November 28, 2022

Ugo Aliogo examines the prospects of women in 2023 general election, judging from the low representation of women in the political space and the impact on development
Women have remained largely underrepresented in the realms of political power throughout Nigerian history. Since the beginning of electoral democracy in 1999, public campaigns, proposed legislative reforms, and internal measures within political parties have attempted to address the gaping gender imbalance. Yet assessments of the performance of female candidates in Nigeria’s most recent general elections revealed a disturbing trend: women’s representation in elected and appointed office has not only failed to increase, but appears to be in decline.
A report by the Centre for the Development of Democracy (CDD), said despite the challenges facing women in Nigerian politics their studies offer some reasons for optimism.
The study revealed that 86 per cent of respondents said they would vote a woman into public office, while 85 per cent of those polled thought that women would bring about positive changes in society through sound public administration. The same percentage of respondents strongly affirmed the proposition that women could bring change to society if elected to public office. While survey responses of this sort may be conditioned by social desirability biases, such high levels of expressed support for the increased role of women in political leadership bear interesting implications. They suggested that societal norms often presumed to explicitly exclude women from political participation might either progressively be losing strength or may not be as widespread as has often been assumed.
Indeed, the strong positive association respondents felt between women’s leadership and improved public administration might even suggest that the constituencies who would actively support female candidates may be larger than is often assumed. 
The study further explained that one of the most striking findings of CDD’s recent series of studies on the issue is that women’s political representation has steadily declined in recent electoral cycles. According to CDD’s Women in Nigerian Politics report, 45 percent fewer women took office across all levels in 2019 than they did in 2011, marking women’s poorest electoral outing since 2003. In 2019, women won less than 5 percent of all contested seats and were restricted to only 17 percent of all ministerial appointments.
Political Platform
The study argued that another partial reason for low participation of women in electoral politics is due to the nature of the party platforms which are m o s t likely to enable women contestants to get on the ballot.
The study discovered that the vast majority of women candidates ran for office under the banner of ‘third’ parties, which is, parties other than the two largest political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
According to the study, “Of the 232 female candidates that stood for senatorial contests across Nigeria, only 17 were candidates of the APC or the PDP. Other national electoral races had even higher proportions of third-party women candidates: nearly 94 per cent of women candidates for the House of Representatives were from third par ties, while, of the six women contestants for presidential office, no contender belonged to the APC or the PDP.
“On one hand, the proliferation of parties other than the APC and the PDP — there were 89 alternative parties in the 2019 election has provided more opportunities for women to emerge as electoral candidates. Qualitative interviews with women political candidates also pointed to the fact that smaller parties can provide a more flexible space for newly emerging female candidates to build electoral experience and a grassroots base outside of the traditional, more competitive party platforms. However, the higher proportion of female candidates in smaller parties has in fact deepened women’s electoral marginalisation, since the vast majority of these parties either failed to attain any elective seats or ultimately.”
Statistics of Women in 2023 Election
Current statistics has shown that there is a paltry 11.2 per cent of female membership in both chambers of the Ninth National Assembly (seven females in the Senate and eleven in the House of Representatives).
Another report by the Women In Politics Forum (WIPF) titled: “Research on Interrogating the Policy Interventions to Increase Women’s Participation in Governance in Nigeria,” there are only 381 women among the total of 4,259 contestants for the presidential and the National Assembly seat in next year’s polls.
The report revealed that the development indicated the continuous marginalisation of women in the nation’s political space; noting that out of the 18 political parties in the country, only the Allied People’s Movement (APM) fielded a female presidential candidate.
For the senate, Ifendu observed that out of the 1,101 candidates vying for 109 Senatorial seats, 92 are women, representing 8.35 per cent while 288 women are contesting for House of Representatives out of the total 3,122 candidates.
According to her, a state-by-state analysis shows that of the 36 states of Nigeria, including the Federal Capital Territory, five states did not field any woman as a candidate for the Senate while one State did not field any woman as a candidate for the House of Representatives.
Ifendu listed the states lacking in this regard as Kano, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara for senate and Jigawa for the House of Representatives.
“This means that even without conducting elections, 13.5 per cent of states will not have female representatives at the senate while 2.7 per cent of states will have no female representation at the House of Representatives,” she said.
Expert Opinion
The prospect for women in 2023 election, looking at the numbers, shows they are greatly underrepresented. The situation for women looks gloomy, therefore to understand how this challenge can be addressed, THISDAY spoke to the Country Director, Center for Development of Democracy (CDD), Idayat Hassan, who said one of the factors responsible, was the decline in political parties in 2019, adding that in the year under review, there were 91 political parties in contrast to the 18 political parties that would be contesting in 2023.
She further stated that following the release of the final list of candidates for the 2023 general election, the low representation of women can be seen, noting that there is a high decline from 2019 in the number of female nominations for all positions, as only 2.77 per cent represent women candidates for the presidential seat with no party fielding a female as the vice-presidential candidate.
She remarked that in 2019, there were 8.22 per cent and 30.13 per cent of women aspirants for president and vice president respectively, noting that out of 1,101 candidates vying for 109 Senatorial seats in 2023, 92 are women, representing only 8.35percent, which she said was against 235 women (12.34percent) that were on the list in 2019.
She argued that 288 women are contesting for the House of Representatives out of 3,122 candidates also representing 9.2 per cent, therefore noted in 2019, there were 533 (11.39 per cent) women on the candidate list, “cumulatively, there are 381 women among the total of 4,259 contestants for the presidency and national assembly seats, and this is worrisome.”
The CDD Country Director observed that in the general elections, approximately 416 candidates would run for governorship across the federation’s 28 States, while pointing out that just 24 of them (six per cent of the total) are women, which is a decrease in the overall number of female governorship candidates who ran in the 2019 governorship election, which was 85. 
Hassan added that the 24 women running for governor in 2023 are running in 17 States, with no female candidates in the remaining 11 states.
According to her, breaching the gap has to do with a lot of reorientation, particularly at the party level, political parties have to be strengthened and welcome implementation and inclusion within the party structure.
She maintained that the constitution of these parties has to be implemented as many have quota system for inclusion, but the implementation  of  it is a challenge, therefore Citizens, women groups and civil society organisations (CSOs) have been working in solidarity for certain bills that are gender representative,
Hassan revealed that in 2022 the National assembly declined the bills, some of the bills looked at addressing some gender biases such as denying 35 percent appointed positions for women and settling for 20 percent, denying women affirmative action in party administration and leadership, denying specific seats for women in the National Assembly among others, “having some of these laws would have made tremendous strides in closing the gap for equality and parity.”
Continuing, she said: “Nigerian women have excelled locally and have been recognised having gotten internationally recognitions in various other sectors from the financial institution to entertainment etc. So why not in politics the few women who have done tremendously having been allowed to serve have clearly shown their readiness, the late Dora Akunyili was the Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC), the current President of the World Trade Organisation Dr. Ngozi Okonji-Iwela, who have served Nigeria Minister, as well as Amina Mohammed who served as Minister of Environment. Also, at the global level, women are well represented holding the top office in countries like the longest prime minister of Bangladesh, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland and others.”
“Nigeria society does not encourage women’s political leadership looking at the legislative laws in the country it does not favour or support women, the impact of culture and religion has also not helped and contributed as patriarchy has been a stumbling block to the progress of women in the society there is need for sensitization and awareness creations to combat the myths and disinformation that hampers women political participation,” Hassan further said.
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