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Nigerian women are breaking down barriers, elbow up to the political table

For months Martha Agba canvassed her bid to be the first woman to represent her constituency in the Nigerian House of Representatives, under the banner of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

But at party primaries, a man shouted at him.

Why We Wrote It

Women have long been excluded from political power in Africa’s most populous country. Pushed back against an aging political elite that has held the reins of power for decades, the coming generation is slowly changing that.

“Go and get married and take care of your wife’s house!” The audience laughed in response.

Si Ms. Agba, who did not get a party nomination for Cross River state, said such opportunities were par for the course in a country where women rarely get a seat at the political table. Only seven of Nigeria’s 109 senators are women, and 11 of the 360 ​​members of the House of Representatives are women.

But before the election in February 2023, increasing but significant changes are happening.

Si Ms. Agba is one of about 700 women hoping to get a ticket to the APC, more than double the number in the previous election.

Some succeed. In March, Emana Duke Ambrose-Amawhe shrugged off violent threats to get the nomination of the deputy governor candidate in her state.

Both the ruling APC and the opposition People’s Democratic Party say they are addressing the problem, including scrapping the standard tens-of-thousands-dollar nomination fee for female candidates.

“This system that restricts women cannot last forever,” Ms. Agba.

CALABAR, NIGERIA

On the morning of Nigeria’s legislative primary, Martha Agba woke up with confidence. She hopes to be the first woman to represent her constituency in the House of Representatives, and has spent several months canvassing everything from women’s organizations to local leaders. Now, it is up to his party, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), to be confident that he will be the best candidate in the election early next year.

He knew it would be a difficult career, but he hoped it would be fair.

A few minutes after the chaotic event, while he was talking to the other delegates, a man beckoned to him and started shouting.

Why We Wrote It

Women have long been excluded from political power in Africa’s most populous country. Pushed back against an aging political elite that has held the reins of power for decades, the coming generation is slowly changing that.

“Go and get married and take care of your wife’s house!” he remembers him shouting, while the spectators laughed in response.

Si Ms. Agba, who is in his late 20s, tried to delete the comment.

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