ARE NIGERIAN WOMEN READY FOR NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SEATS?

In 1999, Nigeria held its first democratic elections after it transitioned from Military rule. Since then there have been four other elections at 4 year intervals. Only in the last elections in 2015 did the dominant party, PDP, lose power to the opposition, APC. The National Assembly is only seated by these two parties (this fact is important in understanding the nature of the Nigerian voters). It is bicameral with 109 seats in the Senate and 360 seats in the HoR.

 

The 109 seats in the Senate reflect equal representation of 36 states producing 3 senators each and one representative from the Federal Capital Territory (ie 3×36=108senators + 1 for FCT=109). The lower house is occupied with 360 representatives from single member constituencies; each state is divided into constituencies[1] depending on the size of the state (smaller states produce fewer representatives and vice versa).

 

However, in the current assembly, which is the 8th Assembly, there are only 5.7% female lawmakers. This places Nigeria at the 181st position of the IPU’s world classification of women in parliament by country. Nevertheless women made up 31% of the previous government’s cabinet and 16% of the current administration.

 

Concerning eligibility, if we are to go by Tremblay’s four stages of acquiring political power, (eligibility, recruitment, selection and election), Nigeria has capable women who are powerful and who are pioneering great organisations globally and nationally. For example, the world’s richest black woman, Folorunsho Alakija (businesswoman), Aruma Oteh (Treasurer and Vice President of the World Bank), Diezani Alison Maduekue (first female President of OPEC), Aisha Ahmed (CBN Vice President), Ngozi Okonjo Iweala (Managing Director of World Bank), Oby Ezekwesili (co-founder of Transparency International  and served as Vice President of World Bank Africa division). All these women have held these positions simultaneously with ministerial/other offices. Mo Abudu and many others have been listed as Forbes Africa’s Most Successful Woman. These are just a handful of the multitude of Nigerian women who have proven that the country has more than enough intelligent women to make up the critical mass that can be entrusted with power of decision-making.

 

In the same vein, this defeats the argument that women are not interested in power, or that they are unable to lead. The problem has never been about whether we have enough women, but will the electorate vote for them? or will the women even pass the recruitment stage at the party level? How can we ensure that Nigerian women secure seats in parliament?