Nigerians Don’t Need These “Loaves Of Bread And Five Thousand Naira Vote Buying” Type Of Politics.- Dr Pogoson
Dr Irene Pogoson, Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan is the first female lecturer at the department. She is a scholar of many feathers. She has been Research Fellow and Administrative Secretary of the defunct Presidential Panel on Nigeria’s History since Independence and a Policy Analyst with the Independent Policy Group, a Policy Think -Tank to President Olusegun Obasanjo. She was on the Ibrahim Index Advisory Council of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) of the MO Ibrahim Foundation. She is a member of the Scientific Committee of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA). She is a consultant and an advocate of Women empowerment and participation in politics. In this Interview with Victor Alagogooko, She lays bare her opinion about Nigeria’s political space especially as it concerns women in politics and the challenges they face even as we approach the 2019 general elections.
Ibcity Announcer: Kindly tell us more about yourself Ma?
Dr Pogoson: I am Irene Pogoson of the Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan where I teach. My areas of interest are International Politics, with particular focus on Foreign Policy Analysis and Strategic Studies, Governance Issues and Gender Studies.
Ibcity Announcer: You are the first female lecturer at the department, what motivated you to study Political Science and venture into academics?
I was actually born and raised on campus. I think part of my socialization as a child on campus has been an atmosphere of being in academia. So let me say it was part of my being. Somehow I have always wanted to be part of research and this environment. My first degree was in history. That was because back then I didn’t know much about Political science. After my A levels at the International School at the University of Ibadan, I remember putting history as my Jamb course and I got admitted for history. I love the subject but somehow I developed a greater interest in more contemporary issues. As an undergraduate student in the history department, I found out that I had a leaning more towards issues that have to do with foreign history. So I thought international relations could be a course to study for a Masters degree. But here in UI we don’t have a department of International Relations; we have the Department of Political Science that has International Relations as one of the major unit. Thus I applied for the Masters in Political Science with specialization in international relations. It wasn’t as though I had that burning desire to be a Political scientist, well like I said I wanted to study international relations and I was very comfortable having a Masters degree in Political Science.
After my first degree and youth service, I was opportune to start work on project called the Presidential Panel on Nigeria since independence history project. It was chaired by Prof. Tekena Tamuno, and had quite a number of eminent Nigerians on the panel. We actually produced what has turned out to be a significant encyclopedia as it were on the history of Nigeria in its first 25 years. So I guess part of my learning process in research had to do with my experience with the history panel. I was with them for quite a number of years. I was given time to do my masters then returned to continue working. I did my Ph.D, still with them. I was very much involved in the research that the panel conducted. When the panel was about to fold up due to lack of funding in 2000, I came to the department to find out if there was need for my service. Lucky enough for me I was employed. Coincidentally, I was the first female to be employed in the history of the department. I joined the department in the year 2000. Since then Dr Bukky Adeshina has also joined. Hopefully as opportunity becomes more available more females would join in.
Ibcity Announcer: How does it feel working in a male dominated environment?
Dr Pogoson: Well, I don’t actually see myself as working in a male dominated environment
Ibcity Announcer: (Cuts in) did you feel intimidated?
I have never in my life felt intimidated by anybody. I was raised by a father who had four girls and two boys and he raised us as individuals. He raised us with that sense of self worth; that you are a person first before your sex and he never differentiated amongst us in gender roles. For instance, if he needed you to wash his car, he will ask you to do that. He gave equal opportunity to all of us. So, I was happy to get the job and I fitted into the department because I had also studied in the department and quite a number of our senior colleagues then were my lecturers. Sincerely, I didn’t feel intimidated and they did not set out to intimidate me either. Were there challenges? Yes, that of being a woman with several roles, several lives. Moreso, I cannot be intimidated because I also married a man who values his wife, who loves his wife and has given his wife that space to grow to actualize myself, to have a voice, and to be an individual and that is the same way we have raised our girls. So I was never intimidated in anyway. However, there are challenges; challenges of being a mother, being a wife, and working in our kind of environment where you needed to do things as at when due, so as to be able to get your promotions and others. And so you learn to work round those challenges as a woman to make sure you balance your “lives”; a wife, as a person, as a mum, as a lecturer, as researcher and as a consultant, because I also consult for quite a number of organizations.
Women are on the move, and when you are on the move you have to balance your life. And be sure that the scale is not unfavourably tilted towards any of your lives. It is not easy. For instance I always tell my PhD female students that I learnt how to read, work through the night when my husband observed that my PhD program was going on for too long and I had to resolve to finish the program. So when the household had gone to bed, I sat up and I started to work. That is my life experience which I use to encourage my female PhD students who want to use the excuse of their husbands, children, jobs and other challenges as reasons for prolonging their research. I say to them: learn to balance your lives.
Women are on the move, and when you are on the move you have to balance your life. And be sure that the scale is not unfavorably tilted towards any of your lives.
Ibcity Announcer: As political scientist and an interface between the town and the gown. What is your impression of the Political climate and sphere in Nigeria?
Dr Pogoson: My major impression is that we lack the appropriate political culture that epitomizes people’s view of the political system as a whole and their belief in its legitimacy. The political space lacks the appropriate political culture. A culture that is needed to drive the space; to occupy the space for the people and not for individuals. I am not even talking about ideologies now but socialization within the political realm that should construct and engender a culture, whereby a set of shared views and normative judgments- attitudes and practices held by our people that shapes their political behavior are established. It includes moral judgments, political myths, beliefs, and ideas about what makes for a good society. A political culture is not only a reflection of a government; it also incorporates elements of history and tradition that may predate the existing regime. Such political cultures matter because they shape a population’s political perceptions and actions.
Culture is a way of life. We have had realties and changes in the political life of Nigeria. We’ve had the truncated first and second republics, the Abiola saga, military rule and now in this republic. The huge lessons learnt that should build up a culture that converges in a fundamental transformation of democratic ideals is what is lacking.
Even, Not Too Young to Run, yes, they have been given the mandate to run but have most of them not been raised and socialized into this same kind of environment that lacks the culture that ought to put Nigerians first and themselves last?
In the past 58 years of this country, we would have been better off if we had built on the foot paths and trajectories of the earliest politicians – the likes of Zik, Saudana, Awolowo, and Aminu Kano. These were people who appeared to have genuinely started it right. They had, to me, the love of Nigeria at mind, they knew what ought to be done and what should be done, so they seem to have struck a balance. If our politicians have continued on that trajectory, we would have been able to build a culture where by now we will be saying, yes we are there and getting better.
But you look at our political space and the politicians and the political life of Nigeria, you feel sad and you wonder what has happened to the tenets of good governance, of accountability, of transparency and the rule of law over the years. Those are the tenets of the political culture that I am saying that we lack. This includes today’s generation of young people represented in the #Not Too Young to Run campaign- Candidates can run for the presidency at the age of 35 now, as opposed to 40 before, and for the lower house of Parliament at the age of 25 instead of 30. Yes, they have been given the mandate to run for political office but have they not been raised and socialized into this same kind of environment that lacks the culture that ought to put Nigerians first and themselves last?
Ibcity Announcer: Let’s look at women in politics. Many people have opined that with Women being better managers, having them involved in the political space would translate to better governance and better management of the resources of the nation. Are men deliberately stifling the movement of women in politics?
Dr Pogoson: This is a movement as you have rightly said; it is a realization that you cannot leave behind a significant proportion of the population who like you have said have a lot to contribute to national development. But, whether we like it or not, by virtue of our society, religion and tradition, we live in a world ruled by patriarchy. The rigid patriarchal system that has existed since time immemorial has created gender inequality and insists on it stubbornly. Generally, and especially in the political realm, as a woman, you have to actively, constantly, fight against the restrictions imposed by patriarchal structures. You have to fight by having to prove your worth. It is male dominated. Even more so politics, it is like an old school boys’ environment and so women have struggled to carve a niche and find a space within a space that is still predominantly dominated by men. You are patronized as a woman, assumed to be less-capable than a man, assumed to be weaker. You have to fight objectification and fight being judged by a cynical society that sexualizes you. I believe that the political space must open up to accommodate women, because we believe that issues that concerns society at large and particularly issues that concerns women can only best be expressed and advanced by women. I am not saying that there are no men who have the interest of women at heart. I had a male PhD student, who wrote his thesis on women in politics. Even in advocacy, we have a lot of men who are interested in women issues. Nevertheless, women issues, family issues, even issues about society are perceived differently by women and by men. The reality truly is that even where you have women who have failed in the society; in their areas of responsibilities, we have more men that have also failed. But usually the emphasis is on the women, maybe because they are few and so the highlight is on them. But do we need the space to accommodate women more, yes. Since 1999 when Nigeria returned to civil rule, the country has conducted five general elections (in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2015), of which the record of women’s political representation has been mixed. Nigeria achieved the highest percentage (7.0 percent) of women’s representation in the lower parliament (the House of Representatives) in 2007 after the depressing record of 3.4 percent and 4.9 percent in 1999 and 2003, respectively. However, the figures declined to 6.8 percent and 5.6 percent in 2011 and 2015. It should be noted however, that following the conclusion of a number of election petition cases by 2017, the figure went up to 6% (22 in the House of Representatives and 7 in the Senate). Evidently, our Parliament is male dominated. The political space is dominated by men. Women are generally under-represented in the structure and institutional arrangement that exist within parties. Women’s absence in the executive position of parties has thus continued to constitute a serious challenge to their nomination as party representatives for elections. A lot of interventions have been formulated to enhance women’s participation in political leadership. Such interventions are encompassed in international instruments, covenants and interventions such as Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Beijing Platform for Action. However, none of these have helped women in attaining the target of 30 percent in parliament. You still find that there is a ceiling which women have found hard to break through because of the patriarchal world we live in. The challenges Nigerian women still face in active participation in politics include discriminatory socio-cultural and religious practices; lack of finance; under-representation of women in governance; unhealthy political environment; political party discrimination; wrong perception of women in politics; lack of family and media support. All of these factors deter many women from going into politics.
The reality truly is that even where you have women who have failed in the society or in their areas of responsibility we have more men that have also failed. But usually the emphasis is on the women, maybe because they are few and so the highlight is on them.
It is important that we read about the life histories of female politicians, I remember reading about Hajiya Gambo Sawaba – a Nigerian politician and activist who was well known for her charitable causes, especially for fighting for the liberation of northern women. Gambo Sawaba made a name for herself when at a political lecture in Zaria, she climbed a podium and spoke out in a room full of men. She campaigned against under-aged marriages and forced labour. She also met with women who were not allowed to attend political activities because of their gender. As a result, Gambo Sawaba was arrested and said to have been sent to jail 16 times in her lifetime and she was often brutalized by the police. I am also reading about women marginalization and politics in Nigeria – books in which women shared their real life experiences; how they dared to venture into politics and the kind of obstacles that they face; obstacles at the home front, society, political parties and so on. These obstacles include apathy, poverty, and lack of internal democracy in political parties, money politics, god-fatherism syndrome and unfavourable terrain of politics, which is characterized by violence, thuggery, zoning and other forms of administrative fiat. Female candidates often face well-funded and high-quality opponents. Typically, a strong challenger who enters a race will deter other challengers from running, or will “clear the field.” However, when a women enters a race – even if she is clearly a strong candidate – other candidates usually persist in running against them. Female incumbents are equally more likely to face strong challengers, including primary challengers, than their male counterparts. Within political parties, women are denied leadership positions that are sensitive to decision making on behalf of the party. Even where there are rules, parties do not obey the respective provisions on gender parity reflected in their manifestoes. We need to work hard to socialize the society and the political class that women have a lot to offer in governance. I have met with quite a number of women in politics during the course of my research in gender and politics. I find that women have tons of ideas and good intentions for our country. They want to bring all of these on the table and work with them if given the opportunity. I believe that gradually as socialization and awareness of the advantages of greater women’s political participation becomes ingrained within our society and women are allowed the space and prove themselves, not only the women folk benefits, but also society as a whole. No community, nation and society can be said to be truly great if it neglects the political uplifting and development of the women.
Ibcity Announcer: In what ways can this goal be achieved?
Dr Pogoson: One way of leveling the political ground for women is through the adoption of quota regulations and sanctions for non-compliance. . Gender quotas are numerical targets that specify the number or percentage of women that must be included in a candidate list or the number of seats to be allocated to women in a legislature. Quotas aim to reverse discrimination in law and practice and to level the playing field for women and men in politics. Electoral gender quotas are the main type of positive measure taken to increase women’s political representation and a form of Affirmative Action to help overcome the obstacles that prevent them from entering politics in the same way as men. Gender quotas give the voters a possibility to choose women candidates, which they may not have had within their preferred party. Quotas come in different forms: Legislated candidate quotas – they are mandated either through national constitutions or by electoral legislation that regulate the gender composition of the candidate lists and are binding by law for all political parties in the election; Legislated “reserved seats” –a certain number or percentage of seats as mandated either through national constitutions or by electoral legislation are reserved for women members and implemented through special electoral procedures; Party quotas or voluntary party quotas – these quotas are adopted by individual parties for their own candidate lists, and are usually enshrined in party statutes and rules. Since 2003, Rwanda has maintained the record as the country with the highest female legislative representation in the world, surpassing the Nordic countries The Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda was amended in 2003 to provide for the reservation of a quota of 30% of all decision-making positions of the State, for women’s representation. Also, the Organic Law governing political parties and politicians was amended in July 2013 to eliminate any form of discrimination in political parties. However, gender quota, alone, may not be effective in closing the gender gap in political representation in a country like Nigeria. Other measures such as inclusion of women in local and regional politics, introduction of proportional representation with multiple-member constituencies may be required. Furthermore, institutions such as political parties and civil society groups have important roles to play in enhancing women’s political representation. Women must also organize themselves to advance their social and political power. Good Government policies and programmes as well articulated as they may be will not enhance women’s position unless backed up by sustainable action.
Ibcity Announcer: Are you saying Nigeria as a Giant if Africa is lagging behind?
Dr Pogoson: Definitely we are lagging behind when it comes to percentages of women in parliament. While some African countries like Rwanda, Seychelles, Senegal, and South Africa are making giant strides in women’s political representation, others like Nigeria have achieved very little progress.
Ibcity Aanouncer: What role does enlightenment play in getting to this point?
Dr Pogoson: Enlightenment is meant to open up your mind, to make you enquire more, ask questions and make you understand why things are the way they are. Education forces you to think along those lines. Sensitization, enlightenment and advocacy are on another level entirely. Sometimes even with our level of education we sit in our comfort zones and we are comfortable , but the more you hear and are exposed to specific issues, the more you ask questions and get involved. Sensitization is major. You cannot afford to keep quiet. That is why we have many gender focused NGOs involved in sensitizing the women, to come out not only as voters, but as candidates- to stop being the dancers and clappers at political rallies; to stop being adorned in uniforms and Aso ebis, but to ensure that as much as possible they support other women. It is expected that other women should band along to support other women. To look at other women not as a threat, but to support them and to do whatever possible it is to ensure she has an edge over the male counterpart.
Women need to be sensitized to come out not only as voters, to stop being the dancers and clappers at political rallies to stop being adorned in uniforms and Aso ebi and not having a voice.
Ibcity Announcer: What is the idea of Femocracy?
Dr Pogoson: Femocracy is an anti-democratic female power structure that says it exists for the advancement of ordinary women, but in reality, it is incapable of doing so because it is controlled by a small clique of women who derive their authority from their being married to powerful men, rather than from any actions or ideas of their own. In a nutshell, femocracy is a feminine autocracy that runs parallel to the patriarchal oligarchy upon which it derives its authority, and which it supports completely. In this system, the female political structure owes its authority to the power wielded by one’s spouse. It simply says you have women who by their privileged position as maybe wives of Presidents, Prime Ministers and wives of Governors, etc., appear to publicly support the female folk but in reality are not genuinely doing that. For instance, Maryam Babagida started the Better Life for rural Women Programme (BLP) which she launched in 1987. The establishment of the BLP and the Maryam Babangida Centre for Women and Development, combined with the frequent appearance of the wives of the military in the mass media clearly planted women firmly in the eyes of the public and drew attention to the plight of rural women but it did not engender any sustainable change in women’s political status, or to any enduring improvement in the lives of ordinary women.
Ibcity Announcer: What are the chances of women in the forth coming election?
Dr Pogoson: With 91 political parties, the women should have a better chance of making more impact in the 2019 election compared to their efforts in the previous elections. Indeed, about six female candidates have won nominations from their parties to contest the February presidential elections and quite a number for other positions. Undoubtedly the six women running for president next year is good news, as it shows rising participation of women in politics, in spite of patriarchal, religious and cultural objections. However, I am concerned that the odds will still be stacked against women in the 2019 general elections. The road ahead is steep. Deep-rooted patriarchy makes everything from campaigning to raising funding harder for women than for men. Nigeria is still said to be an emerging democracy and incumbent officeholders are often hard to dislodge. The only women to contest the presidential elections include Sarah Jibril in 1992 and 2003, and Remi Sonaiya in 2015. Prof. Sonaiya did not make it through the primaries this time. The country’s female politicians are also facing pushback from within Nigeria’s legislature. A Gender and Equal Opportunities (GEO) Bill that guarantees freedom for women from violence, equal opportunities in the workplace and remuneration and promotes girls’ access to education has been in Parliament for eight years now. Never the less, the rise of female candidates and their increasingly uncompromising push for greater political space shows that a wind of change has emerged. I see that in the future beyond 2019, Nigeria would have more young and powerful women coming out to contest at elections but I am concerned that 2019 might not be the year for women especially at the Executive and National Assembly Elections. Despite the surge in the number of female candidates, I have concerns that the current election cycle could obstruct efforts towards greater representation of women in Nigerian politics. I pray I’m proven wrong!!!
Incite Announcer: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Dr Pogoson: People ask me this question. Who is a feminist? The word feminist comes from feminism, which originally meant simply “being feminine,” or “being a woman,” but gained the meaning of “advocacy of women’s rights” in the late 1800s. A feminist is someone who supports equal rights for women. If for instance, a man objects strongly to women are being paid less than men for doing the same job, is he a feminist? If you believe that women should have the same political, social, and economic rights as men, are you a feminist? Do I believe in the female cause? Yes I do. Is a feminist a radical woman who is ready to dare it all and loose it all, or is a feminist a woman who in her own niche and space is willing to advance the cause of the other woman? I don’t know who people think a feminist is but I am Irene Pogoson, and I believe in the female cause. And within my own space in the academia, I have in my writings in consultations, advocacy, etc sought to advance the female cause.
Ibcity Announcer: Do you think that is because the term connotes negativity…
Dr Pogoson: Not in the least- There are thousands who believe in equal rights but find “feminism” a word and a movement that doesn’t align with their personal beliefs or values. There are thousands of people who both inwardly and outwardly do not support the idea that there should be equal rights and equal opportunities for men and women. There are thousands of people who feel we’ve already arrived at equality for men and women. There are also thousands of people who believe we’re not at all there yet, and support continuing efforts to pave the way for equal rights for men and women. Clearly, our specific views on these issues are deeply rooted in our own personal and direct experiences. If having described myself as who I am, you think I am a feminist, fine. Undoubtedly, there is a stereotyping of feminism. I don’t know who you think a feminist is. But if you think a feminist is someone who believes in the female cause, in the cause of the girl child, in improving the life and plight of women within her own space, then you can call me a feminist. But at the same time, I hold dearly my home, my husband, my children, my love for society, humanity etc. Like I said at the beginning of this interview, – you need to balance your life.
I don’t know who you think a feminist is but I am Irene Pogoson, and I believe in the female cause. And within my own space in the academia, I have in my writings, in consultations, advocacy and all, expressed my belief in the female cause.
Ibcity Announcer: You spoke about your husband supporting you, but we have some women growing up now deemphasizing the importance of men in achieving their dreams. What is your opinion about this?
Dr Pogoson: To each their own. If I have been blessed with a loving and supportive husband who when I tell him I am off for a conference anywhere around the world, would wish me well; who was the one who sat me down and said my PhD was going on for too long and encouraged me to work harder at it; who at a point in time in my life, when I got an appointment with the Policy think tank in Abuja; the independent policy group, (I was there for two and a half years), encouraged me even when I had doubts about leaving the children, then the sky is not my limit. There are men who would want their wives to stay within a limited space. To each their own. But for the younger generation, I have my concerns. It is fast becoming a”me- me” world: Me, myself and I. We need to understand that yes, we have rights and I will not want anybody’s right to be trampled upon but we need to balance our lives such that you don’t look back with regrets, wishing you had done it better or differently. Asking if you should have been more accommodating, been more understanding, of some circumstances. Look at Prof Remi Sonaiya, she is happily married with children- she balanced her life such that she became the Presidential candidate of her party. We have people like that. At the same time we have people, who because of their circumstances feel that ‘I cannot be who I am within certain acceptable spaces’ and strive to create new spaces for themselves. But if you are able to balance your life and be who you are within that space and still be the other ‘lives’ that as a woman you are, then good.
Ibcity Announcer: Are we not demanding too much of the women folk?
Dr Pogoson: That is the sacrifice women have to make. I told you I learnt to work through the night to complete my PhD thesis, catch a few hours of sleep and start the new day ensuring that I had a productive day at home and at work. As woman, you will have to decide which path to thread and what sacrifices are worth it. For me, they were worth it and I will do them again because, I look back and thank God for my life, my husband and my children. I will not trade my life for anything. I thank God for what I have achieved within those spaces.
Ibcity Announcer: Do you foresee an upset in the coming 2019 election?
Dr Pogoson: Well, we were pleasantly surprised when Goodluck Jonathan lost the 2015 election. Maybe not so shocking, because Nigerians wanted a change from the tradition of insecurity, nepotism, corruption, poverty, unemployment and insouciance in government and public offices. I am not a prophet, but the way I see it, I doubt if there’ll be an upset in the 2019 elections – it is a little bit dicey.
Quite a number of Nigerians feel the change that they voted for is yet to materialize – they voted for a much desired but rather than changing the situation of Nigerians for the better, the system remains unchanged. As the journey towards resolving our national difficulties resumes in the 2019 elections, the challenge to me is whether Nigerians, through the powers of the ballot, are ready to make the decisions which will engender the much needed change and vote wisely. Let me say that the much needed change will emerge if an individual catches the attention of Nigerians, and Nigerians decide to give the woman or man a chance and cast their votes for the right presidential and vice-presidential candidates.
Ibcity Announcer: You refer to individuals, but it seems Nigerians like to vote along party lines?
Dr Pogoson: Not principally on party basis, when President Buhari ran for office, did Nigerians vote for his party or for an individual? So if you have another type of a Buhari person; female or male comes up and catches our interest, then people will vote for him or her. We don’t need these “loaves of bread and five thousand Naira vote buying” type of politics. Unfortunately, Nigerians have been politically socialized in the wrong direction. We need a re-socialization and this starts when our children are educated to feel that they are part of a political community and acquires the knowledge, beliefs, and values that help them comprehend government and politics. Indeed, norms, customs, beliefs, and values supportive of democracy from one generation to the next are passed on to them. Agents of socialization, which include parents, teachers, and the mass media, must convey orientations to Nigerians. The sense of being a Nigerian for instance, which includes feeling that one belongs to a unique nation in which people share a belief in democratic ideals, is conveyed through the political learning process. People develop attitudes toward the political system through the socialization process. They develop strong beliefs in the legitimacy of the political system, have confidence that political institutions will be responsive to their wants and needs and those abuses of governmental power will be held in check.
Ibcity Announcer: Thank you very much for your time and insights ma.
Dr Pogoson: It is my pleasure.