WHY ARE WOMEN MINISTERS AND LEGISLATORS SO FEW IN NIGERIA?

The Nigerian Senate today went into Day 4 of their screening of President Muhammadu Buhari’s nominees for ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is no longer news that out of the forty-three ministerial nominees, only seven, or just 16 percent, are women.
Several organisations, especially women rights activities have been complaining bitterly of what they say is marginalization of the women folk in the political scene in Nigeria. They say that in spite of campaign promises, the President did not deviate from his 2015 ministerial appointments when he presented six women out of 42 nominees.
Who are the ‘lucky 7’ female nominees this time?
  1. Zainab Ahmed from Kaduna State who is the immediate past finance minister
  2. Paulen Talen from Plateau State, a former deputy governor
  3. Sharon Ikeazor – Anambra –  who has been Executive Secretary of Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD)
  4. Maryam Katagun of Bauchi, who is Nigeria’s Permanent Delegate to UNESCO
  5. Ramatu Tijani from Kogi who was APC national woman leader
  6. Gbemisola Saraki of Kwara State, sister of last Senate President Bukola Saraki and also a former member of the House of Representatives
  7. Sadiya Umar Faruk – Zamfara – who is of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs (NCFRMI)

Unfortunately, in this current political dispensation, it is not only in the executive arm that women are perceived to be receiving the short end of the stick. In the current 9th National Assembly, there are just 7 female senators out of 109 and 22 women out of 360 House of Representatives members.

The question is “why is there such a wide margin in male and female elected and appointed to serve in Nigeria?” Where is the gender parity  and the much talked-about affirmative action? Where are the women in the political governance landscape in Nigeria?
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who started this civilian political dispensation is noted to have, upon assumption of office in 1999 and in his second term, appointed nine women in his cabinet. We got to know of such amazons as Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili and Dr. Kema Chikwe from that time and they did not disappoint Nigerians. However, OBJ’s successor, late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua stepped down a bit when he appointed only seven female ministers including Prof. Dora Akunyili, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and Prof. Adenike Grange. These were also amazons in their own right and in performance of assigned portfolios.
Prof. Dora Akunyili
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala

 

 

 

 

 

During the Goodluck Jonathan presidency, the number of female ministers were 12, representing about 31 per cent of the 42-member cabinet. Apart from Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, who  was almost like a de facto prime minister with responsibility of overseeing other ministries, others were Mrs. Alison-Madueke again, Petroleum Resources; Prof. Ruquayat Rufai, Education; Mrs. Stella Odua, Aviation; Mrs. Hadiza Ibrahim, Environment; Mrs. Omobola Johnson, Communication Technology; Ms Ama Pepple, Lands and Housing; Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe, Water Resources; Hajiya Zainab Maina, Women Affairs and Social Development; Hajiya Zainab Ibrahim Kuchi, (State) Niger Delta Affairs; Prof. Viola Onwaliri, (State) Foreign Affairs; Erelu Olusola Obada, (State) Defence. Women had never had it so good then.

It is clear that the few women in the current executive and legislative arms need to prove a point to ensure that women are given more recognition. Making noise on social media and pages of newspapers will not give them more positions. They would need to encourage themselves to participate more in politics. The era of waiting for the men to recognise them seems to be over.

Women need to take the bull by the horn and be on the front seat in political, economic and social spheres of Nigeria’s development; otherwise they will end up always as complainants and accept whatever men offer them. There is nothing to show that male voters are more than female voters. Why can women not use their voting power to lay the mark? It has happened in other parts of the world.

 

Image credit: wikipedia.org, channelstv.com

 

Epa Ogie Eboigbe, veteran journalist, broadcaster and public affairs specialist writes and analyses current and historical issues with a ‘wise pen’.

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