2023 Guber Elections in Bayelsa: Fast-tracking Women Participation
Written by Ebizimo Onegiofori
Before the general elections in March 2023, figures from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC shows 44,414,846 women make up 47.5 per cent of registered voters in Nigeria with 13,006,939 out of this number as housewives making up 13.9 per cent of the occupational distribution of the voters register.
Did this number reflect the participation of these women during the electioneering process from the party level to the general election?
Also, reports from INEC stated in the just concluded 2023 elections, only 1,553 female candidates were on the ballot and at the end of the elections 72 got elected. The statistics reveals that 17 women were elected into both houses of chambers of the National Assembly representing 19 per cent, while the state houses of the Assemblies had 48 women in total.
This poor attitude of women not coming out to vote has significantly reduced the number of persons that should vote on election day, thus its negative impact on the number of women elected into elective positions in the country as shown above.
There are just 7 women of the 40-member federal executive council ministers appointed by the Tinubu’s administration, the highest decision-making organ in the land, this underscores the non-participation of women in the electoral process.
There are mind boggling questions, why are women not seen in elections day what could be done to reverse this ugly situation despite the number of advocacies? Why are women reluctant to vote?
In an interview with dailytrust.com, Binta Umar blames the abysmally performances of women in the last elections as a result of lack of cooperation by fellow women explaining that the population of women is enough to give them the winning votes.
Voting is a fundamental human right and civic duty enshrine in our laws. It will be lawful not to vote but sit back and complain over the non-performance of the political official holders or speak against policies, when the choice of electing leaders is left in the hand of the few.
It is sad that only 24.9 million voters out of the 93 million registered voters decided the fate of Nigerians. One wonders, what is the percentage of women in that figure?
Tinubu was elected president in March 2023 with 8 million votes, the lowest majority in the country out of 93 million registered voters. It will not be surprising that the number of women that voted for Tinubu out of the 29 per cent turnout rate is abysmally low.
From the above analysis, it is clear that women leaders, groups and organizations should begin to fast-track processes to encourage women to turn-out on voting day to rewrite the narratives of women’s participation in election.
Voting is a civil right of every patriotic citizen of a country. Are Nigerian women not patriotic enough to take their destinies into their own hands by electing their leaders?
Election serves as an opportunity for citizens to elect their representatives at all levels of government. Citizens elect effective and efficient political office holders as provided by law. Nobody holds any office in Nigeria without going through the electoral process and having the highest number of voters on election day.
After a rigorous process of campaign to present their manifesto to the electorates; the electorates come out on the election day to elect, the candidate with the best policies and programs that will serve their interest go for a term in office.
When political office holders are duly elected, it helps to promote good governance, accountability and effective wealth distribution. The electorates hold the elected leaders accountable where there are perceived failures and setback in governance but this cannot happen when the electorate especially women fold their hands on the voting day.
Voting day is not time to be in the kitchen or carrying out domestic chores, while their male counter parts are found in the polling unit. On the voting day everybody is entitled to vote, women should begin to use their votes and not waste it.
The Nigerian Women Trust Fund, NWTF is doing a great work to sensitize women group on how to fast track women participation during election.
The recent Training of the Trainers’ held in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state is an eye opener on the role of the media and women groups to carry-out step down training for other women particularly in rural areas.
Female media practitioners in radio, television, and social media spaces can play a crucial role to sensitize and encourage women to come out on election day to vote candidates of their choice with the policies and programs that will alleviate the suffering of women in Nigeria.
The media plays a critical role as a medium to reach a large number of persons in society. The media has the power to stimulate interest and help persons to make informed decisions.
Today, the rising level of mortality rate is alarming. Where are the primary health care facilities for the women in need to deliver their babies safely? What are the good policies, which can improve national health, if they are not involved in policy formulation and decision-making?
Women cannot continue to fold their arms, they need to make use of their rights to vote in order for good governance that would address these issues.
Women are at the lowest rank of the poverty ladder in Nigeria. All policies for poverty alleviation come in piece meal for women, to reverse this trend, women should wake up especially, as gubernational elections comes close in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi states.
Women groups and women led organizations must not relent in their efforts to fast-track women participation in the November 11, 2023 governorship elections in the Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa state. Women should not be short changed; therefore, women group should mobilize their member to go their various polling unit to cast their votes.
A regular sensitization of women towards the build up of election should be organized at family, community, and social groups for effective participation. Beyond the political rallies and campaigns women should organize debates for candidate to hear them speak directly to them on issues affecting women.
Women should shun financial inducement from politicians and parties to come out to vote on the voting day. Tokenism is a baiting that women groups should avoid, it promotes corruption, bad governance and lack of accountability.
Efforts should be made to talk women out of accepting money from politicians to vote on Election Day.
Women in faith-based organization should not count it righteousness when they vote because it is unrighteous when you don’t vote. Leaders in faith based organizations should promote voting as a righteous thing to do, they should educate their followers to know the importance of voting and encourage them to vote.
The voting day is declared for the election of new political office holders, no one should be found doing anything contrary to voting. Therefore, it is important for women in faith-based organization to come out and voter.
Women are a very large population in the country, they cannot afford to engage in voter apathy. We call on all women irrespective of their social or economic status to come out in their large numbers and vote for candidates that will promote gender equality and inclusion in governance.