In the northern regions of Nigeria, a concerning trend has emerged in recent years – the dwindling representation of women in elective positions, particularly in the legislative arena. Analysts point to a complex web of factors, including religion, culture, and the monetization of politics, as key contributors to this trend.
One prominent figure highlighting this issue is Aisha Dukku, who once served in the House of Representatives as a formidable representative of the Dukku Constituency in Gombe. During her tenure, she sponsored a critical bill, the Federal College of Education for Girls, aimed at addressing challenges faced by girls in the North, including child marriage. Aisha aspired to return to the House to further advance this cause. However, her bid faltered, often attributed to the male-dominated political landscape.
Amina Haruna-Abdul, a gender expert, voiced her concerns about Aisha Dukku’s situation and stated that women in politics often face the stifling perception that they should be “seen, not heard.” This prevailing attitude significantly hinders their progress.
The dearth of female representation appears even more pronounced in northern Nigeria. In the February 25, 2023 National Assembly elections, out of 469 total members across both chambers, only seven were women from the North. Notably, Ireti Kingibe was the sole female senator, representing the Federal Capital Territory. In the House of Representatives, only six out of 13 female members hailed from the North.
At the state level, the situation remains challenging. Across the 36 states, there are only 48 female lawmakers out of 988 state Assembly seats. Alarmingly, only 17 of these are in the North.
Despite women constituting approximately 47.5% of registered voters in the 2023 elections, their electoral success remains disproportionately low. Women who did secure seats mainly did so in southern states, with significant gaps in representation in northern states.
Several factors contribute to this situation, including the role of religion, culture, and financial constraints. In many cases, religious and cultural norms discourage women from actively participating in politics. These norms often discourage mingling between men and women, a crucial aspect of political campaigns. Additionally, political campaigns in Nigeria are increasingly expensive, making it difficult for economically disadvantaged women to compete effectively.
Efforts to address this gender imbalance have encountered significant challenges. Proposals for special seats for women in national and state Assemblies, aimed at increasing female representation, have faced opposition. Despite the nation’s commitment to gender equality, progress has been slow in translating this into political representation.
The situation in the North highlights the urgent need for broader societal change, including addressing gender discrimination in political parties and the disproportionate financial burden on female candidates. Many believe that legislative measures, such as quotas for women in political offices, may be necessary to address these disparities effectively.
As the voices of women in politics grow stronger, there is hope that Nigeria can move toward a more equitable and inclusive political landscape, where women can play a more prominent role in shaping the nation’s future.