Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq at the weekend called for incentives to any subnational government that mainstreams women in its decision making process, saying such would boost gender inclusion in record time.
Speaking as the only male panellist at a virtual conference organised by the Women in Management and Business (WIMBIZ) on Saturday, AbdulRazaq said such steps would motivate many governments to bring more women on board while political parties would consider gender inclusion a key campaign issue in their decisions at the primaries.
He said the federal government and development partners could make electing or appointing certain percentage of women a precondition for states to access certain grants or qualify for budget support like the State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) programme for results.
Under the World Bank-enabled SFTAS programme, states are required to score certain points or meet some threshold of transparency in exchange for grants that equal their performance in the criteria.
Many states are now competing hard to score more points because they will be rewarded with funds for doing so, AbdulRazaq noted, calling for similar measures to encourage states and political parties to work harder for gender inclusion.
Moderated by Simi Fajemirokun, the other panelists were the Senate Minority Whip Biodun Olujimi (Ekiti South); Senator Betty Apiafi (Rivers) and prominent civic rights and gender advocate Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo. All the panelists took turns to shower encomiums on AbdulRazaq for his unmistakable commitment to gender inclusion and women empowerment in the state.
They also called on other governors to emulate him.
The theme of the conference was “Get off the sideline: 2023 and beyond”.
AbdulRazaq has gone down in history as the first leader in black Africa to have appointed 56.25 women into his cabinet — although Rwanda holds the trophy for having the highest number of elected women into the parliament.
“Your limitation is only your imagination. Get off the sideline and go for your goal,” the Governor said, charging women to watch each other’s back as they push harder for gender inclusion in national politics.
“One thing I also like to add is that, on this gender issue, affirmative action and incentivisation are key to achieving this goal. What do I mean by affirmative action? Today, we have federal character commission. Why don’t we push for similar thing to drive woman agenda?”
AbdulRazaq said he had not appointed 56.25 women into his cabinet to set any record, clarifying that as a frontline businessman he had always worked closely and majorly with women whose multitasking and organisational skills he said could hardly be rivalled by their male counterparts.
He said the administration would continue to do more for women inclusion, with his latest effort being the unprecedented appointment of some 50 percent women as permanent secretaries in the state civil service.
Senator Olujimi emphasised the need for women to mobilise resources and work together to achieve affirmative action, while Senator Apiafi said women need to study their political environment, start from the grassroots, and be part of its political culture to make more impacts.
Toyo condemned what she called “toxic masculinity” that does not recognise the need for gender parity and the imperative of allowing women to make their own contributions to national development.
She said Nigeria often fails to domestic and implement various conventions on affirmative clauses, adding however that women and their friends must begin to challenge violations of such clauses in the law court.
She called for the inclusion in the constitution of electoral quota for women which all political parties must abide with, calling on the Governor and the female senators to take the issue up in the ongoing constitutional amendment process.
“His Excellency the Governor of Kwara State’s action has spoken loud and clear that we need women to be part of the decision making process. His record also gives me some joy and I really hope that his brother Governors would do the same,” according to the veteran activist.
Established in 2001, WIMBIZ is a nonprofit platform for women which implements programmes that inspire, empower and advocate for greater representation of women in leadership positions in the public and private sector.
Adeola Azeez, a founding member, rated the virtual conference a huge success with deep insights on political participation by the panelists.