Nigerian Politics and her Diversity Problem

Diversity requires commitment. Achieving the superior performance diversity can produce needs further action – most notably, a commitment to develop a culture of inclusion. People do not just need to be different, they need to be fully involved and feel their voices are heard. – Alain Dehaze

It is election season in Nigeria, and as become the norm, our newsfeeds and timelines are chock-full of politicians, political jobbers and their shenanigans.

From the catastrophe that masqueraded as re-run elections in Osun State, to party primaries marred by confusion and hyperbolic counting of voters in Kano State, Nigeria has once again displayed an inability to manage the most mundane task without her trade-in-mark incompetence.

However, one thing that has been a constant, in Nigerian politics are the men, old men. Some of whom have been in power since Nigerian Independence 58years ago. These men that have done everything they can to keep their stranglehold on the country, running it deeper into poverty.

Reductive Reasoning: Federal Character = Inclusiveness and Diversity

The “federal character” principle, which has been enshrined in Nigeria’s Constitution since 1979, seeks to ensure that appointments to public service institutions fairly reflect the linguistic, ethnic, religious, and geographic diversity of the country. – Ladipo Adamolekun et al, 1991, “Federal Character” and management of the Federal Civil Service and the Military

Nigeria has 250 ethnic groups, speaking over 1000 languages within its borders, and in order to ensure that every cultural group participates in, and furthers its economic and socio-political growth, the Federal Character Principle was enshrined in Nigeria’s constitution in 1979, but this principle appears to have room only for these same old men.

Although signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women(CEDAW), and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the stance of the Nigerian government appears to be that of dismissal and disinterest in the inclusion of women in governance.

In 2017, several attempts were made to introduce two bills that would ensure that governance and public life would be more diverse in Nigeria, Senators Biodun Olujimi, Binta Garba and Rose Oko, supported a bill seeking 35% Affirmative Action at the Federal level, and 20% at state level. The second is the Gender Equality Bill, which was practically sneered off the floor of the House of Assembly.

In spite of evidence to the contrary, especially with women running successful privately owned companies and chairing government parastatals, Nigerian Senators still subscribe to the notion of gender roles and the place of women in the kitchen.

On the surface, it appears that the Nigerian populace is, at least, willing, to entertain the idea of diversifying policy making and other government apparatus that would ensure a wider pool of opinions and voices, but the Not Too Young to Run bill, that was recently passed into law seems to be nothing but a publicity stunt.

The act ’empowers’ people who are 25years to run for office, but the original age in the constitution is actually 30years, a mere 5year gap, in spite of the fact that 30year olds are allowed to run for office, there isn’t a single 30year old in any political office in Nigeria as things stand.

Diversity and Inclusivity as drivers of National Development

In a world that has historically silenced and written out women’s voices, it is even more important that we open up spaces to all genders, especially women and other marginalized groups. So we can include their voices in the present, to build the future we all want to be a part of. Numbers matter, visibility matters, inclusion matters, and we can’t continue to sideline important voices. We must be deliberate in fair representation when it concerns our speakers, panels, attendees, contributors, consumers. We must make space for a multiplicity of voices that reflects the variety of the space we work and operate in.- Xeenarh Mohammed Author/Activist

Prebendalism refers to political systems where elected officials, and government workers feel they have a right to a share of government revenues, and use them to benefit their supporters, co-religionists and members of their ethnic group – Wikipedia

Nigeria is run on a patronage system, as made even more apparent by the in-fighting presently going on in different political parties. The system is patriarchal and deeply corrupt, these three major issues are hallmarks of countries with little or no inclusivity and diversity, which leads to poor development indices.

With a system that encourages favoritism, it would be difficult to get a wide pool of competent people putting forth ideas and having the requisite skills to execute them. Worse still, with girls and women making up a little more than half of the population, it is incomprehensible that old men are the only ones in positions to make and execute policies affecting everyone.

The more there is a perpetuation of the self and ego, over a large population and issues affecting them, the deeper the divide between the rich and poor will become.

Several studies have established the fact that diversity and inclusion are the major drivers of innovation and this affects everything. Nigeria’s present indices as one of the poorest countries in the world seems to have no chance of improvement anytime soon.

Ayodele Olofintuade is a journalist, writer and feminist.

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