WITH 2019 politicking taking shape, former President Olusegun Obasanjo has decried the silence by the female folk as deafening, calling on well-meaning women to commence mobilization of youths and the female folk to take up commanding heights of policy making and decision making in the country. According to Obasanjo, it was high time women optimized their huge population and influential positions in families to negotiate their way up to taking up positions across different levels of governance before men once again turn the tables against them in 2019. Obasanjo made these calls while delivering the keynote address at a programme held in Ibadan, on Friday, organized by the Initiative for Information, Arts and Culture Development in Nigeria and The American Corner, Ibadan, to engender women’s participation in the political process. Pointing to the continued shrinking number of women in national leadership positions, evident in seven women in the Senate and 15 in the House of Representatives, currently, Obasanjo bemoaned that women were guilty of self-exclusion and failed to support themselves to attain those political leadership positions. Though he acknowledged male chauvinism in the society, Obasanjo stressed the need for women to collaborate to dismantle all barriers to their ascendancy, vigorously work to engender gender balance and stand up to attain relevant political leadership positions. Women, he pointed out will wait in vain and continue to gravely suffer the consequences of poor governance and poor leadership, if they continued to expect men to kindly toss power to them. Drawing from experiences of women who had worked with him in government, Obasanjo argued that women were superior to men in terms of integrity, competence, honesty, leadership qualities, compassion, unwillingness to compromise and capability to deliver good governance. “As the storms are gathering and the agitations to put an end to the reign of power addicts becomes palpable and the shrilling voices of hitherto reclusive persons have become restless and proactive, insisting that the structure of Nigeria must be determined on a different basis of legitimacy, there seems to be a deafening silence in the camp of our women. “Our women should draw the line to understand that there are times when silence is golden, at other times, silence is just plain yellow. “My dear sisters, you have knowledge by going to schools and in your daily businesses and networking, you should understand how to interpret the knowledge and facts but the ultimate is for you to apply the facts, knowledge and network. That is what I call wisdom. Be wise. Those men are yours by birth or by association. Negotiate and seize the hour before they turn the table against you in 2019. “Our women should take a quick look at history and understand how they have marginalized themselves. How can you yield the political space to be seized by some individuals who could easily have been pocketed by the special ways you have been divinely wired?” Obasanjo questioned. Acknowledging that women constituted 52 per cent of the nation’s position, Obasanjo averred that the nation will continue to find it difficult to attain greatness, if half of the women fail to attain higher echelon of corporate management and governance, but only ended up in the kitchen or in the “other room”. Also, at the event chaired by renowned historian, Professor Bolanle Awe, Obasanjo emphasized the imperativeness of girl-child education, especially the removal of all hindrances to free and compulsory girl-child education, like culture, religion, for the first nine years of formal school. Historically, even till date, Obasanjo noted that women were wont to be prosperous in the informal sector, but bemoaned as perplexing and baffling, their failure to transfer their successes to the realm of politics. “Needless to say, women constitute more than half of our population, in fact, 52 per cent in Nigeria and their contributions to the Gross Domestic Product is great. No nation will become great when half of her population ends up only in the kitchen and the other room or get disproportionately discriminated against in the higher echelon of corporate management and in governance. “Is it that they are expecting that men in their kindness will do all these struggles alone, win or capture power and toss it at them? Do we think that our political space is different from your boardroom and business empire where you have been playing? My lived experience and the world as I know it is powered by shrewd hard-headed, calculating individuals and the cornucopia of their mercy is decidedly thin. It is unlike God’s rain that falls on the wicked and the kind-hearted alike. No, our women must stand up to be counted. “I should think something is wrong somewhere when a majority allows themselves to be consigned to the ghetto of the power equation. Women should know that they suffer double jeopardy when the wicked or the clueless rule. Women and their children are usually direct and indirect victims of mis-governance and poor governance and poor leadership, hence should not wait until they are crushed by policies of state made by men who have no regards for their involvement in policy making and execution. “That is why I say that I hold the women themselves substantially responsible for what I call self-exclusion in the governance structures and processes. I consider it a sheer tokenism, if not arrant insult that our resourceful, intelligent and morally upright women will be sidelined into the ghettos of power to function perfunctorily by such unelevating nomenclatures such as women leaders or heads of Ministry of Women Affairs? “The progress and development of any nation, I must say, is equal to the quality of women in that society. This is because they are mothers, sisters, lovers, builders and pro-creators by divine design. Thus, the women represent a tool for positive change, depending on how they are treated and the levels of opportunities given to them to actualize their potentials,” Obasanjo said. In her remarks, Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate, Nigeria, Ms Darcy Zotter, made reference to studies that countries failed to grow without having women occupy political positions in the same ratio as men. To this end, she argued that it was economically sound for women to participate in politics and bring about economic development. Zotter, specifically, urged women to encourage themselves, be change makers, mobilise communities, especially young voters. Personalities at the event included, President, Executive Committee, IACD, Professor Ayo Banjo; Professor Akin Mabogunje; Oyo Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Mrs Atinuke Osunkoya; Mandela Washington Fellow, Mrs Edem Ossai; Dr Olajumoke Morenikeji of the Department of Zoology, University of Ibadan; an entrepreneur, Mrs Achenyo Idachaba-Obara; former Presidential candidate, Mrs Remi Sonaiya and Executive Vice Chairman, Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP), ISGPP, Dr Tunji Olaopa.