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Women Leadership In Political Parties In Nigeria: How Effective?

By: Nimi Thom-Manuel

In Nigeria the startling statistics of women's performances at every poll at elections are something that need to be addressed seriously and urgently too. Rwanda has nearly conquered this problem of gender parity, recording 40% women representation in their Parliament, South Africa has 50% women in the Cabinet.

By: Nimi Thom-Manuel

In Nigeria the startling statistics of women's performances at every poll at elections are something that need to be addressed seriously and urgently too. Rwanda has nearly conquered this problem of gender parity, recording 40% women representation in their Parliament, South Africa has 50% women in the Cabinet.

Women leadership in political parties is a very important issue as regards remediating women's  hopelessness in every political party power-sharing processes. These women leaders are the entry points or gate-keepers in political parties and so are very strategic for women participation in politics. Unfortunately, most of the women who had held the position so far had failed the women as they have not adequately represented the women well.  This is one of the reasons why women have often recorded abysmal results at every elections.  At the last concluded elections the story is not different. Only 7 (seven) women out of 109 composition in the Senate and about 36 women out of 360 at the House of Representatives made it at the polls. This is way down from what obtained at the previous elections.  In Rivers State no woman in the State House of Assembly, one woman Deputy Governor,   three Commissioners out of 23.  These scores can never make for good representation   for women in politics even in another generation   if steps are not taken to correct the trend.

The role   of women    leadership    in political   parties   is not well conceived   by the occupiers   of those positions.  There  is therefore   the urgent  need  to  illuminate   on  what  actually  a woman   leader  in a  party should   busy  herself   on  and  so  make  the  position   worth-its-while    for women's  progress  in the political  development   and  empowerment   of the teeming  and willing  female  political  population  who remain  perpetually  on the back seats  in the political  boats.

I  shall   not  bore  my  readers   on  the  definition,   the  theories,   its attributes  or factors  of leadership  as these are numerous. Equally too the role of women leaders in political parties are multi-faceted.  They  include but  not  exhaustive  the   following,    mobilization,  advocacy for  woman issues, help in legislation  of  women issues, raising funds for women political participation, economic  empowerment of women,  involve in peace process in  the  party, environment    protectors, collaboration with  other stakeholders, monitoring and evaluating programmes for  women development   and participation   in politics.

Women leaders in political parties it has been discovered have only been able  to  accomplish  just  ONE  of  the  myriads   of  functions   in  the leadership  of their organizations. They are still GREAT MOBILIZERS we agree.   But mobilization   is just one of the functions   of leadership in a political party. These women busy themselves on mobilizing women for the benefit of men who are aspiring to hold great political positions.

Please show me one woman leader who had mobilized for women to gain political position.  None is the answer.  Again women leaders in this country busy themselves in cheering men into positions of authority, cook their food and make them (the men) generally comfortable.  Women leaders should know that their role of mobilizing is also to position women who deserve to sit on positions of authority in the party and by extension in their power-sharing in the polity of the country. Women leaders are gate-keepers and must change their dance steps and see that if women don't record successes in the polls they are to be blamed in the main.  It shows they have not done their home-work.   They are therefore very ineffective in their role and responsibility in the party.

Women leaders must be the pioneers of advocating for women which are numerous for example, power sharing in the party and placement of deserving women in decision making positions from Local Government Area, State and at the National level, and welfare of women in the party.

She must not work alone. She must work with other women organizations or seasoned women leaders in the state- that is, network with them to achieve women's goals and purposes in the country.  Here the Women Affairs Ministry both at the national and state levels must join hands with the women leaders    like the   NCWS,  the   great umbrella for women organization in Nigeria to boost women issues.

Being   the  egg-head    of women   participation in  parties, the  women­ leader  must   with the help of other  organizations,  like FIDA,  women Lawyers,  National Council  of Women   Societies  (NCWS)   and  other  vibrant women organizations to push those  debilitating    laws and cultural practices that harm women's development for legislation in  the  State   Houses  of Assembly.  She   must   make   sure   more   women    are voted in the State Houses, of Assembly   and at the National Assembly.  By so doing, it is obvious women's   issues when brought to the Houses of Assembly   for debate will make easy passage in their deliberations.

Another role of a woman leader in the party is to make sure her organizes programmes for raising    funds for effective women's participation in politics.     We  are  all  aware   the  men  have a way  of supporting  ach  other  financially   and  otherwise but  women   lack  this aspect  of working for other women to  succeed.  This  is a habit the new woman   leader  of this  post  millennium   must  imbibe  in her  and  transmit same across  her followers.   If she can built a critical mass of women who believe  in  her  and  her  drive  to  pursue  this  process  to  a  desired  end, women  will record  great  success  at the poll. This is doable.   If men can do it why can't women do the same?

We are all too familiar with the way and manner the men go about empowering their fellow men.  There is a male commissioner   in one state who made his male Personal  Assistant  a commissioner in that same State.  Can you beat that? Can women leaders do that?  This habit is not common with women. Perhaps because women would argue they are not all too rich to empower their fellow women.   This is true to some extent. But if women leaders can formulate programmes  and projects using their parties as platforms, this goal could be achieved easily. If proposals on economic  empowerment of women are well written, well-articulated   and forwarded  to the party hierarchy,  I am sure if six proposals  are sent across, the chances  are that  two or three of these proposals will  scale  through. This will no doubt empower   a crop of women who are well positioned contest in any elections.

Development  can   only   come when   there    is   PEACE    in   any organization.  The woman-leader   in a party is also called upon to make or build peace in the various sectors of the party with her team of followers. Most times  the  gladiators  (male  of course)  in the  party  fight  themselves out  leaving  the  women   and  their  issues  to  the  back  burner. Women leaders must initiate peace building amongst warring factors in the party. Believe  me  if women  leaders  are  able  to take  up this  role  effectively   in their parties, 'they will not only be respected  but will also  be given what  is due to them effortlessly. Women must not go taking sides when there are factions in the party.  They should be mediators only.

Women leaders in the political parties must not restrict their activities to only political matters.  They must go beyond politics and see to their ailing environment. A woman leader must engage her followers in clean- up exercises around their party, state, etc. If there are oil spillages and toxic wastes in their environment they must be part of the solution to such problems in their localities. This makes them to be recognized  persons  in the  community   all  the  time  and would be called up for other or higher responsibilities   in the community.

As a matter of obtaining  absolute  effectiveness  to pursuing  women's issues to the   front burner, there  must be necessarily a tripartite arrangement, the  Governor's  wife,  the  Ministry of  Women  Affairs   and woman  leader.  The three must work together on the various programmes and projects.

The woman-leader   who is the grassroots person, that is, the nearest to the women could set the agenda for programme formulation.    She will first of all identify the women's  problems.   She then formulates the programme which  will  be  brought  to the  notice  of the  wife  of the  Governor   and  the Ministry  of  Women's  Affairs  for  discussion.  With  these  three  working together  with one voice and committed  to changing  the hopeless  situation of women,  they can achieve  a lot in the shortest  possible  time. They say there is strength in collectivity and two heads are better than one.  Any of the programmes could be initiated by any of the three persons mentioned above. The bottom line is if the trio could work committedly they will not be any friction amongst them.  Each will need the other to let the boat sail to shore.

With these numerous roles and assignments given to the woman leader of a party, with the help of a few of her followers  they  must endeavor to  monitor and  evaluate  these  projects and  programmes periodically to assess the rate of success of each programme and adjust with new strategies whenever to obtain maximum result.

From the foregoing you will also agree with the fact that some of our women leaders in the political parties have neither the traits of leadership nor the knowledge of the totality of the functions of leadership in the party. We had painfully observe that most of these women leaders had obtained the positions for their selfish interest.  I can vividly cite a woman leader in one state of the federation who had no bicycle tyre to her name before emerging as a woman leader of a party.  But within a year of assuming the position she was able to acquire four cars including a Jeep, built houses in the state capital and looking very opulent that you would think she had held the position for many years.  She was so uneducated to a ridiculous point.

On the  score  board     she  had never  promoted  one  woman beyond the  cheering   and  cooking   food   for  men in  the   party.  This   is very unfortunate for the women leadership we are advocating   for.   We don't have grouse over any woman uplifting herself in the course of her duty but WHAT WE SAY, HAVE YOUR VOICE AND LET YOUR FOLLOWERS HAVE THEIR VOICE TOO".  Some of them alienate  themselves  from their followers  after  some  months,  only  needing  the women  when  it is time  to mobilize  for the men at the next round of elections.         

In concluding, women  leadership in political parties is critical and must  be  seen  as  a  great  opportunity   for  rendering  a  service  to  the improvised, ejected, dejected   and voiceless  women  in the community.

In summary therefore, the  woman   leader  in a  political  party  is a rallying point  for women,  a mobilizer,  an advocate  for women  issues,  a voice for women  in the party, and a kingmaker  for women.   She is also a fund  raiser for woman in politics,  a bridge  between  the  women  and  the party   hierarchy,   an educator, a  peace builder a  protector of her environment, and a monitor  and evaluator  of programme  and projects  for women  development.

The position is not a gold-mine for women to extract at the expense of other women.  At the end of a   tenureship  a woman  leader  she must be able  to boast  of or parade  an array  of women  she  had  empowered economically,  politically   and  otherwise.  This is how effective   women leadership could be gauged from now on.  It is also the only way women can  build critical   mass  of  empowered women in  the country which invariably   will  record  women's   successes  at  the  polls  and  make  their leadership  effective.

The road to women   leadership   according to Kouzes and Posner (1987) is that these women must challenge the process, that is, find the areas that need to be improved for woman.  They must inspire a shared vision, enable others to act. Model the way and encourage women in all possible way to get their foothold in the electoral machine. This is the only way forward!  Let's get cracking with the job!  This is the time.

Nimi Thom-Manuel is a social critique in Port Harcourt