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2019 Elections: Women should fight for themselves because the men won’t do it

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Four of the world’s top 10 countries regarding women’s political representation in governance are Rwanda, Seychelles, Senegal and South Africa. Yet, it is distressing that the most populous country on the continent, Nigeria, cannot boast of 35 percent minimum representation for women who account for 50 percent of its electorate.

Earlier this year in May, President Muhammadu Buhari said jokingly that the demand for a female Vice president in 2019 was a threat to the position of Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo. The President made this statement when female members of the state Houses of Assembly across the country asked him to consider a female running mate for the 2019 presidential election.

“It will interest Your Excellency to know that Nigeria is a signatory to several conventions and treaties supporting and encouraging the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.

“However, Nigerian women have not been given their rightful place, women political empowerment in Nigeria ranks a lowly 111th position of 145 countries surveyed in the 2015 Global Gender Gap Report.

“Today, Nigeria falls below the National Gender Policy benchmark of 35 percent minimum representation for women as well as the global and regional benchmarks of which she is a signatory, ranking 181 out of 193 countries in female representation according to statistics from the Interparliamentary union,” said leader of the delegation, Mrs. Elizabeth Ative.

Nigeria changed to democratic rule in 1999 and five national elections have been conducted over the past 19 years. However, only a handful of women have ever been elected or appointed to public offices. During Obasanjo’s administration in 1999, there were 9 female ministers in the Executive council and during Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in 2011, there were 13 female ministers in the 42-member cabinet.

United Nations Information Centre in Nigeria said there is a poorer representation of women in President Muhammadu Buhari-led government than in past administrations. When President Muhammadu Buhari sworn his ministers in 2015, there are only five females in the 36-member cabinet.

The 2017 UN report notes that Nigeria ranks 180th out of 190 countries for women’s representation in politics. In parliament, there are only 7 females out of the 109 members of Senate while women hold 22 of the 360 seats in the lower House of Assembly. Also, the Gender Equality and Equal Opportunities Bill is yet to be passed, it is still pending before the upper legislative chamber since 2011.

The situation is even more direr in some states in northern Nigeria, a region where certain practices have consigned women to the background.

“There are some states in Nigeria like Jigawa, Kebbi and Sokoto that, since 1999, haven’t elected a woman for any positions. Federal, state, local — no woman has been elected,” Ayisha Osori, a Nigerian lawyer and author of “Love Does Not Win Elections, told CNN.

“Only five female ministers and deputy governors in the country. We have no female governor, a female president or vice president,” she added.

With the 2019 elections in view, it is noteworthy to know that five of presidential aspirants in Nigeria are women – Eunice Atuejide, former minister Obiageli Ezekwesili, Olufunmilayo Adesanya-Davis, Princess Oyenike Roberts and Elishama Ideh.

Ezekwesili has the brightest chance to upend the male status quo, but political analyst in Nigeria often note that the former vice president (Africa) of the World Bank has a limited chance of doing that.

But in a recent interview with Guardian Life, she insisted that her dark horse status notwithstanding, she can defeat the two leading candidates – Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar – who are both males.

“I am not running alone,” she said. “We are all running. This contest is between the political class that has failed over and over against the Nigerian people and the Nigerian people.”

In spite of the militating forces against increased representation of women in key elective and appointive decision making positions, it is crucial for women to take participation in politics seriously in order to guard against the erosion of their rights and welfare.

Education of the girl child is critical but it may not be achieved if women are not in key decision making positions. It is disheartening that it’s only men that are legislating and debating on matters regarding the livelihoods and development of women and girls.

This report is undertaken with support from Code For Africa to amplify the Gender Gap conversation


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