Enhancing Women’s Political Participation – through mass political party registration and primary contestation in Northeast and Northwest Nigeria Supported by National Endowment for Democracy NED (2013 – 2015)
Democracy prospers on the build-up and sustenance of critical numbers of ‘followers’, ‘sympathizers’ around ideals or concerns evolving into corporate entities, which subject to statutory requirements, crystallize into the membership of a movement or a political party. This stage of evolution of political parties becomes a critical factor of the award of stakes and roles especially for the founding members. With maturity, the party designs and implements direct and indirect strategies to recruit and retain more members to ensure a solid position as well as competitively higher number of votes against other parties during elections.
In Nigeria, the system of registration in most political parties is hardly a conscious activity especially for attracting specific constituencies such as women. Even where general provisions exist for joining a party; the level of compliance is adjudged weak ad incoherent. Consequently, membership of many of the over 30 registered political parties remain categorized along two major lines, those who are classifies as party ‘wig heads’ and stalwarts (comprising founding members and financiers) and other members who primarily are recruited around elections especially by those vying for elective offices. The party is controlled and manipulated by these allocating roles and usurping collective power. Obviously, the span of influence and capacity of the second category of members to negotiate or even force changes in party affairs is acutely limited.
Majority of women in partisan politics in Nigeria fall in the second category with even a further impediment of the confusion of their bonafide status. The issue of concern is that of the genuine or real status of the membership of women in all the registered political parties especially the established and ruling parties. There is also a challenge of an objective or statistical exploration of the quantity and quality of women’s membership which is hampered by the absence of credible baseline data in the form of political party lists showing disaggregation by sex to inform advocacy to change the status and value worth of women’s membership.
The dismal though incremental performance of women in political parties resulting from their systemic exclusion and quality membership can be redressed. Their current glaring absence at party formation, which leads to their critical masses as bonafide registered members. This will in turn generate a louder voice for women to negotiate for leadership posts and higher representation at elections. The interventions would necessarily start with social/constituency re-orientation to establish recognition and respect women’s right to political participation and representation. The project covered two zones out of six geo-political zones in the Northeast and Northwest Nigeria.
WRAPA collected the organizational information of the project participants to establish a women’s civil society map for Northern Nigeria. It utilized this map to assess step-down trainings and broader civic education and mobilization activities conducted in the run up to the 2015 general election. WRAPA administered a post training evaluation to assess participant comprehension of the political mobilization training. WRAPA also designed a template for trainers to assess their step-down mobilizations. The template included sections for location, methodology/strategy, date, results, challenges and success stories. WRAPA also recorded individual and group testimonials submitted by trainers and tracked the number of women who presented party registration cards after their trainings and also monitored the content of participant’s organizations’ activities.
- Enhance women’s political participation through massive political party registration for enhanced status and stake.
- Improve gender demand for accountability through entrenchment of best practices in membership recruitment and internal party democracy practices.
- Increase the critical mass of women to avail political parties with a pool to draw from and enhance women’s inclusion in electoral activities such as selection of delegates for party primaries, fielding of candidates for elective and appointive positions, deployment of polling agents at elections and overall mobilization of voters.
- Increase in women’s negotiating and collaborating powers within and across political parties.