Nigerian women and hurdle of party primaries



As political parties primary elections take centre stage with women striving towards improving their numbers in leadership positions in the forthcoming general elections, ENE OSHABA examines their performance so far.

It’s been a beehive of activities with political party primaries taking place across the country. This has been a huge hurdle for women in politics to scale and has been blamed for the absence of a reasonable number of women flying party flags in major elections and invariably leading to insignificant number of women occupying elective positions. This is coupled with other factors including unfavourable party policies, patriarchy, money politics, and stereotyping of the female gender as being fit only for certain positions like woman leader, basically to mobilise other women to support and vote for the men during elections.

Aside this, the internal party democracy including high cost of nomination is another great challenge for female aspirants. This is as different women groups and civil society organisation sustain advocacy for changes I such traditional practices to create level playing ground for both women and men.

Unconducive environment

Last week the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) held its primaries with results showing an improvement in the list of women who emerged as the party’s candidates. This is encouraging to women rights advocates and women in politics. All eyes are fixed on the ruling All Progressive Party (APC) with expectation that even more women would emerge as the party flag bearers at different levels with the hope of breaking the norm where women were marginalised.

Former Majority Leader of the House of Representative Hon. Mulikat Akande had in the past posited that the political terrain especially what obtains during the primaries are not too conducive for women and is the major factor responsible for women falling by the wayside.

Similarly former House of Representative member representing Calabar/Odukpani federal constituency, Hon. Nkoyo Toyo, once blamed the decline in women’s representation in leadership position particularly in the parliament on the change movement orchestrated by the APC, noting that the PDP was already coasting in the direction of understanding that more women in governance was indispensable.

New dawn at APC

Newly appointed Women Leader of the APC, Betty Edu, while speaking exclusively to Blueprint Weekend said the party turned a new leaf since she assumed office, adding that there are currently many women-friendly policies in the party that is beaming light to women possibly occupying leadership positions both within the party’s structure and in governance.

She assured that the women’s struggle was beginning to gain recognition under the new leadership of the party.

“This is an ongoing battle and since my arrival here I was told it was difficult to push the women’s cause especially in the NWC and so I came with that mind set but I came and met a different scenario. I was told that whatever women issues I present at the NWC they will hit it down but contrarily I met a group of very exposed and highly intellectual members and whenever I present an issue it’s a done deal.

“When I pushed to get women free forms, as soon as I presented the issue the party accepted. We brought up again the issue of having women as directors in the party secretariat because it used to be an all men affairs but as soon as we raised the issue the APC National Secretary, Otunba Iyiola Omisore, supported the idea and the party Chairman accepted and it was done immediately.

“We brought again the issues of delegate list which we said that at national it should be one woman two men and at the ward and local government levels it should be two women three men and instantly it was carried. So, we are currently cleaning up the list and sending back those whose lists are do not comply to make that reality.”

Continuing she said, ”Right now we are at the issue of getting female aspirants across the line to make them become our party candidates and we are hopeful that by this weekend when the primaries hold this will come true for women because the party is women-friendly.”

Presidential aspirant shares ordeal

A female Presidential Aspirant on the platform of APC, Vivian Bello, in contrast to the assurance on free forms for women said she was denied the offer when she went to pick the form to contest for presidency.

Narrating her ordeal, she said she got to the secretariat to obtain her form but was denied, adding that she was told that only the expression of interest form that is free while nomination form for women is N30 million.

“We were scheduled to go for the obtaining of the APC presidential nomination form along with our women group supporters. Someone reached me, as an aside, the day before, to tell me that the APC said their form was not free for women and Persons Living With Disabilities (PLWD) as announced. That only the Expression of Interest form was free while we have to pay N30million for the nomination form.

“I told the person categorically I refuse to accept that because before the whole world, both local and international media, the APC called a press conference specifically to announce that it has abolished all fees for women and persons living with disability. It’s on record. So, for someone somewhere now to begin to sing a different song is not acceptable. Well, I hope the party wouldn’t want to take the little left of its image to tatters.

“They refused to issue nomination form to me, they funnily refuted that the forms are free for women and PLWD and demanded I pay N30 million. So, I left with the women groups and we made it clear to them that we do not have such humongous amount of money. The world has seen clearly how a ruling party disenfranchises women,” she lamented.

Aisha Buhari’s unusual support

Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, on Monday last week, alongside wife of the Vice President, Dolapo Osinbajo and the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, also paid an advocacy visit to the APC Secretariat to solicit support for the emergence of women as candidates.

Responding during the visit, APC national secretary stated, ”There has never been any instance in history where the wife of the president and that of the vice president showed much seriousness about the struggles and goals of women, especially with regards to politics.”

He stressed that this was enough push to the call for the inclusion of women in governance and leadership positions at all levels.

 Omisore, who lauded the move by Aisha Buhari, assured of the party’s commitment to the development of women in the country, stating that the visit was a great motivation that would turn things around for the better as regards women in politics.

“When we see the seriousness about the goal of inclusion of women coming from wives of the president and vice president with the minister of women affairs as well as the women leader of our party it makes it easier to get the demands done.

“In the history of this nation this is the first time the first lady will visit the party to appeal for women and there is no way this won’t make significant impact because it will give a 95 per cent lead to the assimilation and the general reasonability of women in politics.”

Also commenting on the significance of the visit, the APC women leader said wife of the president  lobbying for women made history, adding that the action had a ripple effect because lists were being altered at all levels to factor in women.

”I met with the Chairman of Nigeria’s Governors Forum and he told me everything has been changed because he said they discussed in their meeting last night that at least there must be one woman going to the National Assembly from each state. I can feel the change already.

”There has been that bend and this is not just to the benefit of our women because security and everything is tied to this, and so we pray to God that this will reflect in the reality on ground.

”Men are good but women will support and complement their efforts except we do not want the country to grow and get better, a woman will come with everything her heart and soul to serve and go the extra mile against all odds just like the mothers that they are, not to say that men are not good it is not a competition it’s just a partnership in develop and we are positive for something better.

”Right now APC has just nine women at the NASS out of over 400 we are hopeful that at the primaries the number of women should move from nine to 100 and we are hopeful that you will make that happen and history will never forget the NWC,” she stated.

Stakeholders take

Speaking on the ongoing primaries, the National President, Women in Politics Forum (WIPF), Ebere Ifendu, expressed optimism for more women to emerge as party’s candidates to contest the elections and eventually win.

She said more women were also expected to be elected into leadership positions at the National Assembly that can listen to us to bring out bills that support the cause of women.

She disclosed that women have been able to galvanise themselves outside the party and have registered a good number, noting that the statistics coming from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) showed that women were taking the lead and this came out of the struggle after they lost the demand for passage of five bills.

”We are very optimistic we have had lots of interactions with political parties and you can see that we are following up with the APC and all the promises we are expected that over the week something good will happen and by the time we get the number of women that emerged at the primaries it will mean that more women will be at the National and state assemblies.

”We are also hoping to get more from appointive positions, the statistics they gave us starting from the primaries, delegates, party directorates we are believing that the government that will come into power in 2023 will put into consideration the affirmative action because we have a court order on that and the least we can take on elective position is 35 per cent but for elective positions we keep talking to all the parties because its competitive and every party have their candidates. And so a lot will be put into consideration but we are optimistic that the statistics will change for women.

”If all political parties will do the same thing and give us more women as candidates, things will change. All other parties are giving signs that they are giving women a chance, the list coming out from PDP primaries show that women are considered some states even from the north are making women their candidates , so far we are happy,” she stated.

 Similarly, the Gender Adviser at the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Roseline Musa, expressed hope for more women to emerge as candidates, stressing that democracy cannot be meaningful with only one of the sexes occupying all leadership positions.

”For democracy to have meaning we should have reasonable representation of both sexes and just like it is said a bird cannot fly with one wing it needs two wings and from the conversations the APC is showing that commitment and we are hopeful,” she said.

On her part, the National Coordinator of the 100 Women Lobby Group, Felicia Onibon, expressed the hope that women were making headway, especially in PDP and other smaller political parties, pointing out that women were coming out for strategic positions.

”This is encouraging and with more advocacy, more women will know the importance of voting for women in the upcoming elections.

“APC should do something for Nigeria women, the PDP is going in that direction but they are also waiting to see what the APC will do. So, it’s a game we are hoping will work in favour of women,” she said.

Similarly, another advocate for women Zainab Mohammed said from results of primaries there was commitment towards improving the representation of women.