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THE LEVEL OF WOMEN PARTICIPATION IN POLITICS AND ITS EFFECTS ON THE STATE BUILDING
1.0 Background of the Study
No country should call itself a Democracy if it denies equal participation in policy-making to women –Bella Abzung (1996).
It is the duty of government to ensure equal participation of women in politics, to vote, and be voted for and to held public office. There are at least three levels of Political Participation; Consciousness raising, involvement in Partisan politics, and Standing for office. Women all over the world are good at Consciousness rising; they provide majority of voters.
However, they are not adequately represented in partisan politics as of major actresses, nor do many of them, get elected and become office holders in government.
Over the years women has been relegated to the background in issues of the overall development especially in the developing nations like Nigeria and Akwa Ibom State in particular. This is borne out of the Sentimental attachment on feminine gender. Historical evidences are available to prove that the Nigeria Women have long been playing crucial role in political life of the Country, and this has contributed in no small measure in shaping the political system of the nation. For development of any kind to be successful, a vantage position should be accorded the women, as they constitute larger proportion of the populations. In this regard, they should not be left out in issues of decision-making that bothers even on the lives as a people.
Today, women are participating more actively in political issues than ever before as a result of political re-wakening and awareness. More often than not, they are being signed with challenges of which discrimination is rifer. Majority of the men more on Charismatic disposition are preoccupied with the nation that decision making is exclusive for the men folk while women are to be instructed on what to do. This idea of seeing the women playing the number two role at home has come to play itself out in the political life of the people, and this ought not to be so with regards to the ever dynamic nature of things globally as women are now seeing in other communities as avant-garde in developed nations. It is surprising that some mindset of yester years is still what is obtained in our Country Nigeria and Akwa Ibom State in particular.
Despite the difficulties faced by women in politics, they continue with their political ambition, contributing enormously to the political and national development in their own way as the challenges militating against them are not present, although Akwa Ibom State is yet to have a female president, Senate president, Governor, Speakers of State House of Assembly and House of Representative respectively. Women over the years could be said to have recorded some measure of appreciable political achievement in the political fields of endeavors, meeting their political objectives with imitated support any resources at their disposal. The essay attempt to explore the extent of involvement of Akwa Ibom Women in politics, although not much has been written on the subject, effort would be made to make original contributions to the existing knowledge. However, it is the irreversible conviction of this researcher that for the purpose of genuine human progress, there is the need to cherish the ideal of a democratic force society in which all people are accorded equal opportunities in the struggle to political power irrespective of sex.
This position is legally supported by the 1999 Nigeria constitution, chapter two which states interlia concerning political objectives of the Federal Government of Nigeria that discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, circumstances of birth, sex, religion status, ethnic or linguistic association or tribe shall be prohibited.
The justification of this research lies in the fact that even though Akwa Ibom Women participated actively in the so called Aba women’s riot of 1929 and actually laid down their lives for the independence of Nigeria, their effort or contribution were neither recognized, rewarded or mentioned in the most Nigeria history books. It is therefore the basic pre-occupation of this writer to bring to limelight the role played by Akwa Ibom women for the political struggle for the emancipation of our Country, Nigeria. To correct the age-long male chauvinism, which women sees as a cog in the wheel of their political progress, this paper would encourage Akwa Ibom women to abandon this defeatist approach and beef up their political power and numerical strength to compete with their male counterparts for political positions. This is so because no political position has ever been wrested on a platter of gold without struggle.
For sustainable governance through political process, women must be brought in. This is so because women in general have natural stake in politics given the fellowship reasons:
- Women are on the valued side of procreation which enhances population and their birth of political heroes (children).
- They know for solidarity among themselves in which can be an asset to the economy
- They are flexible in principles
- They are goal oriented
- They are on the high side of social welfare administration and practices specially in grassroots level.
The participation level of women in politics in Nigeria; especially in Akwa Ibom State under study was as a result of excessive information of Nigeria woven by European standard.
Etuk, (1993), this was a problem in colonial government and administration in Nigeria. The result of this was that this led to the Eastern part of Nigeria women riot captioned Aba Women Riot of 1929 which claimed lives and properties across the eastern region. The women of Akwa Ibom State origin, kicked against the eradication of dual sex political system as postulated or posited by the colonial government. The main point is that colonial rule established a standard for single sex political system. As it has been overtime, dual sex political system, has been stand in Akwa Ibom State and that has been stand of Akwa Ibom women going by their political strength and political premarital, accumulated over the years, Idiong (2004).
Lastly, Dame Patience Jonathan, the wife of the former president of Nigeria, declared that 35% of political position and appointments should be given to the female gender to ease in them the doubt of single sex political system.
Prominent women in Nigeria, whose political activities are well noted and credited to Nigeria, are:
- Dr. Mrs. Margaret Ekpo of Akwa Ibom
- Mrs. Funrinlayo Kuti; whose activities have contributed significantto the masses:Ola(2003).
- Mrs. Janet Mokelu.
- Queen Amina of Zaria.
- Madam Tinubu of Abeokuta.
- Emotan of Benin.
- Alhaji Gambo Sawaba in the North played active role in political agitation.
- Obongawn(Mrs) Mma Brownson Ikpe.
- Obongawan Ikpaisong (Mrs) Atim Rose ,Dr. Mrs. Akon Eyakenyi etc.
Today, women in Akwa Ibom State helps in the day to day running of the affairs of the Village, they make useful suggestions that lead to a formulation or representative in socio-cultural settings.
The women for change initiative were holed in Uyo Akwa Ibom State on September 14, 2010 by Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan; as aspect of the Douglas Mc-Gregory’s model of motivation. In essence, the support and motivated the Akwa Ibom women to participate in politics in Nigeria. Indeed, such acts are motivated enough to enhance women participation in politics in the State (Akwa Ibom).
There is no doubt that women have some potentials and rights to contribute meaningfully to development of their Countries. Therefore, Akwa Ibom Government should work hard towards achieving gender equality in democratic governance, increase women participation and access to politics. It must be realized that the role of women as home maker cannot be down played in that it equally has an extended impact on their responsibility in services, the women touch anywhere cannot be matched.
1.1 Statement of the Problem
Women today cannot continue to complacent when the challenges of modern living are weighting a major impediment on their progress with respect to participate in politics. Women are only partners in development but are indispensible species of human gender, complete with spy chill thinking, innovative, diligent, hardworking and very resourceful.
Irrespective of these potentials that the Akwa Ibom State women possess, yet they have been frustrated from political mainstreaming and adequate proportion of political position as well as decision making within the public bureaucracies. This is the cause, because Akwa Ibom being a unique geo-political entity is characterized by gender inequality arising from its culture belief system, prejudices, ancestral heritage, unsympathetic societal attitude and largely ignorance, illiteracy and poverty in all ramification.
Akwa Ibom women faced numerous obstacles in achieving representation in government. Their participation has been limited by the assumption that women proper sphere is the “Private” Sphere. Whereas the “Public” domain is one of political authority and Contestation, the “Private” realm is associated with family and the home. By relegation women to the private sphere, their ability to enter the political arena is curtailed.
Gender inequality within families’ inequitable division of labour within households and cultural attitude about gender role further subjugate women and serve to limit their representation in public life. Society that human patriarchal often have local power structures that make it difficult for women to combated thus, their interest are often not represented.
The problem of access of women to education has multiplier effect on their effective participation in politics. Taboos that emphasize the child require rearing role of women thus making them less out-going and less aggression in politics of disastrous. Education is an indispensible tool effective political awareness, exposure and critical analysis of issues. Several social cultural factors were also identified by Awe (1992) to include male chauvinist, petty jealously, Lack of women role models, polygamous marriages, widowhood and early marriage, etc.
Despite the unsympathetic attitude towards women in Nigeria and Akwa Ibom State society as well, a considerable number of them have continued to demonstrate their willingness to participate actively in political affairs and it is evident that with great support from government and agents of nationalization most are bound to rise to prominence, as did their fore-bearers of great materials and heroine. The legendary like Late Dr (Mrs). Margret Ekpo, Mrs. Emah Brown, Madam Arit Out Ita, Adiaha Edem,
Hon. Chief (Mrs.) Atim Effiong Arit, Obongawan Ikpaisiong, Madam Nkoyo Mfon Eyo (Nee Nkoyo Abia) could be replicated if tough potentials of modern day women are harness into constructive ventures. Also the like of Senator Emem Uffot Ekaete, Rt. Hon. Alice Ekepenyong, Obong Rita Akpan, Her Honour Lady Varlerie Ebe, Senator Helen Esuene, Dr. (Mrs) Akon Etim Eyakenyi etc which they represented Akwa Ibom State in difference Capacities.
There is need for women to therefore urgently realize themselves and begin to work toward effecting appropriate influence in politicking and actual empowerment through the network of opportunities open to them in project power with this, a great number of them have made their network in both political spheres and professional fields. Therefore, wherever one can strive with human endeavors, women are seen there, but only on few numbers. This effect has led to good numbers of questions being raised about this charging role of women, some will agree that it is due to the restricted role of women in the past that led to greater success at issues like marriage, child bearing good morals and so on. Therefore the issue of women in politics makes a lot of people, preachers, scholars, students, political analysis etc to ask questions, finally this research work will look into the opinion of different people or attitude towards women participation in government as if local, state and national development in democratic society in contemporary Nigeria