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Is Gender Equality Attainable in Governance Nigeria?

March 14, 2021 | Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
Written by Tolu Okunade

“If you do me, I do you, (man no go vex);

Step on the dance floor (man no go vex);

Touch me I touch you (man no go vex;

You say I say (man no go vex).”

The above is a line from PSquare’s monster hit track, ‘Do Me’ that was released in 2007 and rocked our ears and airwaves massively. It was such a huge success that if the song is played in a gathering of children who were born in 2007, the same year of its release, 96% of them would sing along.

However, what many of them fail to realize is that though the song also goes ahead to score a point for gender equality in Nigeria. The line “What a man can do, a woman can do so” is a reminder of the fact that though men and women are different, their abilities are the same and a woman should not be discriminated against based on her sex.

On March 8th, International Women’s Day was celebrated across the globe. It was met with a lot of pomp and pageantry as is the custom each year. The theme of this year’s celebration was “Choose to Challenge.” As the theme implied, it was a call for women across the world to dare challenge the status quo that dares call them second class citizens and tried to stifle them by putting them into boxes. However, the progress made in the course of gender equality in the last one year has moved at a giant pace across the world and at a slow pace in Nigeria.   

The past year saw the rise of women in International Governance. For instance, the breakout of the Corona Virus Pandemic tested the leadership capabilities of every government across the world. It required these leaders to be proactive and prompt, because of the volatile nature of the Pandemic. Nonetheless, the nations with the Coronavirus Responses had one thing in common? What to take a wild guess? Female Leaders.

From Iceland to Taiwan and from Germany to New Zealand, women stepped up to show the world how to manage a messy patch for our human family. Not to forget Finland, Iceland and Denmark, where this pandemic revealed that women have what it takes when the heat rose.

Another important talking point would-be Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who fearlessly led the US House of Parliament to impeach Donald Trump twice while he was in office due to a breach of his constitutional duties. Perhaps the most important goal scored for gender equality would be the emergence of Kamala Harris as the Vice President of the United States, making her the first woman to ever occupy that office.

However, back here in Nigeria, it seems that race to gender equality has taken a backward slope. When Former President Goodluck Jonathan was campaigning in 2011, one of his key campaign promises was to make 35% of all his Political Appointees, female. His wife, Dame Patience Jonathan made sure he lived up to this promise and ensured he delivered. Though 35% isn’t ‘equality,’ it is far better than what had been the order of the day in Nigeria.

The Buhari Administration on the other hand has taken this matter with a pinch of salt. During the ministerial screening of ministerial appointees, only 7 out of the 43 were women. That is about 16%. Women also hold about 7% of all elected positions. With 7%, that means Nigeria has one of the lowest involved of women involved in Governance in the world even though they make up to 50% of the electorate.

Let’s not even forget his shocking statement made in October 2016 while on a trip to Germany where he said and I quote verbatim:

“I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room.”

This statement implied that the President’s opinion of women is that they are Second Class Citizens, whose primary place of responsibility is their kitchen, living room and bedroom, and have no business with governmental affairs. Imagine having this kind of mentality in the 21st Century.

Did you know?

In the Economic Space, By the virtue of the population of Nigeria, the potential female labour force is 50% but the actual value is 31%. The proportion of women in the formal sector is very minimal. This is noticeable in the industries and the civil services; statistics indicate that in the Federal Civil Service, which is the highest employer in the country, women are mostly found in the junior categories.

It makes no sense that those who are most affected by Government Decisions have no say in Governmental Policies. Yes, we understand that women need to take charge of their destinies and run for elections, but how can they run effectively if the men keep holding them back?

If there’s any time where Nigeria and the world by extension saw the power of women, it would be the historic #EndSARS protests that rocked Nigeria in 2020. The Female-led Feminist Coalition (known on the streets of Twitter as ‘FemCo’) singlehandedly organized an effective quick response team to solve all logistical, medial and legal needs that arose from the protests as well as handling crowdfunding.

Many didn’t understand how powerful their role was until twitter Boss Jack Dorsey made a tweet that contained the links of the platform’s were donations could be made. And as though in a bid to affirm their ‘rebellion,’ went ahead to verify their official Twitter handles as well as those of the leaders of this Coalition. Women held and sustained the largest call for citizen action that this country has ever witnessed. Our Women.

There have been years of research timidly suggesting that women’s leadership styles might be different and beneficial. Instead, too many political organizations and companies are still working to get women to behave more like men if they want to lead or succeed. Yet these national leaders are case study sightings of the seven leadership traits men may want to learn from women.

It’s time we recognized it—and elected more of it.

I’d close with a quote from Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Noble Laureate.

“We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.”

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