By Chinonso Kenneth
Democratic governance connotes a range of processes through which a society reaches consensus on and implements laws, human rights, policies and social structures in furtherance of justice, welfare and equality. The concept refers to when governance and its actors are conscious of the fact that their authority is derived from the will of the people and is responsive and accountable to them. Good governance in a democratic setting involves the promotion of human development of all citizens without recourse to sex, or ethnic affinity. Unfortunately facts and figures show that the dividends of democratic governance in Nigeria has not favoured the female gender in terms of access to and involvement in leadership positions.
The international community through concerted efforts has encouraged countries to keep at least 30% seats in their national parliament reserved for women in order to increase the level of women participation in politics, however in Nigeria the extant National Gender Policy (NGP) recommended 35% affirmative action instead.
This policy was aimed at propelling a more extensive representation of women with at least 35% of both elective political positions and appointed public strictly to be manned by women. Even though this policy was developed in August 2008 political will has stalled the implementation of the 35% female affirmative action at all levels.
Despite the fact that women make up about 49 per cent of the Nigerian population Nigerian women remain largely underrepresented in the political space with only a meagre 6.42 per cent of female representation in the current 9th national assembly which remains one of the lowest in the continent. The Presidency also appointed only seven (7) women into his ministerial cabinet portraying at the very highest level a dearth of commitment to the 35% female affirmative action.
Countries like Rwanda who are deliberate about increasing women participation in their legislature currently have female parliamentary representation at 61.25 percent, South Africa at 46.35 percent, Senegal at 41.82%, and Ethiopia at 38.76%. Meanwhile In 2003 the Nigerian senate had four female senators at 3.7 per cent. By 2007 the number of female senators had increased to nine giving women 8.3 per cent of the total representation in the 5th assembly In 2011 this had declined to 6.4 percent. The 8th National Assembly IN 2015 maintained the same number of female senators at 6.4 percent. Out of the 109 Senators in the Red Chamber of the 9th National Assembly the number of women has stagnated at seven which is why the latest ranking from the International Parliamentary Union ranked Nigeria 147 out of 182 countries in female representation in parliament and ministerial appointments.
Interestingly despite their meagre and dwindling number in the political arena, Nigerian women in politics have continued to prove their mettle and match up to their male counterparts. An extant breakdown of the activities of the senators in the 9th assembly shows that Senator Princess Stella Oduah leads the line and has the highest number of sponsored bills in the Senate at 29. The heroics and achievements of late Dr Ameyo Adadevoh, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and Mrs Amina J Mohammed are all testimonials to the innate ability of Nigerian women to drive development and good governance in the absence of a glass ceiling.
One begins to see the potentials of the Nigerian women in politics when the 35% female affirmative action is implemented when the bills sponsored by female senators are considered. These bills includes but not limited to Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill, Protection of Personal Information Bill, Marital Right of Spouses Bill, Investment Assurances Bill, amongst others.
The continual non adherence to the 35% female affirmative action by the government is a drag on the developmental prospects of the country and goes against the principles of democratic good governance, equality and the drive to achieve SDG 5 which aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women. It also raises question of social justice for women in Nigeria. The Nigeria government and legislature should as a matter of urgency begin implementation of the 35% female affirmative action and pass the Gender and equal opportunity Bill in order to boost productivity and development.