence against women, we found that about 31 of the 36 states were able to pass the Violence Against Persons Act (prohibition), which was one of the demands we made.

“But today, as we look at the 2023 election, we are really alarmed at the level of corruption that is going on, particularly what happened during the primaries.

“We found that the judiciary did not support women either. Imagine women being asked by lawyers to bring N250 million to support their candidacy. The Ebonyi case is also where the governor who had campaigned for the presidential primary came back to kidnap a woman’s senatorial ticket. We also have a case of a woman in Rivers State who won a gubernatorial ticket but lost the election and lost the case going to the tribunal.

“We believe it’s time to talk about what’s going on between lawyers and judges. We want the 2023 elections to be corruption-free. So this is a campaign for people to vote for women in the elections.

“We don’t want to be second class citizens in the country. Our identity matters, and our dignity as a woman matters. Tomorrow we will meet the presidential candidates and ask questions from them, but from what we see now we haven’t seen any of them speak for women.”

Senate Women’s Affairs Committee chair Betty Apiafi recalled receiving death threats from unknown individuals because of her position.

In her opinion, the uncertainty and the bad state of the economy would prevent many female candidates from winning the election in 2023.

Apiafi claimed a deliberate conspiracy to marginalize women in politics and ridiculed lawmakers for rejecting five gender bills during the last constitutional review.

She said: “First of all, we are all aware of the state of our economy. Of course, given the economy as it is, it becomes difficult for you to hold an election without spending a lot of money. Then of course there is the issue of insecurity, which we cannot even begin to talk about. Because the more insecurity there is in the nation, the more difficult it becomes for women to win an election.

“In fact, I recently received a call from someone telling me that an assassin was looking for me. Insecurity is getting worse during the elections. So the issue of uncertainty and the state of the economy is really going to be a big challenge to deal with in the next elections.”

The executive director of the International Society for Media in Public Health, Moji Makanjuola, lamented that despite previous governments’ attempts to achieve affirmative action for women, female inclusion across the country has fallen from 35 percent to less than 10 percent.

She said that apart from the fact that women have been marginalized during political parties’ primaries, recent campaign councils formed by the parties lack fairness.

Makanjuola said, “If we’ve lost electoral positions, we can still claim an appointment position and we need to start talking to her until we get it right. You can’t leave almost 50 percent of the population behind and think you can’t do anything to build a nation.

“We are not as strong economically as the men to be able to compete successfully with them.

“It looks like the political class has forgotten that if we work together we will get through it together. We will support women across the board, women who are capable. That’s the difference between us and them.

“There is no serious presidential candidate who wants to undermine what women have. I mean, on election day, we’re the ones who stand in line forever. We want to stop dancing, you’re making demands to be part of nation building. And that’s why we’re gathered together. And it’s not just about our manifesto.

“I’m not sure if we’re very happy with that. They need to take us to the table where decisions are made, especially when it comes to health.”

The national coordinator of the 100 Women Lobby Group, Felicia Onibon, said that for reasons of accountability, presidential candidates would be made to commit to women’s welfare by signing a memorandum of understanding.

She said: “We haven’t heard many of them say anything about what they’re going to do for women and we want to include them with our thoughts, thoughts and demands.

“Our own demand is that women vote for women wherever you see them competing. We also look at women voting for people who have clear plans for Nigerian women in this country. And we’re also not saying that a woman should come out and just say because I’m a woman, which I deny, and then we won’t interrogate those types of people.

“We will also be interrogating the woman because we know from experience that there are some women who don’t even have a good understanding of the gender dynamics that affect the Nigerian woman’s livelihood. So if a woman is able to support women’s causes and give women exactly what they want, of course she will be fully supported, but tomorrow we will proceed with sanity.”

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