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Background to the Study

The increasing salience of women’s issues and the resurgence of women’s movements have raised popular consciousness and intense academic discourse on poor participation of women in politics (Peterson & Ruyan, 1999: 48 & Akinboye, 2004:233). Though women’s low political participation is a universal phenomenon (Shaul, 1982; Waylen, 1996:11; Akinboye, op.cit:233; Lewu, 2005:62; Rai, 2005 & Pokam, 2006), the imperative of women participation in democratic governance and human development cannot be over emphasized (Amadiume, 1997:81; Bruce, 2004:113; Babatunde, 2003; Bari, 2005).

Sustainable democratic government relies upon the participation of all citizens in determining through elections and political processes, who governs them. It also depends upon the equality of all citizens under the law (Sodaro, 2001:247, Anifowose, 2004:205). Women’s legal status is closely linked with their political participation and has an impact on their ability to contribute to and benefit from economic and social progress. The involvement of women in political activities underscores this correct assertion:

Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspective in all levels of decision making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved (Akiyode- Afolabi & Arogundade, 2003).

The possibility for all citizens – both males and females to participate in the management of public affairs otherwise known as mass or popular participation is thus at the very heart of democracy (Sodaro, 2001:247). Putting it more succinctly, the Inter-Parliamentary Union incorporated in the Universal declaration for Democracy that:

The achievement of democracy presupposes a genuine partnership between men and women in the conduct of the affairs of society in which they work in equality and complementarity drawing mutual enrichment from their differences (Inter-parliamentary Union, 1999).

Although equal political opportunity for women is a goal shared by both men and women and despite increased support of women’s equality, for thousands of years, women records poor participation in politics and decision making positions (Waylen, op.cit:10; Anifowose, 2004:204; Pokam, 2006; Henderson, 2006). This is despite the fact that women constitute roughly half of the current world population (Pascaud- Becane, 1999; Babatunde, 2003; Anifowose, op.cit:204; Bari, 2005). In Nigeria, like in other parts of the world, women are at least half the country’s population. According to the report of the 2006 Census, women constitute 48.78% of the national population, yet this numerical strength of women does not automatically translate to increase in women’s participation in political activities in the country (Kukah, 2003:162; Abdu, 2003; Nigeria CEDAW NGO Coalition Shadow Report, 2008).

While the global average representation of women in national politics is 10%, in Nigeria, the figure has hardly ever been more than 3% (Ajayi, 2007:138; Inter- parliamentary Union, 2007). From the country’s independence to 48 years after, there have been various degrees of women’s participation in politics and governance and varying sets of limiting factors to women’s political participation (Johnson, 2003; Agomo, 2004; Adu, 2008).

This global low women’s participation in politics has prompted the emergence of campaigns to increase women’s political presence in countries around the world. The first major international action in favour of women universally was taken by United Nations in 1946 when it set up a commission on the status of women (Peterson & Runyan, 1999:11; Akiyode-Afolabi et al, 2003). In 1975 during the International Women’s Year, the UN General Assembly launched the UN Decade for Women (1976 – 1985) with a view to creating greater global awareness on the status of women and the girl child (Akinboye, 2004:13). This concern climaxed with the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 held in Beijing, China with the theme “Equality, Development and Peace”, the aim of which was to review and appraise the achievements of the UN Decade for Women (Omotola, 2007:33). One of the major activities of the year was the World Conference on Women that took place in Mexico.

In 1976, the UN Assembly again established the Voluntary Fund for the UN Decade for Women to implement the objectives of the Decade (Oyekanmi, 2004:44). It also adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which became effective in 1981 (Rai, 2005:3). In 1985 however, the General Assembly gave the Organization an expanded mandate to join the UN group of agencies as the United Nations Development Fund for Women

(UNIFEM) with the mission to promote the economic and political empowerment of women in developing countries. In addition, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) work towards strengthening women’s political leadership and their participation in political decision-making bodies (Olojede, 2004:120). These events marked a watershed in human resource development as it brought women, the other half of the world’s population, into development.

However, despite these international instruments to encourage women involvement in political activities, the world still witnesses slow progress of women participation in politics (UNDP Report, 2005). The Inter-Parliamentary Union Report of 2007 indicates that there are only twelve countries where women attained the critical mass of 30% women representation in the parliament, out of which Rwanda, Sweden Finland, Argentina are handful of countries that have elected more than 40% women to their legislative body (IPU, 2007). The Beijing Declaration that was adopted by participating governments at the world conference on September 15, 1995 admits inter alia:

The status of women has advanced in some important respects in the past decades but that progress has been uneven, inequalities between women and men have persisted and major obstacles remain with serious consequences for the well-being of all people.

In the Platform for Action (PFA), Paragraph 28 and 29 of the Global Framework, which expounds the basis of remedial actions to be taken, captures the gross under- representation of the world’s women in decision making and power relations in the various countries of the United Nations. This is further explained in the preamble for the Strategic Objectives and Actions for the enhancement of women’s access to power and decision-making thus:

Despite widespread democratization in most countries, women are largely underrepresented at most levels of government especially in ministerial and other executive bodies or in achieving the target endorsed by the Economic and Social Council of having 30% women in positions of decision making levels.

Governments that are signatories to the agreements are bound to take specific measures to ensure women’s access to full participation in political activities (Bruce, 2004:101). It is on the basis of the United Nations stipulations that various countries including those of African countries, therefore, begin to intensify efforts to shift women from the periphery to the centre of national development processes and seek modalities for enhancing their (women) political participation.

The Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was ratified by Nigeria in 1985 (Okome, 2006). Besides, Nigeria is also a signatory to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and on that basis constituted the National Committee on Affirmative Action (Anifowose, 2004:210). Furthermore, the National Policy on Women was adopted by the Federal Government of Nigeria in the year 2000. The goal of the policy is to eliminate all form of discrimination against women, empowering them through enhanced strategic human resource development, and establishing a data bank on the implementation of a comprehensive (national) baseline survey. The specific objectives of the policy seek  to  ensure  that  the  principles  and  provisions  as  contained  in  the  Nigerian Constitution are effectively enforced, and that gender perspective are mainstreamed into all policies and programmes based on a systematic gender analysis at all levels of government (Agomo, 2004:977 & Oronsaye-Salami, 2005). The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by virtue of Section 40 states that:

Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests.

Any citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person be subjected to any form of discrimination.

From the foregoing, there is nothing in the constitution, which excludes the participation of women in politics in Nigeria.

The development of corresponding economic, social and political power of women still leaves much to be desired despite their significant roles before and after Nigerian independence, (Akiyode-Afolabi, et al, 2003:1, Ikpe, 2004:20). The fact that the military ruled for years helped to institutionalize violations of human rights that resulted in very severe political, social and economic crises (Waylen, 1996). These anomalies have impacted negatively on the development of women’s political right, despite the many international norms and institutions designed to advance the cause of women in Nigeria (Anifowose, 2004:209). Hence, there is the need to interrogate factors responsible for this phenomenon in Nigeria and to seek ways on how to engender a balance in the political affairs of the Nigerian state.

 Statement of the Problem

The challenge of women’s participation in the political process in Nigeria gained significant attention, following the country’s return to democracy in 1999. With the transfer of power from the military regime to a civilian democratic administration, one would have thought that women would also be represented equally based on the Beijing Declaration. On the contrary, with the percentage increase of 2%, 4% and 6% in women political participation and 6.3%, 8.8% and 7.3% women representation in the national parliament in 1999, 2003 and 2007 elections respectively, it is obvious that the perception that democracy would automatically boost women’s political involvement has not been validated after nine years of Nigeria’s return to civilian rule (Okocha, 2007; Akioyede-Afolabi, 2003; The Nigeria CEDAW NGO Coalition Shadow Report, 2008:3 & Adu, 2008:27).

While Nigeria has not been able to produce a female elected governor, in the 1999 election, only Lagos State had a female deputy-governor out of the 36 deputy- governors in the country and the subsequent elections did not witness any significant difference as there were only 6 women in the 2007 elections, from Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Imo, Plateau and Anambra States, out of the 36 deputy-governors in the country. The percentages of women in the States’ Houses of Assembly across the country were 1.21%, 3.84% and 5.5% in the 1999, 2003 and 2007 elections respectively. In the 2007 elections, out of the 40-member Lagos State House of Assembly, only 5 were women while in the same year the 24-member State Executive  Council  had  only  3  females  (Fashola,  2008).  Similarly,  in  the  same election, Ogun State produced only 2 women out of the 26-member State House of Assembly and was the first female Speaker in Nigeria; while the State Executive Council had only 3 women out of the 25 members. At the local government level, between 2003 and 2007 however, there were only 9 women out of the 774 chairpersons in the country. In the 2008 elections, there was only 1 woman out of the 20 local Government Council chairpersons and 37 Local Development Areas in Lagos State, and similarly only 1 female out of the 20 local government chairpersons in Ogun State (Akinboye, 2004:235; Ajayi, 2007:139; Nigeria CEDAW NGO Coalition Shadow Report, 2008:30; Omotola, 2008:41 & GADA, 2008).

Scholars have hypothesized various factors that affect women’s participation in politics across the globe. These factors either enhance or hinder the involvement of women in political activities. Of the factors explored, research studies elucidate the following four factors as particularly important: (1) socioeconomic development; (2) cultural factor; (3) historical legacies stemming from a society’s cultural and political traditions; and (4) institutional design factors (Amadiume, 1997; Inglehart & Noris, 2003, Akioyode-Afolabi, 2003; Dahlerup, 2005; Rai, 2005; Alexander & Welzel, 2007). What is less clear however, is the degree to which these four factors uniquely influence women’s participation in political activity. These findings therefore necessitate a comparative assessment of the socio-cultural and political predictors on women’s participation in Nigerian politics to confirm the relative degree to which the political environment matters with respect to women’s attainment of positions of full political empowerment. Such diagnosis will bring to limelight valid modalities for improving women’s political participation in Nigeria especially as the country undergoes a process of democratic consolidation.

Against the backdrop of this study, this research work will examine the extent to which those four factors have affected the participation of women in Nigeria particularly, Lagos and Ogun states from 1999 to 2007. It will also present comparative analysis of women political representation in the legislative and executive organs of the two states with a view to determining any correlation between the two states.

Research Questions

The research questions for this study are as follows:

1.      To what extent do socioeconomic development, cultural factor, historical legacies and institutional designs influence women’s political participation in Lagos and Ogun States?

2.      Do Lagos and Ogun States witness any significant improvements in women representation in the States Executives, Houses of Assembly and local government councils since 1999, and why?

3.      Are there similarities or differences in the factors affecting women’s political participation between Lagos and Ogun States?

4.      How can women’s participation in politics be encouraged in Lagos and Ogun State?

 Objectives of the Study

This research study aims at evaluating the implications of cultural, sociopolitical and economic predictors on the political participation of women in Nigeria using Lagos and Ogun States as case study. In pursuance of this therefore, this study hopes to achieve the following aims and objectives:

1.      To trace the history of women’s involvement in political participation in Nigeria.

2.      To  document  the  current  scenario  of  Women’s  political  participation  in Nigeria.

3.      To identify the  factors  responsible for women’s political participation  in Lagos and Ogun States from 1999 – 2007.

4.      To make some suggestions that will enhance women’s participation in party politics.

Research Hypothesis

H0. Socioeconomic development has no influence on women’s political participation in Lagos and Ogun States.

H0.Nigerian  culture  and  historical  legacies  do  not  contribute  to  low  women’s political participation in Lagos and Ogun States.

H0.There  is  no  relationship  between  Nigerian  political  structures  and  women’s participation in Lagos and Ogun States’ politics.

H0.There is no significant improvement in women representation in Lagos and Ogun States’ Houses of Assembly and local government councils since 1999.

Justification of the Study

The dismal participation of women in Nigeria’s politics following the country’s return to democracy in 1999 has brought into new focus, questions about the factors hindering women’s political participation in the country. Nine years (1999 – 2007) after the transfer of power from the military regime to a civilian democratic administration, women still remain at the side-line of Nigeria’s politics, hence the need to undertake a study of factors militating against women’s involvement in the mainstream of the country’s politics. This therefore makes the study both timely and significant. A detailed analysis of this phenomenon will help contribute to the sparse knowledge in this area.

The research will equally be beneficial to NGOs, scholars and government agencies on gender related issues such as Inter-parliamentary Union, United Nations’ Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) Committee for the Elimination of all form of Discriminations Against Women (CEDAW) as it will aid them in their search for gender equality. In addition, the suggestions and recommendations that will be proffered in this study will help improve the level of political participation of women in Nigeria particularly Lagos and Ogun States. Finally, this work will be useful to scholars who wish to carry out further research on women and political participation in Nigeria as the materials of the study will be of great importance for their enquiries.

Scope and Limitation of the Study

This study focused primarily on Women political participation in Nigeria. The study areas are Lagos and Ogun State of Nigeria between 1999 and 2007, though the historical background to women’s political participation in the country is relevant to the study in order to bring out the stages of women’s marginalisation in Nigeria’s politics. The study dealt extensively on the factors responsible for poor political participation of women in Lagos and Ogun State.

This study is limited in several ways. First and foremost, the study of women’s political participation in Nigeria is limited to Lagos and Ogun State because of the inability to visit other parts of the country due to time factor and financial constraints. However, results from findings of this research may be replicated for women’s political participation in Nigeria as a whole.


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