The major political parties in Nigeria, the ruling All progressives Congress  (APC), the leading opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) have all been in the news in the last number of weeks over a lot of issues. There have been debates about the zoning for Party leaderships, Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates and even about religion.

The opposition People’s Democratic Party has had the lingering crises with the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike who came second during their Presidential primaries. There has been a lot of tension around his attitude having lost to Atiku Abubakar. In fact, there has been different groups of the party’s leadership making ‘political pilgrimages’ to Rivers State to pacify him over what is alleged to be his misgiving  over being left out as the Vice Presidential candidate of the party.

In some quarters, he is comically been referred to as the beautiful bride post all the party primaries. There were even rumours that other political parties wanted to ‘gain’ from the assumed problems a Nwike has with his party of the Presidential candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.  The permutations about his next line of action are still in the public domain even as he recently had a meeting with the PDP candidate in Abuja and had allegedly been issuing conditions for peace.

The APC on the other hand seems to have been trying to douse the tension over its Muslim-Muslim ticket for its Presidential and Vice presidential candidates, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu and Kashim Shettima respectively. There has been efforts at explaining to the voting public that both candidates do not wear their religion on their sleeves but have a history of liberal practice of their faiths given that even the Presidential candidate’s wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu is not just a Christian but a pastor and that a former governor Shettima of Bornu had a history of religious tolerance in office.

Just about a day ago, the two political parties appointed the Director Generals for their Presidential campaigns.  The APC has appointed Governor Simon Lalong of Plateaustate as the Director General and the Minister of state for Labour, Festus Keyamo  (SAN) as the interim Spokesperson. The PDP appointed  Daniel Bwala a recent decampee from APC and a Dino Melaye, another decampee from the APC to PDP as Campaign Spokespersons. So seemingly the die is cast for these two parties. For more than a dozen other political parties, Nigerians await their appointments.

The Roundtable Conversation listened to the Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu project that the Commission anticipates about 95million registered voters for the 2023 election. This number of voters is predominantly the youth and women. Women are often the largest voting demographic and are often the most loyal party members. The commitment and competence of women in all sectors cannot be over-emphasized.

However, it has been a very disappointing silence from the few women politicians and the political party leaderships as reagrds positions for women even as we hear from the grapevine permutations of who gets what in the even of a win by either political parties.

During the conventions of the APC and the PDP, we noticed the tokenism to the largest voting bloc at all elections, the hands that rock the cradle, those who feel the most impact of bad leadership at all levels – the women seem to be mere onlookers and the political parties are always enthusiastic to give the ‘Women Leader’ position to the women with the sole aim of making them mobilizers of votes for the men.

We see the silence of the few women in politics as a betrayal of the global efforts at integrating more women into politics in a developing nation like Nigeria. The silence of the women is very worrisome and one wonders whether they are just very comfortable waiting on the men to send them on errands or throw certain posts to them post elections. The political parties from the congresses to primary elections have been very silent about a level playing field and the women seem not to take note.

The Roundtable conversation spoke to Ndi Kato, Executive Director at Dinidari Africa, an Advocate for Human Rights and  African Women in Tech. She feels that not much has changed in the political scene as it concerns women and that is very discouraging because women are  capable and qualified to take up leadership at any level.  She believes that women must make choices right now, do the women just want to dance at political rallies and wear uniforms while the same chauvinistic and patriarchal attitude of male politicians continue in the political space? Some action to her must come from more women in politics.

To her, women must be willing to walk the talk and hold Nigerian male politicians to account like the Liberian and Icelandic women whose determination and hard work substantially changed the dynamics of the political situation in both countries very profoundly. No country in her view can progress without the contribution of their women.  In the case of Nigeria, Ndi feels that no country seems as blessed as Nigeria especially when it comes to the capacity of Nigerian women to blaze trails and contribute nationally and at globally.

An Ndi believes that Nigerian women in politics must purge themselves of the cultural and religious beliefs that have negative impact on development as it concerns gender equity. In the United Kingdom at the moment, Liz Truss is almost at the threshold of being elected the British Prime Minister. Even the Nigerian-British Kemi Badenoch was a top contender  earlier in the race. Could she have had the opportunity in Nigeria? She doubts.

An Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, an Amina Mohamed, an Aruma Oteh, Yewande Sadiku, a Tobi Amusan and dozens of other Nigerian women are global citizens making their education and tenacity work for a world that offers a level playing field to everyone.  Some vibrant global economies have had women as Chancellor in the case of Angela Merkel of Germany, Presidents, Prime Ministers, or Heads of governments because their political environment allows the best human to emerge without the overt or subtle huddles by the political systems in their countries.

The Roundtable Conversation believes that Nigerian male politicians are just being monopolistic in terms of opening up the political space. On the other hand, the women in that field are very docile and seem to have resigned to faith. However, development is not a natural endowment, both genders have complimentary roles that must be employed brilliantly and patriotically working together for national development.

Observing the attention a governor Wike is getting must teach Nigerian women in politics some lessons. With no prejudice to the PDP internal squabbles, a Wike either way has exposed the political system in Nigeria. Given the attention his party and others have paid to a governor Wike, rightly or wrongly, he is sending a message that the PDP seems to be getting. The pampering and series of consultations coming his way shows that the men in Nigerian politics understand the human value in politics.

There are talks that a Wike is merely trying to say he is very relevant to the party. Whether true or false, we might never know.  However,  if the focus and attention on him by several delegations of his party and even the subtle wooing by other political ‘pilgrims’ to his state are anything to go buy, he seems to have made his point and all the politicians seem to agree to his relevance exaggerated or regular.

Then when we look at the issues about gender equity in the Nigerian political space, one can sense a bit of patriarchal arrogance and ego play by the men. Issues that concern women and the youths are often overlooked as the men assume, even if wrongly and parochially that they can always get their way and lead the largest votying blocs in any election.

What the Nigerian male politicians forget is that the global political paradigms have shifted and the old ways might not be the winning ways anymore. There is more political awareness, more influence from technology and the new media.  The youth and women might be a force to be reckoned with in Nigeria in the coming years. The awareness about leadership and governance structures are getting to all the nooks and crannies of the world. No one expected the Arab Spring events. The Sri Lankans never anticipated the recent political turn of events in their country. It is always good to evaluate strategies and tactics even in the political sphere. Equity pays.

However, when we depart from the political leaderships that are predominantly skewed to favour the men across all political parties, the notorious ‘Women Wings’ leaderships of all political parties must take the blame for the docility they have shown especially as the political parties get ready for the elections. Why the deafening silence? Are the Women Leaders just satisfied with dancing, singing and persuading the rural women to vote for the men?

There is a sense at which the Roundtable Conversations feels seriously that most female politicians seem to have failed generations of women and youths. If a lone governor Wike can seemingly bring the PDP to its knees and allegedly get other parties to the negotiating table, what more of the greatest voting demographic given the past records and current INEC records?

Political power is never offered on a platter. The women in politics must spring beyond individualism and an exaggerated sense of relevance as members of any ‘Women Wing’ of any political party. Have they ever asked why there is no Male wings?

The dialogue continues…