Over the years women have been relegated to the background in issues of the overall development especially in the developing nations like Nigeria. However, the growing debate by scholars and intelligentsias about the role of women in politics globally is an issue that has generated serious controversies than resolving the perceived gender inequalities in terms of participation in politics of nation states, be they advanced or developing. Several arguments have cropped up about the place of women in politics over the years.1
All groups (including those of women) seek to influence the dispensation of power in line with their articulated interests as a fundamental motive of political participation. Women, in their gradual consciousness of state of mind also, in recent times, increasingly seek power equation and distribution and redistribution of resources in their favour. Although, careful observations have indicated that the involvement of women in Nigerian politics is largely noticeable at the level of voting and latent support,2 identified violence and other forms of electoral conflicts perpetrated and perpetuated by men and male youths as the major barriers confronting and inhibiting women active participation in Nigerian politics. Arguments are on the increase on the specific role women should play in the society. Opinions are divided on whether the role of women is predominantly in the home fronts or women can also engage in other socio-economic and political activities like their male counterparts. It is, however, believed that while the natural relationship between mother and her child may compel and confine her to sedentary activities, it is also important that such mother should contribute her quota to the development of her family and that of her society at large.3
For development of any kind to be successful, a vantage position should be accorded the women, as they constitute larger proportion of the population. In this regard, they should not be left out in the issues of decision making that bothers even on their lives as a people4.
Today, women are participating more actively in political issues than ever before as a result of political re-awakening and awareness. More often than not, they are besieged with challenges of which discrimination is more rift5. Majority of the men more on chauvinistic disposition are preoccupied with the notion that decision making is exclusively for the men folk while women are to be instructed on what to do. This idea of seeing the women playing the number two role at homes has come to play itself out in the political life of the people. And this ought not to be so with regards to the ever dynamic nature of things globally as women are now seeing in other communities as avant-garde in developed nations. It is surprising that the same mindset of yester years is still what is obtained in our country.
Generally speaking, and from contemporary perspectives in Nigeria, it would appear that women had never been influential in the realm of Nigerian politics. In the past, and even in the present democratic dispensation, there has been and there is still some fair share of recognition of the increasing role of women in the Nigerian society, be they social, economic or political. the place of women in politics during the pre-colonial period is sufficiently familiar. Thus, the exploits of legendary women like Queen Amina of Zazau in Zaria, Iyalode Efunsetan Aniwura of Ibadan, Princess Moremi of Ife, Princess Inikpi of Igala and Emotan of Benin readily comes to mind.6
During the colonial period, women asserted and expressed themselves politically. Some women who make political marks at that period included Mrs Margaret Ekpo of the famous Aba women riots of 1929, Madam Tinubu of Lagos and Egba land; Mrs Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti of the Abeokuta Women Union of 1948 and Hajia Swaba Gambo of Northern Element Progressive Union (NEPU) to mention but a few. It is however worthy of mention here that though women enjoyed higher level of authority in Southern Nigeria, men have always been dominant in the political structure with women playing sedentary roles as inferior and subordinate partners7. Thus, the question of equality of representation and clear cut democratization of the Nigerian democratic space to accommodate women in line with the dictates of the 35% Affirmative Action specifications is of growing concern to this paper. Even when women are deeply involved in the highest level of decision making in Nigeria, their involvement is superficial, grossly inadequate and lacks the moral justifications for effective representation.8
Despite the difficulties faced by women in politics, they continue with their political ambition, contributing enormously to the political and national development in their own way as the challenges militating against them are not present, although Nigeria is yet to have a female president. Women over the years could be said to have recorded some measure of appreciable political achievement in other political fields of endeavors, meeting their political objectives with limited support and resources at their disposal
In 1957 during the pre-independence era of Nigeria, a couple of women political activists such as, Mrs. Margaret Ekpo, Mrs. Janet Mokelu and Ms. Young were members of the Eastern House of Assembly. The late Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, though not a full-fledged politician, was a very strong force to reckon with in the politics of the Western Region. And Hajia Gambo Sawaba waged a fierce battle for the political and cultural emancipation of women in the North. One can say that women have always played viable political roles in Nigeria in spite of all the limitations and encumbrances.9
The Babangida era marked a turning point in the history of women struggle in Nigeria, when Maryam Babangida institutionalized the office of the first lady in 1987. She became the first working First Lady and launched the “Better Life for Rural Women” program. Other women who have made impact in the country’s political scene include, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala former minister of finance, who saved the nation records of billions of Naira as a result of her hard working nature as a public officer. Mrs. Obi Ezekwesili also laid a land mark in the history of Nigeria politics. Prof. Dora Akunyili, the NAFDAC boss has also performed credibly; leading the fight against adulterated pharmaceutical drugs, her name can never be forgotten in the annals of history. There are myriads of women in politics even presently that have done very well and are still performing excellently well10. With the birth of the Fourth Republic in 1999, women involvement in politics has taken several dimensions, ranging from being foundation members of political parties to vying for elective positions both at executive and legislative levels. It is against this background that this paper interrogates women and Nigerian politics in the Fourth Republic with major emphasis on 2015 general elections. Since the inception of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, concerted efforts have been made by women‟s groups, women advocates and activists, civil society organisations, Nigerian government and international agencies and donor communities to increase women’s participation in both political and public life. Although there is no constitutional provision for the office of the First Lady, Nigeria has paraded several First Ladies in the Fourth Republic and many amongst them played roles that made them prominent.
Aim and Objectives
The major thrust of this research is an appraisal of the dynamics of Nigerian women involvement in politics with special reference to the birth of the fourth republic.
The objectives of this research is as follows:
1. To examine the role of women in the society at large;
2. To look at the role of women in politics in precolonial and colonial period;
3. To examine the role of women in the first, second and third republics;
4. To examine the role of women in the fourth republic; and
5. To consider the challenges women face in politics participation.
This work shall basically focus on secondary source for deriving data for the research work. These shall include extrapolating themes, subject matter from published books, magazines, journals articles and government gazette.
Scope of work
Political participation in any society is the willingness of its populace to show active interest in the political environment in which they find themselves. In light of this, we shall be taking a grossery look at the active roles Nigeria women played in the political arena of the country drawing our analysis from the inception and then beaming our lenses on the fourth republic.
The literatures that were reviewed here are the ones that were relevant to our study in one Erunke Canice Esidene and Shuaibu Umar Abdul in the book titled The Role of Women in Nigerian Politics: Interrogating the Gender Question for an Enhanced Political Representation in the Fourth Republic.11 This work which is an exploration of the role of women in the Nigerian politics. The authors looked at the inferiority complex of women regarding active political participation and representation constitute the crux of this study. They further argued that the inferiority nature of women generally, was a function of chauvinistic nature of men to perpetuate their domination on them in all ramifications. This gender bias in Nigeria’s political system is often traced to the onset of colonialism in Nigeria. Thus the western cultural notion of colonialism woven around male superiority reflected in their relations with Nigerians. The authors adopted both conceptual and theoretical analysis of issues on political participation and representation, to ascertain how women are generally dominated by men in the scheme of things.
Yet another book that is of importance to us in this research is the work of Olalere, Titilope Olusegun titled Women and Nigerian Politics: An Appraisal of 2015 General Elections.12 this work argued from an historical transition, the involvement of Nigerian women in politics spanned through three distinct epochs, namely, pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial. In the pre-colonial period, there were a number of great women like Queen Amina of Zaria, Iyalode Efunsetan Aniwura of Ibadan, Princess Moremi of Ife, Princess Inikpi of Igala and Emotan of Benin. By their actions, they were able to save their societies from insecurity and the vagaries of war. Thus, they contributed to creating the peaceful environment necessary for the development and growth of their kingdoms.
Again, Bolanle Awe in his book titled Nigerian Women in Historical Perspective.13 It posits that women could rightly be called the saviours of their societies. During the colonial period, women also asserted and expressed themselves politically. Some women who left indelible marks in the political history of Nigeria during this period included Mrs Margaret Ekpo of Calabar, Madam Tinubu of Lagos and Egbaland; Mrs Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti of the Abeokuta Women Union (AWU) and Hajiya Sawaba Gambo of Northern Element Progressive Union (NEPU).
Uchendu P. K. in his book titled The role of Nigerian women in politics past and present.14 The author argued from a masculine position stating that: Although women enjoyed high political authority in Nigeria, over the years, the men had always been dominant in the political structure. Arguing further, he noted that Women’s activities were always subordinate and complementary to the existing male dominated structures. Thus, the question of equality of representation in the decision-making and judicial processes did not arise. Even where women were deeply involved in terms of being foundation members of a political party, they were never given equal opportunity in political arrangement but, rather, a complementary role.
Agbalajobi and Kira in their work titled: Women’s Participation and the Political Process in Nigeria: Problems and Prospects,15 argued that the increasing domination of women by men have several theoretical underpinning. On the one hand, women are less represented in politics due to persistent cultural stereotype, abuse of religious and traditional practices. On the other hand, the relegation of women from the realm of politics is akin to the kind of societal social structures in operation at a particular point in time. Further explaining, they said In most societies of the world, economic, political and social structures are strategically dominated by men and the women have been largely subjected to the roles of ‘second fiddle’ in the affairs of things. They contended that the discrimination against women in terms of participation and representation is universalistic and has long historical standing dating back to the ages. The practice of gender discrimination and sexism according to him plays itself out even in the most advanced democracies of the world including Europe and America.
Anifowose writing in his work titled: Women Political Participation in Nigeria: Problems and Prospects,16 he argued that in some established democracies like Britain and the United States of America, democratic polyarchies, for a long time, were in fact male dominated polyarchies. He noted that even famous advocates of democratic and Republican government rejected claims that women should be full citizens. He argued further that: For the most part, they adopted the prevailing view that the proper role of women was marriage, procreation and family, not politics… they never recommended that women be allowed to vote and considered it more or less self-evident that in family matters, the husbands have the final say. By any standard however, he claimed that locating the historical background of male dominance over women in matters of society is practically impossible. He then maintained that such expectations are better appreciated when one considers the genetic make-up and the relative difference that exists between both men and women.
Drawing from the above excerpts, one can conveniently adduce that discrimination against women has its root in the character and content of our social milieu which celebrates the male folks as unique beings, who are considered stronger and unique and so, fit for public space while women are merely weak, feeble minded and so, reserved for domestic use at any point in time. This tendency has undermined the apparent role of women in politics, thereby according them low level of participation and representation in the political scheme of things in the 21st century.
Chapter One: Background to the Study
This chapter shall look at the introductory part of the work, the methodology, aims and objectives of the work, scope as well as the literature review of the work.
Chapter Two: A Brief History of Women’s Role in Politics
This chapter shall take an historical outlook of the participation of women actively in the political landscape of Nigeria from the pre-colonial time, colonial time down to the time before the fourth republic.
Chapter Three: Nigerian Women in Early Fourth Republic Politics (1999-2003)
This chapter shall look at the active involvement of women in politics during the fourth republic drawing an analysis of their role and how they intend to muscle their way to be recognised in politics
Chapter Four: Nigerian Women in Later Fourth Republic Politics (2003-2007)
This chapter shall look at the challenges of women in politics, their successes, recommendation as well as future perspective for them in politics
Chapter Five: Conclusion
This chapter will focus on rounding off the subject of study. It will look at the steps to be taken, to foster a better or higher level of participation of women in Nigeria politics.