By OLUKOREDE YISHAU
The figures of registered voters released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) show that youths and women should be the targets of candidates seeking elective offices. The statistics also shows that if youths and women can unite, they can take over political offices, writes OLUKOREDE YISHAU.
Samson Itodo is a human rights activist and good governance campaigner. As the Executive Director of YIAGA Africa, he worked assiduously for the actualisation of the Not Too Young To Run bill. His team worked with Tony Nwulu in the House of Representatives and AbdulAziz Nyako in the Senate to get sections 65, 106, 131, 177 of the Constitution altered. The alterations were meant to reduce the age of running for elective positions for House of Assembly and House of Representatives from 30 years to 25 years, Senate and Governorship from 35 years to 30 years and office of the President from 40 to 30.
Itodo made many an advocacy visit, including to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, between May 2016 and mid-2018 when President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the bill. In the wisdom of the National Assembly, it, however, refused to reduce the age for governor and National Assembly membership. That notwithstanding, not a few felt a milestone was recorded.
Like young people who felt the need for the alterations in the Constitution for them to have a place of pride in the leadership chamber, women have also been complaining of low representation. A paper delivered by Nse Etim Akpan of the Department of Political Science, Federal University Wukari, P.M.B. 1020, Wukari, Taraba State titled ‘Men without Women: An analysis of the 2015 General Elections in Nigeria’ shows that women are under-represented.
Akpan said: “Women do not often receive the support and mentoring they need to compete with their male counterparts in politics. Even voters do not fully appreciate the benefits of having a mix of men and women in government, often saying that women are over-ambitious when they aspire for any political position. As a result, there is currently a low representation of women at all levels of government in Nigeria. In the 2011 general election, female candidates fared poorly, with only 32 women elected to the national parliament out of 469 members, which is barely 8% representation. This paper examines the level of women participation in the just concluded 2015 general elections. It argues that women’s political involvement in that election was very low in spite of decades of struggle for gender equity and women’s empowerment. The paper equally identifies and discusses the problems face by women in their quest to participate in politics, examine the theoretical perspective of the discrimination and inequality suffered by women; and lastly suggest possible measures that could aid their political participation and empowerment.”
Akpan shows that in the 2015 elections, lesser women were victorious. “In fact with the results of the just concluded elections, it seems women’s low participation in elective positions have grown from bad to worse. There is growing concern amongst women that the percentage of their participation in elective positions in the country witnessed decline or nose-dived from 2007 to 2011 and now 2015,” said the researcher.
The findings show that: “in 2002, women made up only three percent of elected officials, in 2007 they made up seven percent and in 2011 they made up about five percent and even before the 2015 general elections few women emerged as candidates after the political party primaries.” It added that “in the 29 states where gubernatorial elections held this year, the representation of women seeking the office of governor and deputy governor was 87 out of the 380 candidates (22.9 per cent) running for the positions. In the contest for senatorial seats, 122 women out of 747 candidates, representing 16 per cent, were cleared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to run in the March 28 election. The number was not better in the contest for the lower chamber of parliament. Two hundred and sixty seven (267) women out of a total 1774 candidates ran for seats at the House of Representatives, representing 15 per cent.”
INEC Deputy Director Gender Division Mrs. Blessing Obidiegwu observed that 14 females were elected into the House of Representatives and eight women won as senators in 2015. This, said Akpan, means only 14 women are part of the 360 lawmakers in the House. The House before the current one had 27 women. In the Senate, there are eight women and 101 men.
A lawyer and Chair of Women in Politics Forum (WiP), Ebere Ifendu, explained why women did not do well in the election: “Looking at what is going on in Taraba and Akwa Ibom where women contested, there was so much violence and unfortunately we are not going to have as much women as the previous senate. We are not happy with it but we have to re-strategize and see what we can do to have more women participate. Because as it is, we are just back to square one. Until there is legislation on the 35 percent affirmative action women will continue to have problems because election is very much monetised, women don’t have resources to match men. There is no genuine internal democracy in the political parties and candidates are handpicked, adding that when one scales party primary he or she has scaled the most hurdle.”
Ideally, youths and women should have more say in the political space. Statistics released by INEC on Monday supports this. The breakdown of the 84,004,084 registered voters shows that female voters constitute 47.14 per cent, which is 39,598,645 voters; male voters constitute 52.85 per cent, which is 44,405,439 voters. Youths between ages 18 and 35 constitute 51.11 per cent, which is 42,938,458 voters. Those between 36 and 50 constitute 29.97 per cent, which is 25,176,144. Those between 51 and 70 constitute 15.22 per cent, which amounted to 3,100,971 voters. The septuagenarians and above constitute 3.69 per cent, which is 3,100,971 voters.
INEC Director of Voter Register Iro Gambo said that the Southsouth has 12,841,279 registered voters, representing 15.29 per cent. He added that the Northcentral has 13,366,070 voters, representing 15.91 per cent; the Southeast has 10,057,130 registered voters, representing 11.91 per cent, and Southwest has 16,292,212 voters, representing 19.39 per cent.
The Northwest has 20,158,100 voters, representing 24 per cent and the Northeast has 11,289, 293 voters, representing 13.44 per cent. Lagos State accounts for 6.6 million and Kano has 5.5 million voters.
For many, women and youths can only use their figures to their advantage if they are united and do no develop apathy. A public affairs analyst, Mr Ezekiel Alabi, believes INEC and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) must intensify their campaign against voter apathy. Alabi said the outcome of the last general elections showed that less than 50 per cent of registered voters actually voted.
Alabi told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Ibadan yesterday that the 84 million registered voters was not as important as the actual number of voters that would come out to vote during the forthcoming general elections.
He said: “This clearly reveals that voter apathy usually characterise general elections in the country. It now behoves on INEC, NOA and other relevant agencies of government to step up strategies in sensitising these 84 million voters on the need to exercise their civic responsibility.
“Those that are yet to collect their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) should be sensitised to collect them while those with the PVCs should be implored to use it wisely during the elections,” he stated.
Alabi also enjoined the electorate not to sell their PVCs to unscrupulous politicians. He expressed optimism that over 90 per cent of registered voters would participate in the elections.
“That is if INEC, NOA and other relevant agencies of government play their respective roles effectively,‘’ he said.
So far, there are no specific messages targeted by office seekers to get the votes of the youths and women. A public commentator, Moses Adagunodo, said: “What you can count as campaigns targeted at youths are basically on social media, but even at that they are general in nature. May be now that the statistics are out we may see targeted messages.”
Will the women and youths use their electoral strength to their advantage? Time will tell.
Source The Nation