Following the decline in the number of women elected into elective offices in the 2023 general election, women groups in the country have called for more in- clusion in the political process of the country. The Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) in collaboration with Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA) said the issue of women’s participation in politics and governance must be addressed in Nigeria. The groups made their positions known during a South-West public hearing on the 2023 general election with the theme, “The Impact of Violence and Corruption in the 2023 Elections.” Other groups that supported the project include The MacArthur Foundation in conjunction with NCAA, Women in Politics Forum, GECORN, 100 Women Lobby Group, Gender Technical Unit and Womanifesto.
Speaking at the event, the Lagos State Coordinator of WIPF, Hon. (Mrs.) Taiwo Salvador- Bello, lamented that there was an alarming underrepresentation of women during the just-concluded 2023 presidential and National Assembly elections despite the continuous push by different organisations. Salvador-Bello said: “During the primary elections for political parties, a lot happened. There was a lot of violence against women who went out to vote. We talked to women, we engaged them, and we trained them to stand out for the elections. “They were pushed out of the three major political parties to parties that have not found their feet. But we know what happens during elections; when you are not in the three major parties, you have a very slim chance at the gen- eral election.” She charged women in politics to shun narratives that they are hated by other women.
Her words: “I urge women to stand up and start changing negative narratives about their po- litical ambition.” Salvador-Bello also urged security agencies in charge of monitoring elections to be more proactive in ensuring the safety and security of citizens during the electoral process and ensure that they hand over electoral offenders to the court for punishment to serve as a deterrent to others. She said this action will help more women and other vulnerable groups to partici- pate in the voting process.
On her part, the Director of WARDC, Mary George Peluola, said there is a need to appoint women into political offices, as a means to encourage them to participate in politics. She attributed the rot in the political landscape of the country to the underutilisation of women. She said: “We have various women in this meeting, various women representing differ- ent political parties and civil society organisations.
From all indications, it was obvious that at the last elections, women had the brunt of that election. “The negative impact ranges from distrust and withdrawal. Some women were killed or maimed right in front of their houses or at their various polling units. We are here today to express our belief that going forward, if we want our democracy to be strong, there is a need for the government to embrace gender equality and mainstream gender in all aspects of governance.”
According to available statistics, from 1999 till date, only 157 women have been elected into the National Assembly (38 senators and 119 members of the House of Representatives), compared to 2,657 men (616 senators, 2,041 reps) during the same period. And the results of the February 25 presiden- tial and National Assembly elections have further exposed Nigeria’s failure to implement several treaties and statutes it signed, which are aimed at en- suring women’s involvement in politics. Of the 92 women who contested for the Senate in the February elections, only three won, while out of the 286 who contested for seats in the House of Representatives, only 15 have been declared winners. On the March 18 gover- norship and states Houses of Assembly election, out of the 1,019 women that contested the elections, only 48 won.
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This amounts to a 4.7 per cent success rate for women. When compared with the 2019 election where 45 women were elected into the state legislatures, the number of women elected into the state parliament in the 2023 election increased by three. Nevertheless, it is a far cry from a proper representation. According to available data, a total of 10,240 candidates contested for the 990 state Houses of Assembly seats across the 36 states. Of these contestants, 9,221 were male, while 1,019 were female. The outcome of the state legis- lative elections conducted showed that only 48 women emerged winners out of the 1,019 that contested, representing only 4.7 per cent of the total. This represents less than a one per cent increase when compared with the number of female lawmakers elected into the outgoing state assemblies.
In the 2019 election, female representation in the 36 states’ Houses of Assembly members was only 4.41 per cent. A breakdown of the 48 women elected into the state legislatures in 2023 by states showed that Ekiti State had the highest number. Out of the 26 seats in the state’s House of Assembly, six will be occupied by women. In 2019, only four females were elected into the Ekiti State House of Assembly Kwara and Akwa Ibom states were next with the highest number of elected female law- makers in 2023. The two states have five and four females in their state parliaments, respectively.
In the state’s outgoing assembly, Akwa Ibom has only two female lawmakers out of the 26 seats in the state. This has now increased to four. Surprisingly, Kwara State, with the second highest number of female elected lawmakers in the just concluded State House of Assembly election, had no female lawmaker in its state’s parliament in 2019. In Lagos State, only three females were elected. This is the same as Ondo State. While the Ondo State number increased by one, Lagos State maintained the same num- ber of female lawmakers it had in its state par- liament in 2019. Further analysis showed that 15 states do not have a single female elected lawmaker in the just concluded state houses of assembly elec- tions. Out of the seven states in the North-West region, all except Kaduna State will be male-dominated houses of assembly. Kaduna State has two elected female lawmakers this year. In 2019, it had none. In the North-East region, only Adamawa and Taraba will have female lawmakers in their parliaments in the next assembly. The other four states in the region will have none. Of the 25 seats in the Adamawa State House of Assem- bly, only one will be occupied by a woman, while two will be occupied by women in Taraba State. In 2019, no female was elected into the Taraba State Assembly. Adamawa state also had one. Abia, Imo, Niger, Osun, and Rivers are also among the states that will not have elected fe- male lawmakers in their parliaments in the next assembly. This will be the second election in a row that Abia State will not have a single elected female in its state house of assembly. In 2019, the 24 seats in the state’s House of As- sembly were all occupied by males.