Newspaper Publications

As a political animal, I have a very high interest in government and its intricacies. I believe that only when the youth is interested in his/her society will we have the change we badly seek.

My articles with Guardian Newspaper Nigeria

1)Whipping Skirts and the fraternity of the boys

Written on July 9 2009

I have never wanted to be a man. I cannot imagine stuffing myself into a pair of trouser every day of my life. But then, I am sure there are men who will shudder at the thought of being transformed overnight into a woman by a fairy god mother gone beserk or the fearsome witch in the village. Yet for some reason, men fascinate me. You watch them grow from dawdling clumsy childhood marked with big knobbly knees to swash buckling adulthood characterized by premier league matches and beer guzzling meetings. I am intrigued by the male of our species. I really am.

During my university days, I became acutely aware of the difference between the two sexes. We ladies would squabble over the most insignificant things, and keep long faces with each other for weeks, months and sometimes (God forbid!) even years. We exchanged words over the most trivial things refusing to make amends even when malice wore us down, for the sake of not appearing weak. But the men? After a stormy disagreement, they were back to their merry selves. They made up and shook hands as if their acidic exchange a few minutes ago didn't matter. Charming!!! They bonded, , laughed, and patted each other on the backs while we snickered, hissed, and involved ourselves in all manner of pettiness. I doff my hat to the men for this ability to bond no matter the situation or circumstance.

However, I do have my grouse with the men of our species. I have a bad feeling that the largely themed male against female philosophy sink its tentacles deeper into the fabric of our society with the passing of each day? Is this admirable trait of overlooking faults in the place of unity playing a bad hand against women? I hope not! I don't want to believe that this chummy camaraderie our men so obviously enjoy among themselves has become a stumbling block to the aspirations of women, especially those in the legislature of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Every time I watched the news about the honourable members of the legislative, I realized with a jolt that I was staring at those former male classmates of mine and their black slapping attitude, only this time they sported gray hairs and protruding middle sections.

The Nigerian National Assembly is made up of two chambers called the senate and the House of representatives. The Nigerian senate is bicameral in structure and currently houses 109 members. However, it is very interesting to note that in this hallowed arm of the chamber of the legislature, the number of women stands at a dismal nine. Very interesting indeed! This situation begs serious answers. How can it be explained that at this time of the advancement of the world at large and the generally touted success of women all over the world in politics, very few women are counted as senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? I beg for an answer, just as I seek to understand the low tolerance for women politicians as well as low participation of the female senators in the National Assembly. The situation in the National Assembly makes it clear that nothing has changed. The fraternity of the "boys" is very much in existence in the legislative arm of our government and the women as usual still stand at different poles of contending principles despite their small insignificant number.

According to the June 26 edition of Business Day Newspaper, the upper chamber on return to democracy in the year 1999 considered and passed 5 bills while 16 bills were passed in 2001. Again in 2002, 22 bills were passed, and 21 in 2003. At the end of the legislative session of 2003, the senate had passed 70 bills, out of which 36 were private, 33 executive and 1 from the House of Representatives. Between 2003 and 2007, the senate considered and passed 106 bills, out of which 66 were executive, and 9 from members of the public, as well as 4 from the House of Representatives. During that time span, 6 of those bills were passed in 2003, while 35 were passed at the end of the 2004 legislative calendar. The senate also considered and passed 25 bills in 2005 and 40 in 2006. The country recorded a milestone in 2007 with the successful transition to another democratically elected government which ushered in the sixth senate. At that time, the upper chamber passed only 8 bills during its first session and since then has so far passed 15 bills till date.

From the above analysis, it would seem that our esteemed senators have been very busy, but when you look at things closely, your stomach sinks at the realization that in that bill crazy atmosphere of the Nigerian senat4e, very few of the bills passed were proposed by women. Yes, the likes of Joy Emordi, a lawyer by profession representing Anambra North senatorial zone and chairman of the senate committee on education as well as being a member of four other committees has sponsored bills and motions such as the National Ethics Curriculum, and the bill for an act to make for the establishment of National Institute of educational planning and administration (NIEPA), which has already gone through a second reading. But still, the near absence of female senators in the bill passing fever that gripped the senate is very worrisome. I hope that female senators will wake up to their responsibility an become more involved in representing the people who voted them in. Now while I decry the low participation of women in the senate, I must give cognizance to those not so realistic bills sometimes proposed by some female senators. The case of Senator Eme Ufot Ekaette who proposed the dress code bill falls into this category. The distinguished senator must have forgotten that the constituency she was representing had more pressing needs for infrastructural development.

Where are the ladies of the Nigerian Senate? Even in their low numbers, why are they still not at the forefront of proposing realistic bills? Somehow, it would seem that women in the Senate have been so oppressed that they are content to stay in the background, and even worse they do not appear united in a cause to fight the male domination of the Senate. In the few instances that we have seen female politicians assume powerful roles in the National Assembly, they have been frustrated out of the political scene by the men.

When Honourable Patricia Etteh, the speaker of the House of representatives from June till October 2007 was indicted and challenged by the opposition of the house over an award of N628 million contracts for the renovation of her official residence and that of her deputy, Alhaji Babangida Nguroje, along with the purchase of 12 cars, I could not help but feel that there was a conspiracy against this very vocal and vociferous female leader of the house. We saw the fraternity of the "boys" once again unite to consolidate their hold on the lower chamber of the National Assembly. This however, does not mean I am justifying whatever wrong doing Patricia Etteh was perceived to have being guilty of. It just feels wrong that her male counterparts have gotten away with much worse.

The sophisticated gang of male chauvinists who make up the two houses of the National Assembly only muscled the speaker out of the house because of her gender because as stated earlier, Etteh's male counterparts were acting as though they had acquired spotless garments of unparallelled performance in their various constituencies and had never sullied their seemingly pristine reputations. The then speaker Etteh no doubt committed some sins but the worse of it was being a woman. If Nigeria is really committed to development, it must also place the liberation of women at the top of its priorities because a society that discriminates against a particular class of people can not truly enjoy development or progress. Men must learn to see women as partners in moving the nation ahead. Female politicians in the National Assembly must not be railroaded in presenting bills that do not contribute to the progress of the nation. Let section 41 of the 1999 constitution be respected and no member of the house denied any opportunity of leading on account of sex, tribe, or religion.

Umari Ayim

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