The low representation of women in political office in Nigeria is set to continue with the next set of ministers.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday sent his ministerial nominees to the Senate.
Only seven women made the list of 43, about 16 per cent. This was no different from the six women out of 42 nominees appointed by President Buhari in 2015.
The new women nominees are: Zainab Ahmed (Kaduna), a former finance minister; Paulen Talen (Plateau) a former deputy governor; ¸ Ikeazor (Anambra), the Executive Secretary of Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD); and Maryam Katagun (Bauchi), Nigeria’s Permanent Delegate to UNESCO.
Others are: Ramatu Tijjani (Kogi), former All Progressives Congress (APC) women national leader; Gbemisola Saraki (Kwara), former federal lawmaker; and Sadiya Umar Faruk (Zamfara), the Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs (NCFRMI).
Some advocates of women in politics described the development as a new height of misrepresentation when compared with the 49.4 per cent of Nigeria’s population formed by women.
“Women have once again been marginalised”, said Mercy Ayodele, a former governorship candidate in Osun State.
“The highest people that vote are women. But when it comes to sharing positions, we take the back seat. We suggested a minimum of 15 women in that list.”
There has been a visible increase in efforts towards bridging inequalities between men and women in the political space across the globe but Nigeria has kept falling short even when women constitute almost half of the voting population.
Of the 84 million registered voters in the 2019 election, women accounted for almost 40 million (47. 14 per cent).
Even with increased commitments geared towards improving female political participation ahead of this year’s polls, women still had a poor outing.
An analysis by Premium Times and the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) showed that the number of women elected to public offices in Nigeria did not increase after this year’s election. Instead, there was a decline from previous outings since the inception of the fourth republic.
A 2019 report by the International Republic Institue (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI) revealed that the Nigerian Senate has the lowest rate of women’s legislative participation in Sub-Saharan Africa.
With their poor outing at the polls, female political advocates started campaigning for appointments at the state and federal level.
“The president in setting up his next cabinet should compensate women by giving them nothing less than 35 per cent positions”, Ebere Ifendu, president Women in Politics Forum (WIPF) had said in an interview few weeks after the February 23 general elections.
“During campaigns, he went around talking about affirmative right action. He made open declaration supporting affirmative and we need to hold him to account.”
The 35 per cent Affirmation Action bill was introduced in 2017 but was rejected by the 8th National Assembly.
President Buhari had promised in his campaigns to implement the 35 per cent national gender policy in his appointments.
The policy commits to affirmative action and requires that women fill 35 per cent of elective and appointed positions.
“16.3 per cent representation is abysmal”, Ndi Kato, a 28-year-old female politician said on Tuesday. “It shows that this government has no regard for women.
“We have an abundance of qualified women and we have been advocating throughout the process of selecting ministers. The disrespect of tossing women’s request like it doesn’t matter is traumatic.”
Salma Anas-Kolo, a former Borno State commissioner for health, also expressed disappointment at the ministerial nominees’ list.
“We expected at least 35 per cent of the ministerial appointees to be women. However, I am happy with the caliber of women appointed and I wish to congratulate them.”