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Experts underscore importance of increased women’s participation in politics
By Adelowo Adebumiti

Experts have called for increased participation of women in politics and governance, saying their inputs and efforts are critical to Nigeria’s growth and development.

They made the call at a programme on women in politics in Lagos. The participants described the six per cent women participation in governance in Nigeria as the lowest in Africa.

Speaking on the theme, ‘Women and electoral outcome In Nigeria, North-South Variations’ with special focus on political, religious, ethnic and other differences, a lecturer in Politics at Bournemouth University, United Kingdom and Convener of the event, Omowonuola Okunnu, said that religion plays a vital role in politics in Nigeria and often determines how the southern and northern regions approach issues.

Okunnu said: “Talking about the northern and southern part of Nigeria, we believe the northern part has much more Muslims. How about the women there? Are they educated enough? Are they aware enough? Do they understand their rights as voters? Do they know why they should vote? Are they informed enough about voting?

“These are questions that are quite important for women to understand. Why they need to vote for someone. Do they understand why this candidate needs to hold that position? Is it for their betterment or for the betterment of the country?

“A woman in the south will vote for whoever candidate she feels like, compared to a woman in the north who will wait on religious leaders, husbands or family members before going into politics. In the northern part, you can’t go into politics, when you have a man, and this has to do with culture and religion. These are the things people need to understand.”

Stating that many women are relaxed because they believe that they have tried and nothing has been changed, Okunnu urged them not to give up, but to equip themselves the more to understand the system.

“Women should make themselves available and network, starting from the ward. They should understand the system. You can start from your community. Start by doing something. Let them know who you are. Let them understand that they can trust you if you are put there. They should know that they have a representative that has the capacity to deliver,” the don added.

In his submission, Professorial Research Associate, (SOAS) University of London and former Dean of Law, University of Lagos, Prof. Imran Oluwole Smith (SAN), said that lawmakers should be much more objective and forward-looking on the issue of women in politics.

“The era of patriarchy is gone. They should look and think beyond the box. And what I mean by this, they should look around and see that there are conventions, protocols and so on, to which Nigerians are signatories on women.

“The bills brought before the National Assembly on quota for women in politics, about three or four were thrown overboard because the men were against those bills,” Smith said.

Other speakers at the event included the Director, Centre for Comparative Politics and Media Research, Bournemouth University, United Kingdom, Prof. Darren Lilleker; community relations expert and founder, Women Too, Africa, Oloye Titilope Gbadamosi and Professor of Criminology and Gender Studies, Kaduna State University, Prof. Hauwau Evelyn Yusuf.