Corruption as bane of women in politics, economic leadership spaces


By Dorcas Jonah

Mrs Abimbola Ojo, a hardworking and competent confidential secretary, has remained stagnated for over 10 years, while others recruited after her, in a federal ministry, are forging ahead, getting juicy positions in the ministry.

Ojo was told to pay some money or engage in illicit relationship to guarantee that her name on the promotion list.

She refused. The consequence is that her career has stagnated. She was depressed and eventually resigned without financial compensation.

This is the fate of many women, in public and private sectors of the economy and in political groups.

Available statistics indicate that the national average of women’s political participation in Nigeria has remained 6.7 per cent in elective and appointive positions.

This is below the Global Average of 22.5 per cent, Africa Regional Average
of 23.4 per cent and West African Sub Regional Average of 15 per cent.

Statistic has also indicated that the number of women elected to the National Assembly in 2023 is the lowest since 2003 when 24 women were elected.

The 2007 general elections produced the highest number of women in the National Assembly with 34 elected. The second lowest number was recorded in 2011 and repeated in the 2015 elections with 29. The lowest was in 1999 with only 15 women elected.

In 2023 National Assembly elections, recorded 14 female members in the lower chamber and three in the upper chamber.

President Bola Tinubu also appointed eight female ministers in his cabinet.
Nigeria is rated as one of the worst countries with poor female representation in parliament worldwide.

The Nigerian government has taken some steps to combat corruption, such as establishing anti-corruption agencies, but progress has been limited.

Many women have been frustrated, abused and discriminated against because of the corrupt and immoral practices in the economic and political spheres.

They are curtailed from attaining leadership position, even when they are better and have charisma than their male counterparts.

According to the United Nations, Women’s equal participation and leadership in politics and economy, is essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

However, the UN data shows that women are underrepresented, at all levels of decision-making worldwide while achieving gender parity in all sectors, requires implementation of strategies.

Samuels Isopi, European Union Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, equally frowned at poor participation of women in politics, in Nigeria.

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Isopi, represented by the EU Deputy Head of Mission to Nigeria, Zissimos Vergos, expressed his reservations at a two-day roundtable on women’s inclusion in politics, recently held in Abuja

The programme was in commemoration of the International Women’s Week.

“In Nigeria, the advocacy for women’s political participation has been long drawn. In Spite of the very dynamic interventions by women groups and other key stakeholders, their representation remains in steady decline.

“For example, women’s representation in the 10th National Assembly is 7.4 per cent out of a total of 469 combined seats in the Senate and House of Representatives.” she said.

Isopi opined that there is strong evidence that, as more women are elected into office, there is an increase in policy making that emphasizes quality of life, and reflects the priorities of families, women, and marginalised groups.

“We must, therefore, strive for a society where every woman does not just feel safe enough to survive, but empowered enough to thrive,” she said.

According to Samson Itodo, Executive Director, Yiaga Africa, corruption impacted on women’s leadership, women’s representation and women’s participation in three ways.

Itodo said that when corruption is rampant in a society, it creates inequality, both in political and economic space, and women are at a disadvantage and unable to garner the kind of resources that they require.

In Nigeria, contesting for public office involved lots of money and women are not able to achieve this because a few persons have decided to strip women of that opportunity.

”Beyond the fact that corruption is a cancer, it disempowers women because they are unable to access resources.

According to him, once women are disempowered economically, they are unable to exert or participate actively in civic life.

Another dimension where corruption impacted on women is when it becomes the order of the day..

Under such circumstance, jobs that rightfully belong women to empower themselves are not available to them.

”This, I think is the fundamental problem and challenge that we have. So, when you think about how corruption affects women and women leadership, this is actually a classic example.

”Often, when women expose corruption they are intimidated because they are considered, ‘a weaker sex’ and they cannot withstand pressure,” he said.

Itodo said the situation was a negative stereotype about women, adding that, where courageous women have spoken against corruption, the society actually tends to frown at them and punished them for doing so.

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He said injustices and structural inequalities in the Nigeria’s politics needed to be reversed, either through the instrumentality of law, through socialisation or accountability.

The Head of Department, Women and Youth, Nigeria Labour Congress, Mrs Rita Goyit, said corruption runs through every level of the Nigerian government.

Goyit said that corruption runs from top to bottom, including contract fraud, through petty bribery, money laundering schemes, embezzlement, among others.

She said most time the monies and other resources that were meant for development infrastructure are diverted by individuals or groups.

“This is not right because everything that is given to you is done in trust, whatever position you are holding is in trust for the people to be used for the good of everybody.

“ But corruption has made it in such a way that those things, instead of being used for the good of others, have been diverted to be used for the good of some individuals.

“Some of these individuals are people who are able to, in quotes, ‘steal those monies or tax those monies or loot the money as the way we saw is corruption,” she said.

Goyit said that in Nigeria corruption has become endemic, because there was no aspect of life that corruption has not affected.

“ It has affected our well-being as citizens, because money meant for our good is not used. It has affected development, infrastructure.

“ So, people take it away and all of that. It has even affected our democracy as it were,” she said.

Goyit said Nigerian women and youth were yet to feel the impact of the activities of the Ministry of Labour and Employment because they had been marginalised in that sector.

According to her, we expect that in terms of other trapezoidal or bipartite relationships, there should be some capacity building so that we’ll be able to understand one another.

Similarly, Dr Comfort Adokwe, Deputy Director, Centre for Gender Studies, said corruption hinders economic progress and good governance.

She said that Nigerian women have historically faced substantial obstacles to attaining positions of economic and political leadership.

Adokwe said corruption has also eroded public trust in the political process, discouraging many women from seeking leadership positions.

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The perception that advancement requires engaging in corrupt practices deters women, who often face greater social stigma for doing so, Adokwe said.

She said corrupt officials also employ various means to impede or undermine women candidates.

The Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC), Auwal Rafsanjani, said that corruption undermined the integrity of women who want to participate in the social economic development in Nigeria.

He said political participation has been commercialised, privatised, in a way that it was given to the highest bidder, a situation he said, had deprived many women from realising their political dreams.

He said women are being marginalised because they were not interested to engage in political violence.

“Many women do not believe that they have to sell their body to get involved in the political environment that is why they have been isolated.

“Also many women who want to do things professionally have also been ambushed by men’’, he said.

Rafsanjani said the implication would be more poverty for women as they continue to be undermined from participating in the socio-economic and political development.

The ease of doing business has not also been unfavorable to women because they are operating from the informal sector where most of them don’t have access to credit facilities.

”Neither are they able to access any government programmes that will enhance their businesses because they are reluctant to give bribes to get contracts.

”They cannot get contracts even when they are legitimately qualified to get those contracts.

“So these are fundamental challenges that corruption has brought into undermining women’s political and economic participation in Nigeria’’, Rafsanjani he said.

Corruption remains a significant barrier to women’s participation in economic and political leadership in Nigeria.

Anti-corruption crusaders say to address this requires a multi -faceted approach which includes fair access to opportunities and resources, transparency, accountability, and gender-sensitive policies, institutional reforms and societal norms.

Strong legal frameworks, transparent institutions, and a culture of accountability and integrity at all levels of society will also help to elevate women into leadership roles that can also help drive anti-corruption efforts.

(This investigation is for the GENDER, THE AGENDA project for Gender Strategy Advancement International (GSAI) supported by the Wole Soyinka Center for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), and the MacArthur Foundation)

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