The recently released ministerial list continues a Nigerian culture of women underrepresentation as only seven women made the cut out of President Bola Tinubu’s 28 nominees.
The representation of women in this list is 25 per cent, 10 percentage points short of his promised action plan to allow at least 35 per cent participation of women in government positions, as contained in his manifesto, ‘Renewed Hope 2023’.
“Working with the National Assembly, we will aim to pass legislation promoting female employment in all government offices, ministries, and agencies. The goal will be to increase women’s participation in government to at least 35 per cent of all governmental positions,” he noted.
“This legislation shall also mandate the federal executive (particularly the cabinet and core senior advisers) to reserve a minimum number of senior positions for women. Private institutions shall be strongly encouraged to do likewise,” his manifesto reads.
This happened despite pleas from women’s groups urging for the inclusion of more women in governance.
However, Mr Tinubu still has an opportunity to address the imbalance as he is expected to send more ministerial nominees to the Senate for confirmation. The Nigerian constitution mandates that the president appoints at least one minister from each of Nigeria’s 36 states. However, a PREMIUM TIMES analysis shows that 11 states were not represented in the ministerial list.
Unachieved 35 per cent affirmative action
Like President Tinubu, his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, in his first term, nominated a paltry six women out of 42 appointees. Although, what seemed like a slight improvement in his second term, he nominated seven female ministers out of a list of 43, which is about 16 per cent.
“It shows that this government has no regard for women. We have an abundance of qualified women and we have been advocating throughout the process of selecting ministers. The disrespect of tossing women’s request like it doesn’t matter is traumatic,” Ndi Kato, a female politician told PREMIUM TIMES at the time.
It was for this reason, having violated the policy, that nine civil society organisations filed a suit against the Nigerian government in August 2020, seeking the implementation of the 35 per cent Affirmative Action in appointments of women into public office, a case which they won.
President Goodluck Jonathan had also failed to achieve the specified percentage for women having appointed only nine women out of 36 ministers, which is 25 per cent.
Non-implementation of the policy began in the first term (1999-2003) of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who appointed only three women out of 28 ministers. But in his second term (2003 to 2007), it got better with nine women comprising his 30 cabinet members, having the highest number yet, with 30 per cent allocations for women.
Prolonged challenges of Nigerian women in politics
Considerable efforts have been made to increase the representation of women in politics over the years. One such was a bill introduced in the 9th National Assembly for amendment of the Nigerian constitution. But the federal parliament tossed it aside, which prompted a massive protest by Nigerian women groups who besieged the gates of the National Assembly complex in 2022.
Adequate attention has not been paid to the call for addressing the disparity between men’s and women’s participation in politics, as Nigeria keeps lagging behind despite having almost half its population consisting of women.
A female senator in the 9th assembly, Biodun Olujimi, said her male counterparts rejected bills for gender balance because they were not convinced of its relevance,
“The men were just set on what they wanted to do. It was tough; only a few of them supported us, and God knows why because most of them have very special daughters, daughters who have done very well; daughters who have made them proud and have grown in the system. Yet, they couldn’t vote for the simplest thing—their future—because the future is in the woman,” she said.
Many social factors constitute hurdles for women in their quests to attain high positions like their male counterparts. Some of these factors include cultural stereotypes, religion and the patriarchal structure of the country.
The clamour for increased chances for Nigerian women in politics is fueled by abysmal statistics that portray how the government sidelines women. For instance, in the 2022 report by Gender Strategy Advancement International (GSAI), Nigeria ranked 181 out of 193 countries on the Gender Equality Index.
The most populous African country also ranks 139 out of 156 countries on the 2022 World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, emphasising the immense disparity between Nigerian men and women in political opportunities.
Nigeria also falls short of aligning with the 1995 Beijing Declaration, which the country is a signatory to, to ensure “full and equal participation of women in political, civil, economic, social and cultural life at the national, regional and international levels, and the eradication of all forms of discrimination on the grounds of sex are priority objectives of the international community.”
National Assembly was affected too
Representation in the federal parliament is equally not spared as the 2023 election saw the lowest number of elected women into the chambers since 1999 when there were 15 women federal lawmakers. In 2023, despite 11 and 35 women contesting for seats in the red and green chambers respectively, only three female senators and 14 female Reps members got in, which is 3.62 per cent of the 469 seats in the two chambers.
The year 2003 saw 24 female lawmakers, but there was a significant increase in the 2007 general elections with 34 women taking seats in the federal chambers. The decline began after that with 29 female lawmakers in 2011 and 2015.
It was a repetition of the antecedents in 2023 because while many women submitted nomination forms for different political seats, only a few could contest due to financial constraints, cultural preconceptions and socio-political marginalisation by men. A total of 286 women competed in the party primaries for the 360 House of Representative seats while 92 women contested for the 109 Senate seats
Since President Tinubu is expected to send more ministerial nominees to the Senate, he may include more women to fulfil the promise he made in that regard in his manifesto.
The onus also lies on the first lady, Remi Tinubu, to continue her previous advocacy demanding 35 per cent affirmative action for women as she earlier noted that male politicians were frustrating moves to give women a special place in governance.
Speaking on the inadequate number of women in decision-making positions, a former Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, highlighted it as the cause of the country’s low investment and slow progress in crucial sectors of human development, which she listed to include: low level of development in security and peace processes, health, education, ICT development, finance, trade and investments among others.
Meanwhile, here are the profiles of the female ministers selected to be part of President Tinubu’s cabinet.
All seven of them have rich resumes showing good educational backgrounds and varied experiences in public service, politics and business, indicating a depth of competence and quality among Nigerian women that strongly supports their call for greater representation in governance in their country.
According to her Facebook Profile, Hannatu Musawa profiles herself as a lawyer, writer, newspaper columnist, and activist. She also served as the deputy spokesperson and deputy director of Public Affairs, of the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council.
She was recently appointed on 19 June by President Tinubu as his Special Adviser on Culture and the Entertainment Economy.
As indicated on her LinkedIn profile, Mrs Musawa has a law degree from the University of Buckingham, United Kingdom. Also, she holds two postgraduate degrees: a Master’s programme in Legal Aspects of Marine Affairs from the University of Cardiff, Wales, and another in Oil and Gas Law at the University of Aberdeen. She is also currently pursuing her doctorate programme. But these are among the six degrees she owns, with an aspiration to get 10.
Mrs Musawa is a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, granting her a wealth of working experience in Nigeria. She has also worked as a litigation lawyer and legal advisor for private companies.
She worked at the law firm of the late Attorney General of the Federation, Clement Akpamgbo, and a former senator, Bala Na’allah, during the proceedings of the Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission of Nigeria, also known as the Oputa Panel, inaugurated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999. Then, she started her own firm, where she is the Principal Partner.
In 2002, she took an interest in politics when she decided to join the political movement of former President Muhammadu Buhari, a person she describes as having a close relationship with and as one of the fathers who gave her away when she was getting married.
Her parents are from Katsina State. Her father, Musa Musawa, was a seasoned politician of the Aminu Kano school of political thought and was part of the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) back in Kano.
Mrs Musawa said in a February interview with Vanguard newspaper: “Mallam Aminu Kano was my godfather so obviously growing up I saw my father in this kind of role as a radical and then seeing Aminu Kano, of course, you grow up with this mindset, the sort of way that he thinks.”
Also, she has been a protégé of some northern women, like the former Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, Sadiya Farouk, as stated in the interview with Vanguard.
According to her, the inner caucus of President Buhari advised her to pick a ticket and run for a seat in the House of Representatives in 2011, a venture she failed to get but made her interested in joining the movement of the current President, Bola Tinubu.
As a political activist, Mrs Musawa was one of Mr Buhari’s lawyers in his 2003 presidential election petition challenging the victory of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
In 2020, she faced a roadblock at the Senate, where her appointment as the Commissioner representing the North-west region for the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) was rejected by the lawmakers following her failure to submit her National Youth Service (NYSC) discharge certificate.
2. Betta Edu
Born on 27 October 1986, Betta Edu, according to a profile published in the Guardian earlier in the year, was born in London but was brought to Nigeria at age eight, where she did her primary and secondary school education, and then proceeded to study Medicine and Surgery at the University of Calabar in Cross River State.
During her NYSC in 2011, she served as the Chief Medical Director of Cross River State Camp Clinic, led a team as a medical officer at the Government House Clinic, and became the personal physician of the then governor’s wife. Two years later, she led the staff clinic as the medical officer of Health at the State Ministry of Health in the state.
She later returned to the United Kingdom to obtain several degrees, like a postgraduate Diploma and a Master of Science in Public Health for Developing Countries, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 2014, and a Doctor of Public Health from Texila American University. She is a 2021 fellow of the Royal School of Public Health, London and a 2022 Fellow of the African Institute of Public Health Professionals at Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt.
In the process of achieving the above, she became the Vice Chairman of the Forum of all CEOs of Primary Health Care Agencies and Boards in Nigeria in 2018, during which she partnered with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency to ensure full implementation of Primary Health Care across the country.
Between 2015 and 2016, she served as the Special Adviser to the Governor of Cross River State on Community Health and then emerged as the first Director General of the Cross River State Primary Healthcare Development Agency in 2016, a position she occupied till 2019.
She was then made the Commissioner for Health in the state, where she served from December 2019 to March 2022 before leaving to contest for the seat of the National Women Leader of the APC, a seat she clinched.
But her political position recently came under criticism on 16 July following a vote of no confidence passed on her by some APC members under the aegis of ‘Elected Female National APC officers and Zonal Women Leaders’, a group which claimed that Mrs Edu was abusing her office.
This reaction came a day after a viral video published by Sahara Reporters allegedly indicated that she shared dollar notes as lunch money.
3. Doris Uzoka-Anite
Born 13 December 1967 and from Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State, Mrs Uzoka-Anite’s career started in the health sector having bagged a degree in Unclassified Medicine and Surgery from the University of Benin in 1998. She then interned at Eko Hospital for one year in 2000, served as a Medical Officer during her NYSC programme in 2001 and proceeded to become a Medical Officer at Providence Hospital for five months – June to October 2022.
She later switched her career to the banking sector where she spent 20 years. She started work at Zenith Bank where she grew from being an Assistant Banking Officer in 2002, led Human Resources and Training department, and now functions as the Group Head and Treasurer till date. It was through this position she earned the position of Commissioner for Finance and Coordinating Economy in Imo state in 2021, a seat she still occupies.
Her appointment came with criticisms from members of the financial advisory committee set up by the former Imo State governor, Emeka Ihedioha, who petitioned the state House of Assembly. They claimed that she was ‘hired to do a hatchet job and cover over N112 billion illicit deal involving Zenith Bank.’
Also during her tenure as a commissioner, following a report by BudgiT indicating that Imo State was owing six months and above salaries, she refuted it, noting that the government was up to date with payment of salaries and emoluments to its workers.
4. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha
Born 23 November 1969 and from Umunneochi Local Government Area in Abia State, Mrs Onyejeocha was an active member of the students union during her undergraduate days at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree. This served as a foundation for her political career. During her NYSC programme in 1993, she worked in the protocol office of the then Governor of Osun State.
She later proceeded to obtain two Master’s degrees – International Affairs and Diplomacy from Imo State University and Shipping from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Oyo State.
For her professional journey, she served as a Managing Director of Nikkings and Kingzol International Limited, a family-run company.
Her political journey kick-started as the Commissioner for Resource Management and Manpower Development, Abia state in 2002 under the then Governor Orji Kalu and was later made Transition Executive Chairman in her local government in 2003. During her tenure, she was awarded a chieftaincy title — Adaejiagamba.
In 2007, she ran for the House of Representatives under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party to represent Isuikwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency. She defected to the APC in 2008 and has served in the federal chamber for four terms.
In 2019, she was the only female legislator who ran for the Speaker’s seat but lost to Femi Gbajabiamila. But she got the position of Deputy Chief Whip, which she used to canvas for a bill to amend the Nigerian constitution that will create more seats for women in the National and state Houses of Assembly. However, the bill was rejected by the National Assembly.
While in the green chamber, she chaired the Women in Parliament in 2007 and 2011 and the House Committee on Aviation in 2011. Some notable laws she was involved in promoting include the Anti-torture Act 2017, Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshot Act 2017, and National Senior Citizens Centre Act, 2018.
In an interview with The Nation Newspaper, she narrated her journey from grass to grace – how she struggled through school as an undergraduate who fed once a day and then married and lived with her husband in a one-bedroom apartment in Lagos State and was bedridden for two years following an armed robbery attack.
5. Stella Okotete
Mrs Okotete, 39, born 20 April is from Warri, Delta State. She attended Benson Idahosa University, Benin, where she bagged a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Diplomacy, and got a diploma in Law from the Rivers State College of Arts and Science. She is currently undergoing a master’s degree programme in Peace and Conflict Resolution and an Executive Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Abuja.
In addition to her academic degrees, she has undergone several certificate programmes at Harvard University’s John Kennedy School of Government in the United States, University of Virginia (US), University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, Pan Atlantic University’s Enterprise Development Center and Columbia Business school in New York.
Also, she is recognised as an Honourary Senior Member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, a Fellow and Professional Fellow Doctorate of the Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria, a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants and the Institute of Corporate Administration.
In her political career, she is currently the National Women Leader of the APC Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee. In the party, she has been a member of the following committees: National Convention Committee, the National Presidential Convention and the 2019 Presidential Campaign Council focusing on Women Mobilisation where she coordinated the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections in Delta central senatorial district and the state which contributed to the emergence of former President Muhammadu Buhari.
READ ALSO: ANALYSIS: Concerns as womens representation in Nigerian parliament declines after 2023 elections
Within this field, she also worked as a councillor in the Ughelli-North Local Government Area of Delta State from 2008 to 2011 and was appointed as the Special Assistant to the Governor of Delta State on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) from 2011 to 2015. She also worked under the 2023 Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Transition/Inauguration Committee where she headed the Secretariat, Planning and Monitoring Committee.
Furthermore, she was appointed the Executive Director of Business Development of the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) by former President Buhari on 20 April 2017 where she developed several policies to encourage exports by women and young people.
In this capacity, she was part of the team that developed the Presidential Inauguration Website and Mobile Apps and the Nigerian Export Academy (NEXA) Mobile App aimed at training 5 million exporters within 5 years and the Progressive Women Academy Mobile App to empower and prepare 20 million women for Leadership and Political Office.
But her appointment in NEXIM was questioned in a report published by Sahara Reporters which claimed that she was not qualified for the position as she did not have the 18 years of post-graduation experience required for the seat as indicated in a Central Bank of Nigeria’s 2015 circular.
Likewise, her recent ministerial nomination has been criticised by a human rights lawyer, Oladotun Hassan, who in a petition to the Senate accused her of corruption which he described as “round-tripping and recycling of different loans and use of various front-companies as a proxy to defraud the bank of billions of naira and dollars”.
Meanwhile, she has been recognised for conceptualising Nigeria Export Academy in 2021, initiating the Women Youth Export facility in the same year, modelled and initiated the Small and Medium Enterprise Export Facility in 2021, and Masterminded Progressive Women Academy in 2020.
Mrs Okoete was also awarded for being the most outstanding Female Public Servant by the Nigerian Society of Engineers in 2020, emerged as an Icon of Humanitarian service by All Middle Belt Youth Forum in 2019, received the Integrity Award of Excellence under Nigerian women in politics and leadership in 2018 among others.
6. Uju Ohaneye
Mrs Ohaneye, a businesswoman into real estate and education, was a 2023 presidential aspirant in the APC, an ambition she nursed due to her “passion for humanity” and because “Nigerians need a mother for a change…to show Nigerians love, get them involved in governance…reduce banditry and crime by 70 per cent”, as indicated in an interview by Punch Newspapers.
According to her, she has neither occupied any political office nor gotten a government job or contract. She also stated that before her presidential ambition, she was not interested in politics but only supported the campaigns of former President Goodluck Jonathan and Mr Buhari with millions of naira where she “donated T-shirts, banners, flyers and face caps…and gave my malls in Owerri and Abuja as campaign offices and also provided refreshments during meetings.”
She described herself as a philanthropist who always visited government hospitals to pay for surgeries and treatment of poor patients, particularly those detained due to unsettled bills.
7. Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim
Born in Plateau but from Nasarawa State, and raised in Abuja, Mrs Sulaiman-Ibrahim said she obtained her first degree in Sociology from the University of Abuja at 19 and by 21, she received two master’s degrees from Webster University in London – a Master of Business Administration and Masters of Arts. She did her NYSC programme at the NNPC’s zonal office in Kaduna State.
She began her professional career at Abuja Geographic Information System then moved to the United Kingdom to become a certified Human Resource Management consultant. She later worked with Mary Kay and emerged as a Senior sales director.
She returned home to work as a Special Adviser on strategic communication to the then Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba and was also appointed as a member of the economic advisory council in Nasarawa State by the governor of the state, Abdullahi Sule, in 2019.
Former President Buhari then appointed her as the Director-General of the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) in 2020, where she worked for five months before she was replaced as she was tagged unqualified for the position because the appointment violated the law establishing the agency which requires that the official in the position must be from the directorate cadre in the civil service or from an equivalent cadre in any of the nation’s law enforcement agencies.
She is currently the Federal Commissioner of the National Commission for Refugees Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, a position she assumed on 4 June 2021.
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