Nigerian women strategic road map to 2023


Nigeria women have decried the rise of violence in politics besides being highly monitised and male dominated. ENE OSHABA xrays The Nigerian Women Strategic Think Tank (NWSTT) strategy towards finding workable and lasting solutions to these challenges ahead 2023 elections.

The Nigerian Women Strategic Think Tank (NWSTT) is seeking to strength and push the women agenda by encouraging women into active politics and seeking solutions to the myriad of challenges confronting their growth in governance and leadership.

NWSTT comprises women politicians, mentors, gender experts, male gender champions, young aspiring women, the media and other stakeholders interested in women’s growth.

Objectives of the group include: establishing a strong base of women in Politics to aspire for position of leadership, and to develop a draft strategy of the roadmap to the 2023 general elections.

How women fared in 2019 election

Setting the stage for the conversation during the meeting in Abuja, the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) noted that Nigeria’s population is estimated to be 200,923,640 with women forming 49.4 per cent of this figure, with a total of 99,180,412.

The center regretted, however, that female political representation in the 2019 elections was negligible relative to the approximately half of the population they constitute, stating that 2,970 women were on the electoral ballot, representing only 11.36 per cent of nominated candidates.

A total of 70 women were elected, a meagre 4.71 per cent of elected officials, describing the figure as representing a decline from the 2015-19 period where women formed 5.65 per cent of elected officials. 

The centre explained that in contrast to the reduced total of female elected officials, female nominations for the presidential ticket witnessed unprecedented increment, with six women vying for the presidential position showing that 8.22 per centre of the total presidential candidates were women; a difference from recent trend of a single female presidential candidate.

The centre’s records showed that in 2015, Prof. Oluremi Sonaiya contested the presidential position with 13 men.

In 2011, it was Mrs. Ebiti Ndok up against 19 male presidential candidates while in 2007 Major Mojisola Adekunle Obasanjo (retd.) contested against 26 men.

However, in 2003 two women out of 20 presidential candidates made it to the ballot: Mrs Sarah Jubril and Major Mojisola Adekunle Obasanjo (retd).

In the 2019 elections, women also formed a significantly higher 30.13 per cent of vice-presidential candidates.

“On the one hand, the disparity between presidential and vice-presidential figures could suggest female candidates are being fielded as tokens by fringe parties. On the other hand, such a phenomenon could also represent shifting societal views on gender norms seeping into politics,” the centre pointed out.

Violence, patriarchy as bane

Co-convener of the NWSTT, Ebere Ifendu, expressed deep concerns on the Nigerian political system and blamed the decrease in women representatives on violence and patriarchy.

She said these menace still remained a major challenge deterring most women from active political participation.

, who is also National President, Women in Politics Forum (WIPF), noted the need for the legislature to make it a law that a certain percentage be set aside for women to occupy in both elective and appointive position, saying this will go a long way in improving on the number of women representation at all levels of governance and leadership positions.

She said, “If we have legislation guaranteeing certain percentage for women to participate in leadership just as we have federal character, if we have gender aspect it will encourage women in politics also to join politics because there would be level playing ground for all.

“We are not in confrontation with anyone, we are not fighting men we are only saying give us a little space for us to compliment what you are doing because we have our ideas too.

“Women should also understand that men celebrate success and that’s why all over the world Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Amina Mohammed, are being celebrated and nobody is talking about them being women because they have succeeded. These women got these positions purely on merit and they are celebrated by all.

“More women should be celebrated because the terrain is rough yet with all the challenges they keep moving, though it’s a slow speed but we are getting there.

“Senator Omo-Agege has done well by creating a Bill for more seats for women and that has passed second reading, we are happy because this shows that there is light at the end of the tunnel and we must keep pushing until we get there.”

Case for 35% affirmative action

On her part, the Co-convener of the group, Princess Nikky Onyeri, regretted that Nigeria still ranked low in women representation in parliament and other leadership positions.

She said many countries of the world including Africa were improving on women representation.

According to her, “We are asking for 35 per cent affirmative action when other African countries have given women 50 per cent. We must continue to work together as women and not be discouraged because if we don’t work together we cannot go far.”

Opportunities for inclusion

A Bill Analysis research published by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Center (PLAC) in August this year showed that amongst many strategic plans, the most recent possible access to increase women’s representation is the ongoing constitution review process and various gender equality bills yet to be made law.

The popular Bill sponsored by the Deputy Chief Whip, House of Representatives, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha; Speaker, House of Representatives,  Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, and 85 others canvasses  for an act to alter the provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,1999 to create additional special seats for women in the federal and state legislative houses and for related matters.

It particularly advocates for the constitution alteration bill to create 111 special seats for women in the National Assembly and 108 similar seats for women in the State Houses of Assembly, exploring the use of Temporary Special Measures (TSMs) such as reserved seat arrangements to boost the numbers of women in the legislature and its potential implications on the political space and the national budget.

The analysis revealed that reserved seat arrangement such as “special seats for women” is a special measure used by countries to remedy the low numbers of women in the legislature.

“This is also one of the very limited options that best fits with Nigeria’s First-Past-the-Post/Plurality electoral system, which makes it difficult to apply affirmative action measures such as the 35 per cent numeric target for women in legislatures as contained in Nigeria’s National Gender Policy,” the research analysis revealed.

TSM gains

The analysis further noted that Temporary Special Measures (TSMs) were designed to achieve a specific goal and were time bound, they usually have an expiration date once the goal was achieved.

It further noted that they were meant to be a compensatory measure and response to unfair electoral competition and discrimination that women face in politics. As such, it was a “fast-track measure” to improved women’s political representation.

The challenge

According to the report, a potential costs and benefits of the Special Seats Bill, if implemented,  was that the cost of additional 219 new women members in the federal and state legislatures (comprising 111 in the National Assembly and 108 in the 36 states) would amount to between N5 billion and N18 billion per annum and N23 billion – N74 billion in a four-year tenure cycle.

This is less than 5 per cent of Nigeria’s annual defence spending, however, using a three-year average (2019 to 2021 budgets) the increase in emoluments for additional 111 Federal or NASS members is projected to be at least, 0.037 per cent and at most, 0.156 per cent of the national budget.

“If both federal and state legislators (219) are factored in, the projected increase on the annual budget would be at least, 0.0314 per cent and at most, 0.163 per cent.

“In addition, the increase in emoluments for the additional 111 NASS members on the budget of the National Assembly is projected to be between 3 per cent and 12.9 per cent,” it stated.

Among the many benefits of more women inclusion was the established correlation between more women in legislatures and an improved economy, improved conflict resolution and reduced military spending.

The greatest cost Nigeria was paying today emanates from conflict, insurgency, and other dimensions of insecurity; the value-addition of women is therefore their potential contribution to income generation and amelioration of conflicts in a society that has been enveloped by insecurity.

“This added value cannot be easily quantified; and such benefits could translate to or even far exceed any envisaged figures to include more women legislators in the National and State Houses of Assembly,” the report stated.

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