Opinion: Deconstructing the Atiku Plan(1)

I struggled with myself over making my opinion public on the Atiku Plan. In our clime, nuances of opinion is usually considered an “anti-party” activity. After due consideration, I have decided to make my thoughts open for three reasons:

1) In 2015, the APC’s plan to change Nigeria was unchallenged leaving us with this disaster. With the benefit of hindsight, it was a mistake. 2) By making the document public, Atiku is inviting constructive criticisms of the his plan towards making it stronger. 3) The Holy Book tells us that judgement will start in-house on D-Day. Charity should begin at home which for us is the beauty of the PDP. My party is never afraid to accommodate contrarians like me. So, I am commencing a series aimed at deconstructing the Atiku Plan. When this is done, I will shift focus to the dangerous #NextLevelInsanity of the Buhari Campaign. For today, let’s start with the Atiku Plan for Women and Youth Empowerment.

In my considered opinion, the Atiku plan for Women and Youth should not have seen the light of the day. I waited for two weeks for any notable feminist voice(s) to take the document to the cleaners, but it’s been all quiet. It is either these feminists do not understand the intellectual arguments for equality of the sexes or they have not taken the time to read a document that would most likely determine the engagement that the Atiku government ( when he wins) will be having with women. Regardless of that ominous silence, I will have my say.

First, it is insulting to put women and youth empowerment under the same strategic intervention platform. Why? Because both have different driving factors; have different lived experience and undermines the fact that women are a diverse group with widely different needs.
The Atiku approach is just doing what past governments have been doing with gender mainstreaming – treating it as an afterthought and finding a department or Ministry to fit it in then going to shout that a “whole department or Ministry was created for women”. Bullocks.
Where is the fresh thinking? Where is the innovation? Same ol, same ol. Then the plan next talks about incentiving STEM! My question is : Incentivizing STEM for who exactly? Schools ? They do not refuse to enrol girls into STEM courses, do they?

The problem is that the uptake among girls is low because of social norms about the roles and expectations for girls and ‘appropriate’ careers for them. How will incentives for schools solve this? The girls?How will short term incentives motivate them to defy prevailing gender norms?How will incentives give them the support of their community?What contextual evidence base identified incentives(with an apparent lack of engagement with contextual social issues)as a solution?

Infact, plans to engage with communities to identify why the uptake of STEM courses is low for girls would have made more sense in that document. The plan reeks of typical ineffective top-down solutions, created by coffee drinking, smug, AC- crazed, office bound policy makers, forced down the throats of the downstream. Tell Nigerians that you will engage with think tanks to identify effective and contextual solutions, but not balderdash about incentives. Or a consultation with international and local organisations/individuals. Mind you a consultation does not have to be some bullshit event where an obscene amount of money is spent, it can be a paper based one. With *No* travel involved!

The objective of the consultations is to break *ALL* barriers for women and there is such poor engagement with social factors (norms and roles) that drive inequalities that affect women.

Next, the document talks up special tribunals to try Gender Based Violence (GBV). Pray, how does this work? The concern is that best practices are to integrate GBV intervention to existing legal processes, a ‘special’ tribunal does not sound a lot like there will be any integration or mainstreaming. What does this mean for resources, access, capacity building? How will this strategy help Nigeria *FULLY* implement CEDAW? Same old tokenistic approach to gender inequalities.

The document’s idea of political inclusion for women is to propose quotas. Let me state immediately that the scholarship and literature on quotas for women are as diverse as they are controversial. However, what is not in question is the role of patriarchy in sustaining
exclusion of women in political leadership roles. How will political quotas for women who have had little opportunities to develop the skills and confidence to function effectively in politics destroy the “original sin”? Will these quotas not isolate the majority of women that Have been cast aside due to the already identified patriarchal hegemony. My approach would be a combination of quotas & policies that will create equal opportunities for all women not a few women. Going forward, the Atiku Plan should work towards mainstreaming Gender in every level of government and governance. This is the innovative approach to Women Empowerment. Now, what I have produced here is not sacramental wisdom. Let us deepen the debates. When Atiku wins, he will benefit from them. To any I have offended, no vex, I am first a Nigerian.

Written by Cuwca

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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