WOMEN AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION IN NIGERIA

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WOMEN AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION IN NIGERIA.A CASE STUDY OF OBIO AKPOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF RIVER STATE

Abstract

This study investigates the factors that limit women’s participation in Nigeria’s politics using as a case study, the period between 1999 and 2007, with emphasis on Rivers States. Among these factors are socioeconomic development, the country’s cultural heritage, historical legacies and institutional designs.
The study engages both primary and secondary sources, including field survey, personal interviews and questionnaire. A total of 200 women were selected from Rivers States through simple random sampling for the administration of the questionnaires.
The study reveals that the patriarchal system and male domination of the society, which relegates women to subordinate role, has created women’s inferiority complex and alienated them from the mainstream politics in Nigeria. The Nigerian political culture ofthuggery and gangsterismhas made the political terrain too dangerous for most women to venture into mainstream politics. Besides, the stigmatization of women politicians by fellow women discourages the political participation of the former while religious beliefs and institutional arrangements that restrict women to family responsibilities in the country coupled with lack of decisive affirmative action to encourage women’s political participation, have created a legacy that limit women’s political participation in Rivers State.
Consequently, the study emphasizes the need to address those factors that entrench women subordination in Nigeria’s politics. These include, among others, the reformation of all religious, statutory and customary laws and practices that perpetuate women’s subordination in the country and the explicit specifications and modalities of affirmative actions on women’s political participation and clear guidelines for implementations in the Nigeria constitution.

CHAPTER ONE /INTRODUCTION

1.1. Background to the Study

Woman as a person is an agent of reproduction of life itself. This places her in the position of the life blood of the entire humanity. She is the first teacher, the sustainer and maintainer of the home, the peacemaker, the symbol of beauty and major molder of the character of a child. It is for these reasons that the Holy Bible referred to her as the virtuous woman. She is a mother of the human race. As mothers and wives, women do extent considerable impact on the productivity of male workers. By their sheer psychological, physiological and intellectual makeup, they do perform more than mere complimentary roles in the production process (Jeminiwa, 1995).
Over the decades, the issues concerning women have taken on new dimension and received varied treatment by the United Nations and its specialized agencies. The principle of equality of men and women was recognized in the United Nations charter in 1945 and subsequently in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The contributions made by women had not been recognized until recently when the United Nations declared the Decade for Women (1976-1985) making it mandatory on governments to focus on issue of women as an integral component of national development. This is because the development of a nation and establishment of a just, equitable balanced, viable, healthy and prosperous society depends to a large extent on the full and active participation of women in the political deliberation and key economic activities of that nation, beyond the window dressing of featuring in the fanfare at political rallies and similar events.
Many global conferences, including the Cairo conference in Population and Development in 1994, the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 and the world Summit for Social development in1995 have recognized that, despite the progress made globally in improving status of women, gender disparities still exist, especially in regard to participation in electoral politics. The situation in Nigeria is not different despite being a signatory in these conferences. Democracy presupposes a pluralistic system that is all-inclusive. However, Nigeria politics is predominantly politics of men. Men dominate the political arena, formulate the rules of the political game and define the standards for evaluation.
Rivers State being the study area has been ruled and dominated by men in all the arms of government and has never had a female Governor since its creation till date. Less than 20 women have emerged as ward councilors in the 23 Local Government Areas of Rivers State between 1999 to 2014. Appointment of a female justice of the state for the first time brought about a feud that is holding the entire judiciary to a standstill as at the time of this documentation. Political life is based on male norms and values and in some cases even male lifestyle. Charles de Gaulle once said “politics is too serious a business to be left in the hands of politicians”. According to Adedotun (2010), if Charles de Gaulle were alive, he would offer a revised version of his oft-quoted maxim for Nigeria, “Politics is too serious a business to be left solely in the hands of men”. In Nigeria, politics is presumed to be a man’s turf, where No Woman Needs Apply (NWNA)-an unspoken slogan reminiscent of the discrimination against Irish nationals in 19th Century Britain.
This unwritten rule is one that only a small percentage of the female population has defined
successfully with reference to the controversial census conducted in 2006. It is ironic that women are systemically excluded from participating in the process in Nigeria and elsewhere. It is therefore, arguable that addressing the issues surrounding women’s inclusion in political life is a key to the emergency of an economically and sustainable society.

1.2. Statement of the Problem

Regardless of the progress made by women in such areas as education, the professions and employment, the women still remain largely excluded from the mainstream of political activities of most societies including Rivers State, Nigeria. Even with the resolution made at Beijing women conference of 1995, that thirty percent of all elective offices be reserved for women, women are yet to come into politics in Nigeria. Women participation in grass-root politic has been only in the fringes. Yet when it is time for politics, women are mobilized to vote. Women are considered only good for fanfares for political rallies – dressed up for singing, dancing and clapping, after which they are given insignificant gift items like bags of rice and its condiments, wrappers, etc to share. Women are only seen but not heard in the political arena. Therefore, it is against this backdrop the study set to study Women And Political Participation In Nigeria. A Case Study Of Obio Akpor Local Government Area Of River State

1.3 Research Questions

The research questions for this study are as follows:

  1. What are the barriers to women participation in Rivers State grass-root politics?
  2. To what extent has women participation in Rivers State grass-root politics influenced community development?

1.4 Objectives of the Study

The objectives of this study are to:

  • Identify the barriers to women participation in Rivers State grass-root
  1. Determine the extent women participation in Rivers State grass-root politics has influenced community

1.5 Significant of the Study

The dismal participation of women in Nigeria’s politics following the country’s return to democracy in 1999 has brought into new focus, questions about the factors hindering women’s political participation in the country. Nine years (1999 – 2007) after the transfer of power from the military regime to a civilian democratic administration, women still remain at the side-line of Nigeria’s politics, hence the need to undertake a study of factors militating against women’s involvement in the mainstream of the country’s politics. This therefore makes the study both timely and significant. A detailed analysis of this phenomenon will help contribute to the sparse knowledge in this area.
The research will equally be beneficial to NGOs, scholars and government agencies on gender related issues such as Inter-parliamentary Union, United Nations’ Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) Committee for the Elimination of all form of Discriminations against Women (CEDAW) as it will aid them in their search for gender equality. In addition, the suggestions and recommendations that will be proffered in this study will help improve the level of political participation of women in Nigeria particularly Rivers States.
Finally, this work will be useful to scholars who wish to carry out further research on women and political participation in Nigeria as the materials of the study will be of great importance for their enquiries.

1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study

This study focused primarily on Women political participation in Nigeria. The study areas are Rivers State of Nigeria, though the historical background to women’s political participation in the country is relevant to the study in order to bring out the stages of women’s marginalization in Nigeria’s politics.  The study dealt extensively on the factors responsible for poor political participation of women in Rivers State. This study is limited in several ways. First and foremost, the study of women’s political participation in Nigeria is limited to Rivers State because of the inability to visit other parts of the country due to time factor and financial constraints. However, results from findings of this research may be replicated for women’s political participation in Nigeria as a whole.

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