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Who is the first female senator in Nigeria? Here’s what we found out

Amid calls for female representation in Nigerian politics, only a few women who participated in the recently concluded general elections got into elective positions. 

As of February 2023, the Inter-Parliamentary Union Women ranked Nigeria 182 out of 186 for women’s representation in the national parliament.

During the February 25 elections, Ireti Kingibe, a candidate under the Labour Party (LP), was one of the few women who clinched political positions. She emerged as the elected senator for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi, subsequently met with Ms Kingibe, claiming she was the first elected female senator of the FCT. However, a fact-check by Fact-Check Hub debunked the claim. 

Findings showed Khairat Abdulrazaq-Gwadabe had previously held the position of the Senator representing the Federal Capital Territory FCT from May 29, 1999, to May 29, 2003.

Despite the fact-check, more conversations surfaced around the topic on Twitter, requiring further clarification.

On March 12, 2023, a Twitter user, @GbenroAdegbola, stated that Ms Abdulrazaq-Gwadabe was the first senator and female senator for the Federal Capital Territory who served from May 1999 to 2003.

He also noted that Franca Afegbua was the first female Nigerian Senator representing the Bendel-North district from October to December 1983, while Wuraola Esan was appointed a Senator in 1960.

DUBAWA examines the history of female senators in the country to clarify the confusion surrounding female senators’ evolution in Nigeria.

Overview of the senate

The Senate is called the upper chamber of Nigeria’s bicameral legislature. The National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a bicameral Legislature established under Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution, which consists of 109 Senatorial seats with the 36 states divided into three senatorial districts, each electing one Senator through the implementation of the First-Past-the-Post electoral system. The Federal Capital Territory also elects one senator using the First-Past-the-Post electoral system.

History of FCT Senators

According to historical records, Daniel Yakwo had previously served in the same position in the second senate. He was appointed by the late former president of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari (1979 to 1984).

Similarly, Hassan Asa Haruna Tadanyigbe of the Social Democratic Party was elected on July 4, 1992, to represent the FCT in the Senate. A year after, the bicameral Parliament was dissolved after the military takeover led by General Sani Abacha in November 1999.

After a 16-year-long military rule, Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999 following the announcement by Abdulsalam Abubakar, transitional Head of State of Nigeria.

The country’s constitution was revived for democratic rule, necessitating a Senate and House of Representatives. The Nigerian Senate consists of 109 senators representing three Senatorial zones, each in the 36 states of the federation and one senator representing the FCT.

First elected female FCT senator

Ms Abdulrazaq-Gwadabe was elected as the Senator representing the Federal Capital Territory in the Senate from 1999 to 2003, making her the first elected female senator representing the FCT.

Others who succeeded Ms Abdulrazaq-Gwadabe as FCT Senator include Isa Mania (2003-2007); Adamu Sidi Ali (2007-2011); Phillip Tanimu Aduda (2011-2023); and Ireti Kinigbe (2023 – till date).

Chief Franca Afegbua: First elected Nigerian female senator

Chief Afegbua, an internationally recognised hair stylist, was elected senator in 1983. She contested in the 1983 elections under the National Party of Nigeria and won the Bendel-North Senatorial District seat. 

The late Chief Afegbua had been praised for her resilience in contesting the election despite being in the opposition party at the time.

In a 2022 interview, she said, “People know that women keep to their promises. That was a major factor, a major one. I intended to keep my promises to my people, making them understand that.

“I think there has been some improvement since my time. There was no woman in the senate before me then, but there are women now. Then, I was the only woman, but now, there is more than one. I believe the number will increase gradually.”

Wuraola Esan: First appointed Nigerian female senator

Wuraola Esan, a political activist who campaigned for women’s and girls’ education, was the first female member of the Nigerian Senate in the First Republic.

Ms Esan was appointed to the Senate by the Western Region under Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group party in 1960.

She actively participated in the Nigerian Youth Movement, the National Council of Nigeria, and Cameroons.

Thus, although Ms Kingibe is the current elected senator for the FCT, she is one of the few women to have held the position.

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