Today marks the International Women’s Day 2019 with the theme “BalanceforBetter”. IWD is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. In this special report, Blessing Oladunjoye X-rays the limitations women face in achieving the peak in their political career.
Article 7 of the Convention on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, CEDAW gives a provision which guarantees women equality in political and public life with a focus on equality in voting, participation in government, and participation in “non-governmental organizations and associations concerned with the public and political life of the country.”
Nigeria has ratified this law but its impact has not been felt as regards to participation of women in politics within the country. While it is notable that more women are being involved in politics especially in the 2019 electioneering process, there were 7 female presidential candidates under various political platforms and 79 female governorship candidates from different parties across the country. However, it should be noted that several other women were denied certain opportunities within their political parties.
Oftentimes, political parties announce favorable policies for women to ensure they are not disenfranchised due to the financial requirements needed but women have had to complain how those promises were mere promises.
Hajiya Nana Abdulraman of the People’s Democratic Party who wanted to obtain a ticket for the Presidential Primary Elections was denied even after the party had announced that tickets would be given to women for free. Abdulraman believed the leadership of the party already assumed she cannot emerge winner at the primary elections and shouldn’t bother getting involved.
Another instance where intra-party politics affected women’s political ambitions is a case of Bolanle Sarumi Aliyu, Oyo State governorship aspirant under the platform of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party, ANRP.
Aliyu lamented how her supporters were disenfranchised from the Primary Elections which was conducted on 15th of September 2018. In a statement released to register her displeasure about the actions of the leadership of the party, Aliyu said “as I have previously expressed my dissatisfaction on several occasions with the biased attitude and actions of most of the Oyo State Executives, some still demonstrated these even at the venue of the Primary Elections where some State Excos’ part of the accreditation process wore branded T-Shirts of Mr Ayorinde (the second Guber aspirant), his Badges and some were seen canvassing my supporters secretly outside the venue to switch sides with promised monies.”
Aliyu boycotted the primaries and joined the National Interest Party, NIP where she became the party’s flagbearer.
Hon. Mariam Joy Adeniran who was an aspirant for the Kwara State House of Assembly under the platform of the All Progressives Congress alleged that another person was declared winner instead of her.
An aspirant for Ebonyi South Senatorial zone, Princess Ann Nwanyibuife after the conduct of the Primaries wrote a letter to the APC National Appeals Committee to register her grievances where she said 6 women who were aspirants were screened and qualified for the positions they were vying for but none of them won at the primaries, linking it to irregularities that played out during the primaries.
Princess Ann added that “It is however obvious that notwithstanding the provisions of the Party Constitution and their public stance on women’s representation, there was no concerted effort to encourage and protect any of the women aspirants.”
In Edo state, some women led by Dr. Mrs. Aisosa Amadasun, APC State Organizing Secretary, Edo State threatened not to vote during the 2019 elections because of the way women were sidelined within the party.
An aspirant under the platform of PDP in Ebonyi State experienced threat to her life when it was obvious she had more supporters. Betty Ulomakpe (pseudonym) explained that, “they used intimidation and attacks by thugs to exclude me from standing for primaries, these men threatening me and they can carry out their threat to the later.” Ulomakpe in her words believed it is better for her to be alive than be involved in politics which is threatening her existence.
Abiodun Essiet who aspired for the office of councilor, who shared her experience explained that, “My experience during the primary raises a lot of questions in my mind on the damage internal party politics is causing our democracy in Nigeria. Internal party democracy was the main reason for the outcome of my election. First my election was supposed to be declared null and void because the number of votes cast was more than the number of delegates but the returning officer declared it inconclusive to give the electoral committee some power to decide on the election.
“The decision of the electoral committee was influenced by money, godfatherism, gender, ethnicity and religion. The party leaders were concerned about winning the general elections and wanted to anoint candidate that suits their own criteria rather than the candidate that would deliver dividend of democracy to the community”.
Hauwa Ibrahim Funtua, Candidate, Kaduna Senatorial District under APGA in the just concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections explained how she had to leave the All Progressives Congress because she was being used, according to her, ‘like an errand girl’. She added that harassment, threat to her life and insecurity were some of the challenges she faced.
Funtua explained that, “throughout my campaign, I couldn’t use my car, I used ‘keke’ because I had to be extra careful to ensure I’m safe.” She also noted that her election results were not declared which also included other women who contested for various positions.”
Speaking on the conscious effort the Nigerian Government could make to ensure women’s participation in politics, Funtua said the Federal Government should assist women financially and provide adequate security to ensure they are safe during the electioneering period.
Toun Okewale-Sonaiya, MD/CEO of Women Radio, WFM 91.7 who spoke about the notable impacts women have been making in various sectors including politics noted that “Political involvements have positively increased with the Nigerian female politician being more active outside the traditional roles and we must acknowledge and commend the Nigerian Woman.
“However, we must further spread our tentacles to gain more acceptance by building more impactful relationships at all levels from grassroots. We must be deliberate and devise strategies to overcome financial constraints while emphasising developmental capacity building to deliver at all levels. We must strive harder and be bolder in making positive marks anywhere we find ourselves and devise strategies for winning. Women in influential positions should advocate to get more women on board as positive allies”, Okewale explained.
A conscious effort which could also help achieve equality in Women’s Participation in Politics is the domestication of CEDAW in Nigeria and the passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill. At a media engagement forum organized by Centre for Development and Advancement Rights, CEDAR and Women’s Learning Partnership, WLP, CEDAR’s ED, Joy Ngwakwe, call for the immediate passage of GEO bill to ensure adequate protection of women’s human rights.