BY VICTORIA N.IKEANO
Winners of the recently concluded governorship and State Houses of Assembly (HOA) election will start filing out today, Wednesday, March 29, to receive their Certificates of Return at state headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); just as echoes of the election are still reverberating across the nation. During the polls, many incumbent House of Assembly members were defeated by new comers. Speakers of some State Houses of Assembly who are statutorily, the number three citizen in their states (after the governor and deputy governor) were also defeated by green horns.
Most notable is the case in Yobe state where the incumbent Speaker, Ahmed Mirwa Lawan who had been representing Nguru 2 state constituency since return to civil rule in 1999 (that is, for 20 years now) lost to a new kid on the block, 33-year-old Lawan Musa Majakura. Majakura won under PDP which means he overcame two major obstacles, an opponent who had the ‘cover’ of the ruling APC in the state and also held the powerful position of Speaker. Indeed the new Assemblyman can be said to have paid his dues as he once contested but lost a councillorship post in 2021. He had also spent time in police cells for, according to him, criticising politicians albeit “with facts”. He reportedly rejected an offer of N100 million to step out of the race.
Another trending story from the last set of election is centred on 26-year-old Rukuyat Motunrayo Shittu who won the Owode/Onire state constituency in Asa local government area of Kwara state. Rukuyat is ranked as the youngest lawmaker-elect and shall be the youngest Nigerian legislator when she is sworn-in in June, 2023, thanks to the ‘Not Too Young to Run’ Act which lowered the minimum age required to run for elective positions. She is also a female which means she overcame two handicaps to emerge victorious in the political battle – being young and a female. Rukuyat had been involved in student union politics.
Of the over 1000 elected legislators in the nation’s state houses of assembly, only 48 are females, representing less than five percent of the total. Altogether, in the next legislative dispensation which starts in June, as many as 15 states shall not have a woman in their Houses of Assembly. Amazing perhaps is that four of these states are in southern Nigeria. In fact in each of the three zones in the south, there is at least, a state without an elected woman in the House of Assembly. Further analysis show that out of all the states in southern Nigeria without an elected female lawmaker in their Houses of Assembly, two are in the Southeast and one each in the Southwest and south south zones. They are Abia, Imo, Rivers and Osun states.
This is rather surprising because Osun is in a zone that is considered as the pace setter in western education, a region that had always been in the forefront of promoting women in development. In the initial years of this democratic order (1999 to 2007) virtually all the states in this zone had a woman as deputy governor, a trend that continued in Lagos state until now when Governor Jide Sanwo-Olu has a male as his deputy. Rivers state too had always had a woman as deputy even to-date and the governor that would assume office on May 29, 2023 also has a woman as the second in command. Could it be that the combustible nature of Rivers politics, characterised by violent tendencies discouraged women from getting any seat in the State’s House of Assembly? Imo and Abia are in the south east zone; a zone that ranks itself as being in the forefront of civilization while Abia in particular is better remembered in the history of Nigerian women, for the Aba women riot when women rallied against the colonial rulers.
Save for Kaduna state, all the other six states in the north west zone (Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Kano and Jigawa) did not elect any female in the March 18 House of Assembly poll. Kaduna state now has two female Assembly members, one of them is a fresh legislator while the other is re-elected having made her debut in 2019. They are both for APC and PDP respectively. Many of the 21 State Houses of Assembly that will be having a female presence in the coming new legislative cycle have just one or two of them.
In terms of zonal breakdown, south west has the highest number of female HOA members-elect – 16 – with Ekiti state specifically having the largest share of this number, 6. It is followed by the North Central zone that has a total of 12 elected women into the various Houses of Assembly, the lion share here going to Kwara state that has five females. In the third position is the South south zone that has ten women altogether, four of whom are in Akwa Ibom while Bayelsa and Delta states have two women each and Edo and Cross River states each have one female. The South East zone occupies the 4th position with five women — two each in Ebonyi and Enugu states while Anambra state has a lone female HOA member-elect. In the 5th place is the North East zone with three elected female members — two in Taraba state and one in Adamawa state.
The North Western zone is bottom of the ladder. Cultural beliefs could be a factor here. Nonetheless, northern Nigeria recorded a historical break through, producing the nation’s youngest legislator who also doubles as Nigeria’s youngest female lawmaker.