Of Gender Parity and Prerogative in Nigerian Politics – Terinwa Adesipo

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For most of history, humanity has had to hurdle passed many challenges, gridlocks and even warfare. At some point the battle is lost, at some other, the battle is won, and at some, the battle is not really lost neither is it won. These are the unstable and unpredictable moment that has, is and will continue to define our uncommon universe.

But it should be noted that it is not failure when the battle is lost, sometimes, suffering defeat is the much needed strength and motivation needed to conquer in the next challenge. For those who understand the evolution and revolution of existence, they would strongly agree that the real gambit behind the progress of humanity is inextricably entangled between the Siamese twins of loosing and winning. In this world, progression is the bride of both brothers.

Of course, in our own world, certain critical decisions must be made before progress can be attained.  But all individuals cannot be at the helms of affairs neither can all and sundry be empowered to rule. Hence, the underlying rationale behind the existence of assorted governmental framework which exists to resolves how the people interact and interconnect with their leaders. To this end, diverse society adopted -while some only adapted to- a framework that best befit them. With this adoption also came such concept such as the ruler and the ruled. Between these classes of persons, a ruling must be reached. But the means and manner in which the ruling is attained greatly differs in each society.

The ancient Greek state is widely observed as the fountain of democratic government, although prominently renowned for this, it was also well identified with such other form of government such as Monarchy, Oligarchy and Tyranny. At different times and places, these assorted frameworks were tested, employed and embraced. But it was at Athens, that such governmental framework where the ruled are fully involved in making cardinal decisions with regards the affairs of their state, and also determines who wears the crown first received such romantic affection of a Prince charming. It was then christened, Athenian Democracy.

But just like many other things, this governmental framework was also escorted with the imperfections of immaturity at its infancy stage. At this inception, only adult males who had completed their military training had the right to vote and make cardinal decisions in the affairs of their state. In this era, such thing such as Universal adult suffrage was perhaps still a Fetus. Therefore, women had limited rights, segregated from men and were even denied the right to be a partaker in decision making process even during crunch time. And even among men, this right to vote was limited and restricted.

In the long list of those who attacked this deficiency that robed Athenian Democracy in its unripe age were the Inscrutable Socrates, dialectical Plato, peripatetic Aristotle and even the notable Greek Playwright Aristophanes. Whilst for some like Thucydides, he could not just dream up the fact that the common people could possibly rule justly, for others like Plato and Aristotle, they saw it as a manifestly unjust system which supports the numerically predominant poor in oppressing and suppressing the rich. Also such rejection bestowed on it was also somewhat attributed to what was considered as the unfair trial and execution of the great Socrates. It was to such happenings that Samons concluded that “any majority, including the majority of jurors- is unlikely to choose rightly”.

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Defining what he considered to be the greatest defect of Athenian Democracy, Takis Fotopulous; stated that “the final failure of Athenian Democracy was not due, as it is usually inserted by its critics, to the innate contradictions of democracy itself, but on the fact that Athenian Democracy never matured to become an inclusive democracy”. But this is only the mask; the real masquerade itself is the fact that, a new born baby does not possibly become an adult at birth. And as such, democracy as we have it today was and could never really have been handed down on a silver platter.

In such age, the concept of Universal Adult suffrage was widely unknown and perhaps rejected in all human society. In those days and time, some thread in the societal fabric – such as women and slaves- were wrongly considered unworthy in designing and sewing the societal attire. For many years, this was the status of things. It was only much later on that diverse society understood, appreciated and embraced an all-inclusive franchise.

Times sure changes everything. In this current era, many societies are now breaking away from the shackles of such unhelpful creed that discriminatorily classifies a gender as strong and deserving of power and the other as weak and thereby unbefitting to rule and partake in cardinal decision making processes. They are now employing and embracing a political realm where every gender matters. This also essentially includes the aspect of aspiration for political powers.

In Nigeria, not so much affection has been bestowed on this progressive ideology. According to a 2018 statistics by the National Bureau of Statistics, only 5.6% women have been elected into the National parliament ever since the country’s transition to civilian rule in 1999, while the remaining 94.71% have been men. Whilst this current realism in Nigeria which can be likened to the era of unripe democracy in Ancient Greece is wrongly attributed to women’s parochialism in Nigerian politics, it should be noted that the real McCoy rationale behind this is the brutal structure, persons and the way the game of politics is played in Nigeria.

From the Shackles of Godfatherism, to manifold political intimidation, to desperate political jobbers and also the barbaric state of Nigerian politics, nothing more could have better discouraged the involvement of Women from the Nigerian Political terrain. Although there are certain categories of person who posit insubstantial excuses that Women are yellow bellied and as such cannot play, neither should they be allowed to hold political powers. I would rather like to believe this is a stale although apparently incoherent joke.

 For these believers, it should be presumed that they are either too juvenile to understand or too uniformed to be aware about Amazons such as the Iron Lady of Britain; Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, and even in our day and age, Jacinda Ardern and also the Almighty Angela Merkel. For the other set of believers who impossibly justify this Gender discrimination of women in Nigeria politics by dishing out outdated and disjointed excuse of how their culture “abominates” the rule and leadership of women, it is only meet to refresh their memory about personalities such as Moremi Ajasoro; Queen Amina of Zazzau, Ahebi Ughabe among diverse others who have exhibited unequaled bravery, save their people in times of great trouble and are now idolized and worshiped centuries after their exit from this universe. For this set of people, they must be made to understand that not only are this excuses which they posit watery, they are also barbaric.

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 Since the country fares abysmally low in the aspect of promotion of gender prerogative in its political life, it becomes puzzling when some persons grumble about the underdevelopment and somewhat national stagnancy that defines the country today. This is because how possible is it to expect life in an atmosphere rigged with the combinative elements of Carbon monoxide and dioxide?

Aptly describing this retrogressive inequality of Gender discrimination in Nigerian Politics,  the National Bureau of Statistics in 2016 define this inequality as ” an albatross, which often impacts negatively on women’s political, economic and social opportunities”. From a deep observation, denying a person the right to make cardinal decisions -whether at the helms of affairs or not- is just another way of subjecting and suppressing such persons to the whims of oppression.

It has been said on innumerable times that only he who wears the shoe understand where it pinches. In this light, how can vital and critical decisions that affect women thereby be fully decided by those who are not of this gender. If as widely observed, human right is the life and soul of humanity, how possible can we lay claim to been existent in a country where all we have is a facade of Gender –and even other fundamental- rights?

In addressing this synthetic malady, the popular adage of two heads are better than one should be functionally employed in the Country. On this note, every gender that makes up the Nigerian populace must be allowed equal participation in government. When this is in place, it won’t be long before the copulation of the intellectualities of both genders put to bed a progressive framework that will channel the country swiftly to its promise land. Quintessentially, such custom and culture which relegates women to the back seat must be swiftly abandoned and henceforth considered abominable and illegal.

In the attainment of this great aspiration, the indispensable weapon of qualitative education cannot be neglected. To this end, the girl child who is denied qualitative education because of such barbaric believe that the only future she has lays in either the kitchen or the market place must be exigently brought to an end. Every girl just like their male counterparts must necessarily be armed with the weapon of education. With such empowerment, they can successfully battle any form of discouragement and discrimination that barricades their way to fulfilling their potential not only in the political sphere but in every aspect of life.

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As an important addendum, it should be noted that this gender parity cannot be attained when we embrace and enforce laws which ridiculously preach against equality of genders in the country. Laws in every society should be the fountain and foundation of progressive ideals such as this and not the other way round. In this light, such laws which guarantee equal educational opportunity for both male and female must be birthed, protected and promoted while those that antagonize such must be exterminated without delay.

Although the time is once again fast changing and those things which were once considered strange and abominable in diverse societies are becoming accepted and affixed with the mark of legality. Until such times when these controversial issues are finally resolved on the continent, it might be hard to foretell where the story will end. But for now, franchise should not be impossibly dissected; those who possess the right to vote must also be empowered with the right to be voted for. This is the only way the arithmetic of active and passive suffrage can possibly produce progression. The insubstantial not to say incoherent ideology that a woman cannot lead the country ought to have been dislodged in our time and age. Certainly, those who also believe that women must be restricted to the “other room” must advocate the same for men before their allocutus can be heard at all.

In my own view, it is only meet that those genders whose rights are not recognized and protected should be immune and discharged from carrying out civic duties such as paying taxes and even obeying the law in such countries. This is because only those who are recognized should be involved. Since rights create duties, its non-enforcement should therefore destroy any form of obligation. When this is therefore not the realism, we must expect disastrous consequences for promoting such inequality. This is therefore another challenge for humanity, but whether in this we will conquer or be conquered once again lays in our actions and in actions. In my own view, whatsoever is good for the gander should also be good for the goose.

 Terinwa Adesipo Wrote from Lagos State University

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