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During the 2019 Nigerian presidential campaigns, some names of Nigerian women stood out for their participation in the largely male-dominated field of Nigerian politics.
Although that election saw President Muhammadu Buhari re-elected into office, names of women like Remi Sonaiya, Oby Ezekwesili, and Eunice Atuejide were a constant in the public and social media discourse about Nigerian women’s place in governance.
For Remi Sonaiya, who was the only female candidate in the previously held 2015 presidential elections, her name was mentioned as evidence that women could in fact boldly maintain their stance on holding the highest political office.
Ms Sonaiya, who ran under the KOWA party, came in twelfth place with a total of 13,076 votes. She had, on numerous occasions, said that elections into political offices should be made based on merit and competency, not on grounds of gender.
A writer, author, educationist, and vocal advocate of a better Nigeria, Ms Sonaiya has said that she believes that Nigerian women can lead political change.
In the 2019 elections, Oby Ezekwesili and Eunice Atuejide were the only women who ran for the presidential office. However, they both withdrew towards the end of the presidential race.
Oby Ezekwesili is an economic expert and outspoken advocate for the educational rights of the kidnapped Chibok girls under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Ezekwesili ran under the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria(ACPN) until her withdrawal. She announced in January 2019 that she was withdrawing her presidential candidacy to form part of a coalition of politicians determined to ensure President Buhari wasn’t re-elected.
Eunice Atuejide, who was initially running under the National Interest Party–of which she was the national chairperson–announced in February 2019 that she was withdrawing as well to support the presidential bid by Atiku Abubakar.
Although Nigeria has never elected a woman into presidential power, it is important to note that women have been lobbying and campaigning for a more women-inclusive politics. Two of such organisations are Politishean and ElectHER. Politishean is founded by Ndi Kato, a vocal feminist, campaigner for women’s rights and political freedoms. According to its website, its core goal is to normalise the idea of women in leadership positions not only in Nigeria but also in the rest of Africa.
For ElectHer, their main goal is bridging inequality gaps seen in African democracy. The non-partisan organisation is founded by Ibijoke Faborode and Abosede George-Ogan. Since their inception, they have developed initiatives like ElectHer Academy and Agender35, all with the aim of a more women-inclusive politics.
For a better Nigeria for women, it is important that Nigerian women take active part in our power as decision-makers and in our right to vote. Political apathy not just at the presidential elections, but in overall political activities will only ensure that our peculiar needs, rights and wants as Nigerian women will never make it into guaranteed policy changes.