Women Participation in Governance: Puting Uche Ekwunife in Perspective – by Kingsley Chukwuemeka Ubani
According to an INEC National Commissioner, Dr Adekunle Ogunmola, this decrease in women participation in the electoral process has become worrisome. “Not only that women are not winning elections but available information shows that in 2015 general elections, only 44 percent of female voters came out for accreditation compared to 56 percent male voters”, Ogunmola said.
In 2007, the success rate of women who contested elections was 11 percent. However, there was a drawback in 2011 general elections, where the sucess rate was 9.06 percent.
Although available data suggests that more women declared interest to contest for elective positions in 2015, only 5.8 percent success was recorded.
It is important to note that participation of women in political governance and decision making process is a major goal in the Global Development Agenda as embodied in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In Anambra state, women’s interest in political process is not any different. Out of the fourteen (14) National Assembly representatives (Senate and House of Reps) from Anambra state only two (2) are women.
However, since 2007, one woman has continued to push forward, defiling the order, both in terms of women’s participation in electoral process and in governance itself. Senator Uche Ekwunife has over the past decade contributed tremendously to women’s participation in governance.
Ekwunife’s political career began in 2007 when she declared her intention to represent Dunukofia, Njikoka and Anaocha federal constituency in the National Assembly. The constituency, made up of 51 political wards is the largest federal constituency in Nigeria.
Her representation between 2007 and 2011 opened up a new chapter for women in political positions in Anambra state, prompting her constituents to return her in 2011 for another term of four years.
Ekwunife’s representation in her eight years in the green chambers was near flawless. The quality of her representation remains ever green in the mind of her constituents.
In 2015, Senator Ekwunife decided to take it up a notch and constest for the highly competitive seat of Anambra central Senatorial district. She was up against the incumbent Senator and the then National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) – candidates and men who were already established in the state’s political space, yet Ekwunife remained undeterred.
During the campaigns, her background in product marketing as a former commercial banker was brought to fore. She transversed the entire 109 wards in Anambra central, selling the Ekwunife brand, encapsulated in a message of verifiable results, proven performance and quality representation in her eight years as house of reps member – records even her enemies could not deny her.
After the March 28, 2015 general elections, Ekwunife, against all odds, emerged victorious at the polls. She later went on to represent the good people of Anambra central at the Senate and within her short stay advanced her bill from the green chambers – a bill for an Act for the Political and Financial Autonomy of Local Government Councils in Nigeria. In the same period, she became the Chairman Senate Committee on petroleum downstream – the first southeasterner to occupy such position, a position the people of Anambra central lost as she lost her seat at the red chambers to a controversial December 9, 2015 Appeal court judgement