Moving Forward >>>>> Nigerian Women in Politics

My trip to Nigeria last year  during the Christmas holidays from the MPA was both an exciting and a defining period for me as a woman interested in public affairs and African politics. I am not writing to recount my experiences when I was at home, although I think it would be an interesting read: scorpion bites, weddings, retirements, deaths, etc. I was fortunate to experience yet again the preparations for the presidential and gubernatorial elections as well as share in the expectations of our future leaders in moving Nigeria forward.

One of things that excited me most about this round of elections in Nigeria was the rise in women participation in political parties. This was reflected on the billboards I saw while driving through different cities and seeing posters of female lawyers and entrepreneurs who want to join in making meaningful contributions despite all odds in their states. Due to the history, social, religious and cultural specificities of Nigeria, women represent a smaller percentage of membership in political parties in Nigeria. However, over the years as the elections of this year reveals, political parties have become more accepting and in some cases have had major revisions to their constitutions concerning the admittance of women as well as the revision of laws that prohibit women from vying for positions of power.

Political parties like the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have laws exempting female aspirants at all levels of power from paying the fees for “Expression of Interest” which range from N500, 000 naira ($3,500) to N10 million ($67,000) with the presidential fees being the highest. The party prides this as one of the policies that encourage women to participate in politics and consequently seek elective positions (Thisday, 2010) These are important milestones and in my opinion there is a need for greater effort both on the part of the women of my generation and younger and the society in general to make this progress smoother and productive for Nigeria.

One of my favorite Nigerian writers, Chimamanda Adiche in her interview with the Financial times December last year narrated a conversation she had with her brother in law in which she mentioned playfully the idea of becoming a governor in a few years. His reply was “You would never be governor,” he said promptly. “You could be a senator but not governor. They won’t let a woman be governor.”

I disagree with him for a number of reasons but that may be a post for another day. Nigeria has been blessed with female ministers who have made groundbreaking impacts on the society; such as the likes of Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, and Oby Ezekwesili who have even continued onto greater positions outside of the Nigerian government. Nigeria today has female deputy governors such as the current deputy governor of Lagos State, Sarah Adebisi Sosan .

I see a move in the right direction, I see recognition of the diversity and substance that women bring to the table . This is not to imply that this is a new phenomenon in Nigeria but the fact is that the speed is picking up; which means greater encouragement for the younger generation, for people like me, my sisters, nieces, cousins, friends… the list continues. There are greater things to come in the future of Nigerian politics and the participation of women. But we have a long way to go. . Sometimes all we need is baby steps…

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13 Responses to Moving Forward >>>>> Nigerian Women in Politics

  1. SophieGuerin says:

    Really interesting post. Do you hear interest in running for political office from younger women in Nigeria? Besides the incentives offered by political parties are there any other efforts to get women more involved in the political process?

    I think that this a really relavant issue for a number of countries. Getting women more involved in local, regional, state and national elections is key, particularly if you want to improve gender equity in other facets of society as well.

  2. Really interesting read! I find it interesting that in quite some European countries we now have more women in political leadership positions than men. If you have a look at Finland and who runs the country you will be astonished to find that it is mainly women. However, in the private sector, there is still a great imbalance of gender representation. It will be interesting to see how countries such as Nigeria but also Finland will engage to have a more balanced gender representation both in the public and the private sector. Looking forward to more updates on this.

    • Jeremias says:

      The problem is >> AMERICAN WOMEN.It’s not you.Read the parcpbaek The Cultural Devastation of American Women: The Strange and Frightening decline of the American Female. by Nancy Levant.That will answer your question perfectly.American women have such an off-the-chart sense of entitlement it’s simply unbelievable. I live in Calfornia, and while they seem to grow the most beautiful women here . they are universally the most unattractive . on a GLOBAL scale.I am also non-American and I refuse to date American women. Stick to European, Eastern European, Brazilian, and Asian women. They are much more worth your time.

  3. UkworiOnuma says:

    Thought provoking comments.. As i was writing I saw that were are opportunities for the continuation of this topic, its exciting . I agree with you Christina, it would be interesting to see this debate from a comparative angle , would look into Finland but interestingly other countries that have had predominantly female leaders or those who have transitioned well into having a more balanced leadership

    Sophie, i don’t have an answer yet about how women are being encouraged to run for positions in the government but would research on this as well . Maybe countries like finland it would be interesting to see how women were encouraged…..

    • SophieGuerin says:

      Ukwori, I agree this might be something interesting to look at. If there is a sincere push to increase the number of women politicians in Nigeria and/or other countries, are the best practices that can be adopted and implemented locally? Or is the context so unique that new solutions and programs must be developed from the ground up at each locale?

      I bet that there are best practices that could be useful in this context and others. That would make for an interesting post. :)

  4. LeslieLovo says:

    You made the point with your last argument..there is still a long way to go, small steps in the right direction will ensure that the change leads towards the desired shift. It would be naive to expect a drastic change given the societal structures. The important thing is that the seed of change is developing, hopefully, roots that are strong enough to encourage and inspire future generations.

  5. UkworiOnuma says:

    @ Leslie, so true because I feel that we need to put into consideration the local context in our expectations but not let that slow down the advocacy and action around the topic
    @ Sophie : amazing sites keep coming up. Please can you link this to our blog-
    Amazing amazing resource ., actually gives the news from different countries we need for this topic. Am so excited about writing more on this

    And a side note- an article about the low number of women candidates in the Nigerian 2011 elections –

    • SophieGuerin says:

      Great link, I just added it to the links page.

      Good to see the UN Women organization addressing this important issue. I think you’ve hit a hot button issue here Ukwori. Clearly our WIPA readers agree!

  6. Emily Erwin says:

    In a county where the rights of women are far different than the western world, Nigeria has arrived almost side by side with American women in politics, stereotypes and all. Traditionally Nigerian women took part in household labor equal to that of their husbands: fishing, farming, and commerce. However, the men of their homes never acknowledged their wife’s economical contributions, but in 1979 the views of all Nigerian citizens were altered when the country’s Constitution guaranteed women equal rights.

    Nigeria has taken great leaps to ensure equal treatment of all people, but their effort to westernize their world may be what’s hold their women back politically. In pre-colonial times women had effective positions in politics, but as Nigeria works towards Western values their women are losing traditional rights. The western tradition restricts women involvement in politics and those countries that look to equalize its citizens are adopting that custom.

    • SophieGuerin says:

      Hi Emily,

      Thank you for your post. We at WIPA certainly appreciate your comments and thoughts.

      I’ll leave it to Ukwori to respond to your post contents. In the meantime feel free to join our Facebook group to stay up to date on all of our posts.

      Your blog is great by the way! Always good to hear about the contributions of women to world of politics.

      Thank you

    • Ukwori says:

      Hi Emily,

      Thanks for your comment. However I disagree that women in Nigeria have arrived side by side with America in terms of politics. We have a long way to go , very long I might add. It is not indeed true that women have contributed majorly economically and the men have refused to accept that fact. In a way that is still the case. Yes we can argue even from the onset of the Aba Women’s Riot in 1929 that women have been politically inclined but mostly on the grassroots level. Important positions of power have predominantly been held by men till today although as I mentioned earlier in the article, we are noticing a change in the trend.

      westernization if anything has given women power to speak up and challenge the norm, in terms of education, in terms of exposure to the outside world where women have to a certain degree rights and can express that . I also speak from my own experience as a Nigerian who has lived abroad for about 8 years now.

      you can also click on the link just to give you an insight into the way the society still thinks

  7. Am really impressed with the turn around of events in my country nigeria.but the battle is not won of our challenges is our tradition,and also some of our men who feels threatened they fail 2 realise that things are changing.they still refuse 2 give us d enabling environment and support 2 fly.but i no we will get there.hopefully with the help of our loving caring and understanding president we will get there.with this development.i now. am picking up interest and am thinking starting from the ward level.grassroot.

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