ABSTRACT: This study investigates the Women and Politics in Nigeria A Case Study of 2019 Election. The study engages both primary and secondary sources, including field survey, personal interviews and questionnaire. A total of 200 women were selected from through simple random sampling for the administration of the questionnaires. The study reveals that the patriarchal system and male domination of the society, which relegates women to subordinate role, has created women’s inferiority complex and alienated them from the mainstream politics in Nigeria. The Nigerian political culture of thuggery and gangsterism has made the political terrain too dangerous for most women to venture into mainstream politics.
Besides, the stigmatization of women politicians by fellow women discourages the political participation of the former while religious beliefs and institutional arrangements that restrict women to family responsibilities in the country coupled with lack of decisive affirmative action to encourage women’s political participation, have created a legacy that limit women’s political participation in 2019 election.
Consequently, the study emphasizes the need to address those factors that entrench women subordination in Nigeria’s politics. These include, among others, the reformation of all religious, statutory and customary laws and practices that perpetuate women’s subordination in the country and the explicit specifications and modalities of affirmative actions on women’s political participation and clear guidelines for implementations in the Nigeria constitution.
Women and Politics in Nigeria a Case Study of 2019 Election
1.1 Background to the Study
Nigeria has one of the lowest rates of female representation in parliament across Africa. (UN Women, 2019) Since political independence in 1960, Nigerian women have been heavily excluded from the political process. (Ajogbeje, 2016). Nigerian women currently occupy less than 6% of these positions4 and remain less likely to be elected into executive political positions.5 This section provides a brief history of women’s political participation in Nigeria leading up to the present day, followed by a summary of the existing knowledge on challenges confronting women who enter into the political system.
Although equal political opportunity for women is a goal shared by both men and women and despite increased support of women’s equality, for thousands of years, women records poor participation in politics and decision making positions (Waylen, op.cit:10; Anifowose, 2004:204; Pokam, 2006; Henderson, 2006). This is despite the fact that women constitute roughly half of the current world population (Pascaud-Becane, 1999; Babatunde, 2003; Anifowose, op.cit:204; Bari, 2005). In Nigeria, like in other parts of the world, women are at least half the country’s population.
According to the report of the 2006 Census, women constitute 48.78% of the national population, yet this numerical strength of women does not automatically translate to increase in women’s participation in political activities in the country (Kukah, 2003:162; Abdu, 2003; Nigeria CEDAW NGO Coalition Shadow Report, 2008).
While the global average representation of women in national politics is 10%, in Nigeria, the figure has hardly ever been more than 3% (Ajayi, 2007:138; Inter-parliamentary Union, 2007). From the country’s independence to 48 years after,there have been various degrees of women’s participation in politics and governance and varying sets of limiting factors to women’s political participation (Johnson, 2003; Agomo, 2004; Adu, 2008).
This global low women’s participation in politics has prompted the emergence of campaigns to increase women’s political presence in countries around the world. The first major international action in favour of women universally was taken by United Nations in 1946 when it set up a commission on the status of women (Peterson &Runyan, 1999:11; Akiyode-Afolabi et al, 2003). In 1975 during the
International Women’s Year, the UN General Assembly launched the UN Decade for Women (1976 – 1985) with a view to creating greater global awareness on the status of women and the girl child (Akinboye, 2004:13). This concern climaxed with the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 held in Beijing, China with the theme “Equality, Development and Peace”, the aim of which was to review and appraise the achievements of the UN Decade for Women (Omotola, 2007:33). One of the major activities of the year was the World Conference on Women that took place in Mexico.
In 1976, the UN Assembly again established the Voluntary Fund for the UN Decade for Women to implement the objectives of the Decade (Oyekanmi, 2004:44). It also adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which became effective in 1981 (Rai, 2005:3). In 1985 however, the General Assembly gave the Organization an expanded mandate to join the UN group of agencies as the United Nations Development Fund for Women(UNIFEM) with the mission to promote the economic and political empowerment of women in developing countries. In addition, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) work towards strengthening women’s political leadership and their participation in political decision-making bodies (Olojede, 2004:120).
These events marked a watershed in human resource development as it brought women, the other half of the world’s population, into development. However, despite these international instruments to encourage women involvement in political activities, the world still witnesses slow progress of women participation in politics (UNDP Report, 2005). The Inter-Parliamentary Union Report of 2007 indicates that there are only twelve countries where women attained the critical mass of 30% women representation in the parliament, out of which Rwanda, Sweden Finland, Argentina are handful of countries that have elected more than 40% women to their legislative body (IPU, 2007). The Beijing Declaration that was adopted by participating governments at the world conference on September 15, 1995 admits inter alia:
The status of women has advanced in some important respects in the past decades but that progress has been uneven, inequalities between women and men have persisted and major obstacles remain with serious consequences for the well-being of all people.
The participation of women in politics is a key issue in the global discourse on gender inequality, with female political participation being an essential component of a functioning modern democratic system and assuming great significance for realizing human rights. (SHIRIN, 2014) As is the case at the national level, where women represent 6% of all government positions, women in the Niger Delta are significantly underrepresented in political positions and less visible compared to their male counterparts when it comes to citizen engagement in politics—for example, lobbying politicians and participating in public discussion. However, the situation in the Niger Delta is particularly difficult, as political power is largely gained through money and violence, and the region’s political dynamics have been heavily shaped—directly and indirectly —by the contest to control, and benefit from the proceeds of, the region’s oil and gas resources.
This report has been produced as part of SDN’s More Women in Governance project, which aims to promote gender equality in political representation and decision-making in the Niger Delta. It is implemented in collaboration with the Nigeria Women’s Trust Fund (NWTF), with funding from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA). Along with campaigning, advocacy, and capacity building activities— such as a mentorship programme for young women, a social media and radio campaign, civil society and public consultations, and roundtable discussions with key political stakeholders—a research project was conducted in order to examine the status and trend of women’s engagement in politics in Nigeria
The research examined the involvement of women in politics – firstly, as citizens and, secondly, as political aspirants and office holders participating in formal politics in three Niger Delta states: Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, and Rivers. The analysis is based on desk research, 2019 election statistics obtained from INEC, civil society consultations, focus group discussions, and key informant interviews conducted in the three states in May and June 2019, in the aftermath of the 2019 election.
As citizens, we examined voter participation, engagement in political debate and campaigning, and access to and engagement with political representatives. As political aspirants and office holders, we looked at women’s participation as aspirants and candidates in elections, women in elected positions, women in appointed positions, and the roles and actions of women in existing elected and non-elected positions. The findings of the research are broken down in this report based on each of these research areas.
Women and Politics in Nigeria a Case Study of 2019 Election
1.2. Statement of the Problem
The challenge of women’s participation in the political process in Nigeria gained significant attention, following the country’s return to democracy in 1999. With the transfer of power from the military regime to a civilian democratic administration, one would have thought that women would also be represented equally based on the Beijing Declaration. On the contrary, with the percentage increase of 2%, 4% and 6% in women political participation and 6.3%, 8.8% and 7.3% women representation in the national parliament in 1999, 2003 and 2007 elections respectively, it is obvious that the perception that democracy would automatically boost women’s political involvement has not been validated after nine years of Nigeria’s return to civilian rule (Okocha, 2007; Akioyede-Afolabi, 2003; The Nigeria CEDAW NGO Coalition Shadow Report, 2008:3 & Adu, 2008:27).
While Nigeria has not been able to produce a female elected governor, in the 1999 election, only Lagos State had a female deputy-governor out of the 36 deputy-governors in the country and the subsequent elections did not witness any significant difference as there were only 6 women in the 2019 elections in Nigeria, out of the 36 deputy-governors in the country. The percentages of women in the States’ Houses of Assembly across the country were 1.21%, 3.84% and 5.5% in the 2019 elections. In the 2007 elections, out of the 40-member Lagos State House of Assembly, only 5 were women while in the same year the 24-member State Executive Council had only 3 females (Fashola, 2008).
Similarly, in the same election, Ogun State produced only 2 women out of the 26-member State House of Assembly and was the first female Speaker in Nigeria; while the State Executive Council had only 3 women out of the 25 members. At the local government level, between 2003 and 2007 however, there were only 9 women out of the 774 chairpersons in the country.
In the 2008 elections, there was only 1 woman out of the 20 local Government Council chairpersons and 37 Local Development Areas in Lagos State, and similarly only 1 female out of the 20 local government chairpersons in Ogun State (Akinboye, 2004:235; Ajayi, 2007:139; Nigeria CEDAW NGO Coalition Shadow Report, 2008:30; Omotola, 2008:41 & GADA, 2008). Scholars have hypothesized various factors that affect women’s participation in politics across the globe. These factors either enhance or hinder the involvement of women in political activities. Of the factors explored, research studies elucidate the following four factors as particularly important: (1) socioeconomic development; (2) cultural factor; (3) historical legacies stemming from a society’s cultural and political traditions; and (4) institutional design factors (Amadiume, 1997; Inglehart&Noris, 2003, Akioyode-Afolabi, 2003; Dahlerup, 2005; Rai, 2005; Alexander &Welzel, 2007).
What is less clear however, is the degree to which these four factors uniquely influence women’s participation in political activity. These findings therefore necessitate a comparative assessment of the socio-cultural and political predictors on women’s participation in Nigerian politics to confirm the relative degree to which the political environment matters with respect to women’s attainment of positions of full political empowerment. Such diagnosis will bring to limelight valid modalities for improving women’s political participation in Nigeria especially as the country undergoes a process of democratic consolidation.
Against the backdrop of this study, this research work will examine Women and Politics in Nigeria A Case Study of 2019 Election. It will also present comparative analysis of women political representation in the legislative and executive organs of the two states with a view to determining any correlation between the two states.