Less than nine per cent of senatorial candidates for 2023 election are women

SAMIRA Abdullahi, 40, from Zamfara State, is among 1,100 senatorial candidates across selected political parties that will be contesting in the forthcoming 2023 general elections.

Samira, who is from the Zamfara West senatorial district, is one of the small fraction of 92 female candidates from the total senatorial list of over a thousand contenders.

She is contesting on the platform of the Action Democratic Party (ADP).

The ICIR analysed the candidates’ list recently released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). It revealed the disparity in the proportion of female senatorial candidates eyeing the senatorial seat.

This speaks to the gender parity among the 1,100 contestants.

Of the list analysed by The ICIR, the female gender accounted for a meagre 8.36 per cent of the entire population while the men took 91.55 per cent.

Though there is a growing change in the trend of gender imbalance across other sectors, especially the corporate world, not much is being witnessed in the Nigerian political arena.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), a group set up in 1889 to promote peace and dialogue through a parliamentary process, as a result, partnered with the National Assembly (NASS) to ensure significant women’s representation in the country’s parliament.

For instance, it observed that after the 2019 election, female members elected into both the Senate and House of Representatives were far below the 26.1 per cent global recognition of women in parliament.

“After the 2019 legislative elections, the Nigerian Senate elected eight women (7.34 per ent) out of 109 members, and the House of Representatives elected only 13 women (3.61 per cent) out of 360 members. These figures fall well below the global average of 26.1 per cent of women in parliament and the objective of gender parity.”

Further findings also showed age-long gender discrimination in the country’s parliament.

As a result, on Wednesday, March 9, a group of women protesters demonstrated at the nation’s national assembly against the gender disparity, especially on the voting patterns on bills capable of advancing the cause of women.

“Our demands: Urgent re-convening, reconsideration, and immediate passage of all women/gender-related bills: Bills number 35 and 68 concurrently by Senate and House of Representatives. The passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunities (GEOB) Bill, currently before the Senate. Resuscitation and passage of the Bill on support for Women Participation in Elective and Appointive,” read a statement signed by the Co-Convener, Afolabi Akiyode-Afolabi.

The statement added, “Immediate Domestication of the African Charters Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, which Nigeria ratified in 2004. Immediate domestication of the UN Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), ratified by Nigeria since 1985, and demand to know the voting pattern on sensitive matters of citizen rights.”

UN 2030 Agenda  

The United Nations, through relevant partners globally, has continued to promote women’s participation in leadership positions, including in politics. One of the UN’s global goals is to bridge the gender gap by 2030.

It believes that gender equality “is not only a fundamental human right but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.”

In Nigeria, former President Goodluck Jonathan attempted to drive the implementation of the global agenda through 35 per cent affirmative action.

In the process, former coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Okonjo Iweala, took a prominent role in the nation’s governance. Under President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership, the current administration attempted the same, but his body language and public utterances proved otherwise.

GENDER REPRESENTATION OF SENATORIAL CANDIDATES FOR THE 2023 ELECTION.

Notably, as of 2021, Nigeria was missing from the top 10 countries globally where women are making important political decisions. Rwanda, Cuba and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) made the list.

Regardless, the general election is scheduled to be held in February 2023, while the governorship and state assembly will take place about a week later.

Other women identified in the INEC’s list of senatorial candidates are Banigo Ipalibo Harry, a 69-year-old female politician from Rivers State. She is contesting under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) umbrella and hopes to represent the people of River West.

Also from the state are two others from different political parties: Nwinbari Mabel (42), contesting under the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) to represent Rivers South East; nd George Uloma (37), contesting to represent Rivers East under the National Rescue Movement (NRM).

Ogan Iyeneomi (51), also from Rivers (NNPP), will slug it out for the Rivers East senatorial seat with Onyesoh Allwell Heacho, a PDP candidate.

Amadi Stella Ndidi (37) is also contesting under the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) for the Rivers East senatorial district.

In the whole of Plateau State, only one female candidate under the NNPP, Fyenda Napgan Timlok (35), will be contesting for the senate. If she scales through, she will be representing Plateau South.

Division by states

The top five states with the highest number of female senatorial candidates are Akwa Ibom, with eight (8) candidates; Gombe has seven (7); Anambra has six (6); while Rivers and Lagos have five (5) candidates each.

Others are Abia, Adamawa, Ekiti and Bayelsa with three (3) female senatorial candidates each; Borno, Edo, Cross River and Delta have (2) each; while Ebonyi and Benue states have one (1) each.

Enugu State has four (4) female senatorial candidates; the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has one; Imo and Jigawa have two; Kaduna State has one (1); Katsina has two (2); Kebbi State has one and Kogi has three (3) candidates.

While Kwara State has four (4) candidates and Nasarawa has one (1); Niger and Ondo states have three (3) and Ogun has four (4).

In Osun State, two (2) female candidates are eyeing the senatorial seat, while four (4) candidates hope to emerge from Oyo State.

Plateau state has only one female senatorial candidate, the same as Zamfara State.

There are two states without gender representation; they are Taraba and Abia.

States without female senatorial contestants are Bauchi, Kano, Sokoto, Taraba and Yobe.

Women in politics prone to violent attacks, harassment – Expert

Enitomo Nimisire, a gender advocate, observed that women have been socialised not to want to take leadership positions, such that leadership is more for men and not the opposite gender.

Nimisire recalled the attack on Kogi female politician, the late Salome Abuh, who was burnt to death when her house was set on fire in 2019 in the state.

She stressed that the space is not usually safe for women as they are prone to violence and harassment.

However, the rights activist advised political parties to facilitate sensitisation campaigns encouraging women to take advantage of political positions irrespective of their gender.

She encouraged relevant stakeholders to ensure political spaces are made safer for women.

And in terms of the 35 per cent affirmative action, she called for a legal framework to mandate political parties allot 35 per cent of spaces and positions to women in the country.

The National President of Business and Professional Women in Nigeria, Yinka Ajibola, in her remarks, criticised the federal government’s lukewarmness in implementing the 35 per cent affirmative action.

While she applauded the past administration for the attempt at gender inclusion in governance, not much has been achieved in the current administration.

However, she emphasised the need for political will, stressing that promoting women for leadership positions, such as in politics, could start from the party level. Implementing the 35 per cent affirmative action could easily be achieved by the various political parties.

“The government is not serious about the UN affirmative action. They just go sign documents which they know they will not implement. If they have the political will to make it happen, some conditions should have been given to the parties because these things are settled at the party levels.

“It is the party that throws up candidates for elective offices. At the party level, where we have these numbers of posts, one must be for women and the other two for men. It does not matter the condition, one post must be for the women.”

Ajibola advised for a stronger political will.




    She expressed optimism about the 2030 UN goal of women’s inclusion. She believed as long as the country can elect the right leader, the remaining eight years are enough to realise the global target on gender inclusion.

    “It is still achievable. A lot can be achieved within eight years. But it depends on the right leadership.”

    “There must be deliberate efforts to make it work.”

    Additional data analysis by James Emmanuel.

    Olugbenga heads the Investigations Desk at The ICIR. Do you have a scoop? Shoot him an email at [email protected]. Twitter Handle: @OluAdanikin

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