Allocating Seats to Women Vis-A-Vis the Legal and Socioeconomic Realities in Nigeria

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By Ayomide Oyelade

The quest for some seats in the Legislature and Executive branches of government to be specially apportioned to women arose due to the wide marginal difference between the number of men and women in government across the country. In the National Assembly for instance, just seven out of the one hundred and nine senators are women while about eleven out of the three hundred and sixty honorable members of the House of Representatives are women. Anyone that expects a divergence in the Executive or Judicial branches would be sorely disappointed. This is because presently; there is no female governor and just four female deputy governors in the whole of the thirty six states in the country.

It is on this premise that some exhorted that to bridge the huge proportional imbalance in the number of men to women in government, some seats should be allocated and circumscribed to the womenfolk. However, this suggestion prompts another conundrum of whether this step would not create another challenge in the future. I think the right methodology in tackling this deficiency is to probe the factors that caused the issue in the first place and through that, a possible solution should emerge.

A question that might readily creep into any unobservant mind is ‘why should there be a search for a new solution? This is because the proposition brought forward is highly defective and inimical to our society. Firstly, clamouring for allocation of seats for women is discriminatory and prejudical to the male in the society and one of the vices expressly proscribed and outlawed by the constitution is discrimination. Section 15 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 states that “the Motto of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress; accordingly, national integrity shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited. Section 42 of the same constitution also contains a similar provision.

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Also weighing the socioeconomic effect of such a move, it is imprudent to create more seats in government because of the huge cost of governance in Nigeria. It is unthinkable that while people are clamoring for reduction and merging of offices so as to cut down the high cost of funding the government which is adversely affecting the economy of the nation, some are vehemently pressing for more restricted and special seat, a move that is likely to further drain and sink the economy of the country.

Just as I stated above, I feel the right approach in tackling the hydra-headed problem of low numbers of women in government, we should fixate our contemplation on the causes of this issue. First of all is the religious and traditional bias in the mind of most people against women occupying positions of power. It is glaring that our society is patriarchal in nature and it is no gainsaying to state that anyone strictly adhering to the tenets of either the Bible or Quran would support the notion of the supremacy of man over woman. This ideology alone impels and stimulates most people’s behaviors and they regard each gender in the society.

Secondly, the expenses of contesting for election in Nigeria is very high to afford even to the average common man and this fact alone is responsible for the tendencies of godfatherism and electoral maladies that is prevalent in our political scene. Majority of women, most of whom are domiciliary or non working housewives highly dependent on their husbands, might not be able to afford the cost of contesting for elections.

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Rather than demanding for special seats for women, anyone that is genuine with the call for inclusion of more women in government can organize sensitization programs, events or symposia to encourage and motivate women to contest political position, by doing so, they can break the jinx and correct the impression in the mind of most men and prove to the world that men are not in anyway better than women and that the effectiveness of a person is not dependent on gender. Also, there should be an intense call for reduction and possible limit of the amount of expenses a candidate should pay when vying for political positions. This will increase the likelihood of more women contesting and winning elections and it will also reduce the influence of money in elections. These will be a lasting panacea to the problem instead of approbating special seats for women.

Ayomide Oyelade is a law undergraduate poet, astute advocate and orator and writer from University of Benin.  

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