By Ebun Sessou, Elizabeth Uwandu & Oyetade Oluwapelumi
The belief that Nigerian politics was not only meant for the menfolk spurred Professor Remi Sonaiya to join the presidential race in 2015 under the auspices of KOWA Party.
Although she contested with the male aspirants but did not win, she was determined and diligent, not allowing the toxic political atmosphere to consume her.
She remained focused and forged ahead. Her braveness helped other female politicians who then revealed their intention to contest different positions of authority including the local governments, houses of assembly, house of representatives, senate as well as the governorship.
Unfortunately, her hope was dashed last month at the party’s presidential primaries when she lost the seat to a man.
Another scenario was that of Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Aisha Jummai Alhassan popularly known as Mama Taraba who contested for the governorship seat in 2015. She contested under the auspices of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP but lost.
She was then appointed as the Minister of Women Affairs by President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the same year. She recently resigned her position when she was accused of double standard by the party.
Sources say Mama Taraba had single- handedly financed activities of the APC in the state; but her utterances last year in respect to her preference for ex-Vice- President Atiku Abubakar had made leaders of her party at the national level to be suspicious of her movements.
She has reportedly quit the APC and picked the United Democratic Party, UDP, nomination form to contest for the Taraba governorship seat.
Alhassan, who was disqualified from seeking the APC ticket, alleged that she was dropped by the National Chairman of the APC, Mr Adams Oshiomhole.
However, the challenges women encounter as politicians cannot be glossed over. The more the women are joining the male-dominated world of Nigerian politics, the tougher and more toxic the atmosphere becomes.
Apparently, their opponents are men who feel they are better suited to the kitchen than the rough and tumble of national politics.
Why numbers are dwindling
Recently, a member of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Gudaji Kazaure, disagreed with the calls that women should be given more opportunity to participate in governance and the political process in Nigeria.
Kazaure, while speaking at the plenary, said women would ‘mess up’ the country if they are given more opportunities in the country’s political set up. Kazaure, who is representing Kazaure/Roni/Gwiwa/Yankwashi Constituency of Jigawa State said women are already in charge of the homes and should not aspire to rule the country.
Speaking on the challenges of women in politics, Mrs Toluwani Oyejo explained that the reason women lose in politics is that people already have opinions about them, making it difficult to make a headway.
Oyejo lamented that women hardly participate in politics because they are financially incapacitated.
According to her: “This is more evident during elections as most women would not have enough money to spend on fliers, posters, T-shirts and other things that will be needed for a successful election. Another reason is that there are influential men also contesting for the same position as the women, and will do anything possible to win such positions.
“A pathetic scenario is that most husbands are not always comfortable when their wives are actively involved in politics, so they do not give their approval. This usually discourages them from going into politics because they are scared of losing their marriage.
Women are often victims of rape, molestation, sexual harassment and other social vices. So why would they go into politics when they are aware of all these vices?”
In her view, Mrs Biobele Adebule, Chapter President of the Women wing, Anglican Communion, Ibadan, Oyo State explained that women are more pompous and arrogant when they are at the helm of affairs. “It is time to stop all the pride, envy and hatred for women and we should support each other so that we can achieve our goals. There is nothing impossible with God.
In his opinion, Mr. Destiny Duru noted that women are always unfit to handle leadership positions, especially when men are involved.
Mr. Segun Adubi also lamented that women are their own enemies. According to him: “Women do not support themselves in politics and that is why they cannot go far especially in Nigerian politics.” He also said that women cannot play the rough and dirty game in Nigerian politics.
Mr. Adubi further explained that most women, according to research, do not know how to set agenda for themselves. They do not know that it is important to understand the terrain before taking decision on a position. “Short-term plan can mar your agenda, therefore it is important to start early,” he said.
On leadership, Mrs Adebule said: “If you want to be a leader, you have to act like one. Constantly downplaying your contributions shows you are reactive, not proactive. Always give credit where it’s due, and this includes crediting yourself too,” she said.
Implications for the future
Some of the trends thwarting female candidates are unlikely to change anytime soon. Popular incumbents will continue to be difficult to unseat in reelection campaigns, and more than 95 per cent of the world’s incumbent leaders are men.
Speaking on what the future holds for the women, Princess Olashade Olabanji-Oba said women have been relegated politically adding that power is not served a-la-carte.
“We need more women not just as mouthpieces nor for making noise but women that are passionately ready to serve and not be discouraged no matter how tough politics is in Nigeria. Women need to sacrifice for the future generation. Nigeria will be great and women must make sure they are part of its greatness,” she said.
According to her: “Women are built for the world to grow. And so, it is impossible for a nation to grow without identifying the role of women. When you build a woman, you are building the future of the nation,” she maintained. While imploring women to occupy their rightful positions in politics, she noted that their active involvement would make male politicians to respect them. The princess charged women to ensure they raise their wards to be the best in the country, adding that only the best can influence the nation positively.