The “forgotten” women
By far the silliest comment made about President Muhammed Buhari (PMB) since he assumed office is that the gender imbalance in ministerial nominees is a result of his problems in relating with women.
In a quite extraordinary development an individual called Mr Gideon Samani, who falsely claimed to a Senior Special Assistant on Political Matters, said that PMB is used to dealing only with men and is “very shy dealing with the opposite sex”.
Even though not every silly statement should be taken seriously, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President Mr. Femi Adesina took it upon himself to reply and debunk this nonsensical claim in a statement which called Samani an imposter.
According to Adesina the position of Senior Special Assistant (Political Matters) doesn’t even exist at this point in time! Never the less the list of ministerial nominees and the manner of their screening leaves a lot to be desired. The televised confirmation proceedings made the whole thing look like a pointless exercise.
It’s become abundantly clear that screening nominees with no prior knowledge of their portfolios makes no sense whatsoever. That aside, the poor representation of women is noticeable and has brought about a clamor for more of them to be appointed as Ministers of the Federal Republic whenever the cabinet is reshuffled.
This case for more women is understandable. In the last administration 31% of the Ministers were women but disappointingly there are only six of them on the list of the 36 ministerial nominees. This represents only 16% women’s participation in the Federal Executive Council (FEC). Some commentators mistakenly put this down to PMB’s religious beliefs.
However it is sheer bunkum to suggest that devout Moslems have an aversion to women in positions of power. The two largest Moslem nations in the world are Indonesia and Pakistan, both of which have elected women (Mewgawati Sukanooputri and Benazir Bhutto) with political power at the highest levels and elected them into leadership of their national governments.
The notion that there are only six women in the whole country qualified and capable of being Ministers is just silly. It is disappointing, worrying and even annoying that fewer women are being appointed to positions in National politics. During the election campaign the All Progressives Congress (APC) promised to implement the national gender policy which firmly commits to affirmative action and requires that women fill 35% of all appointed positions.
Despite this promise the quite disturbing trend where the representation of women in positions of political leadership is declining continues. The global average is 22.5% and increasing steadily. Unfortunately in Nigeria it’s the opposite. In 2007 the National Assembly comprised 9% women, but in 2011 the figure fell to 7%. Worse still only a measly 4% of local government councilors are women.
The reasons for the dearth of women in politics range from the ridiculous amounts of money required to run a political campaign to our inherent prejudice against women in position of political power. The number two role that women play in the domestic environment has been carried into the political sphere.
Although their role as home makers should not be downplayed, there is no doubt that Nigerian women have the potentials and rights to contribute meaningfully to our national development by attaining the highest political offices. The truth is most Nigerian men tend to believe that successful women are a threat to their husbands and society at large.
Indeed one female aspirant for the post of State Governor was asked at a question and answer session whether it was because she controls her husband in the house, that she now wanted to control other men outside! Nigerian men are traditionally chauvinistic and believe that decision making is their exclusive right. As far as they are concerned women should simply await instruction on what to do!
Conveniently forgetting the likes of Dora Akinluyi they point to the ignoble roles of so many women who have held high office since 1999 as reason why women should be restrained from holding important or sensitive portfolios. There is no denying that women who were appointed into positions of power merely to fill the “Bejing Quota” did nothing of note to uplift the status of women in general.
The creation of the National Commission for Women and a ministerial portfolio for Women’s Affairs was expected to promote women related issues and enhance their role in national development, but these represented only a tokenism which was never far reaching enough to achieve any real impact on gender equality.
Over the years Nigerian women have been increasingly relegated to the background in public life and politics. In the past they used to be mainly involved in agriculture, nursing, and primary education but the situation is gradually changing.
Three male dominated professional associations - the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) have all elected women presidents in recent times.
In order to maintain impetus it’s vital that gender analysis becomes an integral tool of economic analysis, project design and project monitoring. On their own part, rather than expect sympathy from anyone, Nigerian women must adjust their mentality towards winning.
They should not allow the past frustrations of others and male prejudice to discourage them. If they really want to use their ability and qualifications to fulfill their aspirations and ambitions Nigerian women must fight prejudice, cast away timidity, exude confidence and express enlightened boldness rather than depend on quota systems.