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Expanding the level of political participation

1

Discrimination of women’s rights to political participation

In any given society, women’s full and effective political participation is a matter of human rights, inclusive growth, and sustainable development.

Given the fact that many countries have ratified international conventions and protocols on gender equality and women political participation, the low level of women’s representation in government and political offices may be considered a violation of women’s fundamental democratic rights.

In Nigeria, it is well known that the existence of social norms makes it more difficult for women to emerge in political public roles. This can be attributed to several cultural, religious, socio- political factors limiting women’s full exercise of the right to political participation. For instance, the belief that women’s gender identity is still predominantly conceived of as being domestic in nature, continues to act as a barrier to women’s entry into formal politics.

Nigeria has a National Gender Policy and also the INEC Gender Policy which both make provisions to promote women’s participation in the political and electoral process. There are prospects for further legislations and constitutional amendments on women’s rights to political participation before the National Assembly like has been done in Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, Tunisia etc. These countries provide examples on how to further promote the right to political participation for women by providing some form of affirmative action, electoral quotas to ensure women can contest and win elections.

Section 42 Sub-Section 1 Paragraph (A & B) Of The 1999 Constitution is to the effect that a citizen of Nigeria enjoys the right of equality and not to be discriminated on the basis of ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion, or political opinion nor any form of discrimination.

This explains that one can go to court to seek redress, if as a woman your right to participate in election is violated and that the constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of ones’ sex.

From the foregoing, it appears that there is no provision in the constitution which excludes the participation of woman in politics in Nigeria, yet when it comes to actual practice, there is extensive discrimination. The increasing rate of women’s issues and rise of women’s movements have raised popular consciousness and intense academic discourse on poor participation of women in politics.

Though women’s low political participation is a universal phenomenon, the imperative of women participation in democratic governance and human development cannot be over emphasized.

Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspective in all levels of decision making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved (Akiyode-Afolabi & Arogundade).

In furtherance of the inclusion of women in the political affairs of Nigeria, the political parties with national prominence in Nigeria have made special provisions to ensure the involvement of women in all areas of their activities ranging from the National, State, Senatorial, Local/Area Council and Ward Committees.

For examples, The All-Progressive Congress Constitution (APC) 2014 recognizes this inclusion in several ways. They are:

  • At the National level, (Article 12.3. {xxi & xxii}) provides for the post of National and Deputy Women’s Leader, in its National Working committee (Article 12.4 {xiv}) provides for the post of National Women Leader, under the National Caucus (Article 12.5 (vii)) provides for the post of National Women Leader, under the Zonal Executive Committee (Article 12.6 (vi)) provides for the post of Zonal Women Leader.

  • At the State level, the APC constitution provides thus: in the State Executive Committee (Article 12.8 (xx & xi)) it provides for the post of State and State Assistant Women Leader, the State Caucus (Article 12.9 {x}) provides for State Women Leader, The State Working Committee (Article 12.10 {xiii}) provides for the State women Leader.

  • At the Senatorial level: The Senatorial District Committee (Article 12.11 {xiii}) provides for the Senatorial District Women Leader. At the Local Government Area Executive Committee (Article 12.13 {xx & xxi}) provides for the LGA/Area Council Party Women Leader and Assistant Women Leader, The LGA/Area Council Caucus (Article 12.14{ix}) provides for LGA/Area Council Women Leader.

  • At the Ward Congress, the Ward Executive Committee (Article 12.16 [xvii & xvii) provides for the post of Ward Women Leader and Assistant Women Leader.

Also, The People’s Democratic Party Constitution 2012 recognizes the inclusion of women in its affairs. As it appears as follows:

  • At the Ward Executive committee (Article 14.1 (paragraph J)) The Woman Leader, five other members elected at the Ward congress, two of whom shall be women (Article 14.1 paragraph I). At the LGA Executive Committee (Article 16.1(paragraph O), State Working Committee Article 21.1 (paragraph J), State caucus (Article 22.1(l), etc.

2

Exemption of The Rights of Persons with Disabilities to Political Participation.

Even though every citizen is endowed to enjoy the right to political participation, general recognition of this right may not guarantee the enfranchisement of people with disabilities. Hence, the playing field should be levelled, and special provisions made to ensure deeper and enhanced political participation of people with disability.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) elaborates the right to participate in political and public life in the context of disability. State parties are required to guarantee that persons with disabilities have political rights, as well as the opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others as stated in Article 29 of the CRPD.

The Convention specifies certain measures, but not limited to be taken to ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, including the right and opportunity to vote and be elected. These include:

  • Ensuring that voting procedures, facilities, and materials are appropriate, accessible, and easy to understand and use;
  • Protecting the right of persons with disabilities to vote by secret ballot;
  • Protecting the right of persons with disabilities to stand for elections and to hold office and perform all public functions at all levels of government, including facilitating the use of supportive technologies where relevant; and
  • Ensuring equal and effective access to voting procedures and facilities in order to exercise their right to vote, including provision of reasonable accommodation.

This further requires State parties to promote an environment in which persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate, without discrimination, in the conduct of public affairs and to encourage their participation in public affairs, including:

  • Participation in the conduct of public administration, including the administration of political parties and civil society;
  • Participation in the work of international organizations, including serving as a representative of government in international organizations; and
  • Formation of and participation in DPOs at international, national, regional, and local levels.

Inclusions are general principles of the CRPD. It establishes, as a general obligation, that persons with disabilities are entitled to participate in decision-making processes on an equal basis with others where their interests are affected. As it relates to the right to participate in political and public life, this requires inter alia accessible and inclusive civil education, voter education materials, polling stations and transport.

The Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018 provides that persons with disabilities shall be encouraged to fully participate in politics and public life. In furtherance of this right of disables, Section 30(2) further states that the government is saddled with the responsibility to create environments that would enable effective participation of persons with disabilities in-

  • The conduct of public affairs without discrimination
  • Non-governmental organizations and associations concerned with the public and political life of the country.
  • Activities and administration of political parties.

The All-Progressive Congress (APC) has in its constitution given special regards to persons with disabilities to ensure their active participation by providing for the post of Special (Physically Challenged) Leader. This is seen in the constitution thus: In, Articles 12. 3(xxv), Article 12.4 (xvi), Article 12.5 (x), Article 12.6 (viii), Article 12. 8 (xxiv), Article 12.9 (xii), Article 12.10 (xv), Article 12.11 (viii), Article 12.13 (xxiv), Article 12.14 (xi), Article 12.16 (xxi) and Article 12.17(x).

Unlike other countries who have gone a step further, there is currently no special provision in the Nigerian constitution that mandates the equal representation of persons with disability in government.

3

Youths in Political Participation

Young people are often systematically marginalized due to factors like lack of experience, age, or limited opportunities. They are often overlooked or excluded for positions as political candidates. Although they are an integral part and play central roles in democratic movements in government, they are less engaged as political leaders.

African youth Charter (Article 5) provides that every young person shall have the right to free association and freedom of peaceful assembly in conformity with the law.

The National Youth Policy defines young people as persons between the age of 15 and 29. The Nigerian constitution provides that ‘every citizen of Nigeria, who has attained the age of eighteen (18) years residing in Nigeria at the time of the registration of voters for purposes of election to a legislative house, shall be entitled to be registered as a voter for that election.’

In a country like Nigeria with nearly 70% being youths below the age of 35, it is important that young people are represented in the country’s political system. The Not Too Young to Run Act reduced the age qualifications for office of the President and membership of the House of Representatives and State House of Assembly. The House of Representatives and State House of Assembly was reduced from 30 to 25 years and the office of the President was reduced from 40 to 35 Years

The All-Progressive Congress also made provisions for youths in the APC Constitution at the National, state, Senatorial, Local, Zonal and ward level: Article 12.4(xv), Article 12.5 (ix), Article 12.6 (vii), Article 12.8 (xxv), etc.

The People’s Democratic Party also made provision for youths’ involvement at National, State, Ward and Local levels: Article 14(1)(k), Article 16(1)(p), Article 21(1)(k), Article 22(1)(m), Article 24(1)(r), Article 26(1)(j), Article 27(1)(o), Article 29(1)(l).

In the case of LAWAL GARBA V APC & ORS, the Federal High Court nullified the election of Abdulrauf Modibbo into the National Assembly as member representing Yola/South/ Yola North/Giriei Federal Constituency of Adamawa State on October 7, 2018, on the grounds that he falsified his age severally in order to contest the election. He presented documents bearing various dates of births as follows: 29/9/1985; 29/9/1986 and 29/9/1989. He needed not have falsified his age as the Not Too Young to Run Act had earlier reduced the age qualification for the office. However, his action breached section 4 of the NYSC Act 2004, as he contested for office while serving with the NYSC.

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