The face of politics in Nigeria has and continues to be male. Brutishly male, older and viciously stagnant. With a significantly minute representation of women in both low and top tiers of government, the necessary diverse edge our democracy should carry, keeps getting frayed at by this inequality.
In the 2019 general election, only 763 women vied for the 6,563 seats in both the House of Senate and House of Representatives. This is taking into consideration the high level of women’s participation in several electoral activities at the grassroots level. An interrogatory piece published in the Premium Times reports that “While women make up 47 per cent of registered voters for the 2019 elections, only eight percent were cleared to vie for electoral positions in today’s presidential elections.”
Our country like many others run concurrently with a toxic yet deeply ingrained patriarchal system, that subconsciously/actively positions men as viable candidates for highly placed roles in government. And so, to have this gender disparity prominently featured in government isn’t as surprising as it is disturbing.
When the representation of a certain demographic is minimal or largely occupied by persons who simply aren’t members of that demographic, it not only brings about a discord in the protection of interests, but could lead to misrepresentation and as is often the case in Nigeria, neglect of said demographic.
From the financial inequality that affects women’s abilities to access several opportunities made easy for their male counterparts, to the sexist sentiments that bloom into stymies for women who make attempts to go into government, vying for political positions as a woman, has been shown to be difficult and futile.
But with feminism and the autonomy of women entering and making permanent homes in some of our most important conversations today, Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s appointment of two new female commissioners and some female permanent secretaries to a government that already has its fair share of women in places of authority (his deputy governor Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe for one), is in itself a healthy move. For a northern state at least.
While the inclusion of women in authoritative positions is relatively possible with other parts of the country, the northern part of the country has stronger Islamic footings, that often bar women from participating in non-domestic activities in the society.
The newly appointed commissioners Amina Baloni and Hafsat Baba who were sworn in on Monday 2 December, would head Kaduna state’s Ministry of health, as well as the Ministry of human services and social development respectively.
Representation is essential. Women being in government is even more crucial and although our political frame needs a more detailed brushing, which would ensure more women get financially, socially and morally encouraged to run for offices, we hope to see more of this happening.
Nelson C.J is a culture writer with works in The New York Times, Xtra Magazine, OkayAfrica, Black Youth Project, AfroPunk, and a few other spaces. You can find him saving dog pictures on Twitter.