Clement Ovokeroye Paul, Online Media Practitioner

THE RIGHT TO VOTE AND BE VOTED FOR; THE COMMUNAL LAW PRECLUDING MARRIED WOMEN FROM EXERCISING THEIR FRANCHISE IN THEIR PATERNAL AUTONOMOUS COMMUNITY IN OFONI TOWN

MY TAKES

By Clement Ovokeroye Paul 

I had resolved not to openly involve myself with the councillorship polls in Ofoni ward 3 and 4 in Sagbama Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, perhaps, essentially to avoid being misconstrued or stereotyped as an enemy by microscopic individuals whom my position may not had favoured. However, life has taught me that, when one keep mum when an injustice is being served to a crop of people, he/she may be seen as culpable, whether or not he/she reserves the right to freedom of speech or same to hold opinion as contained in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948.

The recent developments, particularly the decision taken by council of chiefs and stakeholders of Etefe sub-autonomous community in Ekruogbe Autonomous Community in Ofoni Federated Communities in Sagbama Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, as broadcasted on traditional and social media, which precluded daughters of the aforementioned sub-autonomous community who are married to sons of other communities within or outside Ofoni town, from participating in the ward 3 councillorship elections and its related activities, is not only an infringement on the fundamental rights of their daughters in their patrimonial home, it also goes to show, as a people, we are more or less a local champion, that in this 21st century where even aliens now reserved the rights to vote and be voted for in Ofoni community, some could desperately deny their own children such fundamentals. I call for a retraction!

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As enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, everyone has the right to vote and be voted for, irrespective of marital status. According to Oludolapo Makinde (2019), the right to vote encourages civic consciousness through political participation; as such, the right to vote is anchored on the tenets of democracy; and democracy is regarded as one of the universal core values and principles of the United Nations. It is trite that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the principle of holding periodic and genuine elections by universal suffrage are essential elements of democracy. As such, the right to vote is an indispensable right and the fulcrum upon which democracy rests.

In fact, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, recognises the integral role that transparent and open elections play in ensuring the fundamental right to participatory government.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 21 essentially states that “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedures.”

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The role that periodic, free elections play in ensuring respect for political rights also is enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; particularly, Article 25, which recognises that every citizen has the right “…to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors…”, is regarded as the key international guarantee of voting rights and free elections.

So, no individuals or group of people has the audacity to disenfranchise or infringe on the right of a woman to vote and be voted, whether or not she has been married out. Politically, legally married women are more advantageous than their male counterparts. While married women who are into politics could most times enjoy dual citizenship at some point in life and enjoy dividends of democracy in their matrimonial and patrimonial homes, men may not.

However, while married women may enjoy dual citizenship at a time when it comes to benefiting from the gains of her political participation when such are ubiquitously distributed, their rivals may only get worried when a married woman chooses to run for political positions in her patrimonial and matrimonial commonrancies at the same time. No law encourages such an act. Otherwise, so long married women are registered voters in their father’s autonomous communities they at liberty to vote and be voted for.

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And the right to vote and not to vote in any election remains theirs irrespective of their marital status. Just recently, during the presidential, National Assembly and state assemblies elections, they were recognized as your daughters and were allowed to vote in your interest. They can’t be less a daughter now, because they are seeking to serve in elective positions. The point is, that they are married doesn’t make them none indigenes in the autonomous communities of their progenitors. While I am not in total support of affirmative action for women, given how most had misused such a gesture, I passionately encourage women to respectfully participate in circular politics, however, taking their matrimonial home into cognizance.

Clement Ovokeroye Paul Writes from Yenagoa Bayelsa State

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