Special Report

Female Politicians, The Media And Victim Mentality

By Nnedinnso Ogaziechi

The Nigerian general election is a few months away and the permutations are on a high pitch. The advocacy for gender equity is everywhere you turn. Nigeria presently has a very low male-female ratio in the political space. The reasons are not farfetched. Modern democracy in Africa is an offshoot of colonial governance that was mainly a male affair.

Africa originally practiced dual governance in ways that there was no need to agitate for political equity even though socio-culturally and religiously the issues were there. African system of leadership to a large extent had roles cut out for the genders and there was no usurping each other’s roles. However, with colonial governance and the introduction of mainly male leadership by the west, Africa was set for a downward spiral of cultural values that had political leadership implications.

The post-independent military and civilian leaderships in most African countries have seen less gender representation even though progress is steadily being made to include more women in leadership in Africa. Rwanda seems to have circumstantially set the pace for the world with the highest percentage of women in parliament, a global record at about 61%. The progress that the nation has made in post 1994 genocide has amazed the world as the country is now a business and tourism hub in Africa.

Other African countries like Liberia, Malawi, Tanzania etc., have records of female Presidents, Heads of government or Prime Ministers. However, Nigeria seems to be in dire straits when it comes to gender equity. The Nigerian democracy since independence has largely been a largely male affair. However a few women have been in the field at elective positions few as they are.

The political party electoral processes seem to structurally exclude a lot of women from successfully participating in politics. This is in addition to other socio-cultural, economic and religious huddles the women face in the Nigerian society.

However, a few women have been involved in politics at least since the return of democracy in 1999. The number of women has been abysmally low but there have been women in the political parties at Board of Trustees, National/State Executive and ward levels. There have also been women elected as deputy governors, legislators and other official positions.

The Roundtable Conversation has been observing and noticed that women like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, late Dora Akunyili, Oby Ezekwesili (madam due process), Amina Mohammed, Ruqayyah Ahmed Rufa’I, Chief Nike Akande etc. all performed creditably in their different appointive positions and are today reference points.

The question the Roundtable Conversation is asking remains, what have most of the elected women especially in the legislative arm at both state and federal levels done to impact on fellow women and the country in general, are the excuses about male domination in politics enough reason to not have some level of impactful achievements in national development? Do the women have to outnumber men first to have their impact felt?

The Roundtable Conversation has been tracking some of the women politicians. Some of them are too comfortable in their comfort zones, some are too triumphant to care, some have made some little impact but a lot of them tend to blame the media for not giving them enough coverage. True or false? We spoke to some top journalists in the country’s electronic and print media.
Juliet Bumah is a veteran journalist and the Editor of New Telegraph. She finds that excuse of lack of media coverage as very puerile and laughable because the media looks for content and news. If your actions are newsworthy, it is to the benefit of the media. The media does not report itself, in fact their existence is subsumed in their duties to the public in a democracy. “we can’s report ourselves, newsworthy actions attract the media” she said. When they have any event and invite the media, the media would be there. It is actually the female politicians that take the media for granted and do not reach out the way they should.

Media houses either have pages or airtime to fill. As a woman in the media, it is a thing of joy to report the activities of fellow women in all fields not only in politics because my belief is that the voices of women must be heard more. No one can hear you when you are in your room. You must engage and you do not need to personally know anyone in the media for your story to be heard but you must speak before you are heard. Your actions make news.

As a female journalist, my experience is that most of the female politicians seem to have an erroneous view about the media. There is that sense of entitlement that their existence is enough, no, it is not. You must be valuably engaging. You must be knowledgeable about what roles you are playing in a democracy. It is not about you, it is about your activities that impact positively on the people and it is not about payments. Even the citizens would report your actions if they are positively impactful.

Juliet again advises that women in or going into politics must be versatile enough to engage in debates and arguments. If you are a legislator, you must know your onions and be ready to use your voice in one of the pillars of democracy, the legislature. You must be smart and engage aides that can assist you to research, articulate and present your points on the floor. Sadly most women just sit there expecting miracles to happen and later blame the media.
She believes most women in politics adopt acute victim mentality. They are rather victims of their own shortcomings and values, of not doing enough to learn and engage as politicians but feeling that just being there is enough news, no its not. Most of them do not engage the media because they are scared of exposing their intellectual shortcomings which could be solved by them learning the ropes more as elected people. Flaunting femininity for whatever reason can never confer excellence and the female politicians should know that.

Improve your knowledge and realize you have to be super active and knowledgeable to compete favourable with the men. The men are not exceptional but they have the numbers. Women should be more connected with the people.

The Editor of The Guardian newspapers, Alaba Williams believes the female politicians should not pass the buck. Their underperformance in most cases is a result of personal choices and not necessarily lack of media coverage. To start with, like most male politicians, the females are from the same society and most politicians actually do not start off as advocates of social change in the civil space. So, more of than not, that inner passion to push for effective changes do not come naturally to them.
According to Williams, a few women who were or are in the civil rights movements often carry their activism into politics. They come off more passionate and pushy.

Women like late Margaret Ekpo, Funmilayo Ransom-Kuti, Gambo Sawaba (even with her little education was able to push through and write her name in gold). Women like Nkoyo Toyo and Ladi Lar were able to reach out because they understood the value of being very active and powerfully articulate in making their points for good governance as activists before venturing into politics.

Again, many female politicians are very fixated with either their communities and regions. They rarely get involved in national issues especially outside politics. Most of the women are too conscious of their political parties and tend to alienate themselves from other people unlike the men that play politics without borders most of the time. Some of the women again concentrate on buying gifts for their fellow women in a bid to buy loyalty without really empowering them in any way. We would want them to mentor and educate more women about their civil and gender rights and by doing so get more women to participate. Democracy is a game of numbers and the men seem to understand this better.

The women rather than expend energy blaming the media must try to be more inclusive of other women. They should train them and get them to understand their voting rights. They must be accommodating of other views. The women are the voters and the female politicians must begin to organize better and restrategize.

Sometimes the female politicians misplace their priorities. They can spend money on politically expedient actions like giving some production items to a few widows and other women as elections approach but they would be the first to scream they do not have money to organize trainings or empower other younger women to boost the number of women in politics or even other male youths around the country. Women must work better together to empower each other so that more capable women can enter the political space and effect the changes we would all benefit from.

The Roundtable Conversation understands the handicaps of female politicians in a patriarchal society like Nigeria. However, the excuses for non-optimal and functional performances by the few women already there must give way to more progress. They must stop playing the victim card because the mandate givers are not men alone but the people. Their strategies must change.

Populist strategies like weaponizing widows by always claiming to take care of them or flaunting femininity must stop. Democracy is about the whole people and their welfare.
The media is not the problem of female politicians or anyone for that matter, it is about the sole of democracy and even women must be held accountable. We spoke to more than a dozen journalists and the responses point to a demographic of a voting population that have largely been let down by the few women in politics through inaction and victim-playing to get by and not be held accountable.

Tags : Female PoliticiansMediaMentalityVictim
Women Times

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