WOMEN AND DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE IN NIGERIA: A CASE STUDY OF ENUGU STATE
Price: 2000 Naira (BSC, MSC)
Nigeria is a patriarchal society characterized by acute discrimination, exclusion;
inequality and impunity. These features are also reflected in its politics especially, as they
relate to issues of gender imbalance. This study discusses the need for full participation of
women in democratic governance, an issue that has been denied consideration in the
Nigerian polity especially in Enugu state. This study presents various strategies that may be
applied by both government and/or decision makers and women themselves for full
integration of women into the mainstream of politics in Nigeria and Enugu state in
particular. It is appropriate to focus on this important aspect of development in the Nigerian
polity. The researcher also gave a theoretical framework and reviewed some related
literatures that are in line with women and democratic governance. Most importantly, its
objectives to the government; and the entire masses. In pursuit of the above goals of this
study, the researcher distributed and administered questionnaires to members of the various
Local Government Areas of Enugu state. The responses from the questionnaires were
analyzed using simple percentage and frequency tables for proper clarification. From the
analysis and interpretation/discussion of the hypotheses, the researcher found out that many
factors/constraints affected full participation of women in democratic governance or politics
in Enugu state, such as situational constraints which characterizes the woman’s life space
as replete with confining roles of mother and home-maker which end up isolating her from
easy access to important resources necessary for political action, structural constraints
which argues that important societal institutions such as economy, education and law
assigned to the female, positions which cripple the woman when compared with more robust
positions assigned to man and socialization difference of male and female to see political
activities as a male role. Based on these findings, the researcher has made some
recommendations on the best way of mainstreaming women for full participation and
representation of women in democratic governance/politics particularly, in Enugu state.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
All through the ages and several millennia – from the Stone Age to
modern contemporary times, the struggle for dominance and superiority of the
two known sexes has never abated. Deploying ideologies, culture and
metaphysical practices has never been more victorious in gender struggle. Ever
since, especially, since the emergence of modern democracy, and in spite of
valiant and feeble attempts by gender sensitive men and women to redress this
chauvinistic culture, the struggle by women to negotiate their voice into the
mainstream of participation – economic, social, vocational and political, has
been a permanent feature in human development.
It has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that the woman has been
down trodden and cannot he heard. African derogatory ideologies on women
are inhuman and unjust. Women are perceived to be properties and thus have
been thoroughly enmeshed in the people’s mind (Anumudu, 2006). In Nigeria,
the issue of marginalization of women within the economy and gender
disparities in the provision of education, employment and general recognition
in other spheres of life still generates a healthy debate. The woman has been
the most exploited, the, most underprivileged, the worst abused and the most
relegated segment of the society (Idowu, 1987:7). Although women comprise a
majority of the population`, they nonetheless are often treated like a minority group assigned a definite place in the societal order, denied access to careers
and power in the public arena and viewed as dependent, weak and submissive
by nature (Luther, 1987).
Afonja (2007) traced the origin of female subjugation to men as not
deriving from any nature inferiority but in the age-old dominance of men. The
author argues that only a woman is compelled to define herself as a woman in
every circumstance, whereas a man takes his manhood for granted.
Woman, according to Saliu et al (2006), is defined relative to a man. All
religion gives credence to this man-derived personality of women. Both the
Bible and Koran assert that Eve was created from the rib of Adam so as to
assist him. A woman does not lead in prayer in Islam, against the fact of
history where Aisha, one of Prophet Mohammed’s wives taught his followers a
great chunk of the Koranic verses. African religions give definite roles to
women, which were inexorably inferior to those of men – ass wives, mothers
and home tenders. Harry (1991:8) puts the subservience theory so succinctly to
warrant been copiously quoted:
While art, literature and philosophy are essentially an
attempt to find the world a new on a human liberty,
that of the individual creator, women are so moulded
and indoctrinated by tradition that they are prevented
from assuming the status of being with liberty.
Meanwhile, a conspiracy is kept alive which implies
that woman by nature lack creative genius Tradition locates the confining role of women within their allotted life
space and this accounts for their political orientation and institutional sexism
that find women crippled by the socio-economic position assigned to them, as
different from men, who have been allotted more versatile positions, including
politics (Welch, 1980), and the later has become an enduring stigma by women
in later life (Akande, 1983). This, according to Stacy (1981), derives from the
juvenile (infant) and adult socialization stigma, which takes place in traditional
societies where women are stigmatized and defined in terms of wifehood and
motherhood roles to the preclusion of other vocational and political
responsibilities and exposures. The kitchen-bond, child –bearing socialization
process, which begins early in life for girls and women, also frees men from
domestic chores and allocates to them more challenging outdoor
responsibilities, some of which later include politics. This traditional
stigmatization has attained archetypal dimension as social ethos, which females
break with tragic consequences.
The woman question is an important socio-political issue which has
attracted the attention of international organizations and government world –
wide. There is a general realization now that the advancement of women in
general must be addressed thoroughly because women constitute a significant
percentage of the world total population and have been making tremendous
contributions in all facets of the society. As opined by Folasade in Ogunba (2002), the almost world-wide recognition of the rights of women came only
after centuries of work by certain individuals and later by organizations and
inter-governmental bodies. The right to vote becomes the basic demand of
women movements, because election was considered to be the fundamental act
of political life.
Even in modern world democracies, feminists concerned with
reconstructing gender and redressing gender relations and inequality are beset
with the task of securing a place for women especially in the political sphere.
The history of women participation in socio-economic life including political
participation in Nigeria can only be dismally poorer than that of America. Yet,
before the colonial invasion of Nigeria, women had been noted to perform
historic roles and undertaken radical exploit in various areas of society’s life.
Ujo (2004) observed that since the first Republic and across parties,
women hardly function at the central Executive Committee of political parties
except at the various women wings of the party, with peripheral roles in party
political decision making. The level of political engagement of women in
democratic politics/governance has always been marginal or at best tokenistic.
According to the author’s observation, it is true of course, that in the new
democratic dispensation, women political activism has taken a more daring and
more noticeable dimension, but this is marginal as they go, judging from
demographic superiority of the female gender to the male in population quantification. It could still be stressed that female representation has minimal
with regard to participation in elective and appointive positions since
It is from the foregoing premise that the compelling need arises for
women participation in democratic governance or partisan politics as a sinequa-
non for enhanced democracy, good governance and gender equality.
Instances of women under-representation or under-involvement in national
engagement include among others, the total exclusion of women from the 1975
fifty-one (51) member Constitution Drafting Committee, and the inclusion of
only six (6) women in the forty-five (45) member Constitution Review
Committee. The Constituent Assembly of 1988-89 had only fourteen (14)
women of which only five were elected out of a total 449 elected members.
Ifayaso (2001:413), argues that this appears as the common phenomenal trend
in all the “committees, bureaus and panels set up by the military government”.
Although during the Babangida’s regime, more solid participation and
recognition was accorded women, with the promulgation of the National
Commission for women Decree of 1989, whose objectives clearly included the
general promotion of women’s welfare, the deployment and full integration of
female potentials in national development, engendering a political atmosphere
and culture which eliminates all social and cultural practices that discriminate
against and dehumanizes womanhood. The establishment of a board to actualize the spirit and content of this Decree is also a step in the positive
engagement and emancipation of women in social polity, even within the
framework of military undemocratic polity. The question that arises is: If even
under military regime, such a playing space was made available for the
actualization of female potential and genius, and in spite of the establishment
of women bodies and vanguards such as the liberal National Council of
Women Societies in Nigeria (NCWSN) and its more radical counterpart,
Women In Nigeria (WIN), why has the response of women to active political
participation remained so tepid and so non-aggressive, especially in the area of
active contestation of elective (political) positions of the various tiers of
government? Apart from Sarah Jubril of Kwara State and recently, Major Iyabo
Obasanjo (rtd) and a few others who have made feeble shots in the presidency,
women have not taken persuasive partisan political steps to control powers in
The reason for the above, according to Harry (1991), was that in spite of
this political victory for women in constitutional terms, the reality is that the
equality was still largely theoretical.
To strike the balance in the involvement of the two sexes or to increase
the involvement of women in the political arena, it should be understood that:
Firstly, it needs to be stated that it is the responsibility of democracy to
ensure egalitarian distribution and disbursement of power and political control.
Thus, .political participation of all members of the electorate is a democratic
principle. The interest of the rank and file cannot be adequately catered for and
ascertained if they do not actively participate in or exercise influence in power
politics. Igube (2003) argues that women’s participation in public life is an
issue of democratic parity and that democracy cannot be achieved without
women’s full participation and contribution to decision making.
Secondly, there is need to fashion an essentially female theory of
political participation women, given the plethora of constraints that impede
active participation of women which is not the case with the male gender. This
theory should accommodate the ideological, cultural and environmental
specificities in the structure of society, which disadvantaged women. The most
outstanding of these is patriarchy.
Lastly, most countries of Africa (including Nigeria) have failed to
achieve the desired developmental goals of socio-economic development and
wallow in poverty due to women’s exclusion from participation in the political
process and policy making positions. Gender equality is a core development
issue and a development objective in its own (Ezekwesili, 2005).
Women have always participated in different levels of political process.
Women have always contributed to public good. The issue is that they have
been excluded from the decision-making levels. For example, women always
participate in the electoral process such as voting, but, they rarely get elected themselves. Yet, women are a key resource whose capacities, ideas and
contributions have the potential to improve both quality and outcomes of
public life and of course, improve representation is considered as a cornerstone
of democracy and democratic governance.
It may be observed that the numerous problems the world faces today
are as a consequence of decisions taken to the exclusion of women. Currently,
decisions that affect the future have been made without the input of half of its
people. Yet, we are aware or wee may not be aware that the global and national
problems- social, economic, environmental and political cannot be resolved
without the participation of women and taking cognizance of their needs.
Women would like to be part of the process that designs solutions for these and
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Women and democratic governance especially in Enugu state involves a
long-term of political education, liberation movements and empowerment
programmes for proper integration into Nigerian politics, so as to increase their
representation and political opportunities in the future. We must admit that
women constitute an oppressed, exploited and under-privileged in the thirdworld
countries of which Nigeria is one. The political challenges of women in
Nigeria and particularly in Enugu State is not in gaining political posts at different level of government, it is rather in gaining equal representation with
men in the political arena (Ogunba, 2002:405).
Caldwell (2006) argues that “striking changes in women’s lives over the
last 50 years have brought shifts in work roles, family lives, political and
educational access and social awareness. What is now more obvious than ever
is what has not changed or rather what has barely began to change – namely,
women’s under-representation in positions of power and leadership”.
The recent involvement of women in political positions in Nigeria and
Enugu State is being hailed by many as a seminal movement of the
advancement of women in politics. But a deeper look at the current political
gender balance shows that women still have a long way to go to gain equal
footing in the nation’s halls of power (Hartman, 2006).
The above suggests that some of the problems or constraints to women
involvement in political powers are the focus of this research work. For
example, during the colonial period, there was only one woman in governance,
which is Chief Ahebe, the president of Enugu Ezike Native Court
(NSUDIV13/13/3:2). In the face of persistency in under-representation of
women in governance and low rate of participation of women in Politics in
Nigeria and for appropriate focus of this research, the work will be guided by
the following questions:
(i) What roles have women played in development of Nigeria and Enugu
State in particular?
(ii) What factors affect women participation in democratic governance in
(iii) In what ways can women be encouraged to participate fully in
politics in Enugu State?
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
With the root of the problem established as poor/under-representation of
women in democratic governance in Nigeria, with particular reference to
Enugu State, this work is an attempt to evaluate and suggest ways of
overcoming this problem. This is the broad objective of the study. But for ease
of accomplishment, the specific objectives are to:
a. Make an assessment of the roles played by women in the
development of Nigeria since pre-colonial times.
b. Evaluate the reason for the under-representation of women in
democratic governance in Enugu State.
c. Explore ways of ensuring full participation of women in democratic
governance in Enugu State.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Women’s participation in democratic governance had been recognized
as critical for national and economic development of any nation. It is through women participation in politics the gender parity and elimination of all forms
of discrimination against women can be achieved in order to meet the United
Nations’ (UN) declaration on gender equality in Enugu State and Nigeria at
large. The significance of this study is divided into empirical and theoretical
One of the empirical significance of this study will be, creating
awareness about the importance and needs for full and equal participation of
women in politics (democratic governance). The various legislative arms at
different levels of government will become more aware of the nature of the
constitutional rights they promulgate for women and will invariably strive to
justify the promulgation by implementation.
Secondly, this study will bring to light the various reasons for political
education, liberation movements and women empowerment programmes. It
will highlight the various constraints to women participation in politics and the
effect of such constraints on women of Enugu State.
On the other hand, the theoretical significance of this study is that it will
serve as a relevant literature on ways of improving women’s participation in
democratic governance as it concerns Enugu State.
To new entrants into the field, this study will help them to look into the
challenges of the 21set century on democratic governance as it concerns
Finally, the study will also be of immense help to the general society, as
it will help them to appreciate and restore the dignity and potentials of
womanhood which will enhance equal gender right in decision making.
1.5 SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
1.5.1 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
It will be wide and too unmanageable for us to say that we want to carry
a study on women and governance. The meaning will be that while studying
women and it and non-democratic governance and even to both political and
non-political positions (that is both governmental and non-governmental
positions). To escape this danger, the scope of this study was reduced to
women and democratic government in Nigeria. Even at that, studying all the
women in all the states in Nigeria will also be too unmanageable for us. This
made us to reduce the width of the study to Enugu State. But be that as it may,
the study is intended to be used in generalizing women and democratic
governance in Nigeria.
1.5.2 LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
Initiating and concluding a research work successfully is not always a
bed of roses. Of course, there usually exist many constraints militating against
a blissful study. Some of the major constraints include:
Time constraint was one of the greatest constraints that confronted this
research work because the research was mainly conducted during school days
due to the fact that the Local Governments under study do not work on
weekends. As a result of this, the working period coincides with the official
period of lectures as the researcher was at the same time preparing for and
writing her examinations.
During the research period, the researcher found out that she could not
get all the necessary information required for the project due to lack of finance.
Consequent upon the inadequacy of financial resources, the research study was
conducted on all the Local Government Areas in Enugu State. The limited
financial resources were mainly expended on transportation (since the
researcher visited the areas of study several times before she was able to collect
the required data) and surfing of the Internet.
It was not possible for the research to extend investigation to every
individual in Enugu State, hence, the use of sample instead of population.
Therefore, the fact that sample statistics cannot be an exact representation of
the population result in itself is a limitation.
Finally, another factor that contributed to the limitation of this study was
the unwillingness on the part of the respondents. Some of the respondents
showed lukewarm attitude in giving out vital information regarding the work
because the regard those information to be secret and only meant for the
internal use of their Local Government.