Not a few women rights activists have lamented that the more women cry out to be included in governance, the more their male counterparts frustrate their efforts. There are fears that Nigeria is witnessing a steady extinction of women in elective positions prompting concern among women politicians. AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE and JOY YESUFU (Abuja) in this report, examine the fall of women participation in the Nigerian political processes
A female aspirant in the recently concluded primaries of one of the major political parties in the country, Aida-Nath Ogwuche, has explained her ordeal in the hands of some hoodlums, suspected to be working for her opponent in Benue State.
Ogwuche, who contested for the Benue State House of Assembly, Ogbadibo constituency, but lost out to her challenger with 75 votes against 51, while addressing newsmen in Abuja, expressed disappointment with the entire electioneering process, most especially, the conduct of the primaries in her party, which she alleged was marred with irregularities.
According to her, the build up to the primaries witnessed a lot of intimidations and harassment of supporters and delegates that should have voted for her, after attempts to force her to step down for her opponent failed, adding that some of her supporters could not find their names on the delegate list.
“Before we went into the stadium, my agent, my coordinators and some key persons in my campaign had been threatened. Some thugs were looking for my agent (Adolowu Lawani) and some other boys walked straight to the vice chairman of my ward and the women leader and told them that they would chop off their fingers if they voted for me. They were threatened right there outside the stadium when they were on queue.
“One of the boys came to someone I was standing with and didn’t know I was the aspirant, and mentioned a name (which I will withhold for now) as the leader of their group, and said that, he sent him to give a resounding warning to my coordinator, and I began to fear for my life and everything.
“When we went inside, we discovered that the delegate list had been changed. The list that was used was not the original list sent from Abuja, which they used for the governorship.
“Also, when it was going to be the turn of Ogbadibo to vote, I heard the leader of the party in the local government, Chris Adabba Abba, saying he was going to stand as the agent of my opponent and that everyone should not vote by themselves but hand the ballot for him to write on behalf of all. I sensed the process had been hijacked, because, as our leader, he has undue influence on the delegates.
“To make good his plans, he (Abba) stood as agent of his cousin and was snatching ballot papers from delegates to write the name of his cousin who was my opponent. And when my agent raised observation and confronted him, he threatened to slap my agent and it turned to chaos and the electoral officers threatened to suspend the process,” Ogwuche narrated.
She bemoaned the inhumane manner in which she was handled by the thugs whom she alleged were working for her opponent and the leader of the party, stressing that, such treatment was an affront on the sensitivity of the female folk.
“I saw multitudes gathered on my agent and I was trying to get closer to see what was happening, then I saw the boys hitting my agent, before I knew it, they pounced on me, beat me up mercilessly, tore all my cloths and stripped me naked in the public right there in the stadium. They punched my eyes and pulled my hair.
“This was what I faced. All these bullying, harassment and intimidations, just because some people feel more entitled to hold this position than myself. This is unacceptable. I’m calling on all authorities out there and good Nigerians to look into this situation. This cannot continue to go on, the ill treatments against female folk must stop and this is where it stops”, she added with tears.
Similarly, another aspirant in Osun State narrated same harassment in the last party primaries for daring to ask for fairness in the conduct of the election. Mrs Grace Eniola Olojede, who vied for her party’s candidacy for a seat in the Osun State House of Assembly, said she was deliberately frustrated and unduly harassed because of her insistence on fair contest to reflect the people’s will.
According to her, being a woman in the race should be encouraged to test her popularity but intervention from highly placed individuals in her party is “discriminatory and dehumanising.”
These are just but a few cases of women lamenting exclusion in politics across the country, contributing to a steady fall in the number of women in elective positions in the country.
Despite the fact that Nigerian women constitute more than 50 per cent of the voting bloc of the nearly 80 million registered voters in the nation, the number of women participating in politics keeps dwindling by the day, making it more and more difficult to get them into elective positions.
It has become almost impossible for women to get tickets especially from big parties due to high cost of nomination forms, harassment, and vote buying or rigorous party processes that have continued to push most of them off the political terrain.
Several women groups before and after the primaries came out to express their deep grievance over the way women were marginalised through money politics and very stressful political primary processes that made it almost impossible for women to survive.
Convener of Northern Women in Politics, Hajia Salamatu Abdullahi, during a press conference in Abuja, said a huge number of women were traumatised, brutalised, and chased away thereby denying them access to the venue of their party’s primaries.
In some other cases, she said, some women were strong enough to participate in the primaries and win, but were replaced by a male or other favoured candidates of those in the corridors of powers.
The country representative of United Nations Women in Nigeria, Ms Comfort Lamptey, at the inauguration of a task team to monitor participation of women in the Nigerian politics, said Nigeria is one of the countries with lowest representation of women in politics across Africa.
Ms Lamptey said when more women participate in politics and the political process, it enhances the democratic process and ultimately the development agenda adding that this undermines Nigeria’s role as the leader in this region.
She said Nigeria is among African countries with the least number of women elected to political office with just approximately six per cent representation which significantly undermines the country’s democratic growth and aspirations and ultimately its developmental potentials.
Rwanda was ranked highest country in the world with most women in parliament as of January 2017. The East African country has 49 women in its 80-seat lower House of Parliament and 10 women in its 26-seat Upper House of Parliament.
The map, showing global rankings for women in the executive and parliamentary branches of government, also ranked Rwanda at seven in the world with nine women occupying the 19 ministerial positions in the country.
The African countries that made it in the top 20 include Senegal, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Angola, ranking 7, 9, 12, 13, 17 and 19 respectively.
No African country made it in the two least categories. Nigeria, however, placed 180 in the 190 ranking.
Before the arrival of democracy in South Africa in 1994, there was a mere 2.7 per cent representation of women in parliament; since then, though, things have changed.
Currently, women ministers comprise 41 per cent of the cabinet, women deputy ministers make up 47 per cent of the total number of deputy ministers and there is a 41 per cent representation of women in the National Assembly,” says the South African government.
Leadership positions in politics were previously dominated by men, and women’s entry into the sphere has been included in South Africa’s globally acclaimed narrative of triumph.
Also, for the first time in Kenya’s history, women were elected to serve as governors and senators, and 29 per cent more women ran for office than in the previous election during the 2017 general elections, a fact that led to the largest number of women ever seated at all levels of the Kenyan government. Women now hold 172 of the 1,883 elected seats in Kenya, up from 145 after the 2013 elections.
Despite these gains, the report makes it clear that significant obstacles remain for women seeking elective offices. Although Kenya’s constitution mandates that all appointed and elected bodies contain at least one-third women, women’s actual representation often falls short of that threshold. Women account for just 23 per cent of the National Assembly and Senate, which is still higher than what is obtained in Nigeria.
There seems to be a concerted effort by men to exclude women from Nigerian political scene with a certain stereotype the nation is still fighting.
Women are more than just cooks in the home, mothers in the home but people that also have jobs and careers and other things.
Top leadership of some political parties have expressed worries over intractable sexual harassment on women by their male counter parts, which in the long run, dampens the morale of the women thereby causing them to withdraw.
Some of the men who have been long on the political terrain seeing such harassment (sexual) have vowed not to allow their daughters or wives participate in the country’s political processes.
The process of candidate nomination are the most critical and is the important stage which political parties need to address to ensure women’s participation and representation in political party leadership. These stages are determinants for who should enter the ballot paper or party structure, experts have said.
Nigeria is signatory to the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (affirmative action) that stood for women’s inclusion in governance, also most political parties have enshrined women’s quota in their constitution but it is the constitution which none of the political parties respect.
Some experts are of the view that, it is imperative for political parties to reexamine their constitution and stick to the values and policies for which they were being registered to practice and ensure that it is reflected in their practices especially on the principle of women’s representation at all levels.
They said women participation in political processes is essential to advancing democracy, development, peace and justice as a true democracy requires balanced participation of both men and women.
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