Experts have urged the government to adopt proportional representation in political participation to increase the involvement of women in governance process.
Professor Abdulhameed Ujo alongside Dr. Halidu Agaba stated this while speaking at a roundtable organised by the department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Abuja.
The programme, which was supported by Rosa Luxemburg Foundation West Africa, had as its theme ‘2019 election matters arising: sequencing of elections and the implication for credible elections and gender dimensions’.
Programme manager of the foundation, Angela Odah, said such forums could serve as platforms for reflection and critical thought, and provide political alternatives for development.
She said, “Evaluation of political processes and policies should be seen as a learning tool, not just a means for ensuring accountability. Evaluations should clarify whether a programme is working or not, and also deepen knowledge and understanding about exactly what is working and why, or why not.”
While recommending the proportional representation as practiced by South Africa, Prof Ujo submitted that the system is easy to operate for members to vote for the party.
Ujo held that the projects of wives of former Heads of State and Presidents did not promote political inclusion of women.
He said: “None of the First Ladies made any effort to political participation and female representation in political offices. They were rather interested in promoting the regimes of their husbands.”
Prof Ujo added that from every indication, the only way to solve the issue of political representation is through legal enactment based on proportional representation as done in South Africa and some countries in Southern Africa.
In his contribution, Dr Halidu Agaba pointed at the urgent need for the political paradigm in Nigeria to shift towards recognition of the role of gender in determining the outcome of power distribution and as such, women’s marginalization is neither warranted nor unfixable.
Agaba, who is also from the Political Science and International Relations department of University of Abuja, faulted non-inclusion of gender in the electoral Act and the Constitution.
He said, “apart from the provisions of Section 51 that designate separate queues for men and women where the culture does not permit intermingling of sexes, there is no provision targeting women participation in elections.”
Dr Halidu rued the withdrawal of Dr Oby Ezekwesili from the presidential race barely one month to the election. “Her withdrawal, therefore, highlights women’s continued marginalization in electoral processes in Nigeria, both in terms of participation in electoral offices and as beneficiaries of the dividends of democracy. While women make up 47 per cent of registered voters for the 2019 elections, only eight per cent were cleared to vie for electoral positions in today’s presidential elections,” he observed.
He added that “although just one of the six females among the 73 presidential candidates, her candidature was significant insofar as she was a direct repudiation of the gendered narratives that portray women candidates as incompetent and unable to compete in the world of politics.”
According to him, 20 years of democratic journey has not broadened women participation in the governance process, saying, “What remains deeply in doubt, however, is how inclusive this progress has been and, in particular, to what extent women have benefited from the democratic dividend of equality and fairness.
To this end, he explained that women’s minimal participation in Nigeria has multi-dimensional implications for the democratic project in Nigeria and for the continuing quest for gender equality in Africa’s biggest economy.
“As gender issues and women’s political and economic empowerment take centre stage on the global arena, Nigeria appears bent on maintaining its position at the bottom of the ladder of women’s political empowerment.”