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Why Nigeria should legislate more women into power

What is your take on the claim that that high cost of electioneering in Nigeria discourages women from participating in politics?

Money has always been a huge factor in determining who wins election in Nigeria and that to women is a huge challenge as most women really struggle to get their campaign finance. Even when they become candidates, the political parties also neglect them and don’t get the kind of support that they would expect to get. Nigeria’s election has become so costly that if you are not into politics before, as an aspirant, you may not be in a position to be able to pay what the political space comes with. So, for women, some of them are discour- aged from going into politics because of the high cost of elections. They can’t foot the bill that is expected. If you look at the Electoral Act, it has increased the money that people are expected to pay when they pick up forms to about 400 percent of what it used to be, and of course, most women cannot afford it. That’s why you don’t see them contesting for positions. If you look at the Senate and the House of Representatives, you will see very few women. When you then get to the House of Assembly, there aren’t many and you also have at the local government level, less women coming for chairmanship.

Is it true that election violence discourages women from politics?
Electoral violence is another major challenge for women and what we saw in the 2023 elections actually brought to the fore how women are affected differently. So, violence comes to women not only from a point of view, it could also be psychological, it could be fear around places you want to go to. In this last election, we saw a lot of cyber bullying of women and we also saw a lot of psychological violence through what people write to women and also verbal as- sault to some women. Beyond voters, candidates have their own share. In the last election of 2019, we got a report of even people who were ad hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), who were violated and raped. So, electoral violence is a major issue. Women don’t want to go to places where they know that violence will occur, so it discourages people from participating in elections.

Is it possible to rule out the role of money in politics?

It is not possible to rule out the role of money in politics but there must be regulated processes. If you look at other countries, there are ways in which they have addressed how campaign finance runs through their demography. In some of these places, they have found a way around how funding is used and how they ensure they don’t misuse money. What we have in Nigeria is often not regulated. Despite the fact that there are regulations on how much money you can put in a campaign, we still see that such is not followed. There are risks associated with when you have campaign finance that it is not regulated. There are countries where elections are financed with public funds although it is important that political par- ties carry out their duties and are supposed to raise funds from other sources. Public funding of elections can help women and the essence of this is to increase the participation of women in politics. It can also help to bring some form of equity into politics as well as facilitate female candidates. France has done this since 1999 and that has encouraged the participation of women. Another method is also private funding, which is another way of political funding and if properly regulated, will be a thing of honor to approach corporate groups to support their campaign and all of that. Brazil has something close to that. These are ways which we can encourage more women to participate in politics.

What is your take on the clamor for a percentage of elective seats to be reserved for women?

The National Gender Policy is one of those initiatives that came as a result of our agitation and the policy recom- mended 35 per cent for women to stand on elective positions but un- fortunately what we are seeing today has brought the number of women in politics to about four per cent of the entire people who have won one elec- tion of the other. The Senate that used to have about eight women now have four, the House of Representatives has about 11, while the state’s Assembly has about 50 women who were able to make it out of over 1,000 men who got elected in these places. So, it appears that in a country like Nigeria, it will take the inclusion of affirmative action in our constitution to support women’s political participation. The 111 seats that were advocated for women was thrown out by the National Assembly and if we don’t get it back, it might be very difficult for us to have women in political places in Nigeria.

How can legislation encourage more women participation in politics?

Legislation can encourage more women participation in politics. In a place like Rwanda, where they have 68 per cent of women in parliament, it didn’t come by accident, it was through legislation. It is similar to what obtains in Uganda, where they have 35 per cent of women in the parliament. You can also see that in other countries, women are gradually entering into the political space. South Africa has a good example of more women venturing into politics, while Kenya and Sierra Le- one recently adopted measures to increase the number of women in politics. Nigeria should not in any way be an exception in this regard. Nigeria should also be able to legislate women into power

What measures would you recommend to tackle money politics and election violence in order to encourage more women to participate in politics?

The solution that one can push for as regards to regulating money politics and election violence is prosecution of electoral offenders. I’ve observed elections in Liberia and there is a mobile tribunal on the day of election. So, if you commit any electoral violence or any malpractice on election day you are subjected to a court and if convicted, you go to prison. I think they have the tribunal just as we have the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to deal with situations like this. I also think that we need to decontextualize our political finance and campaign financing by looking at the poverty that is surrounding the country and that is why it is only the rich that gets into political offices because they can afford to pay for tickets and they can afford to fund their campaigns. We need to demonetize Nigeria’s election before the election can become a useful tool for gender equality . Women cannot participate in electoral process that is this expensive because the society has edged down women and they don’t even have the capacity or the fund to compete effectively with men in the political space.

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