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Women In Rivers State Need To Do More Politically – Mr Itamunoala

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Mrs Florence Itamunoala

Mrs Florence Itamunoala

For the first time in her chequered history, Rivers
State not only has a woman as Deputy Governor  but a female Chief Judge of the State as well.
In this interview with Opaka Dokubo, Mrs Florence Itamunoala, chairperson of the International Federation of  Women Lawyers, Nigeria, Rivers State branch, bared her mind on this development and other issues concerning the advancement of women in politics in Rivers State and Nigeria in general Exerpts.

Given the present positions women occupy in Rivers State, would you say women have arrived here?
I wouldn’t say we have arrived by any standard.
We’re very grateful to God and His Excellency because if he hadn’t been on board, we probably wouldn’t have had a Deputy Governor who is a female and a Chief Judge who is a female. I mean those of  us who are in Rivers State know that that wouldn’t have been possible at this point in time. So we’re grateful to God and to His Excellency, Chief (Barr) Ezenwo Nyesom Wike but women in Rivers State wouldn’t say that we have arrived.
It’s good that women have started to hold such positions in the state but more than that, we expect more women to come out and go for elective positions, not just the appointive positions.
If you say we have arrived, look at the House of Assembly, how many women even came out to contest and lost?
Not many. So, we’re still very far. Until we have a situation where women are prepared to come out and contest and contend with the men at the same level, we wouldn’t say we have arrived at all.
We are concerned about not just appointment, infact, we want more of elective positions.
What mark have you set for yourselves?
Even if I have to start by talking about the 35% Affirmative Action thing, look at the House of Assembly, what percentage of women do we have there? It’s really bad.
In other areas too, I wouldn’t say we are up to the required standard for now which is the 35%. So there is a lot more to be done by the women in this state. so that we don’t lag behind women in other states.
Are you satisfied with the number of  women on the cabinet in Rivers State?
Well, we really hope that when more appointments are made, His Excellency who by God’s grace is favourably disposed to having women on board will help the women to come up to, at least, that 35% mark.
This time around, I think the state is not yet stable with all that the state has gone through. But for the fact that he was able to pick a lady as a Deputy Governor and appoint a Chief Judge, for now, it’s thumbs up for him. I hope that subsequently we will be able to attain that desired goal of 35%.
How do you see this situation beyond Rivers State?
Yes, I know that even our national body made a comment about it (concerning the federal cabinet) that it’s completely unacceptable because it’s too far below the required percentage for women in appointive positions.
The truth is that we can only keep talking, enlightening people. But the way it is, it lies with the person in  charge. The much we can do is what we are doing; appealing to them, advocating that more women should be given appointive positions.
What are women doing to take up more elective positions?
A lot of women need capacity building including those of us who are into activism.
I could remember of particular year we were sponsored by an organisation to empower women in politics and that year, by the grace of God, we as an organisation were trained and we were also able to train others.
For example, I remember clearly, the late Mrs Anthonia Membere used to acknowledge the fact that FIDA trained and built her capacity. But unfortunately, such opportunities have not come for a long time now and it costs quite a lot to undertake such ventures.
Apart from her (Anthonia Membere, former member of the Rivers State House of Assembly), there were quite a number of women who thought they didn’t have a chance but were encouraged and had their capacity built by FIDA to come up.
Yes they had a lot of opposition but some progress was achieved even though some of the  positions were not very high positions like councillors and  the like. But it was a starting point and  it was good.
The problem now is to have  people who will encourage and empower the association to build the capacity of women. Some of these women actually know that politically they have something to offer but for the fear of stigmatization. Indeed we had to contend with issues of stigmatization of women in politics that year before some of the women were able to come up. So those are some of the challenges we have. But honestly, we feel really disappointed looking at the trend of things now and we realize that there is a need to begin a more intensive drive to empower women to be able to come out for elective positions.
Would FIDA consider  sponsoring a woman for an elective position?
Well, that is a very important point to consider but like I said, when you talk about sponsoring a person, it is not enough to identify and pick out a person. You must be ready to back up the person financially and in every way.
And that is where a lot of women have the problem.
But I do know that there are some organizations that are trying to come up now to say that if there’s a viable woman who wants to run for any of such offices, they would be able to, may be, back up the person. We hope that many organizations come up and are actually willing then we will be able to partner with them to sponsor women.
We have to have a willing woman and if we can identify one amongst us who is able, and there are, but the person must be willing, definitely we will be able to bring out the person and sponsor the person. But if not, generally we’re interested in women.
So, wheresoever the woman is coming from, once she is capable and able, we will be willing to sponsor such a person.
Why are female lawyers so few in politics?
I wouldn’t say there’s anything else other than the same problems we have identified that affect women generally all over the world-this issue of the biases against the woman. So whether you’re a lawyer woman or whatever, you’re still a woman.
We hope that, by God’s grace, gradually we will get there.
I think there is a need to begin to encourage our lawyer women to begin to go out there. May be we’ve not been conscious of it. We‘ ve always advocated for others but on our part, may be, we’ve never considered ourselves as politicians or as those that could go into politics.
We have a few out there, like, by the grace of God, some commissioners in the state as presently constituted are FIDANS.
But having said this, may be, we will begin to look in that direction to encourage our members, not just at the state level, but also at the national level.
Like you said, a lot of people have confidence when they see a female lawyer coming out. So, we will begin to think along that line.
From a woman’s point of  view, how do you see the political situation in the region especially?
It’s really pathetic that in this century we’re still faced with such crisis just because of election. But I will call on women as mothers to talk to their children, wives to also talk to their husbands. It does no one any good when blood is shed, when in order to get a position you want to maim, kill, destroy.
It shouldn’t be because if it happens to A today, tomorrow it could happen to B on the other side.
I think it is high time that everyone of us began to aspire to have free and fair elections in the real sense of the word. We must let down our pride, ego and everything. Democracy ought to be about the people choosing their leaders.
It’s really high time we got it right, we want the country to move forward.

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Alleged Anti-Party, PDP Reps Demand Damagun’s Resignation

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Ahead of the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a coalition of PDP federal lawmakers has demanded the resignation of the party’s acting national chairman, Umar Iliya Damagun, over alleged anti-party activities.
The lawmakers are calling for Damagun’s removal by the NEC, along with further sanctions, should he fail to resign.
Accusing Damagun of working to hand over PDP structures to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the lawmakers are urging his resignation to allow for a North Central person to emerge as acting chairman, pending the party’s convention as stipulated by the party’s constitution.
They threatened to leave the party if the alleged doctored list of Local Government Caretaker Committees in Rivers and 10 other states, which they claim is filled with APC members and loyalists, was not nullified.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, the spokesperson for the group and member representing Ideato Federal Constituency of Imo State, stated that they cannot remain in a party whose activities are determined by another political party.
The lawmakers alleged that the list of Caretaker Committee members in Rivers State was doctored in favour of former Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, and APC members who have defected from the PDP. They also accused Damagun of not doing anything to halt the plot to impeach Rivers State governor, Siminalayi Fubara, despite allegedly being fully aware of the details.
According to Ugochinyere, based on the PDP zoning formula, it is the turn of the North Central to produce the party’s chairman, and called on North Central leaders to present a credible replacement for Sen. Iyorchia Ayu.
They called on PDP stalwarts such as former Senate President David Mark, Muazu Babangida Aliyu, Senator Abba Moro, and Bukola Saraki to rescue the party from being sold to the ruling APC.
Additionally, the lawmakers urged the PDP NEC to review the party’s sources of finance, investigate allegations of pro-APC supporters funding the party, and set up a committee to investigate all acts of anti-party activity since 2023, with appropriate sanctions to cleanse the party.
When contacted via phone call, Damagum refused to comment when The Tide source inquired about his reaction to the allegations levelled against him by the lawmakers. He simply hung up his phone after our source introduced himself, told him the reason for the call, and refused to pick up subsequent calls.
On his part, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, promised to get back after going through the allegations but did not as of the time of filing this report. He also did not answer several calls subsequently to his phone line.
Also, efforts to speak with the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Ibrahim Abdullahi, were unsuccessful, as he did not pick up the call.

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LG Polls: PDP Wins All In Bayelsa

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The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa State has swept the local government election conducted by the State Independent Electoral Commission last Saturday.
The PDP won the chairmanship position in all eight local government areas and all the councillorship positions in the 105 wards, according to the results announced by the commission in Yenagoa on Sunday.
The major opposition party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC), shunned the poll as it did not field candidates.
In Yenagoa LGA, the BYSIEC’s returning officer, Wisdom Soreh, declared Buloudisiye Ndiwari as the winner of the chairmanship election after he polled 56, 103 votes.
The returning officer for Sagbama LGA, Prof Abiodun Adelegan, declared Alice Tangi as the winner.
She polled a total of 51,543 votes.
In Ogbia LGA, the returning officer, Tams Deiduomo, declared Golden Jeremiah, who polled 42,462 votes, as the winner.
The returning officer for Southern Ijaw LGA, Ebi Stanley-Udisi, announced Target Segibo as the winner, garnering 36,326 votes.
In Nembe LGA, the immediate-past Commissioner for Agriculture, David Alagoa, polled 11,829 votes to win the election as declared by the returning officer, Prof Festus Akpotohwo.
In Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA, the returning officer, Prof Apuega Arikawei, declared Lelei Tariye as the winner with 27,823 votes.
Also, the returning officer for Ekeremor LGA, Prof Joseph Omoro, declared Onniye Isaac as the winner with 35,177 votes, while in Brass LGA, Febo Lucky of the PDP was declared the winner by the returning officer, Prof Joseph Omoro.

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Diri Expresses Satisfaction With Conduct Of LG Poll In Bayelsa

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Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has commended the state independent electoral commission(BYSIEC) for the organisation of the state’s Local Government election at the weekend.
He also said reports available to him indicated that the polls were generally peaceful across the state.
The Governor spoke to Journalists shortly after casting his vote at 10.15am alongside his wife, Dr Gloria, at his Kalamaowei wari unit 4 ward 6 in Sampou community, Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of the state.
He expressed the optimism that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will emerge victorious in the 105 wards of the eight local government areas as it was the only party with wide acceptance and vigorously campaigned across the state ahead of the election.
“PDP enjoys the support of the people and judging from the outcome of the November 11, 2023 governorship election, our party will still take the upper hand.
“As you have seen, the voting process was peaceful and seamless and l think if this is the way it is in every other unit and ward, then we expect a peaceful and successful Local Government election to usher in a new leadership at the third tier of government.
“So far, we’re very pleased that there is no report of security breach across the state. At the last security council meeting, l charged the security agencies to be part of this electoral process and to ensure that security of the state was not breached.”
Responding to a question on why the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state did not participate in the election, Diri said only the faction led by Dennis Otiotio under the control of Chief Timipre Sylva boycotted the poll and that the party had more than one faction.
He added that the reason for their action was best known to them.

Ariwera Ibibo-Howells, Yenagoa

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