women in politics

Nigerian Women in Politics: Marginalization and Representational Problem

by Adedoyin Awe

The representation of Nigerian women in politics is always a topical issue that generates many comments and observations. The role of women in politics in Nigeria cannot be underestimated so this article will discuss the representation of Nigerian women in politics.

The history of Nigeria will not be complete without mentioning some notable women who took bold steps that paved the way for women to flourish, especially in politics. The list of the better women in politics is endless because women, over time, have proved their worth politically in Nigeria.

Notable Nigerian Female Politicians

  • Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti
  • Stella Oduah
  • Remi Tinubu
  • Oby Ezekwesili
  • Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe

In Nigeria’s history, women have been disproportionately underrepresented in positions of political power. Since the establishment of electoral democracy in 1999, there have been numerous public campaigns, legislative reform proposals, and internal political party initiatives to remedy the glaring gender disparity. However, evaluations of the performance of female candidates in Nigeria’s most recent general elections found a troubling trend. Women’s participation in elected and appointed office has not only not increased but also seems to be declining.

Women in politics were not as submissive or helpless as they are often portrayed in modern fiction. The family served as the primary building block of political organization. In the prevalent matrifocal system, which gave women significant control over their progeny, a woman and her children might constitute a sizable bloc inside the home. Senior women were given a say on various subjects because power and privileges in a household were also dependent on age and gender. Managing the resources and people in a family was also an exercise in public power since the private and public spheres were interwoven.

Growing Role in Nigeria’s Politics

Despite women’s obstacles in Nigerian politics, according to a report by the Centre for the Development of Democracy (CDD), their studies provide some cause for optimism.

According to the study, 86% of respondents stated they would support electing a woman to public office, and 85% of those surveyed believed that women would make beneficial changes in society via effective public administration. The same proportion of respondents strongly agreed with the idea that women could improve society if they were elected to public office.

Such high levels of indicated support for the growing role of women in political leadership hold significant implications, even though survey responses of this kind may be affected by social desirability biases. They argued that social norms frequently believed to bar women from political engagement may either weaken over time or may not be as pervasive as is sometimes believed.

Numerous studies have been conducted on how women are marginalized in political systems, some of which have been sponsored by the Nigerian government. For instance, the General Ibrahim Babangida Administration’s Political Bureau, established to conduct a thorough review of Nigeria’s political and socioeconomic systems, acknowledged a gender gap in 1986. It stated that ‘the full involvement of women in politics is one strategy of safeguarding women’s interests in society.’

The Babangida Administration disregarded the committee’s recommendation to provide 5% of legislative seats to women at all levels of government. Therefore, the problem is not a lack of knowledge regarding the under-representation of women in politics or the methods required to increase their presence there.

The marginalization of women has continuously been highlighted in an existing study on Nigerian politics, which also identifies significant barriers to their political participation. Prior research emphasized how cultural and socioeconomic norms interact to push women out of politics.

Political parties pose significant challenges for women who desire to run for office since they choose candidates. The issue, according to her, “results from the reality that women are underrepresented at the executive level or are not nominated or supported for powerful roles in the parties, positions that would provide them invaluable political experience.

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Marginalization and Society Structure

Nigeria or underdeveloped nations in general, are not the only places where women are underrepresented in politics. Even in many developed democracies like the United States, this problem persists. However, the problem is more complicated in developing nations than in Western nations because of the socio-cultural surroundings and firmly established patriarchal structures. Contrary to popular belief, it appears that African women, at least in some nations, are relatively politically active.

Sociocultural issues also hamper the representation of women. Indigeneity is a concept that exclusively recognizes ethnic groups that are native to a specific state, as are cultural or religious conventions around marriage, as well as systems that represent women as inferior to men.

Even educated women experience obstacles. They are disadvantaged due to gender norms attributing leadership to males, sexual assault, pay inequalities, and unpaid labour such as child care and housework.

Female candidates receive inadequate media coverage. It is not the same as the coverage men get. Women candidates are often subjected to gender-related electoral violence, threats and hate speech because of the perception that women want to get what is traditionally men’s.

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What is the Solution to the Representational Problem?

  • Training

Training is essential. Women should receive instruction in the foundations of politics. They ought to begin by learning about local politics. People do not succeed when they are unknown to the general public.

  • Networking

Networking and mentorship are other options. Women must also understand that politics are not always corrupt. They must understand that government impacts every individual in a community.

  • Legislative action

Affirmative action has a role in necessary legislative changes. Legislation can establish a quota system where a certain percentage of elective positions are reserved for women. In 2022, five gender equality bills were rejected by the National Assembly but it is a foundational step in the climb of gender equality.

One of the bills includes a bill to increase seats for women in the National Assembly. It would be best if the lawmakers can make a u-turn to bring an end to women’s representational problem in Nigeria.

  • Education

The formal education system in Nigeria, from which many elite women have emerged, has been the most effective agent of change for the modern woman. They can be found in all well-known professions and are intelligent, educated, and self-assured. They now challenge many aspects of patriarchy and are gradually organizing to ensure that the political sphere is sufficiently expanded to include them.

Read Also: The Problems Facing Nigeria as a Country: is Nigeria Still the ‘Giant Of Africa’


Looking at the previous actions towards the marginalization of women in Nigerian politics, there is a deep-rooted bias against women in holding leadership position. The representational problem will continue to persist if no positive action is taken to solve it. Uplifting women in the society will be beneficial to the society. Highly productive women in politics will lead to greater development and unleash greater development strides.

Attaining a higher representation of women in Nigerian politics can be attained through legislative action as seen in other parts of the world. It’s time to put an end to inequality in politics.

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Beulah February 15, 2023 - 11:38 pm



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