Female politicians who vied for political offices in the just concluded 2023 general elections have recounted how they braved the odds on the political turf in a bid to grab positions ordinarily considered as jobs for men.
According to them, surviving in a male dominated political terrain was not rocket science.
Before now in the country’s political history, Nigeria had been recording low participation of women in both elective and appointive positions.
While this had remained a cause for growing concern to many Nigerians, concerted efforts were made by government and non-governmental organizations to increase the level of participation of women in politics in line with the declaration made at the fourth World Conference on women in Beijing, which advocated 30% affirmative action.
In Nigeria, the extant National Gender Policy (NGP) recommended 35 per cent affirmative action, which entails a more inclusive representation of women with at least 35 per cent of both elective political and appointive public service positions respectively.
The under representation of women in political participation gained root due to the patriarchal practice inherent in the country, but more started daring into politics following the re-introduction of democratic governance in 1999.
Some of the women jumped into the country’s political arena, especially those who contested the 2023 polls said even though all was not lost in the recent polls, politics in Nigeria has never been easy.
The Senator-elect representing the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Ireti Heebah Kingibe, to LEADERSHIP Friday that she almost gave up on politics.
According to Ireti, even though she had been persistent, the lack of internal democracy in some political parties almost made her give up.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP Friday, Ireti urged Nigerian women to be resilient and persistent when it comes to politics.
“I have persisted and I have been resilient. I must say along the way, when I look back it was difficult and I said life is unfair; so I just persisted.
“I advised the female politicians to get involved, be persistent even when they’re afraid they should know that they will overcome. Women must come out despite the challenges,” Ireti advised women.
She said after the 2018 primary elections she got stock in the thought about where the country was heading to.
“I came out in 2008; I did not see much progress. I just felt what was the point. I joined politics to add value and I didn’t see the value added to me at that time. So, yes, I felt like giving up at one point. Part of my giving up was that I resigned from the APC and I promised I would not do politics anymore.
“I thought of relocating but then other political parties and the FCT people came and insisted on giving me their ticket but then Labour Party was the most credible party. I listened to the Labour Party on the advice of the FCT residents. Today, we are happy we won,” Ireti said.
Ireti Kingibe also called on her co-contestants in the last general elections to join hands with her to move Abuja Federal to a greater height.
According to Ireti, FCT has had several Senators before her, adding that they have all given their input into making Abuja what it is today.
Speaking to journalists in Abuja yesterday, Ireti said her predecessor, Philip Aduda has given FCT his best in the last 12 years.
“For that, we also thank him and I would like him to know that I am willing to continue to work from wherever he has left off,” Ireti said while promising to reach out to other contestants to make them understand that the victory is not about her, but for the people of the FCT.
“I would also like to reach out to them. I will make them understand that this whole thing is not me. If we all join hands, we can move FCT to places that it has not been before.
“I am ready to work with everybody irrespective of the political party that contested against me. I am very ready to take their ideas and whatever they have done or they want, I am willing to work with them to get those things done.
“All the different parties in the FCT such as Labor Party, APC, PDP, and all the smaller parties like APGA YPP and SDP should see FCT as a mother for the rest of the states.
“I want all of them to consider me as their senator. They don’t have to show an attitude that oh, she is in opposition or she’s not in my party. I am a senator for everybody, regardless of party, and I want them to know that.
“When things are needed, We will throw it open to everybody and we hope will give it to the best-qualified person regardless of where they’re coming from,” she further said.
Speaking on her political journey, Ireti said it has not been about her alone.
“When I started in 2003, I didn’t know anything. I mean I knew about politics because I was on the sidelines when my husband was running for different things. But in terms of contesting myself, some special women gave me support in their different ways,” Ireti said.
Also, Lagos female Senator-elect, Dr Idiat Oluranti Adebule, said surviving the election was not easy at all.
She said, “Let me say I started off in life as a teacher. That is all I wanted to be growing up and I was teaching at the Lagos State Government College of Primary Education (LACOPED) Noforija Epe, Lagos and later transferred my service to Lagos State university as a lecturer. Then the opportunity to serve in the Lagos State Teaching Commission too came.
‘’Then I was appointed as commissioner one in the Teaching Service Commission. I tried my best and that was when I became a part of the political structure in Lagos. As a member of the commission you are expected to be a part of the political setting in the state. Being part of all the activities in the state I have always been with my people .When I finished serving as the secretary of Lagos State Government, I went back to my people. ‘’
Harping on the challenges as a woman in the nation’s political terrain, she said, “One is for you to know what you are doing and be focused. When you are focused in what you are doing and avoid distraction you are going to weather the storm. Be very open with the people; you get them involved in what you are doing. You must have your vision in what you want to achieve; you must also ensure that you are not in any way short changing the people. If you do that the people will be very receptive and they will cooperate with you
“Being a Senator is an opportunity again for me to serve. It has been a pleasure for me serving the people of Lagos. It has given me the opportunity to contribute my quota, improving on what has been done. The person representing Lagos Senatorial West is doing very well but then, this is an opportunity to improve in what he has done. You must relate with the people closely so that they tell you what they want and not what you want to give to them. That is what I intend to do going forward.”
Dropping more advice for the women, she said, “First, I will advise that if you want to come into politics you must be prepared to add value. You must have it at the back of your mind that I am coming into politics to add value. Look at what they are doing and what they are not doing. Apart from that you must be well read if you are going to make an impact. You have very many educated people in politics now. If you are a woman and you are educated and focused, you will make impact.’’
LEADERSHIP Friday reports that in the 2023 general elections, three females won at the Senate, while 14 won at the House of Representatives, making a total of 17 female lawmakers in the 10th National Assembly.
So far, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has presented certificates of return to 98 senators-elect out of the 109 seats in the upper legislative chamber, while 325 House of Representatives-elect have received theirs out of the 360 seats in the lower chamber.
Also, the nation’s electoral body declared elections inconclusive in some of the senatorial districts and federal constituencies due to some factors.
The outcome showed the number dropped significantly from eight in the ninth Senate to only three in the incoming 10th Senate. However, in the House of Representatives, the number of females slightly increased from the current 13 to 14.
At the Senate, Banigo Ipalibo Harry of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), won the West senatorial district of Rivers; Ireti Heebah Kingibe of the Labour Party (LP) won the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) seat while Adebule Idiat Oluranti of the All Progressives Congress (APC) won the Lagos West senatorial seat.
In the House of Representatives, of the 14 females who won, seven are new faces, while the remaining seven are returning lawmakers.
The new faces that won include Nnabuife Chinwe Clara of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), who won the Orumba North/Orumba South federal constituency of Anambra State; Orogbu Obiageli of the LP won the Awka North/Awka South federal constituency; Gwacham Maureen Chime of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) won the Oyi/Ayamelum federal constituency of Anambra; Regina Akume of the APC won the Gboko/Tarka federal constituency of Benue; Ibori-Suenu Erhiatake of the PDP won Ethiope East/Ethiope West constituency of Delta State, while Fatima Talba of APC won Nangre/Potiskum constituency of Yobe State.
Others are Onuh Onyeche Blessing of the APC, who clinched Otukpo/Ohimini constituency of Benue State; Zainab Gimba of APC won Bama/Ngala/Kala-Balge constituency of Borno State; Beni Butmak Lar of the PDP won Lantang North/Lantang South constituency of Plateau State, while Goodhead Boma of the PDP won Akuku Toru/Asari Toru constituency of Rivers State.
Also among winners are Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim of the APC, who won Damaturu/Gujba/Gulani/Tarmuwa constituency of Yobe State; Onuoha Miriam Odinaka of the APC won Isiala Mbano/Okigwe/Onuimo constituency of Imo State and Adewunmi Ariyomi Onanuga of the APC won Ikenne/Shagamu/Remo North constituency of Ogun State.