By Gift Olivia Samuel, The Sight News
ABUJA: As the 2019 electoral cycle comes to a close, the joint observation mission of the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI), have ranked Nigeria lowest in the representation of women in national Legislative office of any country on the continent.
This is as they also noted that this representation will likely fall below five percent following the February 23 National Assembly vote.
The NDI/IRI joint international observer delegation made these known in Abuja on Monday, in a preliminary statement on Nigeria’s March 9, elections.
The delegation which was co-led by Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, Senior Associate and Regional Director for Central and West Africa (NDI) and John Tomaszewski, Regional Director for Africa (IRI), stated that the record is not one that Nigeria should be proud of.
“There were very few women in winning positions on the tickets fielded by major political parties for the gubernatorial and state House of Assembly polls”, stated John Tomaszewski. “Despite being Africa’s largest democracy, Nigeria has the lowest representation of women in national Legislative office of any country on the continent”.
While stating that the percentage of women candidates running for governor and deputy governor increased slightly this year from 6 and 17 percent respectively in 2015 to 8 and 26 percent, he noted however, that the two major parties did not field any women candidates for governor.
According to him, “Additionally, of the 276 women running for deputy governor, only five were candidates from APC or PDP. Similarly, of the nearly 1,900 women running for state House of Assembly seats, only 75 are from the APC and PDP.
“As was the case for the February 23 National elections, the vast majority of women candidates for state-level elections ran on the tickets of newly created parties, with little prospect of winning elected office”.
The joint mission faulted the Nigerian government for not yet applying the 35 percent affirmative action principles included in the 2006 National Gender Policy, adding that the National Assembly has repeatedly missed opportunities to adopt legislations that would support greater participation of women in politics as the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill has been before the National Assembly since 2010.While giving the NDI/IRI mission recommendation to Nigeria, the Senior Associate and Regional Director for Central and West Africa (NDI) Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, called on the Executive branch of government to adopt and apply measures to achieve the 35 percent affirmative action for women in both elective and appointive posts as envisioned in the 2006 National Gender Policy.
He charged the National Assembly to prioritize legislations that would promote women’s leadership and political participation, notably by the adoption of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill.
He further called on the political parties to urgently strengthen mechanisms for internal democracy, especially to encourage leadership of women and youth.
To the Civil Society, Fomunyoh said, “Drawing upon lessons learned from the #NotTooYoungToRun campaign and the passage of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, create a broad-based coalition and aggressively champion coordinated advocacy efforts to increase the political participation of women”.
The NDI/IRI mission called on Nigeria to claim, protect, and defend their democracy and respect the rights of fellow citizens to participate peacefully in the political process, adding that meaningful democratic progress can only be achieved if Nigerians continue to champion their Civic duties and responsibilities.
They further called for a national conversation on progress made and vulnerabilities in the just concluded 2019 general elections in Nigeria, to further strengthen the credibility of electoral processes and safeguard the country’s democracy.