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Imo Women in Electoral Politics (1)

By Prince Stanley U Okoroji
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A prominent Nigerian woman-leader and national stateswoman, Hadjia Bilikisu Yusuf, once noted that, “Politics is not a mystery too complex for women’s mind to comprehend and the task before women is to demystify politics… Proponents of the view that politics is too dirty a game for women to participate in should hang their faces in shame. This line of thinking smacks of deceit. Why should politics be tagged dirty, while other aspects of the national life: The economy, sports, education, law, etc., are considered clean enough for women to participate in? If politics is dirty, it is only because we have made it so. It is the responsibility of men and women to cleanse politics and restore honour to the game of power sharing.”

Since the beginning of contemporary democracy in Nigeria, women participation in electoral politics has been constantly militated against and grossly unsuccessful. Their participation is on very slow pace and their success thus abysmally low. For instance, in the (Lower and Upper Chambers of the) National Assembly for the 4th Republic general elections, there were only 3(2.75%) female senators out of the 109 seats that won elections- Hon Mrs Florence Ita-Giwa (ANPP, Cross River State), Hon Mrs. Stella Omu (PDP, Delta State) and Hajiya Khairat Abdul Razaq (later, Hajiya Gwadabe- PDP, FCT).

A slight increase occurred in the number of female senators in the 2003 general elections. There were 4 (3.7%) victorious female contestants for the senatorial seats. This number increased in the 2007 general elections, where 9(8.25%) female candidates in all won the senatorial seats. These successful female power-seekers were: Gbemisola Saraki-Fowora (Kwara State), Christiana Anyanwu (Imo State), Zainab Kure (Niger State), Grace Bent (Adamawa State), Joy Emodi (Anambra State), Eme Ufot Ekaete (Akwa Ibom State), Patricia Akwashiki (Nasarawa State), Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello (Ogun State), and Nkechi Justina Nwaogu (Abia State).

In the 2011 general election for the Senate, the number of victorious female senators dropped abysmally. Unlike in 2007 where 9 female senators were successful, out of the 109 Senators who emerged winners at the 2011 polls, only 7 (6.4%) were women- 4 from the PDP- Mrs Nkechi J. Nwaogu (2nd term), Mrs. Helen U. Esuene, Nenadi Usman and Aisha Jummai). From APGA, there were 2: Mrs Chris Anyanwu (2nd term) and Mrs Joy Emordi (2nd term), and 1 from the ACN (Mrs Oluremi Tinubu). Five of these women are from the Southern Nigeria, while 2 are from the North. The women senators were so grounded that 3 were re-elected for another term.

Similarly, the performance of women in the House of Representatives elections has same slow pace development since 1999, like that of the Senate. In 1999, 12 (3.3%) women won in the 360 seats, while in 2003, 21 (5.8%) won. In 2007, the number had an impressive increase to 27 (7.5%) and in 2011, it dropped to 19 (5.27%) women victors out of the 360 Federal House seats. In the two chambers of the National Assembly, most of the former successful female senators and members of the House of Representatives lost out to male ones. (Some of the women heavyweights that lost to men were Senator Grace Bent of Osun State, Senator Gbemisola Saraki-Fowora of Kwara State, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello of Ogun State, and Senator Daisy Danjuma of Edo State, etc.

Coming down to Imo State, women participation in electoral politics has been very poor and disheartening. At the senatorial level in 2015, amongst the women that pushed for the contest in all the parties that fielded candidates for the election, only 8 women made it to the general elections. For the Imo East senatorial district (Owerri zone), there were only 2 female senatorial candidates: Hon Mrs Augustina Anulika Ekeh (MPPP) and Hon Mrs Ann Uche Nwakego (PDC). In Imo West (Orlu zone) there were: Hon Mrs Hope Onyebuchi Igwe (KOWA), Hon Mrs Blessing Nneka Onuawuchi (MPPP), and Hon Mrs Ada Grace Egbufor (UPP). In Imo North (Okigwe zone), there were: Hon Mrs Rita Adanna Ibemere Okafor (ACCORD), Hon Mrs Ijeoma Vivian Onwubuariri (APA) and Hon Mrs Esther Chioma Onuoha (PPN). This participation has one common feature, the 8 women emerged in minor political parties, even UPP then was 4th after APC, PDP and APGA in the State, and none of the 8 women succeeded.

In Imo State today, so far, there are unparallel poor emergence of women on the political scene for elective positions into the National Assembly and for the State gubernatorial and House of Assembly primary elections. For the IMHA seats, there are few women that could be said to have explicitly indicated interests to vie for the House of Assembly seats. Some of them are: Hon Mrs Obioma Edna Okorie (Oru West Constituency, APC), Amb Mrs Shirley Nunoye (Ideato North Constituency), Hon Mrs Tina Tochi Anya (Onuimo Constituency, APC), Lady Edith Akaruka, Lady Blessing Ifeyinwa Nwaoba (Ihite-Uboma Constituency, APC), Hon Barr Mrs Ngozi Njoku (Nwangele Constituency, APC), Hon Mrs Ngozi Obiefule (Isu Constituency, APC), Hon Dr Mrs Uche Ejiogu (Ihite-Uboma Constituency, APC).

For the lower chamber of the national assembly, only 4 women so far have been recorded across the State. There are Hon Mrs Happiness Uchechi Williams (Owerri Federal Constituency, APC), Hon Dr Mrs Angela Uwakwem (Okigwe North Constituency, APC), Hon Mrs Oyinbo Nwaneri (Orlu/Orsu/Oru East, APC), and Hon Mrs Justina Kamalu (Aboh Mbaise/Ngor Okpala, APC).

So far, little has been heard of female aspirants to the upper chamber of the national assembly (the Senate), unlike 2015 where 2 women made it for the general elections- Ada Grace Egbufor (Orlu zone, UPP) and Obiageli Igwe (Orlu zone, APC).

For the Executive Arm of Government in Imo State, so far in our record, only 2 female aspirants have been recorded for gubernatorial election in the State- Senator Chris Anyanwu (APGA) and Barr Mrs Ngozi Olehi. Unlike in previous years, this electoral epoch has a courageous woman from Imo State that has indicated interest to run for the Nigerian presidency- Mrs Adeline Emihe, under which platform and with which determination, are yet unknown, but the move is highly plausible.

This population if it ends as such will make the poorest record of women participation in elective politics in the State at least since 1999. In 2011 for instance, for the Federal House of Reps, in Isiala Mbano/Okigwe/Onuimo (Okigwe North) Federal Constituency, out of the 9 INEC registered candidates for the election, 2 were women- Hon Mrs Adamma F. Nwaukuna (ALP), and Hon Mrs Ihemedu Ahimonyeonu (FRESH). This could be contrasted with the 2015 outing in which out of the 13 INEC registered contestants for this Okigwe North Federal Constituency seat, 4 were women: Hon Princess Miriam Onuoha (APGA), Hon Mrs Nwosu Rita (PPN), Hon Mrs Ukpabi Nneoma Dorcas (MPPP), and Hon Mrs Opara Chinwe (ACCORD). For the 2019 race, little is heard about women in electoral politics in the area; only Hon Dr Mrs Angela Uwakwem (Okigwe North Constituency, APC) that is known so far.

In Ehime Mbano/Ihitte Uboma/Obowo (Okigwe South) Federal Constituency, out of the 5 contestants for the 2011, none was a woman. This could be contrasted with the 2015 elections whereby out of the 9 INEC registered contestants for the seat, 2 were women: Hon Mrs Excel Ugochi Ihekweke (ACCORD) and Hon Mrs Nwoba Blessing Ifeyinwa (PDP) who is now vying for the IMHA seat of Ihitte Uboma. For 2019, no woman is yet to be recorded as vying for the federal house.

In Ahiazu/Ezinihitte Mbaise Federal Constituency, in 2011, there were 11 INEC registered ticket bearers of their parties, but only one woman emerged- Hon Mrs Angela Okafor (SDMP). There seems to be higher political socialization after wards that led to the emergence of 3 women after party primaries in 2015 as ticket bearers of their parties out of the 8 INEC registered contestants: Hon Mrs Ihuoma Adaku Ngozi (APC), Hon Mrs Margret I Uwazie (UPP), and Hon Mrs Iweho Ifeoma Therezita (NCP). This season, nothing is heard about women vying for the seat.

In Owerri Federal Constituency, in 2011, out of the 11 INEC registered contestants for the seat, only one woman was in the list as successful candidate after party primaries- Hon Mrs Maria Chizoma Amadi (ALP), while in the 2015 elections, out of the 11 contestants, 3 were women: Hon Mrs Ijeoma Ogechi Uzor (MPPP), Hon Mrs Mere Mercy Ada Okoro (LP) and Hon Mrs Chioma Ibe (ACCORD). In this 2015, our findings show only Hon Mrs Happiness Williams (of Owerri West) aspiring for the seat in the constituency, a very poor participation for women in the area.

In Orlu/Orsu/Oru East Federal Constituency, no woman succeeded in the 2011 party primaries out of the 8 contesting political parties. The same thing occurred in 2015; out of the 6 successful INEC registered winners of party primaries for the seat, none was a woman. Against 2019 general elections, among the 3 component LGAs of this federal constituency, our records show only one woman aspiring for the seat: Hon Mrs Oyinbo Nwaneri (APC), who has been in the IMHA before.

In Nkwere/Isu/Njaba/Nwangele Federal Constituency, just a woman made it to the general elections in the 7 contesting parties: Hon Mrs Umelo Ogechi Phoebe (ALP). In 2015 there was a drastic change as 3 women made it to the general elections out of the 10 candidates registered by INEC as successful: Hon Mrs Joy U Iheanacho (ID), Hon Mrs Ada Orji Anyanwu (APGA) and Hon Mrs Doris A Mbah (SDP). Against 2019, the political tempo in the federal constituency appears machismo, highly virile and chauvinistic that nothing is heard about women aspiring for the seat.

In Ohaji/Egbema/Oguta/Oru West, only one woman made it to the general elections in the 7 contesting parties in 2011: Hon Mrs Irene Nneka Ottih (LP) while in 2015, in the 8 contesting parties, 2 women made it to the general elections: Hon Mrs Nwauwa C. Chinyere (LP) and Hon Mrs Nonye Chioma (ACCORD), and none of them succeeded. For the 2019 political dispensation, nothing has been heard about any female elective office power seeker from the Federal Constituency.

However, there exists a higher degree of political machismo in Mba-Ike, Ideato, and Aboh na Ngor Federal Constituencies. The constituencies are highly chauvinistic in the language of party politics in the area. In 2011 and 2015 Mbaitoli/Ikeduru had no woman amidst the contesting 11 candidates that came up respectively for the 2 tenures. The same is applicable to Ideato North/South. In 2011 no woman was among the 7 candidates that succeeded in the party primaries that had same number and outcome again in 2015. In Aboh Mbaise/Ngor Okpala, no woman emerged successful amidst the 8 candidates that came out for the 2011 and 2015 general elections respectively.

How can we help our Imo women in electoral politics and to achieve the 35% affirmation stipulated by the United Nations? Join me again same time next week for another edition of this topic. If you are or have an elective office power seeker, you are welcome to this column, send pictures, profiles, manifestoes and other details of such female aspirant to 08064378213 on WhatsApp or [email protected] . If you have the disposition to help achieve this universal affirmation in Imo State, you are welcome too.

Stanley U Okoroji writes from Owerri

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