Is Nigeria Ready for a Female President?
The state of gender equality in politics will forever remain a contentious issue. Despite the subtle rise of women in the political sphere, figures still remain unconvincing. In such a male-dominated and orientated political culture we must ask ourselves, will Nigeria ever see the day she is ready for a female President?
Rwanda, Malawi, Liberia and the Central African Republic are the only four African nations that have had a female head of state. Indeed, Africa does not fair so badly regarding the percentage of female representation in politics compared to other parts of the world. According to the official figures released by the World Bank, nations such as Rwanda and Senegal ranked an impressive first and sixth place respectively regarding the percentage of women involved in politics.
Rwanda’s inter-parliamentary union has a female majority, as 64% of its members are women. Figures from the West African nation, Senegal, are just as promising with 42% female representation in Parliament. Such statistics place African nations far ahead of European nations and the United States. According to the UN, as of 2014 the US ranked 23rdwith respects to the number of women in secretarial positions. The United Kingdom fared even worse at 54thplace. However, if other African nations are pioneering the way for gender equality in politics can the same be said for Nigeria?
Surprisingly, Nigeria does not rank too poorly regarding percentage of women in ministerial political positions. In fact, Nigeria ranks highly above European nations such as France and the United Kingdom at a respectable 34thplace. The Nigerian government has women in key roles, such as Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Minister of Finance and Diezani K. Alison-Madueke as Minister of Petroleum. Such women, frequently interviewed by the likes of CNN and ABC, serve as good PR for Nigeria. They are articulate and well informed and serve as symbols of the nation’s will to put women in key leadership roles. However, do such women solely serve as a smoke screen to conceal the real issue – that women are severely underrepresented and disrespected in Nigerian politics.
It appears women in Nigerian politics are put off by the hostile, chauvinistic and male dominated culture that reigns supreme in the Nigerian House of Representatives. Indeed, Nigeria is infamously known worldwide for the explosive and violent fights that break out during National Assembly meetings. Such unacceptable and aggressive behaviour only fuels the idea that the Nigerian House of Representatives is not a place for women – but an explosive den for hot-headed men.
Despite the prominence of women such as Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the reality remains that women are, simply put, underrepresented in Nigerian politics. The reluctance of women to participate in such an intimidating and chauvinistic political climate is evident by the shockingly low numbers of women putting themselves forward for the 2015 elections. According to the former PDP Leader, Iyom Josephine Anenih, the figures for women elected to top positions in light of the high numbers that campaigned during the 2011 elections were abysmal. Anenih describes women as being so discouraged by the failure of the 2011 election that they are dissuaded to put themselves forward for the upcoming election in 2015.
Sadly, the prospects for women in the private sphere are no better. It is thought that approximately a half to two thirds of all women in Nigeria will endure domestic violence during their lives – making Nigeria one of the worst African nations when it comes to domestic violence. According to Amnesty International’s Stephane Mikala, “On a daily basis, Nigerian women are beaten, raped and even murdered by members of their family for supposed transgressions, which can range from not having meals ready on time to visiting family members without their husband’s permission,” she adds that, “Tragically, husbands, partners and fathers are responsible for most of the violence against these women.”
If women have no dominance, power or control in the home can we truly expect them to implement authority in the political sphere?
The day when Nigeria will see a female President is arguably far off. With a government that recently legalised the abhorrent right of men to marry underage girls. A government that attempted to turn a blind eye to the kidnapping of over 200 girls. A government that makes no concrete effort to protect women from rape or violence. Can we truly expect this same government, that does not respect an entire sex, to be led by it?