Nigeria: Challenges, Strategies and Solutions for low female participation in politics

By Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu

INTRODUCTION


In recent times, I have been advocating an inconvenient slogan, #Reduce¹Fila2Increase²Gele, during my public engagements relating to gender issues. Here is why. Growing up as the daughter of Chief BUB Anyanwu (deceased), a village headmaster and his wife, Nneoma Dora Anyanwu (deceased) who was a teacher too but at some point decided to go into trading and farming, without any exposure whatsoever, I sensed that the world was structured to subjugate women.

Quite often, I heard from both men and women, expressions such as “why are you doing this?, don’t you know you are a girl/woman”; “girls who attend (Nsukka) university can’t get husbands, they will tell their husbands don’t be stupid, you better go to teacher training college or go to nursing school” to mention a few. If you are a married woman without a male child, then your days in that marriage are numbered or be ready to accommodate a mate. Male children were sent to school while their sisters were married off early to fund their bothers’ education.

As a very precocious girl, I believe
my young mind was in turmoil processing all the happenings around my immediate environment but subconsciously understood that something was not right! I must have carried over that feeling of searching to make things right for myself and fellow women into my adulthood which has largely shaped my persona and who I have become. Being around the political space since 2007, for me, it is no longer a controversy that, Nigerian women, indeed have been unfairly treated by their male counterparts, hence the slogan, #ReduceFila2IncreaseGele, which I believe to be apt and a call to action in our quest for increased women representation at decision making tables in all human endeavours.


Both men and women should have equal rights and opportunities in all areas and levels of political processes, according to international standards. Women account for more than half of the world’s population and play an important role in societal progress. Mother, producer, house manager, community organizer, sociocultural and political activists are all responsibilities that women play in most countries. The final of the several jobs described was spawned by the women’s movement (Oluyemi, 2016).

Nigerian women account for roughly half of the country’s population, following the worldwide
trend. Despite the important roles they play with their populations, women’s contributions to society have yet to be recognized. Cultural prejudices, religious abuse, traditional customs, and patriarchal societal institutions all contribute to this. In the 1980s, women’s roles in the building of a nation were more widely recognized in Nigeria.

In 1995, the International Conference on Women in Beijing boosted women’s political engagement in Nigeria (Oluyemi, 2016).


In Nigeria, around 51% of women participate in election voting. Despite this, women continue to
be under-represented in elected and appointed roles. According to available data, Nigeria’s entire political representation in government is less than 7% (Agbalajobi, 2010). This demonstrates that Nigeria has not met the Beijing Platform of Action’s requirement of 30% positive votes.


Women’s involvement in elective and appointive roles in Nigeria has been minimal, which is causing worry among many Nigerians. Government and non-governmental groups, on the other hand, have undertaken concerted attempts to promote women’s political engagement, in keeping with the statement issued at the fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, which pushed for
30 percent affirmative action.

In Nigeria, however, the existing National Gender Policy (NGP) suggested 35 percent affirmative action instead, aiming for a more inclusive representation of women in both elective political and appointive public sector jobs.


The patriarchal practices inherent in our culture, much of which were seen from the pre-colonial era till today, contributed to women’s underrepresentation in political engagement.

However, with the re-introduction of democratic administration, women’s political engagement in both elected and appointive posts has increased in Nigeria.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
PRE-COLONIAL ERA


According to Oluyemi, (2016), Nigerian women were an important component of their
communities’ political structures in the pre-colonial era. Women, for example, took prominent roles in the administration of the state in pre-colonial Bornu, complementing the duties undertaken by their male counterparts. Women had a vital part in ancient Zaria’s political history as well.


Queen Bakwa Turuku, a woman, created the current city of Zaria in the first part of the 16th
century. She had a daughter named Amina, who became Queen after her.

Queen Amina was a magnificent and fearsome fighter. She erected a high wall around Zaria to
safeguard the city from assault, expanded her authority beyond Bauchi, and established Zaria as a renowned commercial center. In ancient Yorubaland, the tale was similar, with Oba ruling with the help of a number of women known as female traditional chiefs. They were made up of eight high-ranking titled females.


The importance of notable women like Moremi of lfe, Emotan of Benin, and Omu Okwei of
Ossomari cannot be underestimated. Moremi and Emotan were famous amazons who ruled the political landscapes of lfe and Benin, respectively, while Omu Okwei dominated the commerce scene of Ossomari in modern-day Delta State.

The statistics of women traditional rulers in Nigeria throughout the pre-colonial period are shown in the table below:

COLONIAL ERA


Kolawale and Abubakar, (2013) reported that colonialism had a negative impact on Nigerian
women since they were denied the right to vote. Women in Southern Nigeria were only granted
the right to vote in the 1950s. Chief (Mrs) Olufunmilayo RansomeKuti (appointed to the Western Nigeria House of Chiefs); Chiefs (Mrs) Margaret Ekpo and Janet Mokelu (appointed to the Northern Nigeria House of Chiefs) (both appointed into the Eastern Nigeria House of Chiefs). The women’s wings of political parties were mostly irrelevant in terms of policy. (Kolawale and Abubakar, 2013).


POST COLONIAL ERA


Nigerian women began to take a more active role at this time. Mrs. Wuraola Esan of Western
Nigeria was the first woman elected to the Federal Parliament in 1960. In 1961, Chief (Mrs)
Margaret Ekpo ran for and won the election, becoming a member of the Eastern Nigeria House of Assembly until 1966. In the same year, Mrs. Janet N. Mokelu and Miss Ekpo A. Young ran for and won the election, becoming members of the Eastern Nigeria House of Assembly. Women in northern Nigeria, on the other hand, were denied the right to vote even after independence, until 1979, when civilian administration was restored. As a result of this refusal, notable female politicians in the North, such as Hajia Gambo Sawaba, were unable to vote or be elected (Oluyemi, 2016).


Women were more active in politics during the Second Republic (1979-1983). A small number of
Nigerian women were elected to the House of Representatives at the national level, and a similar number were elected to the State Houses of Assembly. Only two women were appointed as Federal Ministers over the same time span. Ministers for Internal Affairs and National Planning, respectively, were Chief (Mrs) Janet Akinrinade and Mrs Adenike Ebun Oyagbola.

The only female Permanent Secretary was Mrs. Francesca Yetunde Emmanuel (first in the Federal Ministry of Establishment and later Federal Ministry of Health). A few of female Commissioners were also appointed in the State. Ms Franca Afegbua was the first and only woman elected to the Senate in 1983.

During this time period, relatively few women ran for and won seats on Local Government
Councils (Oluyemi, 2016).

RETURN OF MILITARY RULE IN DECEMBER 1983

The Federal Government adopted the first formal quota system for the appointment of women into government with the advent of Buhari-led military rule. In every state, he mandated that at least one female be selected to the Executive Council. This direction was followed by all of the states; some even had two or three female members.


Two women were appointed as Deputy Governors in the early 1990s. Alhaja Latifat Okunu of Lagos State and Mrs Pamela Sadauki of Kaduna State were the recipients. However, no female ministers or members of the defunct Supreme Military Council or the subsequent Armed Forces Ruling Council existed.


THIRD REPUBLIC


Few women were elected to local government councils in the 1990 transition elections that
heralded the Third Republic, and just one woman was elected as Chairperson of a Local
Government Council in the western half of the nation. There were no female governors elected in any of the states at the gubernatorial elections. Only Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu of Lagos State and Mrs. Cecilia Ekpenyong of Cross River State were elected as Deputy Governors. In the 1992 Senate election, Mrs. Kofo Bucknor Akerele was the only woman to win a seat in the chamber.

Only a small number of women were elected to the House of Representatives. Chief (Mrs) Florence Ita Giwa, who won in Calabar constituency, was one of these few (Oluyemi, 2016).


Mrs. Emily Aiklmhokuede and Mrs. Laraba Dagash were nominated by President Babangida’s Transitional Council in January 1993. Two female ministers were appointed to the cabinet of Chief Ernest Shonekan’s Interim National Government. At various stages throughout General Abacha’s Presidency, he had a number of female ministers in his cabinet, notably Chief (Mrs) Onikepo Akande (Minister for Commerce) and Dr. Laraba Gambo Abdullahi (Minister of Women Affairs) (Kolawale and Abubakar, 2013).


RE-INTRODUCTION OF DEMOCRACY (The Fourth Republic)


The return of democracy on May 29, 1999 ushered in a new era in the fight for greater female participation in Nigerian politics. The low representation of women in society is a breach of the democratic ideal of equitable representation of all interest groups in society. Despite our best efforts, we have failed to achieve the 30 percent and 35 percent affirmation goals set forth in the
Beijing Platform for Action and the National Gender Policy, respectively. Between 1999 and 2015, there were five administrations (Oluyemi, 2016).


Between 1999 to 2007, President Obasanjo served as president, followed by President Umaru Musa Yaradua (2007-2010), President Goodluck Jonathan (2010-2011; 2011-2015), and President Muhammadu Buhari (at present). In Nigeria, the vice president’s post followed the same pattern as the president’s. Since the restoration of democracy in 1999, the seat has been dominated by four men.


THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVE


The Senate has been dominated by men since the resumption of democracy in 1999. Only three women were elected to the Senate in 1999, accounting for only 2.8 percent of the total membership.


In 2007, the number had risen to eight (7.3 per cent). However, the number of women members decreased from 8 in 2007 to 7 in 2011, a loss of 6.4%, and to 8 (7.3%) in 2015.

See Figure 1 and Table 2 for further information.

WOMEN AND CORPORATE BOARD POSITIONS IN NIGERIA


According to a new analysis on board gender diversity trends in Nigerian business organizations, women hold fewer than a quarter of board positions in the top 20 traded firms on the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX) (Onwuamaeze, 2021). According to the survey, women had 56 seats (23.4%) of the 239 board seats available in the top 20 firms during the time under evaluation, while males held 183 seats (76.6%).


This was a slight rise of 2.5 percent above the previous year’s figure of 20.9 percent. However,
according to the study “The 2021 PWR NGX Top 20 Gender Diversity Scorecard,” the number of
female board chairpersons declined from three in 2020 to two in 2021, and none of the top 20 firms were managed by a female CEO during the time period under consideration. The PWR Advising, a leadership, diversity, and inclusion advisory and advocacy business, conducted the research for the report.

It also revealed that female presence on Nigeria’s corporate board was significantly
higher than Ghana’s (23%), but slightly lower than South Africa’s (29%). According to PWR
Advisory, the top 20 firms were chosen based on the magnitude of their NGX market capitalization (Onwuamaeze, 2021).


Women will hold 23.4 percent of board directorships on the NGX’s top 20 businesses by market capitalization in 2021, according to the report. This is significantly more than the 20.9 percent predicted for 2020. At least 30% of the top 20 corporations have at least one woman on their board of directors. Last year, 30% of the top 20 corporations satisfied these requirements.


“By 2020, 10% of corporations will have female board chairperson, compared to 15% today.” As
was the case in 2020, all of these businesses are banks. None of the 20 firms on the list had a
female CEO, as they did last year. Two of the firms on the list have no female directors on their boards. In 2020, there was only one firm in this category.”


Lafarge Cement, Stanbic IBTC Holdings, Nigerian Breweries, Access Bank, and Guaranty Trust Holdings Company were the top five performances. Lafarge, IBTC, and Nigerian Breweries all received four stars, indicating 40% or more female board presence, while Access Bank and Guaranty Trust each received three stars, indicating 30% or more female board involvement (Onwuamaeze, 2021).


The financial industry has the most gender-friendly board compositions, with 29.67% female representation, while the consumer goods sector has the least gender-sensitive board compositions,
with 17.46 percent. Oil and gas received 21.43 percent of the vote, while ICT and industrial
products each received 20%.


“Twenty percent of the banks in the NGX Top 20 have at least 30 percent female board presence,” according to Onwuamaeze (2021). (Holding firms with banking subsidiaries are not included.)

The Nigerian Central Bank requires 30 percent female presence on the boards of commercial banks. In the financial services industry, women head 28.6 percent of the boards on this list.

None of the boards in the other industries (consumer goods, industrial products, ICT, and oil/gas) are led by
women.”

Ms. Ivana Osagie, the founder of PWR Advisory, who delivered the gender diversity scorecard,
said the 2021 report was aimed to build on the momentum created by the first edition last year incorporate Nigeria, which elevated awareness of the business case for gender diversity in
boardrooms. “Since then, there has been a minor rise in the number of women appointed to boards, notably as non-executive directors and managing directors,” according to Osagie. This isn’t always the case in publicly traded corporations (Onwuamaeze, 2021).


EFFORT MADE TOWARDS FEMALE PARTICIPATION IN POLITICS IN NIGERIA.


The formation of the Women Political Empowerment Office and the Nigeria Women Trust Funds, as well as the Women Lobby Group, have all been made to address the low representation of women in elective and appointive posts in Nigeria. The establishment of an INEC gender policy, the national multi-stakeholder conversation, the launch of multiple interventions to realize affirmative action, and the convening of the Nigeria Women Strategy Conference are among the
other initiatives.

The National Center for Women’s Development is working with the National Bureau of Statistics to collect evidence-based statistics on this topic.

The data that is currently accessible is not harmonized (Oluyemi, 2016).


One of the goals of the data gathering is to provide a baseline for the new Sustainable Development Goals’ implementation (SDG). The data collection process is still in progress. The results are expected to illustrate steady progress toward the positive declaration, as well as assess how the previously existing gap has been narrowed and quantify the variation between where we are now and the 35 percent affirmative action (Oluyemi, 2016).


It will also improve evidence-based planning and programming that involves women in decision making; increase key stakeholders’ support for measures to increase women’s representation in decision-making; and raise awareness of new advocacy tools among stakeholders to support the campaign for increased women’s representation in decision-making in Nigeria. At this time, it will
also remove any un-harmonized data. Daniel and Faith (Daniel and Faith, 2013).

CHALLENGES AFFECTING WOMEN PARTICIPATION IN LEADERSHIP IN
NIGERIA


Women’s engagement in civic governance and leadership is defined broadly to include women in all elements of civic governance and leadership. This indicates that women’s participation in politics is not limited to formal political procedures such as voting, supporting, and/or running for local office. Women have long been involved in local administration through membership in civil society organisations, according to a broad understanding of women’s involvement (e.g. churches, schools, community centres) (Allen, 2017).


The challenges facing women are enormous, however, researchers have shown that the under listed are likely responsible for the huge marginalization of Nigerian women in politics.


1. Patriarchy: It refers to a culture governed and dominated by males over women, which
has resulted in women being viewed as simply housewives and non-partisans in family decisionmaking, let alone going out to run for political office.


2. Stigmatization: Given the way politics is conducted in Nigeria, it is assumed that it is for
those who have little respect for human rights and are willing to compromise their integrity for obscene gain. As a result, women who seek political office are viewed as shameless and
promiscuous.


3. Low educational attainment: According to Enyiukwu (2020), illiteracy is one of the
primary issues that women in Nigeria confront. Women’s educational requirements should be
addressed first if they are to make a political contribution to the country. One of the flaws is the low participation of women in school. According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, 2010, released by the National Bureau of Statistics, the adult literacy rate in Nigeria is 50.6 percent in English and 63.7 percent in any other language (female adult age 15 and above). This explains why, due to their poor educational achievement, most women are unqualified for political office.
This is also a result of colonialism, which favoured males over women.


4. Meeting Schedules: The times set aside for caucus meetings to deliberate and sketch out
political strategies for the pre- or post-election seasons are strange and inconvenient for responsible and family-oriented women. Women are frequently expected to care for their children and families during the scheduled period. This kind of scheduling is seen as an attempt to keep women out of
the political process.


6. Political Violence: Since the return of democracy in Nigeria, elections have always been marred by some sort of violence. Women’s engagement in politics is dramatically diminished since female hopefuls from various political parties are unable to survive political violence.


7. Religious and cultural barriers: Women are not given much of a voice in public life in
both Christianity and Islam, and this is reflected in most cultural ideals, where women are viewed as obedient and models of virtue. They are not, however, in the public domain. As a result, women’s engagement in politics is a difficulty, especially when women in the corridors of power aren’t always religious.


SOLUTIONS TO BARRIERS TO WOMEN LEADERSHIP IN NIGERIA


According Irabor, 2012, the following are some of the solutions to barriers to women
leadership in Nigeria:


 Political violence negates women’s chances at the polls and in political participation. The
State should ensure full security for women and girls during election periods and end
impunity.


 Political Parties should commit to non-violent campaigning and desist from hate speech.
Non-violent education should be mainstreamed in all awareness raising and voter
education campaigns by all players.


 The State should safeguard freedom of movement, expression and assembly for all citizens especially women. Perpetrators of political violence must be brought to justice. Nigerian women need more than economic empowerment for success at the polls. Political violence negates women’s chances at the polls and in political participation.


 Adequate compensation should be paid victims/their families. A situation where suspect
of political violence would contest for party primaries, contest and win election and bail
arranged thereafter questions the political will of government to address political violence.

 The report of the 22 person panel inaugurated by President Goodluck Jonathan to look into
the causes of the post election violence in 2011 should be made public and the
recommendation implemented to the letter to deter future occurrence and guarantee
security.


 State prosecutors need to follow through on arrests and try perpetrators. Justice should not
be traded on the altar of political expediency. Government should be proactive. Security
should be beefed up in areas of possible flash points.


 Training of political parties on women’s political participation and their impact on
democracy and good governance. The training will expose the political parties to basic
principles of internal democracy, gender and democratic governance.


 Inclusion of gender sensitive provisions in party’s constitution and manifestoes. This will
serve the purpose of mainstreaming gender into its activities. Assessment and examination
of parties primaries with a view to formulating and implementing reforms that will support
a more level playing field.


 Amendment of Electoral Law to encourage independent candidates. Establishment of
Women’s Political Institute where parties and all female aspirants and candidates should
be equipped with relevant skills that underpin the elective positions they seek.


 It will further challenge them to improve their level of education and enable them cope
with the challenges that they may be thrust upon them as a result of political exigency. An
imperative given the competitiveness of the various elective positions as opponents could
intimidate them with overwhelming credentials.


 Women should be active in fighting corruption and bribery in elections. Women should be
at the forefront in calling for electoral reforms to restrict the use of money in elections.


 Adoption of the Recommendations of the Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Commission on
representation of women and persons with disabilities on proportional representation basis with respect to selection of candidates for elective office as circumstances may permit by
parties during party primaries. This will be in line with temporary special measures to
accelerate equality between men and women.

 Resource Mobilisation. Economic, material and human resources are key to effective
performance in politics. It should be borne in mind that even if you do not engage in money
politics, you need money for logistics.


STRATEGIES


A. National.


• Use of affirmative action. Lobby for a certain % for appointive positions and elective
positions into the Senate, House of Rep.


• Engage political parties to give concessions to women by allowing them occupy decision
making positions other than woman leader


B. State.
• Use of affirmative action. Lobby for a certain % for appointive positions and elective
positions into the House of Assembly, LGA Chairman and party executives at the state
level etc


• Engage political parties to give concessions to women by allowing them occupy decision
making positions other than woman leader.


Short term Strategies:
•Lobby for appointive positions
•Encourage women to contest for elective positions


Long term Strategies:
•Girl child education
•BEMORE. Train and mentor the younger generation of women using purposeful
training programmes such as BEMORE Summer Bootcamp to unlock their hidden
potentials and aspire to contribute to the development of the society.

C. Individual


 Before going into politics or leadership positions, there is need to identify a problem that would be solved through the position. So you should be in politics because you want to
impact lives positively and make a difference.


 Plan ahead for everything
 The more we prioritise money the more we ourselves make the campaign difficult
 Instead of doling out money – let’s give out work equipment to groups of women, youth
and others
 In fund raising: You write letters to some but you must follow up physically with many
 Create a resource raising team to help
 Don’t plan a big fundraiser if you do not already have the costs covered.
 In politics conserve your money and spend more towards the end of strategic points:


*Before primaries

*For primaries

*48 hours to election day

*After elections


 Have your ‘think tank’ – a group of friends who can help you plan and make strategies
 Posters are important but don’t spend all your money on posters at the beginning
 Give back to your community ever before you need them
 Skills and knowledge update on issues.
 Identify women’s issue and develop appropriate message and strategies to solve the
problem
 Map the political scene
 Engage in core constituency building  Engage in networking and coalition building

 Acquire personal communication techniques.
 Ensure that appropriate words are used for specific audiences.
 Communicate messages effectively through verbal and non-verbal actions,
negotiations/compromise/non-negotiable, measuring success/building on experiences.


¹Fila– Male Traditional Cap
²Gele- Female Head Tie

(Fila and Gele are words from the Yoruba speaking region of Nigeria)

Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu is the First Lady of Ondo State; she presented this paper at the 3rd Summit of the Foundation for Wives of Ondo State Officials and Female Political Appointees, FOWOSO held on 1st December 2021 in Akure, the Ondo State capital.

REFERENCES
Agbalajobi, D.T. (2009). Women’s participation and the political process in Nigeria: Problems and
prospects. A publication of African Journal of Political Science and International Relations
Vol. 4(2), pp. 075-082, February 2010
Allen, W. S. (2017) Status of Women-funded project, “Action on Systemic Barriers to Women’s
Participation in Local Government” PhD Thesis. Pp 1-30
Daniel, E.G. & Faith, O.O. (2013). Women in Governance and Sustainable Democracy in Nigeria,
1999-2012, Economics & Sociology, Vol. 6(1), 89-107.
Enyiukwu. C. H. (2020). How Women in Leadership Describe their rise to Leadership in Nigeria.
PhD Thesis. 104pp
Kolawole, O.T., Adeigbe, K., Adebayo, A.A., & Abubakar M.B. (2013). Women participation in
the political process in Nigeria. Centrepoint Journal (Humanities Edition), 2(15).

Published by WonderLady

Journalist, Educationist, Writer, Human Rights Advocate

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