1.1 Background to the Study
Today, there is a misleading belief among Christians that politics is a dirty and immoral activity. This belief has determined and shaped the disposition of a considerable number of Christians towards politics. This misleading belief is capable of placing Christians at a disadvantage. If there are some observed moral defects in the game of politics in our society, and Christians choose not to be part of it, how do they then inject sanity into it? Christianity is the religion that is based on the teachings and the way of life of Jesus Christ through His death, resurrection, ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit to believers. These teachings were given by Christ to His apostles through a special revelation. The beliefs and practices of Christians are directed and motivated by the injunction and precepts of Christ as contained in the Bible. Unger (1996) opines that Christianity is a way of life while Mu‟azam (2002) observed that Christianity is a way, manner and system of life which are ordained by God Almighty and therefore sacred.
The exclusion of women from political processes in Nigeria can be traced back to the colonial time when women were forced to give up many of their political rights. As a result of colonization, the resurgence of women‟s movements demanding greater political participation in Nigeria took place later than other countries. For instance, women living in northern Nigeria received suffrage as late as 1978. Some women who made the mark on the political scene at that period include Mrs. Margaret Ekpo of the famous Aba riot of 1929, Madam Tinubu of Lagos and Egbaland, Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome- Kuti of Abeokuta Union of 1948 and Hajiya Gambo Sawaba of Northern Element Progressive Union (NEPU) (Awe, 1992). Though women enjoyed high democratic authority in southern Nigeria, this was not a general phenomenon because men had always been dominant in the political structure with women complementing them. Gender has come to be a very crucial instrument for shaping the society. Based on this, the world‟s government adopted Gender Equality and Women Empowerment as part of the third Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000.
Previously, United Nations Conferences such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1997), The World Conference on Women (Beijing 1995) and Security Council (2008) all focused on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment in the democratic structure. With this, most Nigerian women still have little influence and control over economic resources. This is a situation that has wasted the potentials in women and has brought about a decline in economic development. Just like women in other patriarchal societies, the subordinate position which Nigerian women are subjected to predispose them to various acts of gender-based discrimination. Being a patriarchal society, male dominance is reflected in marriage institutions where a woman is regarded as the property of the man. She has no right to take any decision that concerns her except with the permission of the husband. Also, in political and governing institutions where the Ministry of Women Affairs has a male as commissioner or permanent secretary, religious institutions such as non-inclusion of women in the Board of Elders in some churches. Some public and private institutions would not employ women because they would go on maternity leave or if they are employed they are not paid salaries during such leave.
The election of Olusegun Obasanjo as the president of Nigeria in May 1999, the morale of Nigerians was at the lowest ebb because of several problems that characterized the past military regimes. These problems include unemployment which is still a problem till date, high level of corruption, near total absence of infrastructure, malfunctioning public utilities, inefficient state enterprises etc. Within few months of democratization, political, economic and institutional areas of reforms to deal with these issues were identified. Over the years, many reforms were initiated. These include the liberalization of key sectors of the economy, restructuring of government budgeting and taxation laws, governance and institutional strengthening and debt management (Okonjo-Iweala and Osafokwaako, 2007). Along these reforms, several policies and programmes were put in place to improve education and health; and reduce women‟s disadvantage in labour market outcome in general. A specific example of female empowerment in democracy is the government appointing more women with expertise into top government positions.
The Obasanjo administration appointed the former vice president of World Bank, who happened to be a Nigerian. (Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala) as Minister of Finance, Mrs. Dora Akunyili was appointed as the Director General, National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). In addition, several regulations and electoral acts were put in place to ensure that political and non-political appointments/elections and government contracts were awarded based solely on merit. Education enabled more women to participate in elections in 2003, 2007 and 2011. The 35% affirmative action appointment of women into strategic positions, during Dr. Goodluck Jonathan‟s administration has received a tremendous boost till date with the present democratic government doing its best to carry the women along. The Church should encourage women with their own affirmation policy to participate in Politic following the example of the Godly strong woman Deborah.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
According to 2006 National Census report, Women constitute almost half of the population of Nigeria, that is (69,086, 302 million out of 140, 431, 79 (49.2%) (Census, 2006).The independent National Electoral Commission did not issue any data about the number of women registered to vote in the 2011 election. However, Agbalajobi, (2010) estimates that half or slightly over half of 73.5 million registered voters are women. Yet with this high percent of population, women are not well represented in vital decision making organs of government. In Nigeria, there is no legislative framework securing quotas for women in political parties and national elections. Section 40 of the constitution, confers on all citizens the right to democratic governance and participate therein and Section 77(2) states that every citizen in Nigeria who has attained the age of 18, residing in Nigeria at the time of registration of voters for purposes of election, shall be entitled to be registered as a voter for that election. However, in practical reality, as experienced in the country‟s political exercise, there has been an apparent lopsidedness in terms of the participation of women in politics vis-à-vis their male counterpart. Some of the reasons that account for this lopsidedness include:
i. Women have not summoned enough courage to participate in politics
ii. Men have not given the women the opportunity to participate in politics
iii. Christianity does not encourage women participation in politics
iv. Political parties have not done enough to allow women to participate fully in politics
v. Traditional beliefs serve as impediments to women participation in politics.
The marginalization of Nigerian women in politics and decision making by men is as old as Nigerian society and actually predates the advent of colonialism in southern and northern Nigeria. It is believed that the marginalization of women in political participation and decision making processes has been responsible for the exclusion of the interests of women in governance and developmental paradigms and Niger State is not an exception. Women are poorly represented in political parties which is partly because male characteristics are mostly emphasized in the criteria for eligibility as candidates for such positions. It is interesting to note that by virtue of the 2006 population census, the population of male gender in Niger State is 2,032,725 while that of the female gender is 1,917,524. Out of this number of women, none has become governor or deputy governor since the creation of the state in 1976 till date. Only four of the twenty six commissioners are women. It is also amazing that of the twenty-seven constituencies in the State House of Assembly; only three (3) are represented by women, while the rest are men. There are three (3) women special advisers and one (1) local government chairperson out of twenty five (25). There are ten (10) women permanent secretaries. These are career civil servants who rose through the ranks.
How many Christian women participate in the political activities? Has a significant number of Christian women been involved in governance of the state? This study therefore sets out to assess the level of the participation of Christian women in politics in Niger State.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main objective of this research is to assess the level of Christian women participation in politics in Niger State. The specific objectives are to:
1. investigate the understanding of Christian women involvement in politics according to their educational attainment
2. Determine the extent to which single and married Christian women involvement in partisan politics in Niger State.
3. Assess the political offices that Christian women from orthodox and Pentecostal churches in Niger State contest for.
1.4 Research Questions
1. What is the understanding of Christian women about politics according to their educational attainment?
2. To what extent do married and single Christian women engage in partisan politics in Niger State?
3. Which political offices do Christian women from orthodox and Pentecostal churches in Niger State commonly contest for?
Ho 1. There is no significant difference in the understanding of Christian women‟ involvement in politics according to their educational attainment. Ho 2. There is no significant difference in the extent to which single and married Christian women engage in partisan politics in Niger State.
Ho 3. There is no significant difference in the number of political offices Christian women‟ from orthodox and Pentecostal churches in Niger State contest for.
1.6 Significance of the Study
1) It is hoped that the findings of this study will go a long way in awakening our church leaders to encourage Christian women involvement in partisan politics.
2) It will also encourage Christian women to see the need to be involved in partisan politics like their male counterpart. Since men have been the ones mostly in positions of political leadership and not much gain is recorded in terms of dividends of democracy, participation of Christian women in politics will greatly serve to satisfy the socio-economic yearning of the populace in Niger State and the country at large.
3) The result of this study will help policy makers‟ rise up to the challenges in the development process in Nigeria through increase in women involvement.
4) It will also add to the existing literature on the involvement of Christian women in politics.
1.7 Scope of the Study
The research work is limited to Niger State which has twenty-five (25) local government areas divided into three (3) senatorial zones. The reason for the choice is because the researcher is familiar with the environment, which makes it easy to reach the people and also due to financial constraint. In Niger State like any other part of Nigeria, males and females participate in politics, but this study is concerned with considering Christian women in politics specifically in Niger State. Politics is in different dimensions, but this study is largely concerned with the assessment of the level of Christian women participation in politics in the state.