The Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Perry Calderwood, has said that his country expects the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct free, fair and transparent governorship election in Ekiti and Osun States this year.
He said that Canada was similarly looking forward to a credible and peaceful general election in Nigeria in 2015.
The envoy and the Wife of Ekiti State Governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, however, advocated increased number of women in political leadership and decision-making positions.
They spoke at a regional conference on ‘Promoting gender development and increased participation of women in democratic governance in South-West Nigeria,’ held at Ikogosi Warm Spring Resort, Ikogosi-Ekiti, Ekiti State.
The conference was organized by the New Initiative for Social Development (NISD) in partnership with the Canadian government and the Ekiti Development Foundation, which was founded by the governor’s wife.
Participants were drawn from Osun, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Lagos and the host state. The Ekiti First Lady was the keynote speaker at the conference.
The envoy applauded the “invaluable support” of Erelu Bisi Fayemi to the conference, as well as her “commitment to bettering the lives of the women, and indeed all the people of Ekiti State.”
Calderwood said his country remained a bastion of democratic development in Nigeria as the country prepares for the 2015 elections.
Towards this end, he said that Canada was committed to strengthening the country’s democratic institutions, such as INEC, the media and the National Assembly to enhance the conduct of credible elections.
He commended political leaders, civil society organizations, religious and traditional rulers who have been the vanguard of inclusive society that places tolerance and respect for all in the front burner.
Calderwood said, “I believe that women, in particular, have special contribution to make in constructing an inclusive society that embraces everyone and discriminate against no group.
“I have met many impressive women and men working in government, the private sector, civil society and elsewhere in Nigeria.
“I am convinced that there are many talented women in Nigeria who have much to offer in terms of political leadership.”
He stressed that the High Commission provided funding for the conference, given Canada’s strong commitment to human rights and the belief that women should be full participants in the political process and in governance.
In her keynote address, Erelu Bisi Fayemi called for regional approach towards ensuring increased participation of women in democratic governance in Nigeria.
She urged governors in the South-West region of the country to muster the required political will to domesticate children and women-friendly legislations, particularly National Gender Policy.
Apart from being about the only state that had domesticated the gender policy, she said Ekiti had also legislated on Gender-based Violence Prohibition and Equal Opportunities.
She stressed that existing laws and policies serve to provide a solid institutional framework for the promotion of the rights of women and children in the state.
She said, “The key to unlocking responsive gender mainstreaming is political will. This is something all state governments in the South-West and the country as a whole need to focus on.
“All the gains we have made in Ekiti state in this area have been as a result of this political will. Today, religion, culture, tradition, attitudes and beliefs contribute to perpetuate the second class citizenship of women.”
As politicians jostle for different political offices in the coming general election, she charged women to vote for only those prepared to better their lot.
She said, “There are four things I as a women would like to know from anyone who is coming to ask for my vote. And we are going to be asking women to ask those questions of our politicians.
“First, what commitment do you have towards promoting women’s rights. Secondly, what commitment do you have for promoting women’s empowerment and livelihood.”
She added that candidates should also be asked what they would do to enhance women’s access to decision-making, as well as their health, safety and security.
Last modified: February 18, 2014