The dearth of women in Nigeria's political journey [Pulse Contributor's Opinion]

Politics is a subject that many women feel uncomfortable speaking on. Perhaps it is a result of some of the negative practices and attitudes surrounding the topic.

The dearth of women in Nigeria's political journey [Pulse Contributor's Opinion]

Merriam Webster's dictionary defines politics as 'the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government.' Notably, this is what many females have been able to do from birth, the ability to wrap her father's heart around her little finger right until she gets married and begins to influence her husband's decisions behind the scenes.

It is probably why specific historical figures could dive into politics without official designations or titles seamlessly. Over the years, more women have emerged to be at the helm of affairs in different countries. Still, more women participation in politics is needed for the gender's voice to be adequately represented.

A February 2021 Forbes Report notes that only 21 women had served as elected heads of state or government globally. Another 119 nations, including Nigeria, have never elected a female head of state. This is ironic because the role of women in Nigerian politics began long before independence in 1960.

For instance, Nigerian women have taken to the streets to fight for their rights and push for beneficial policies for their children and communities. To attain this mandate effectively, they lobbied for a seat at the table.

In 1929, women led a riot to protest against warrant chiefs, who had restricted their government roles. The protests were a success as they led to the removal of the warrant chiefs by the colonial government and the subsequent appointment of women to serve under the native court.

In 1932, Alimotu Pelewura led market women in western Nigeria to protest the direct taxation of women by the colonial government. This spiralled into a series of events resulting in Pelewura becoming an executive member and speaker of the Nigerian Union of Young Democrats. This youthful party was closely aligned with the NNDP. Although the group had attained its mandate to ensure continuity and create more laws that would safeguard women's interests, she got a seat beside people that matter.

By the 1950s, women like Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti fought for the freedom of Nigeria from colonial shackles. She was part of a women delegation sent to London to protest a proposed Nigerian constitution.

So great was her power and influence that she became a force to be reckoned with. A young Gambo Sawaba risked going to meet her by journeying from Zaria in Northern Nigeria down to the South West. Luckily Funmilayo was receptive, allowing Gambo to learn at the feet of the master.

Over the next few years, Gambo Sawaba became a voice of women in Northern Nigeria. Her public speaking skills culminated in her elevation to a union leader. She was jailed over 16 times and is believed to be the most imprisoned Nigerian politician ever to live. It would seem that the Nigerian society was merely patriarchal, but the account of Gambo's life says she was supported mainly by male leaders in her party.

We conducted a survey to gather the views of Nigerians, both men, and women on politics. Only 27.7% of the women said they were interested in politics. Another 6.06% said with the proper financial backing, they would join the political arena. A whopping 66.7% said they wouldn't join politics. In contrast, 78.57% of men affirmed they would happily vote a woman into a political position. Only 3.57% of men objected to this.

To date, Sarah Jibril is the only female presidential candidate in Nigerian history. Jibril received less support, with a majority of women opting to back male candidates. Based on the survey above, it is no surprise.

In a phone conversation with Mrs Jibril, she described the experience as a 'very novel adventure' but said there were other roadblocks along the way.

Jibril notes that although she had studied politics both locally and abroad, it emerged that some of the lessons were not practical.

She also mentioned having to protest the high fees for Presidential candidate forms. The cost was reviewed from N500,000 to N1,000 after she met with former Head Of State Ibrahim Babangida in 1993. One of the people she was up against was the late MKO Abiola.

Through the Justice Must Prevail Party, Jibril is still active in politics. She believes that women are still needed in key political positions to 'Mother Nigeria back to Sanity.'

Elsewhere, not only are women underrepresented in political leadership. The trend is also evident in other sectors. The Global Media Monitoring Project ( GMMP) 2020 report notes that women are not adequately included in the news media. They remain the vulnerable and historically marginalized groups.

The report that focuses on representing women's stories in the media comes 25 years after the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing). The conference drafted strategic objectives and actions for member states, including Nigeria, to achieve gender equality in all sectors, including women and the media.

This story by Amina Maikori was supported by Code for Africa’s Wanadata initiative.

Visuals & Subtitles they belong to


Amina Maikori is a writer , Journalist , PR Strategist and Mental Health Advocate based in Abuja. She is also the author of "The Demystication Of Stephen".


Pulse Contributors is an initiative to highlight diverse journalistic voices. Pulse Contributors do not represent the company Pulse and contribute on their own behalf.


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