Echoes from House of Assembly elections


Winners of the recently concluded governorship and State Houses of Assembly (HOA) elections will start filing out today, Wednesday, March 29, to receive their Certificates of Return at state headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC);  just as echoes of the elections are still reverberating across the nation. During the polls, many incumbent House of Assembly members were defeated by new comers. Speakers of some Houses of Assembly who are, statutorily, the number three citizen in their states (after the governor and deputy governor) were also defeated by green horns. 

Most notable is the case in Yobe state where the incumbent Speaker, Ahmed Mirwa Lawan, who had been representing Nguru 2 state constituency since the return to civil rule in 1999 (that is, for 20 years now) lost to a new kid on the block, 33-year-old Lawan Musa Majakura. Majakura won under PDP which means he overcame two major obstacles, an opponent who had the ‘cover’ of the ruling APC in the state and also held the powerful position of Speaker. Indeed, the new legislator can be said to have paid his dues as he once contested but lost a councillorship post in 2021. He had also spent time in police cells for, according to him, criticising politicians, albeit, “with facts”. He reportedly rejected an offer of N100 million to quit the race.

Another trending story from the last set of elections is centred on 26-year-old Rukuyat Motunrayo Shittu, who won the Owode/Onire state constituency in Asa local government area of Kwara state. Rukuyat is ranked as the youngest lawmaker-elect and shall be the youngest Nigerian legislator when she is sworn-in in June, 2023, thanks to the ‘Not Too Young to Run’ Act which lowered the minimum age required to run for elective positions. She is also a female, which means she overcame two handicaps to emerge victorious in the political battle – being young and a female. Rukuyat had been involved in student union politics.

Of the over 1000 elected legislators in the nation’s state houses of assembly, only 48 are females, representing less than five percent of the total number. Altogether, in the next legislative dispensation, which starts in June, as many as 15 states shall not have a woman in their Houses of Assembly. Amazing perhaps is that four of these states are in Southern Nigeria. 

In fact, in each of the three zones in the South, there is, at least, a state without an elected woman in the House of Assembly. Further analysis show that out of all the states in Southern Nigeria without an elected female lawmaker in their Houses of Assembly, two are in the South-east and one each in the South-west and South-south zones. They are Abia, Imo, Rivers and Osun states.

This is rather surprising because Osun is in a zone that is considered as the pace setter in western education, a region that had always been in the forefront of promoting women in development. In the initial years of this democratic order (1999 to 2007) virtually all the states in this zone had a woman as deputy governor, a trend that continued in Lagos state until now when Governor Jide Sanwo-Olu has a male as his deputy. Rivers state too had always had a woman as deputy even to-date and the governor that would assume office on May 29, 2023 also has a woman as the second in command. 

Could it be that the combustible nature of Rivers politics, characterised by violent tendencies discouraged women from getting any seat in the state House of Assembly? Imo and Abia are in the South-east zone; a zone that ranks itself as being in the forefront of civilisation while Abia in particular is better remembered in the history of Nigerian women, for the Aba women riot when women rallied against the colonial rulers.

Save for Kaduna state, all the other six states in the North-west zone (Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Kano and Jigawa) did not elect any female in the March 18 House of Assembly poll. Kaduna state now has two female Assembly members, one of them is a fresh legislator while the other is re-elected having made her debut in 2019. They are for APC and PDP, respectively. Many of the 21 Houses of Assembly that will be having a female presence in the coming legislative cycle have just one or two of them.  

In terms of zonal breakdown, South-west has the highest number of female HOA members-elect (16) with Ekiti state specifically having the largest share of this number (6). It is followed by the North-central zone that has a total of 12 elected women into the various Houses of Assembly, the lion’s share here goes to Kwara state which has five females. 

In the third position is the South-south zone that has 10 women altogether, four of whom are in Akwa Ibom state while Bayelsa and Delta states have two women each; Edo and Cross River states each have one female. The South-east zone occupies the fourth position with five women – two each in Ebonyi and Enugu states while Anambra state has a lone female HOA member-elect. In the fifth place is the North-east zone with three elected female members – two in Taraba state and one in Adamawa state.

The North-west zone is bottom of the ladder. Cultural beliefs could be a factor here.  Nonetheless, Northern Nigeria recorded a historic break through, producing the nation’s youngest legislator who doubles as Nigeria’s youngest female lawmaker.

Ikeano writes from Lafia, Nasarawa state via [email protected] 08033077519