This report by ENE OSANG looks at the preparedness of women in the upcoming general elections.
It is one year to the general elections and as the norm with Nigerian politics is that the year preceding the election year is the most
important year for political parties and the aspirants.
Over the years, women have tried their best in elective positions but the results have not been encouraging, most of the positions are usually won by the men due to patriarchy and other cultural and economic barriers.
Will the norm repeat itself again, how prepared are the women? This is a big question begging for answers if the status quo must be changed for the good, especially as Nigerians yearn for a better leadership at all levels to lift them out of poverty and underdevelopment.
The president of the Women in Politics Forum (WIPF), Barrister Ebere Ifendu, has said women are marginalised in politics, decision-making; however, she stressed the importance of unity, regardless of political party affiliation, to give a voice to Women in Leadership.
Various organisations and individuals working towards achieving increased women’s participation in politics and leadership are collaborating into a platform for women to train, share experience, network, advocate and lobby for political space for women within and outside political parties.
It is no longer news that at the end of the 2019 general elections, women made up a total of 4.71% of the elected officials, showing a decline from the 2015 period when women made up 5.6% of the elected officials.
Lots of speculations exist as to why there was a decline in the percentage of elected female officials as opposed to the increase experienced between the 2011 to 2015 period. It is as a result of this decline that several civil society organisations, implementing partners and donor organisations have set different innovative projects to reverse these downward trends.
For instance, during the 2019 elections, a total of 2,970 women were on the electoral ballot representing only 11.36% of nominated candidates which is quite poor compared to the 49.6% representation in the total population of about 200 million.
The 2,970 figure is an indicator that Nigerian women are getting more involved in Nigerian politics, willing and more than capable to function in the various offices they are aspiring to. Thus, it is our desire that the entire Nigerian population and members of the global community become aware, through the existence of this website, of the existence of female political aspirants at various levels.
Recognising the important role of monitoring and evaluation in any intervention, WIPF set to track women aspirants in the lead up to the general elections in February and March 2023 with the unveiling of a portal called Nigerian Women Aspirants Website.
The aspirant’s website
Ifendu, while giving an overview of the website, noted the poor performance of women in the last elections even with all the efforts put in place. This, she said, necessitated the National Conference held in 2019 and organised by critical stakeholders.
The website was officially launched by the Hon Minister of Women Affairs Dame Pauline Tallen, at the Women’s Conference held at the Women Development Center on December 17, 2020.
The conference critically examined what went wrong and interrogated the role(s) played by different stakeholders in the electoral process. Among the outcomes and lessons learnt from the 2019 election was the absence of a national tracking platform for women contesting various elective positions.
According to Ifendu, the website is specially designed to profile female aspirants in Nigeria elections, stressing that it is important for this to exist at this time in order to counter the somewhat misinformation and disinformation of political apathy existing amongst women.
“It will also serve as a database for future engagements and correspondence.
“We call on women – irrespective of political party affiliations, women focused CSOs, He for She and the general public to ensure that the political rights and aspirations of Nigerian women are not trampled upon as we strive to achieve an increase in the percentage of elected female officials in the upcoming general elections.”
Benefits of internal party democracy
Women politicians have often times lamented the lack of internal party democracy as the bane of their growth in politics, stressing the need for nomination process to be free from discrimination against female aspirants.
The WIPF calls on political parties to respect the inclusive sections in their Constitutions.
“Political parties refrain from sidelining female aspirants through intimidation or similar means and give them all the support necessary to contest and win. We strongly advocate for winnable seats within political parties.
“That political parties increase the number of women in its party leadership structure by opening up the space. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should monitor the nomination process of political parties to ensure the best possible outcome; that political parties obey the principles of its constitution on affirmative action,” Ifendu said.
Various women groups in a bid to ensure an increased number of women who would win elections had advocated for the amendment of the electoral bill, unfortunately their high expectations were dashed when President Muhammadu Buhari refused assent to the bill,but women are not deterred.
“We are in support of direct primaries, where every registered party member participates to choose their flag bearers; this would have opened up the space and made it more inclusive for women, youth and persons with disability.
“Considering that the mode of primaries is not enough to discard the electoral bill, we therefore call on the National Assembly on resumption to make the necessary changes to the bill and forward to the president for his assent.
“We also urge Mr. President to assent to the amended Electoral Bill as soon as it is represented for his assent. 2023 elections are crucial and will determine the future of our electoral process.”
Stakeholders as partners
The Country Director, Action Aid Nigeria, Ene Obi, during a press briefing in Abuja noted that women with capacity to hold political offices abound, assuring that the Action Aid is more than ever committed to giving the necessary support that will enable women win elections come 2023.
“Women are most hit in times of conflict and everything, they are most hit with issues, we want to change the terrain of women participation in politics because we believe in the women constituency. Women are the massive voters and we call on women to support any woman candidate.
“We demand for credible elections where one vote counts. We ask for inclusion and we don’t have to wait to get the space we have to go get and that is why we are working hard to build the women constituency so that we can get into the negotiation tables so that when the men too need our support they will come to our negotiation tables.
“The voting parameters should be 50/50. If a man is president, a woman should be deputy; if a man is governor, a woman should be deputy or the woman should be the president because they are capable,” she said