Women all over the globe have remained a very potent political force who have over the years demonstrated hardwork and professional excellence in various fields of endeavour. As the fastest growing demographics, this singular advantage of number, earns them the potential to overwhelmingly determine who becomes the leader through the polls.
Those who understand their feminist power through the ballot box, explore and sometimes exploit their potential. Sadly, these deciders of political fate as the women could be addressed, are often used and dumped rather than appreciated in the long run.
This attitude of our leaders over the women folk, has not only killed their faith in them, it has dampen their overall attitude towards politics. As a result of gross disappointment, women now tend to assume a non-plus posture in the political arena, thus, depriving the society of their vital contribution towards its development and growth.
However, the emergence of Chief (Barr.) Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, as the Executive Governor of Rivers State, signaled a ray of hope to women in Rivers State. His choice of a female running mate in the first instance, as well as the swearing in of two female judicial officers, Justice Daisy Okocha and Justice Christiana Nwankwo as the acting Chief Judge of the State and acting President of the Customary Court of Appeal respectively, authenticated the signal that eventually marked the dawn of better days for them.
Upon his victory at the polls as the Rivers State Governor-elect, His Excellency, Chief (Barr.) Nyesom Wike re-echoed his resolve for 100% efficiency and to hit the ground running once sworn into office. He did this by releasing his election manifesto once again to the world while promising to achieve every item contained therein.
Fortunately, women development featured prominently in His priorities. His NEW VISION made obvious provision for empowering Rivers indigenous women as well as women resident in the state through concrete initiative to build strong families and play key roles in developing the state.
“Our blue print recognizes the roles of women and we will concretise that role and ensure that our women continue to grow and grow to prosperity”. These were the words of the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Chief (Barr.) Ezenwo Nyesom Wike as he settled down to steer the ship of governance in Rivers State.
At first, these words did not mean much to Rivers women, because, they were no different from the usual words of past leaders and politicians. Surprisingly, the difference between Governor Wike’s statement to women and those of past leaders of the state, became glaring as his vision for the women, took less than a year to unfold.
By January 2016, he had concluded plans to empower women economically through a comprehensive micro credit scheme. Using the State Ministry of Agriculture, sixty percent of micro credit facility was exclusively kept for women.
No doubt His Excellency’s resolve to include women in his government is not only an acknowledgement of the feminist strength in governance, it is also a strong faith in the perceived women’s potential to deliver developmental dividence to the society.
He said his administration holds women in high esteem, and as key players in governance “for me if I see that a woman has the capacity and she is competent, nothing will stop me from appointing such a woman into a position of authority. He reaffirmed.
The State governor has always matched every of his words towards the women with visible actions.
He sees the repositioning of the Rivers women in three dimensions. First economic, education and then political. One of the strategies he has mapped out for their eventual turnaround includes the construction of a state-of-the-art women development centre. The complex he explained is a way to encourage women capacity development and stamp their mark as major contributors to the governance of the state.
Earlier in the year, a foundation stone for the construction of a Women Development and Skills Acquisition Center to empower women with relevant skills for economic sustenance was laid. This administration also set aside the sum of N500,000 only, domiciled at the State’s Micro Finance Bank but solely managed up the ministry of Women Affairs, for women in small scale business.
According to the then Commissioner for Information and Communication, Dr Austin Tam George, “70% of the 35,000 beneficiaries of the enterprise loan given by the Rivers State Governor in 2016 were women and record shows that the incentives were judiciously used by the beneficiaries “.
Also in partnership with the office of the Governor’s wife, Access Bank Plc, through its ‘W’ Academy in sustenance of its objective to empowering women in business, organized a capacity building workshop for female business owners in the state.
The ‘Womenpreneur Business Workshop’ was the second edition of Access Bank’s empowerment programme in line with other unique offerings and initiatives that are deployed to the bank female customers under the ‘W’ initiative.
Politically, Governor Wike is living no stone unturned in making sure women in Rivers State are repositioned. Apart from making the state’s political atmosphere enabling for women to be active players, he has made women to see the need to struggle for power, rather than expect men to bequeath power to them on a platter of gold.
For him, Rivers women in politics should not be about begging for positions, but setting up structures that would help them get political mileage. According to him “Nobody is stopping women from excelling in the political arena, women must work for their political emancipation. When it comes to power, you must have to struggle for it, if you are prepared for politics, you must equip yourself”.
Like Donald Trump of America, who is reckoned for his inspiration of women for politics, Chief Nyesom Wike has motivated a groundswell of women to run for political positions in his time and I think this has come to stay.
In the history of Nigeria as a nation and Rivers State in particular, we are seeing for the very first time, an election featuring women in sensitive positions across all the local governments.
The Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State under the leadership of governor Wike is featuring women as deputy chairmanship candidates in all the 23 local government areas of the state in the forthcoming local government election in the State. This is in addition to about 150 women councillorship candidates also.
The encouragement given to women by His Excellency to pursue their ambitions in the political space is to enable the state gain from the unique perspective and contributions that women could bring to the process of governance.
In all, Rivers women have been projected positively under the leadership of governor Wike. Several of them now occupy positions of authority where they serve as role models to the girl child. The rural women are reached through skills acquisition programmes.
It is for this reason he is described at different spheres as a women-friendly governor. His commitment to the welfare and empowerment of women was captured in the 2018 budget for which he said “women empowerment is very key to the development of the state, that is why we are investing resources to uplift women”.