Udora Orizu writes that the results from the National Assembly polls leaves much to be desired as the number of women that will have seats in the 10th National Assembly will be less than those in the current Ninth Assembly
Twenty four years since the return to democratic rule, there’s still growing concern over low representation of women in both elective and appointive positions.
The results from the recent National Assembly polls leaves much to be desired as the number of women that will have seats in the 10th National Assembly will be less than those in the current 9th Assembly.
The results of the elections is a far cry from the theme of the 2023 International Women’s Day, “Embrace Equity”. Those who had last year thought that women representation in the parliament and other elective offices would get a boost at the 2023 elections, had their hopes dashed by the results from the polls.
Women constitute over half of the population of the world and contribute in vital ways to societal development generally. They assume key roles, which include; mother, caregivers, educators, entrepreneurs, political activists, just to name a few. But despite that, women are still being excluded, marginalised and underrepresented in political realms and other sectors of the society, due to some cultural stereotypes, abuse of religion, traditional practices and patriarchal societal structures.
In Nigeria, the extant National Gender Policy (NGP) recommended 35 percent affirmative action and sought for a more inclusive representation of women with at least 35% of both elective political and appointive public service positions respectively.
In 2020, female lawmakers in the Senate and the House of Representatives stepped up the push for greater representation of women in politics and other sectors of the society.
The lawmakers who expressed their views at a two-day training and advocacy workshop for federal and state female lawmakers on gender responsive legislation, in Abuja, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to forward an Executive Bill to the two chambers of the National Assembly on 35 percent affirmative action.
Last year, a Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the federal government to comply with the 35 per cent affirmative action for women, which allows women to occupy 35 per cent of all appointments.
Delivering judgment in a suit filed by a non-governmental organisation, Women in Politics Forum (WIPF), Justice Donatus Okorowo said the federal government had the obligation to implement the 35 per cent affirmative action, accusing past governments of acting in breach of international treaties on women participation in government. He added that the National Gender Policy is not merely a policy statement, but one that must be backed with requisite action on the part of the government.
The judge held that the 35 per cent affirmative action, which entails appointive positions for women to ensure inclusivity, must not be merely on paper as Nigeria is a signatory to international treaties, particularly on those that entrench the rights of women.
WIPF, a non-partisan forum for women used for addressing women’s marginalisation in politics and decision-making, was seeking the implementation of the 35 per cent Affirmative Action in appointments of women into public office.
Its lawyer, Funmi Falana, had argued during the hearing that women were being discriminated against as a result of the belief that women were inferior to men.
She noted that the National Gender Policy (NGP), which provides that women should be allocated 35 per cent of all appointments was being violated.
However despite efforts by women folk to ensure more inclusion of women in political leadership, the country constantly declines in terms of stepping up the push. Every Assembly to no avail, as part of their legislative agenda, always promise to make efforts to allow more women to participate in politics and governance.
Last year, the lawmakers rejected five gender bills, prompting protests by women at the entrance of the National Assembly in Abuja.
For days, the women besieged the entrance of the National Assembly and demanded the reversal of the bills.
Following the protests, the House of Representatives rescinded its decisions on three out of the five bills.
The House rescinded its decision on the bill that seeks to amend section 26 (2a) of the 1999 constitution by opening citizenship registration to males and females. This means that if the bill is passed, foreigners married to Nigerian women can apply for Nigerian citizenship.
Similarly, the other bill seeks to alter Sections 31 and 318(1) (the Interpretation Section) of the 1999 Constitution to allow a woman to become an indigene of her husband’s state after at least six years of marriage.
Also, another seeks to amend Section 223 of the 1999 Constitution to provide 35 per cent affirmative action to ensure women occupy at least 35 per cent in political party administration.
However, the bills that sought to create extra seats for women in legislative Houses and the 20 per cent quota for women for appointment into federal and states cabinets were not considered.
Skewed Representation at the Federal Parliament
Current statistics show that women constitute only 11.2 percent of the membership in both chambers of the 9th National Assembly, with seven females in the Senate and 11 in the House of Representatives.
Out of the total 479 members of the federal parliament, only 19 were originally female members in the two chambers. But with the demise of a female senator, Rose Oko in 2020, the number had reduced to 18. In all, there are seven serving female Senators and 13 House members. The female Senators include, Oluremi Tinubu, Stella Oduah, Uche Ekwunife, Betty Apiafi, Eyakenyi Akon, Aishatu Dahiru, and Abiodun Olujimi.
In the House of Representatives, there are the Deputy Majority Whip, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (APC/Abia); Beni Lar (PDP/Plateau), Lynda Ikpeazu (PDP/Anambra), Khadijat Abba-Ibrahim (APC/Yobe), Zainab Gimba (APC/Borno), Blessing Onuh (APC/Benue), Boma Goodhead (PDP/Rivers), Aisha Dukku (APC/Gombe), Adewunmi Onanuga (APC/Ogun), Omowumi Ogunlola (APC/Ekiti), Tolulope Akande-Shadipe (APC/Oyo), Taiwo Oluga (APC/Osun) and Miriam Onuoha (APC/Imo).
For the incoming 10th Assembly, the results of the elections showed a general decline in female representations at the National Assembly.
378 women ran for various seats in the just concluded Senate and House of Representatives elections, but only 17 were successful.
This puts women’s representation in the incoming 10th Assembly at 3.62%, although there are Senatorial Districts and Federal Constituencies areas where supplementary elections are to be held in the weeks to come.
The number of women that will have seats in the House of Representatives in the forthcoming 10th National Assembly will be three less than those in the current 9th House. This is just as all the females currently in the Senate lost their reelection bids in the last election, with only three women elected into the chamber for the next Assembly.
The female folks in the Senate will be represented by only three new members in the 10th Assembly. They are Ireti Kingibe (LP/FCT), Harry Banigo (PDP/Rivers) and Idiat Adebule (APC/Lagos).
For the House out of the above named 13, seven were reelected. They are Lar, Onuh, Gimba, Abba-Ibrahim, Goodhead, Onanuga and Onuoha.
There will be seven new members in the House. They are Obiageli Orogbu (LP/Anambra), Fatima Talba (APC/Yobe), Clara Nnabuife (YPP/Anambra), Marie Ebikake (PDP/Bayelsa), Maureen Gwacham (APGA/Anambra), Ehriatake Ibori-Suenu (PDP/Delta) and Regina Akume (APC/Benue).
For National Assembly membership, 1,101 candidates vied for the 109-seat Senate and 3,122 for the 360-seat House of Representatives. Out of these, 3,875 were males and 381 females, including one for presidential, 92 for Senate and 288 for House.
For the forthcoming gubernatorial and state houses of assembly elections, there are only 124 female governorship and deputy governorship candidates, out of the 837 candidates.
While, only 1,019 women will participate in the state Houses of Assembly membership election, out of the 10,231 candidates.
Is There Hope for an Increase?
The President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in his manifesto promised to work with the National Assembly to pass a law to increase women’s participation in government to at least 35 per cent, if elected.
Tinubu, in his 80-page manifesto document titled “Renewed Hope 2023 – Action Plan for a Better Nigeria” said the law will seek employment of women in all government offices.
According to the manifesto, members of the Federal Executive Council are to reserve certain senior positions for women while the private sector will be encouraged to do same.
“Working with the National Assembly, we will aim to pass legislation promoting female employment in all government offices, ministries, and agencies. The goal will be to increase women’s participation in government to at least 35 percent of all governmental positions. This legislation shall also mandate the federal executive (particularly the cabinet and core senior advisers) to reserve a minimum number of senior positions for women. Private institutions shall be strongly encouraged to do likewise,” he said.
In addition, Tinubu said 20 per cent of political appointments at Ministries, Departments and Agencies are going to be reserved for qualified people under the age of 40.
“Reserve at least three cabinet positions for persons under the age of 40 and six more positions for members under the age of 50. We shall also pass a presidential directive requiring that at least 20 per cent of political appointments to MDAs be reserved for qualified people under the age of forty,” he said.
As Tinubu is sworn in as President on May 29, the women folks are eagerly waiting to see if he will fulfill his promise.