Women’s Day: Nigeria lags behind in gender equality, poor representation in govt

CONSIDERING the representation of women in the Nigerian political space, the country is still slow in achieving gender equality.

Not only has no woman become the president of the country since independence in 1960, but also no female vice-president has been produced, despite the  49.7 per cent of women’s population in the country.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria’s population is estimated at 183 million, and females are 90,989,254.

Since the return to democracy in 1999, females are yet to occupy 10 per cent of the upper legislative arm of the government, the maximum is 6.4 per cent.

In 1999, out of the 106 senators, only three were females (2.8 per cent women). There were four, nine and seven females senators in the fifth, sixth, and seventh national assembly respectively.

Similarly, in 2015 (the eighth national assembly), only seven women out of 102 were elected into the red chamber, representing  6.4 per cent, compared to men who constituted the 93.6 per cent of the total number of the senators.

The situation is not better after the 2019 election as just seven women emerged the winners.

The list of the female senators-elect includes Stella Oduah (Anambra North), Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos Central),  Aishatu Dahiru (Adamawa Central), Betty Apiafi (Rivers West), Rose Oko (Cross River North) Akon Eyakenyi (Akwa-Ibom South) and Uche Ekwunife (Anambra Central).

Though there were attempts in the past by females to become the President of Nigeria, none was successful.

In 2019, six women names entered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ballot papers for the presidential election, out of a total seventy-three candidates.  Out of the six that attempted to contest for the highest office, two backed out mid-way.

Obiageli Ezekwesili, who contested under Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) dropped out of the race 21 days to the election.  Similarly, Eunice Atuejide, the candidate of the National Interest Party (NIP) backed out three days to the election, supporting Mr Atiku Abubakar who contested under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Meanwhile, in 2015, there was only one prominent female presidential candidate, Oluremi Sonaiya. She contested under the KOWA party for the number one position and lost. Sonaiya had a total of 13,076 valid votes.

The presidential election in 2011 included just one female, named Ebiti Ndok,  on the ballot paper. Ndok contested under the United National Party for Development (UNPD).

However, it could have been two on the ballot papers had it been Jubril Sarah did not lose in the PDP primary election.  Sarah lost in the 2011 presidential elections primaries to former president Goodluck Jonathan, notably getting only one single vote – hers.

Her previous attempts in 1999 and 2003 were also botched.

In a total of twenty-seven candidates in 2007, only the late Mrs Mojisola Obansanjo, the ex-wife of former President Obasanjo contested for the presidential seat under the Masses Movement of Nigeria (MMN) which she founded, and scored meagre votes of 4,309.

Her previous attempt in 2003 was worse (3,757).

Apart from the presidential positions, at the state level, Nigeria also has not elected a female governor. Out of the 36 states in Nigeria, since the return to democracy or even since independence, no female has emerged as the governor of any state. But some women have been made the deputy governor of some states in the country.

    Out of the total 36 incumbent deputy governors in Nigeria, only five states have females as the deputy governors. The five states include Lagos, Ogun, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom and Enugu. This shows that the other 31 states have male deputy governors.

    But as today marked the International Women’s day with the theme “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”, Nigeria, and other countries are called to increase the number of women decision-makers.

    The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, emphasised on Friday the need fir gender equality across the globe. He said that women’s rights are fundamental to global progress on peace and security, human rights and sustainable development.

    “We can only re-establish trust in institutions, rebuild global solidarity and reap the benefits of diverse perspectives by challenging historic injustices and promoting the rights and dignity of all,” said the UN secretary.

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