Rising calls for more women in politics, governance
Across the world, the times are fast changing and women, armed with the affirmative action, are dropping the second fiddle role to take charge, though in many developed and under-developing countries of the world, women have remained underrepresented in politics.
It was a tight race in 2016 for the United States of America to break the ice and have its first female president in Hillary Clinton, which never came to be.
It is the same situation in Nigeria, where there have been few ‘also-runs’ rather than challengers for the presidency from independence till date.
Notwithstanding, the country still has a long roll call of some brave women who wielded significant political influence and fought for the cause of humanity in their lifetime.
They include Queen Amina of Zaria, a brave warrior who conquered many states in the 14th century; Iyalode Efunsetan Aniwura of Ibadan; Moremi of Ife Kingdom; Inikpi of Igalaland; Emotan and Idia of Benin Kingdom; and in contemporary times, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and Margaret Ekpo, among many others.
According to the National Population Commission (NPC), women in Nigeria constitute 49.5 per cent, while men account for 50.5 per cent of the population.
However, there is a strikingly limited number of female participation in governance, especially where key policy decisions are made and resource allocation decided.
At the National Assembly, out of the 109 seats in the Senate, women only got three in 1999; four in 2003; nine in 2007; seven in 2011 and still seven in 2015 general elections, which represents a paltry 6.4 per cent.
At the House of Representatives, out of 360 seats, women had 12 in 1999; 23 in 2003; 27 in 2007; 26 in 2011; and 20 in 2015; also a paltry 5.5 per cent.
No female has won a governorship election in Nigeria since independence. However, in 1999, there was one female out of 36 deputy governors.
This increased to two in 2003 and six in 2007. The number declined to three in 2007, but increased to six in 2015.
All across the states House of Assemblies, the number of women representatives is mostly in single digit.
This may have led former president Olusegun Obasanjo to make the call on Tuesday that the 1999 Constitution should be amended to include 40 per cent slots for women in the National Assembly and other levels of governance.
Presenting a paper entitled, “Nigerian Democracy and the Journey So far: The Role of Women” at the 70th birthday of former Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Josephine Anenih in Abuja on Tuesday, Obasanjo said the nation’s democracy would grow at low pace without the active participation of women.
“Our constitution should be amended to allow 40 percent of women participation in politics.
The health of our democracy can be judged by the participation of women.
The low number of women at the National Assembly is unacceptable and makes mockery of gender balance.
Democracy is a system of government that allows team spirit and debate before decisions are reached; it is a government for all citizens to benefit without fear or favour,” he said.
The media is not left out as one of the key factors responsible for this significant gap as they played prominent roles in projecting the political ambitions of the male folk.
According to a data gathered by International Press Council (2015) in which selected Nigerian newspapers were analyzed, male politicians and candidates were used on the front page 253 times while their female counterparts only graced the choice page 11 times, representing 4.35 per cet of the former.
Even though most Nigerian newspapers usually reserve the back page for sports stories, comments, informed analysis by guest columnists etc, 11 of the 13 relevant comments/informed analysis published on the back page were on male politicians.
In all, 96 relevant items on male politicians were published on the back page while those concerning female politicians were 14.
The Institute for Media and Society (2015) also noted that in all aspect of media reporting of the 2015 elections, female politicians were seriously relegated to the background by the newspapers as well as the radio and television stations.
The number of published relevant items or aired relevant items with female politicians as subject or sources was very low when compared with male politicians.
In a study by the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organisation (JEBO) through researchers, Chandan Jha of Le Moyne College and Sudipta Sarangi of Virginia Tech, it was observed that a greater representation of women in government is bad news for corruption but many have also argued that corruption is not a matter of gender difference but a question of character.
Findings published in JEBO also showed that in cross-country analysis of over 125 countries, corruption is lower where greater shares of parliamentarians are women.
Therefore, the likelihood of having to bribe is lower in regions with a greater representation of women in local-level politics.
This research underscores the importance of women empowerment, their presence in leadership roles and their representation in government.
The study speculates that women policymakers are able to have an impact on corruption because they choose different policies from men.
Also, an extensive body of prior research shows that women politicians choose policies that are more closely related to the welfare of women, children, and family.
The Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, attested to this study during a media briefing organised by the commission and the National Council for Women Societies in Abuja when he said men have more corrupt tendencies than women in Nigeria.
“Generally speaking, women are less corrupt. I grew up with my grandmother and I still remember some of the advice she used to give me.
It is they (women) that nurture us and bring us up and tell us what is right and wrong.
We believe that women, as mothers and wives, occupy strategic positions to properly mold their children to be good citizens and also prevent their spouses from engaging in fraudulent activities.”
In spite of this, Nigeria has cases of women whose names have been soiled in corruption.
A serving senator from Anambra State, Stella Oduah, was indicted over the controversial purchase of two BMW armored cars for 255 million.
Also, a former Speaker and Nigeria’s first female head of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Patricia Etteh, resigned her position following allegation of a N628 million fraud.
A presidential candidate in the last general election, Prof. (Mrs.) Remi Sonaiya, while corroborating the study, said when women are in decision-making, it easily makes for a more stable society.
She flayed those that make instances of women found in corruption, saying this holds no grounds, as there are lots of women who have had testimonies of a very good performance in governance.
“Women care more about the state of the hospital, schools and many more. If women are given the opportunity to serve, more investment will be made in social services.
It is mostly the women who take care of the family, take the children to the hospital, and schools, imagine even if it is just these two that are well funded in the country, it would mean a lot difference.
We are really short-changing ourselves by not ensuring that more of our women are participating in decision making for the country.
When Margaret thatcher was in, she did very well, aside this we have lots of women who have performed very well.”
Also, a presidential aspirant in next year’s election on the platform of Alliance for a New Nigeria (ANN), Mrs. Elishama Ideh, supported the study, saying women are feelers in nature.
“They put everything to heart and their heart in all they are involved in. Women are imbued with natural emotional intelligence, compassion and more sympathetic.
The earth is called mother earth, established as a woman.”
However, a senior lecturer in Political Science, University of Lagos, Dr. Awosika Olanrewaju, said the report is not substantial enough.
“I cannot agree with this report because the statistics that is being used is not enough.
One may need to ask where the research is carried out. And because enough women have not been privileged to be in top positions in governance, one cannot predict whether there would be less corruption when they are given the opportunity or not.
Until women are tested with power, we don’t know what they are capable of doing.”
The founder, Attitude and Character Change Initiative (ACCHI), Mrs. Saada Mohammed, said the current situation is a far cry from the past before the colonial era.
She blamed the situation on religion, saying, it has caused women to be relegated to the background.
“They do not have the opportunity to hold key decision-making positions. This shuts them out of participating in politics.”
In addressing the situation, she contended that women should be encouraged and supported to win elections at the local level, stressing that this would have a multiplier effect on other levels.
She added that when they are involved in grassroots elections, it would reassure potential female candidates and party leaders that they could win competitive elections.
Mohammed said this approach was highly successful in Rwanda, which now has the world’s highest proportion of female parliamentarians at 64 per cent.”
She added that developing a curriculum for civic education that emphasizes women’s leadership and dispels cultural norms against it would ensure that future generations are more receptive to female political participation.
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