SPEAKING ON THE NEED TO FURTHER OPEN UP THE DEMOCRATIC SPACE FOR GREATER INCLUSION, DR. KAYODE FAYEMI SAYS…

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“First, we must not only democratize the political space, we must also democratize the economic opportunities to be more inclusive, responsive and beneficial to all concerned. President Buhari is already addressing this with expansion of opportunity in agriculture.

One thing that this decade must bravely confront and resolve for posterity is the need to come with a socio-political and economic structure that will make the government at the sub-national levels centres of development. Our federal system as currently constituted is over-burdened and could be more effective to serve the interest of accelerated national development.

Similarly, the democratic space needs to be opened for more inclusive representation. This has to be dealt with at electoral principle level than electoral contest level. For example, it has been suggested, and I tend to agree, that we should develop a creative mix of proportional representation rather than the ‘winner takes all’ system. Nothing reinforces this more than observing the dwindling number of women and youths in elective positions and the ways losers of election are completely excluded from the governance process. And this is partly responsible for the do or die mentality in electoral contest.

For example, the number of women elected to the National Assembly has continued to witness a progressive decline. In the Senate, three women were elected in 1999 as against 106 men; in 2003, four women were elected as against 105 men; in 2007, eight women were elected as against 101 men, in 2011, there were seven women as against 102 men; in 2015, we had eight women against 101 men and in 2019, we had eight women to 101 men. Women have never had up to 10% women representation in the National Assembly.

Today, there are only 40 women legislators in all the state houses of assembly nationwide. This kind of disequilibrium cannot be solved by the current model of representation. We not only need to find better women inclusion in leadership, we also need to have a gender agenda for the decade.

In the same vein, in spite of the passage of the not-too-young-to-run bill into law, this has not led to increase in the number of young people getting elected. Yet, the median age in the country is 17 and 65% of our population is under 30. Some have even suggested that there were more youths in elective positions prior to the passage of the law. This shows that the problem is hardly that of legislation as much as it is about systems and structures. Of course, we have issues of lack of representation among people with disability too and even many minority communities. This inadequacy in the system must be redressed in this decade.”

Dr. Kayode Fayemi, CON @ the 17th Edition of Daily Trust Dialogue, January 16, 2020.

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