The number of Nigerian women actively engaged in politics keeps increasing. Active participation by such amazons means better representation for women. However, it may be years before Nigerians – men and even women- would trust women vying for political offices enough to vote them into power.
Nigerians went to the polls on March 28, 2015, to elect who would lead and legislate for Africa’s most populous black nation for the next four years.
In one of the most highly contested presidential elections since the nation embraced democracy, again, in 1999, the presidential contest pitches the incumbent, President Jonathan Goodluck of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against a retired general, General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Although the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has extended the elections for another day, there is a general sense of optimism in the continued fairness and transparency with which the elections are being conducted. And, that is a good thing given the unnecessary tension in the run-up to the election.
In Lagos, the nation’s economic capital, Festac Town precisely, where I registered to vote, the election was peaceful, fair and transparent.
The polling booths of the three units I monitored were fairly accessible to Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). Security personnel’s, although sparse, could be seen observing the proceedings.
Officials of INEC arrived at about 9:00am bearing accreditation as well as voting materials.
Of the 734 persons registered to vote at the polling booth where I registered, only 230 were accredited, 8 persons had minor issues were asked to fill out incident forms before they were allowed to cast their votes, totalling 238 persons who voted.
There was a lot of excitement as voting officially commenced. Akamu Rama Mohammed, a visually impaired senior citizen was accompanied to the polling booth and assisted by his son in casting his votes. He said, “I am excited about this election and being allowed to vote. Four years ago, I voted by myself because I could still see, I was worried they would not allow me vote this time because I brought my son to help me.”
Speaking on his hopes on the outcome of the elections, he continues “The doctors say I have cataract and I need to operate it so that I can see again. I do not have the money. I pray the outcome of this election provides free medical services so that I can see again.”
Women Showed Up In Their Throngs
Very prominent amongst the electorate here were women of all ages.
Not only did they arrive promptly at about 8:00am for their accreditation, they stayed to vote and waited until their votes were counted at about 7:00pm before leaving the polling unit.
Helen, an 18 year old girl who voted for the first time yesterday was all smiles. “I feel important, I feel powerful. I have a say in my future. I am seeking admission into the university; I came out to vote because I do not want to experience ASUU strike when I get into the university.”
The ruling party, PDP got 127 votes; the major opposition party, APC got 87 votes while Kowa party, the only political party with a woman running for the office of the president received just 2 votes in the presidential polls.
12 women and 8 men whom I chose randomly to interview all expressed their respect and admiration for Prof. Remi Sonaiya, the KOWA Party’s presidential candidate, although they did not vote for her. When I asked them why they did not vote for her, the men’s responses were similar “How can a woman say she wants to lead a country? What does that turn her husband and men into?”
The women said they did not trust her with such responsibility even though she seems capable. One reported “Something is just wrong with the picture… a woman ruling a nation.”
Women’s Bias Towards Women In Politics
Women, not trusting other woman whom they hitherto agreed has all the right qualities of a good leader with the task of leading a nation, may be a reflection of women’s views and attitudes towards themselves, and how, over the years, they have internalized the ideas of patriarchy.
By preferring to settle, to fit in, not rattling the status quo and by allowing men lead even when, after careful consideration, they believe themselves and/or other women capable of leading, women are denying the divinity of the feminine.
Going further to make comments such as ‘something is just wrong with the picture...’ goes to show how years of gender inequality, subjugation and suppression has recruited more women into the patriarchal clan and notion of leadership.
What else could be right with the picture?
A society with entrenched patriarchy leading it would crumble; women –and, men- should uplift competent women where she is more qualified to lead. Women are not unequal to men.