Women and Nation building
1.0 Background of the Study
Since independence, women participation in politics and decision making in Nigeria have been a controversial issue. The 1st republic had only four female legislators in the whole of the country, a negligible number that cannot give women the necessary influence in politics. In that era, the contribution of women in nation building could only be imagined and not felt. The imposition of military rule, an era that followed this period from 1966 did not foster women participation in politics and very little was heard of women in politics and decision making (Samuel and Segun, 2012:7). The participation of women in nation building increased in the 2nd and most particularly in republic. Few women emerged as councilor, one woman, Chief (Mrs.) TitilayoAjanaku, as Chairperson of Abeokuta Local Government Council in Ogun State, two female Deputy Governors, AlhajaSinatuOjikutu and Mrs. Cecilia Ekpenyong in Lagos and Cross River State, respectively. Furthermore, only one woman was elected to the Senate and very few others to the House of Representatives. It is worthy of note that before 1999, the proportion of seats occupied by women in national parliament never exceeded 3.1% and 5% for federal Executive council (Luka, 2012). But these women proved they deserve more opportunities with their stellar performances.
The year 1999 marked the beginning of a new dawn as Nigeria returned to civilian government after the demise of military rule. Women political participation witnessed sharp improvement over previous experience. President Obasanjo who assumed power on May 29th 1999 made a clear departure from the past and appointed 4 out of the 29 senior ministers representing 13.7% and 3 out of the 18 junior ministers representing 16.6%. Furthermore, he appointed 2 women advisors and 2 senior special assistants and 6 special assistants and 1 special assistant to the vice president as well as 8 permanent secretaries (Luka, 2012:29). Women were also appointed as commissioners and were members of the executive councils in all the states (Kalawole et al, 2012:135). It should be noted that while the number of women in political position drastically increased between 1999 and 2011, the positions were mostly appointive rather than elective. From 1999 to 2011, no woman was elected into the office of the president or governor in any of the 36 states. However, In 1999, out of the total seat of 469 (Senate and House of Representatives), there were only 15 women representing 3.19%; this increased to 25 in 2003 representing 5.33%; there was a further increase in 2007 to 34 representing 7.24% and a slight decline in 2011 to 33 representing 7.03%. Although between 2003 and 2007, 4 to 6 women were elected as deputy governors. In spite of these improvements, the representation of women in politics and decision making in Nigeria is still a far cry from the global benchmark of 35% affirmative action. It is against this background that this paper examines "women in Politics and Decision Making in Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects".
In Nigeria and the rest of the world, women have over time proven to be valuable assets and contributors to nation building.
In Nigeria, women have shown bright potentials in politics and public leadership, both in democratically elected positions and political appointments. These potentials are also present in their various philanthropic efforts and even in different organizations.
A lot of calls have been made from various quarters for Nigerian women to be given more opportunity to contribute their rather unique inputs to nation building as the few whom have received such rare opportunity have excelled beyond expectations.
In Nigeria, today, almost half of the women work outside the home -both in formal and informal sectors- for pay to augment the family resources. While some women, particularly the rural women, work in the farms/agricultural production, many others in the cities work in the public and private sectors, including government, commercial/trading, industrial, financial and service sectors of the economy, thereby contributing substantially to national development (Falusi, 2011).
Unequivocally, a woman is not, in any way, inferior to a man. Their roles, both in the family and nation-building, are complementary and co-terminus and the one should not be seen as inferior or subservient to the other. This argument could be faulted in the agrarian age when male dominance was largely dependent on their physical abilities that allow them to till the ground and lift heavy objects and equipments, a feat that eludes feminity, but not in this knowledge driven generation where intelligence and initiative reigns supreme.
With increased focus and sensitization on women empowerment, women (especially, Nigerians) have played key roles in building the Nigerian state. Since the inclusion of more women in key sectors of the Nigerian economy, such as the appointment of Late Prof. Dora Akunyili as D.G. of the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) who saved millions of lives and ended the era of impunity in the manufacture, sales and distribution of food and drug products in Nigeria and also went further to set a pace in the information ministry as the minister of information and national orientation, Dr. NgoziOkonjo-Iweala (Co-ordinate Minister of the economy) whose appointment as the minister of finance/coordinating minister of the Nigerian economy have saved Nigeria a lot of trouble especially during the world economic recession; and her contributions to