Stakeholders in the electoral process have renewed calls for inclusiveness in politics to promote the participation of under-represented groups in Nigeria, including youths, women and persons with disabilities in the process of decision making.
The stakeholders made their positions at a meeting on political party reforms, organized by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Election and Party Monitoring Department in conjuction with Westminister Foundation for Democracy in Abuja on Wednesday.
In his speech, Country Representative of Westminster Foundation for Democracy,
Adebowale Olorunmola called on political parties give more access to women, youths and the affected group, as they are the main vehicles for participation.
Olorunmola said: “The inclusive and accountable politics project is the reason why we are here. The strategic thrust of this project is to first of all enable inclusion for greater access of women, of people living with disabilities and other marginalized groups in both formal and informal political participation and this is very important when we consider the fact that women constitutes more than half of the population of this country and youth also constitutes about 70% of the population of this country but in terms of participation and representation, we are still in the deficit.
“The second pillar of this project is the one that focuses on transparency to enable more open responsive democratic institutions with increased engagements with civil societies and that’s why the political parties are very key at this point. This project has been working at both the demand and supply side of inclusion and we are going to be focusing more on inclusivity here.
“Political parties still remain very fundamental to political participation in Nigeria, the only platform by which you can contest election and if we are to build on the eligibility age law that was passed which expanded the scope for youth participation, it is important also that our political parties are strengthened and made more accessible, made more inclusive, more democratic and even more transparent in their activities”.
On his part, Head, INEC Department of Election and Party Monitoring, Aminu Idris Election and Party Monitoring said the Commission will always play its role of ensuring political parties comply with their constitution, the electoral act, and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Idris particularly assured that INEC will encourage political parties on inclusiveness, to allow people who are at a disadvantage such as women, youth and people living with disabilities to participate in the electoral process.
According to him: “The Commission in collaboration with Westminster Foundation for Democracy engages Ibrahim Jibrin, a Professor as a consultant to develop indices which political parties can use to assess themselves and which the Commission can use to assess them.
“Ensure that the political parties are playing the role they opt to play which includes enhancing democracy to make it sustainable and seen as a tool of governance.
“One of the biggest challenges we see is internal democracy, whereby political parties allow members to fully participate in the activities because if you have a party and you don’t allow members to participate then the political party can’t grow”.
Also speaking, National Chairman of Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Leonard Nzenwa said the body will continue to work to make political parties healthier, inclusive, and more accountable.
“Working to strengthen democracy around the world has never faced challenges like we are currently having now from China to India, from Russia to the United States, from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Sudan, and else where. It has been a reoccurring assault on the sanctity of democratic principles, practices, and culture.
“The United State which is the bastion of global democracy had the symbol of its democracy Capitol Hill was thoroughly desecrated last month.
At home, we have seen a resurrection of forces that find comfort with anarchy and disregard for the rule of law rampaging to speak from East to West, and from North to South, threatening to overturn our democratic gains garnered over the decades.
“But at the heart of democracy is political parties, at the moment 18 after the de-registration of 74 and we are working smart and hard to ensure that we perform better. We look forward to a robust, rewarding, and win-win outcome that will help strengthen the capacity of functionaries of political parties I help build out democracy to be stronger”, he added.