Over the years women have been relegated to the background in issues of the overall development especially in the developing nations like Nigeria. This is borne out of the sentimental attachment on feminine gender. Historical evidences are available to prove that the Nigerian women have for long been playing crucial role in political life of the country, and this has contributed in no small measure in shaping the political system of the nation. For development of any kind to be successful, a vantage position should be accorded the women, as they constitute larger proportion of the population. In this regard, they should not be left out in the issues of decision making that bothers even on their lives as a people.A lot still needs to be done to give women more room for participation in politics. It does appear that the huge and overwhelming representation of women at most political rallies has not transformed to increased opportunities for women to contest election.
The low level of political and civic participation of women in Nigeria is alarming and disturbing. This hinders women from contributing their quota to the development and consolidation of democracy in Nigeria. Empirical observation has shown that Nigerian women in positions of responsibilities are noted to be hardworking and firm in decision making and have contributed in no small measures to the development of the country. Despite their enormous contribution in economic and other spheres, they have been marginalized in civic and political participation.Encouragement should be given women to enhance their participation in politics.
Today, women are participating more actively in political issues than ever before as a result of political re-awakening and awareness. More often than not, they are besieged with challenges of which discrimination is more rife. Majority of the men more on chauvinistic disposition are preoccupied with the notion that decision making is exclusively for the men folk while women are to be instructed on what to do. This idea of seeing the women playing the number two role at homes has come to play itself out in the political life of the people. And this ought not to be so with regards to the ever dynamic nature of things globally as women are now seeing in other communities as avant-garde in developed nations. It is surprising that the same mindset of yester years is still what is obtained in our country.
Despite the difficulties faced by women in politics, they continue with their political ambition, contributing enormously to the political and national development in their own way as the challenges militating against them are not present, although Nigeria is yet to have a female president. Women over the years could be said to have recorded some measure of appreciable political achievement in other political fields of endeavors, meeting their political objectives with limited support and resources at their disposal.
Election time is once again upon the nation with candidates already declaring their intention to vie for one office or the other. From the office of the President, to Governorship, the National and State legislatures, politicians have begun their meetings and political alignments all with a view to to electoral victory. Given this development, attention should be drawn to a matter that has often escaped serious discussion in the Nigerian political landscape and this is the need to provide more opportunities for women in politics in Nigeria. That this is so is evident when one considers that women in Nigeria today still suffer a lot of discrimination particularly when it comes to participation in politics. Therefore this issue continues to attract much concern not only from the women folk of our great country but also from every Nigerian who is appalled by the limited opportunities afforded women to effectively participate in politics in Nigeria.
Virtually all Political Parties in Nigeria have strong women wings which are designed to coordinate and maintain the support base of each party amongst women. Women after all are universally acknowledged to constitute an important unit of any electoral or political demography. It is however sad that Political Parties seem to be content with letting women bear such titles as “Women Leader”, “Deputy Women Leader”, “Chief Women Organizer” etc without really affording them a real opportunity of contributing politically to the development of this Country. Sadder still is the fact, as suggested by available data, that our women due to decades of forced submission to outdated ideologies regarding the role of women in society, may have come to regard themselves as eternal followers in the political schemes of events, only to be seen and never to be heard. Happily, increasing public discourse on the role of women in politics spurred by women themselves leave no room for doubt that Nigerian Women recognize the fact that much more can be achieved from their increased participation in politics and are not prepared to seat idly by whilst waiting for such opportunities which history teaches are seldom given freely and must on the contrary be demanded and when granted be protected.
Prior to and since independence, the issue of the role of women in politics in Nigeria has continued to attract debate. At one end of the divide are strong women’s rights advocates who argue that anything and everything must be done to ensure increased participation of women in politics. At the middle are those who concede that Nigerian women deserve more opportunities to participate in the governance of the country and that since political office can only be attained by participation in elections that more needs to be done to provide such opportunities. At the other extreme are those who hold the view that women have absolutely no role in politics and should be confined strictly to the home.
Analysis of data
A careful analysis of data presented by the Independent National Electoral Commission is examined. In 1999, women recorded only 3% representation in contested offices. In 2003, the figure rose to 4% followed by a further improvement to 6% in 2007. However, from 1999 to date, no woman has been elected the Governor of a state in Nigeria. Whilst some women contested and won elections into the Houses of Assembly of some States, the level of representation is still very low. In 2003, there was no female member of the Houses of Assemblies in Adamawa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Oyo, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara States. This list is instructive because it shows that virtually all geo-political zones in the country are represented.
Only 909 females contested elections in 2011. This represents about 9.1% of the over 10,000 candidates.
BY- TOLULOPE WALIAT IDOWU
MA POLITICAL AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS STUDENT
ISTANBUL AYDIN UNIVERSITY, TURKEY