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2019 polls offer less opportunity for women involvement in legislative politics

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Senator Remi Tinubu PHOTO: TWITTER/ NIGERIAN SENATE

In spite of the popular agitation for more women participation in politics, especially by African countries, the last National Assembly election held on February 23 2019 seems not to have represented such demand. In the elections, only six females were elected into the 109 upper chamber or Senate while 11 females made it to the House of Representatives. This means that only 5.45 per cent of women would legislate in the red chamber while 3.6 per cent will be part of the 360 constituted membership of the House in the next four years.

Concerns are, however, being raised that the number of women participating in politics has continued to fall since the country returned to democratic rule in 1999. This is out of the estimated population of 199,673,010 in which women constitute about 49.3 per cent. This obviously contradicts the 1995 Beijing Declaration that advocated for women’s empowerment and gender equality in politics.

The outgoing 8th Senate has eight female senators but the number was reduced during the last elections as incumbent senator, Fatimat Raji-Rasaki of Ekiti Central could not return as her party, All Progressives Congress (APC), denied her return ticket. The party rather gave the ticket to former Commissioner of Information and Strategy in Lagos State, Mr. Opeyemi Bamidele, who is currently the Senator-elect to represent Ekiti Central.

In a similar vein, Senator Abiodun Olujimi of Ekiti South of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also lost her reelection bid to Senator-elect, Prince Adedayo Adeyeye of APC.Among the six Senators-elect expected to be part of the 9th Senate are three-term lawmakers representing Lagos Central on the platform of APC, Mrs. Remi Tinubu, former Minister of Aviation, representing Anambra North on PDP’s platform, Princes Stella Oduah, Senator Uche Ekwunife of Anambra Central Senatorial district (PDP), Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed from Adamawa Central (APC), Dr. Rose Oko, representing Cross Rivers North Senatorial District (PDP) and Jocelyne Betty Okagua Apiafi, representing Rivers West on PDP’s platform.

For the House of Representatives, the 11 females who would be part of the chamber are Nkeruika Nwokocha, Isuikwuato/Umuneochi Federal Constituency Abia State (PDP), Lynda Chuba Ikeazu, Onitsha North/Onitsha South Federal Constituency Anambra State (PDP), Onuh Onyeche Blessing Otukpo/Ohmni Federal Constituency Benue State (APGA), Ogunlola Omowunmi Olubunmi Ijero Ekiti West Efon Ekiti State (APC), Aishatu Jibril Dukku Duku Nafada Federal Constituency Gombe State (APC), Onanuga Adewunmi Oriyomi Ikenne, Shagamu Remo North Federal Constituency Ogun State (APC), Taiwo Olukemi Olusoga, Ayedaade, Irewole, Isokan Federal Constituency Osun State (APC), Tolulope Tiwalola Akande-Sadipe, Oluyole Federal Constituency Oyo State (APC), Beni Butmak Lar, Lantang North Lantang Federal Constituency Plateau State (PDP) and Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Damaturu Gujba Gulani Tarmuwa Federal Constituency Yobe State (APC).In all PDP has four female senators and two female members in the House while APC has two in the senate, seven in the House and APGA one.

Tinubu
TINUBU is a former First Lady of Lagos State and wife of the National Leader of the party, Bola Tinubu. She is the first female Nigerian to be returned to the upper chamber for the third term. Her first shot in the senate was in 2011, four years after leaving office as first lady. She replaced Senator Munirudeen Adekunle Muse, whom the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), now APC, denied return ticket. Although her victory to the senate in 2011 was challenged at the Legislative House Election Petition Tribunal, the tribunal later upheld her victory in 2012. Interestingly, she stands as the only female senator from the six Southwest states.

Stella Oduah
The Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) Returning Officer, Prof. Hugh Maduka, declared her the winner of Anambra North Senatorial District, having polled 113,989 votes to defeat 20 other candidates. She contested for the same senatorial seat in the 2015 election under the banner of PDP, and pulled a total 143,478 to defeat her main rival, Chief Dubem Obaze of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) who got 70 900.

In the build up to the 2019 elections, Oduah dumped PDP for APGA to actualise her desire to return to the senate but later dumped the party and moved yet again to PDP. She said APGA’s political ideology was a mirage.

Ekwunife
Fondly referred to as Iyom, Chief (Mrs.) Uche Lilian Ekwunife (nee Ogudebe) was reportedly born eleven months after the Nigerian civil war, which ended officially on January 12, 1970. She hails from Nri in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State. She had her primary and secondary school education in Onitsha. She thereafter obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Education/Accounting from the University of Calabar. She went ahead to obtain a masters degree in Business Administration from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State. She was honoured with Honorary Doctorate degree in Public Administration.

Before going into politics, Ekwunife had distinguished herself in the banking industry, where she showed her prowess in money management and brought her administrative acumen to bear on the banks she worked, including Royal Merchant Bank, Equitorial Trust Bank and the then Standard Trust Bank, where she rose to the position of Area Manager.She is a two-term member of the House of Representatives, where she represented Anaocha/Njikoka/Dunukofia Federal Constituency, Anambra State. She was first elected in 2007 under the platform of PDP and support of the then governor, Chinwoke Mbadinuju. In her second term in office, she was made Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts. In 2010, she contested in Anambra State governorship seat under the platform of the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA) but lost. She again sought for the seat in 2014 under All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and lost. In 2015, under the platform of PDP, she contested for and won Anambra Central Senatorial Zone.

Oko
Formerly member of Federal House of Representatives, represents Yala/Ogoja Federal Constituency in the 7th National Assembly (2011- 2015) under the platform of PDP. She was elected into office in June 2011 as the first female Representative from her constituency.Her unprecedented and enduring feats in the education sector have gone a long way to demonstrate the high premium she places on education as the bedrock of nation building as well as on the economic, political and socio-cultural development of the society. She was appointed Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Education, while she was in the green chamber of the National Assembly.She has over the years reaffirmed her commitment and belief in qualitative, accessible, affordable and inclusive education, not just for her constituency, Cross River North Senatorial District, which she currently represents at the upper legislative chamber and Cross Rivers State, but also in Nigeria. She was elected into the Senate in June 2015.

As Chairman, Senate Committee on Diaspora and NGOs, Deputy Chairman Senate Committee on Education (Basic and Secondary) and member of other Senate standing committees, Oko has to her credit bills, some of which have been passed into law while some are in different stages of legislative processes.

Aisha Dahiru Ahmed
AN entrepreneur and democrat, Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed, popularly known as Binani, became a member of the 7th National Assembly, where she represented Yola North, Yola South and Girei Federal Constituency of Adamawa State, from 2011 to 2015 on the platform of PDP.Born on August 11, 1971, she holds Higher National Diploma (HND) in Electrical-Electronics Engineering and Computer certificate from the University of Southampton, United Kingdom. Ahmed contested for the Adamawa Central zone senatorial seat under People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) in 2015 but lost to Abdul-Aziz Nyako of APC.

In the February 23, 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections, Aishatu, under the APC, platform polled 188,526 votes to defeat her PDP counterpart, who polled 96,530.While in the House of Reps, Ahmed was Chairman, House committee on Constituency Outreach, member committee on Appropriations, Land Transports, Millennium Development Goals and Petroleum resources (Downstream) Public Service Matter. Her legislative interest was on Appropriations Matters, Federal Capital Territory, while her achievements included quality representations, sponsoring effective bills to improve standards of living of Nigerians and promoting full-fledged dividends of democracy.

Jocelyne Betty Okagua Apiafi 
DESPITE the suspension of election process in Rivers State on Sunday, March, by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) due to the crisis that rocked the process in the state during the February 23 Presidential and National Assembly and March 9 Governorship and State House of Assembly elections respectively, Betty Apiafi, an economist, retired banker, schoolteacher and politician, will go to the Senate with legislative experience having served three terms in the House of Representatives since 2007.PDP was declared winner of Rivers West Senatorial District following the results announced by INEC on Tuesday, April 2 in Port Harcourt.

Born on February 19, 1962, the lawmaker was first elected into the Federal House of Representatives in 2007 on the platform of PDP to represent Abua/Odual/Ahoada East Federal Constituency. She was subsequently re-elected in 2011 and 2015. Her legislative interest is in women and youth vulnerable.Apaifi aspired for a higher position and got elected to represent Rivers West Senatorial District on the banner of the PDP in 2019. She replaces Osinachukwu Ideozu, the current Senator representing the district, who defected to the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) in August.

IN reacting to the poor participation of women in politics, especially in the last election, General Secretary, Yoruba Ronu, Mr. Akin Malaolu, said though gender equality is known to be in movement all over the world, but its speed and possible attainment is suspect not only in Africa but in particular almost too slow here in Nigeria.

According to him, “The reasons for low interest of women participation in politics though a worrisome development may be as a result of many intervening factors. The do-or-die nature of our politics where ideology is not a factor but the prominence of easy money as against good money that makes the desire for women’s participation in political a near-death calling should be noted. Rivers State in Nigeria today stands as an example of a most dangerous environment for women to play politics.”

He added that women’s participation in political struggle which evolved many decades ago in Nigeria due to anachronistic behaviour of men in their palaces mainly in reaction to sudden increases in taxation like the Aba Women Riot, Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti against Egba king and some others like Madam Tinubu of Lagos, Queen Amina Zaria and Madam Efunsetan in Ibadan seems to have fizzled out.

“But today, our women in politics are not exactly ideology-driven except for one or two who seem to have the virtue and the sane cavil to drive some aspect of humanity in them at the National Assembly since 1999,” he said. “I am talking of Sister Abike Dabiri-Erewa and another whose name has escaped me.”

Malaolu also said the small number of women in political offices today could be traced to those favoured by somebody somewhere or their sudden emergence occurred because they are friends or wives of men at the helms of political affairs and not by any self-regarding efforts to better our lots. He, however, suggested that the best solution is to start grassroots mobilization of women from the schools.According to him, “Sustainable programmes on leadership training and energy to drive same must start from schools and be sustained regularly. These desires must be initiated by NGOS, but funded by government itself and perhaps donations from the international community.”


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