The Excerpts of The Commentary Presented by Iyom Josephine Anenih at the Floor of the National Conference

Date of event: 1st April 2014

The National conference has been convened and the delegates inaugurated, among the delegates is Iyom Josephine Anenih,mni. Below are excerpts of her commentary presented at the floor of the National Conference on the 1st of April 2014

"All Protocols Observed. I am constrained to specially recognize my sister, friend, legal colleague, a philanthropist par excellence, the Secretary of the Conference Barr. Valerie Azinge. She is one of the hardest working, most focused, most competent woman I know, and her selection as a Principal Officer, in spite all the institutional and societal constraints that women have to deal with in their everyday lives, is a testament to that. I am Iyom Josephine Anenih,mni. former Minister of Women Affairs, FIDA, first Woman Leader of the PDP, Board of Trustee member of the PDP, President of Women Foundation of Nigeria, a politician, gender activist, a mother, and a Nigerian woman. I congratulate President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for being a visionary and exhibiting the highest sense of patriotism in his address. Mr President has shown courage in convoking this conference. I hope that the delegates can match this courage by courageously confronting our problems and proffering workable solutions. My selection to this Conference as an elder statesman is a new description of myself that I humbly and gratefully accept, although I had previously neither considered myself to be old nor a man. As you all know, my cause has been, and perhaps always will be the pursuit of a better, more inclusive life for the Nigerian woman. Our President, in his speech to us, recognised the need to address the issue of gender and youth imbalance in our political and economic space. One only needs to look around this hall to see the imbalance Mr President referred to. Mr Chairman, my fellow delegates, if you take anything away from my short speech today, please take this: Youth and women need more space. We have tried the old ways for too long, and have brought our country to the edge of ruin. We need to create political and economic space for them to grow, so the nation can heal. We are all living witnesses to the growing security challenges besieging our nation. These militants and terrorists are not old men and women; they are our youth who we have failed to provide a better alternative. I will say it again; we need to codify into our laws a mechanism that creates significant political and economic space for the youth and for women if we want to reverse this downward spiral into anarchy. We have created a time-bomb already. What we need to do as a matter of urgency is find a way to defuse it. Mr Chairman, please permit me to quickly reference Mr President's earlier speech when he inaugurated the National Advisory Committee. He pointed out that all previous Conferences had an identity. So for instance the pre-Independence Conferences were designed to produce a political system and a roadmap to Nigeria's independence; the Constituent Assembly of 1978 gave us the 1979 Constitution and also created the current Presidential System with its attendant checks and balances and Fundamental Human Rights provisions; although the concepts were not enshrined in the Constitution, the introduction of geo-political zones into our National lexicon arose from deliberations at the 1994/1995 Constitutional Conference. My question to my fellow delegates assembled here is this: What is this Conference's identity? What will historians say this conference was set up to achieve? What do we, as participants, hope this Conference will achieve? I think it is critical that we deliberately and consciously define this, so it does not mutate into a monster, or sink into the abyss of anonymity like most Conferences in the past have done. One way to achieve this is to find a way to involve the National Assembly in this conversation. As currently constituted I believe we are a talk-shop. There is nothing wrong with this, as there is enormous value to be had in the simple exercise of bringing all these interest groups together to just talk. It allows us see the world from different perspectives, and helps replace the fear of the stranger with the empathy of a friend. However we can achieve much more if our reports are considered not just by the Executive but also by the legislature. As Mr President said our role is not to usurp the National Assembly's power, but is to create a platform for the re-birth of this nation. We need to actively engage our legislators if we want to avoid the fate of Conferences past that have become footnotes in our history. They produced beautiful reports, but those reports are gathering dust on shelves in some civil servant's office. As leaders and representatives of our various constituencies, we must find a way to weave our individual agendas into the fabric of this great nation. That is the challenge ahead of us, and it is one I believe we can overcome".