On Tuesday, March 01, 2022, the National Assembly (NASS) rejected a constitutional bill seeking to create 111 special seats for women in the federal legislative arm of government; happy International Women's Month.
Is Nigerian politics designed to play dirty on women? [Pulse Editor's Opinion]
"Nigeria has the worst performer in women representation in parliaments...the lowest in the whole of Africa" - Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha
NASS is a bicameral legislature established under section 4 of the Nigerian Constitution. The provision divides the body into the Senate, with 109 members, and a 360-member House of Representatives.
To be fair, it was 1999; no one really focused on protecting the representation of women. It was assumed fair to set the entry bar on equal levels for all groups on electoral basis. Today's world unfolds various aspects of marginalisation, and the awareness that some groups do need intentional elevation to play politics as equals.
Already being as old as the Nigerian society, marginalisation of women is reinforced by patriarchy, poverty, illiteracy, religious and cultural norms.
The prolonged military rule also contributed to the poor participation of women in political affairs. History basically has no words, or names, of any woman who played in the leagues of Gowon, Buhari, Babangida, or Abacha.
All those years had rooms full of men passing decisions with no documentation of she-contributions from iconic female generals.
Over the years, with exposure and advocacy, the fight for inclusivity in the political space transported us to the previous class of NASS, where women occupied 29 out of 469 seats; seven women senators, and 22 women representatives.
These figures were celebrated as the most seats women have ever occupied in the Assembly.
Many are the reasons for poor female-political participation. The uncomfortable need for a godfather; the poor internal democracy within the political parties; Money and popularity power; labelling and stereotyping; political ruthlessness and violence, all of which contribute to the lack of political will we experience today as women.
The 1999 Constitution played us dirty by putting us in the same ball field with men; who biologically (and chemically) reason differently, based on multiple scientific discoveries.
Taking these barriers away will require that women compete with men for the seats. In the wake of the constitutional amendment, in 2021, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, sponsored the bill seeking special seats for women; the elevation that will create an equal political play.
On the second presentation, she asked that 35% of the assembly be secured for women, but after several adjustments, the bill settled for 24%; which has still been rejected.
Today, In the 9th Assembly, women constitute only 19 out of 469 seats of both chambers (4.4%), even though about half of the population are women, their participation will create a balance of power between genders.
This is an indicator of development in any society. The full and equitable participation of women in public life is essential to building and sustaining strong, vibrant democracies.
When women are not participating in politics, it’s less likely that policies will benefit them. Women need to participate to bring attention and perspective to issues that uniquely affect them.
The lawmakers spitting back Onyejeocha's bill, our bill, back in our face tells to the deliberate suppression of the population of women in politics.
The implication of this is that Nigeria will suffer more years of male-dominated politics (which has gotten us this far).
On Wednesday, March 02, 2022, various women groups protested the rejection of the bill in NASS official home. On the same day, I picked my pen to lend my voice to this course that must not expire. What will you do for women this month?
*Pulse Editor's Opinion is the viewpoint of an Editor at Pulse. It does not represent the opinion of the Organisation Pulse.
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