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HomenewsConstitution Review: 'Women Are Victims Of Gender Bias' – Onyejeocha

Constitution Review: ‘Women Are Victims Of Gender Bias’ – Onyejeocha

The Deputy Majority Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, has hinted that the defeat suffered by the constitutional amendment Bill seeking to create special parliamentary seats for women, was due to gender bias by the male folks in the House.

It would be recalled that the bill which sought to create 111 additional seats for women in both the National and State Assemblies was sponsored by the House Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila and over 100 other members, but primarily championed by the deputy Whip. However, members including some of the co-sponsors voted against it on Tuesday during the Clause-by-Clause consideration which was done via electronic voting.

Briefing newsmen in her office on Wednesday, Onyejeocha lamented the situation, saying that it has set Nigeria back many years and kept her in an unpopular position in world ranking of countries with the least level of women inclusiveness in governance.

According to her, “Everybody saw what transpired on the floor of the House, even the Senate yesterday. To say the least, I am very disappointed. Disappointed not because people shut down the bills but because the bills that were shut down have taken this country backwards. Taken it from the basics. Number one. God Himself created Adam and removed a rib and made Eve and said this is your help mate. Nigeria as we speak is boasting with their women who are doing wonderfully well. And of course, you saw that Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala contested with world powers and she made it. That’s our blood. Look at Amina Mohammed, to mention but a few.

“We boast of being the giant of Africa, yet we are the least as far as women representation is concerned. I am also worried because we are losing a lot in terms of resources because a lot of nations do not give us the grants that are meant for us because of low level of women representation. You can get those fact from the UNDP. They have the records.

“And as we speak, with a ranking of 184 out of 187 countries, our men should be ashamed of what they did yesterday. That’s the truth, 184 out of 187, Nigeria should not raise their heads high with this kind of outcome. We have pushed for 35 affirmative action. It started in the 6th Assembly. I came here in 2007 and I was chairman of women in parliament and we tried to increase our number and yet, it didn’t work and the reason it was failing was because the men are asking this particular question: which seat do you want to take? I said that this is an issue of preservation which is not supposed to be at all because if you do not come to the House of Reps, you can be anything, governor. They are the people becoming governors in several States, appointed ministers. As we speak, how many Minister’s do we have? Wherever you go, you still find men and they will still find their feet,” she said.

She explained that the quest to avoid competition with the men led to the efforts at creating the additional seats which were to be contested only by women, just as it would help improve Nigeria’s global ranking of women inclusiveness in governance.

“So, I said since the issue is that nobody wants to lose his seat for a woman, let’s create additional seats to accommodate and break the jinx and fill the gap because it is so wide. 184 out of 187, are we a country? How do you explain it? What do you tell the world? Would you tell the world that your coming 184th. And then we are shouting that if we give these women a chance, they will overrun us. How are they going to over run you? We do not over run you in your homes when we are taking care of your children, nurturing you, providing for you, giving you comfort, campaigning for you to win election? I know most men that will not be on this floor if the women don’t gather to support and vote them in? Then you are saying we are not fit, that we will remain on this 184 out of 187 countries? It’s laughable to say the least,” she said.

The 4-time member of the green chamber expressed disappointment at her male colleagues for rejecting the provision, especially those who co-sponsored the bill with herself and the Speaker.

“So, what happened yesterday, for me, was unimaginable. I couldn’t think about it because I was not expecting it because having known how bills are killed on the floor, I decided to let everybody to co-sponsor this bill. And the number sponsor of this bill is our Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and I know in several fora, we have accorded him this he-for-she number one in this parliament even outside Nigeria.

“It is more worrisome that people who signed their signatures to a bill will come on the day of voting to say no. I explained to you that your seat is secured but let us create additional seats that will enable us bring more women so that they will remove us from 184 out of 187 because the whole world was watching us yesterday. At least 187 countries including Nigeria were watching to see how we will break this jinx.

“I came here with other female colleagues, twenty something women, it declined. Today we are 13. So, what’s the guarantee that in the 10th assembly, it will not decline further with this type of gang up, conspiracy and gender bias for inclusion because that’s how I see it. The words may be strong but that is what it is. If it not about bias, I don’t know how to put it.

“…I don’t know how you will explain to me that you sponsored a bill and you are part of the people that killed the bill. What it simply means is that the 88 that we got, remove the 13 women, where are the others? If it is not bias, what will it be? They are bias about women issues. That’s why it played out that even party administration, is there any member going to be a Women leader, a secretary of a party, treasury and yet it was killed. 35 percent representation on party matters, in political party structure, so, what’s wrong in giving them some percentage to help build the party?”, the lawmaker queried.

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