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Women urged to exercise their right to vote – and to stop being ‘puppets’ who obey their husband’s every command

22 February 2023
Reading time: 6 minutes

Even though it is enshrined in Nigeria’s constitution that all people aged 18 and over have the right to vote for the candidates of their choice, some men in the northern part of the country are flouting this fundamental principle and are forcing their wives and families to vote for the candidate they prefer.

Some are even stopping their wives from voting altogether.

This makes women feel as if they are puppets and reinforces a culture of subservience to men, says Women in Dialogue, an organisation that fights for the rights of women.

With just days to go before the general elections on Saturday, February 25, RNI spoke to some residents in Maiduguri, many of whom had conflicting views on the subject.

Baba Kura Bunu said: “I’m not like other men who force their wives to vote for the candidates they endorse. I always allow my wife and my children to vote for the candidates of their choice in any elections because politics is politics and not a family affair.”

Fatima Abdullahi said that if her husband asked her to vote for a particular candidate she would not do so unless she also supported that candidate. Otherwise, she would insist on voting for the person she supported.

“I will vote for any candidate of my choice because that is my constitutional right and it’s got nothing to do with matrimony.”

“My wife, children and, in fact, my entire family will vote for the candidate I endorse as long as I’m the head of the family,” Maina Mohammed stated firmly.

Habiba Mohammed said: “If my husband asks me to vote for any political party candidate he likes, I will definitely vote for that candidate out of respect and obedience to him.”

Ma’ali Isa said he would allow his wife and family to vote for any political party candidate they chose, just as he would vote for the candidate of his choice.

“This is stipulated in Nigeria’s constitution,” he said.

Maryam Zakariya told RNI that she would vote for the candidate her husband chose “because I love my husband and he always suggests what is best for us”.

Mustapha Wanzam said: “I believe nowadays men no longer control their wives and families to that extent and will not force them to vote for a candidate whom they do not support. It’s part of civilization. In fact, today a man cannot even ask his wife to cook his favourite food at home, let alone force his family to vote for a particular candidate he prefers.”

Salma Musa said: “I will do whatever my husband wishes. I will vote for his preferred candidate because I am under his control and care. I will never offend him by disobeying his command.”

Aisha Ali Indimi, who heads Women in Dialogue, an organisation that fights for women’s rights, told RNI that it was evident that many women were “fully under the control of their husbands because it is part of Islamic religion, culture and tradition here in Borno State”.

“In fact, because of religion and tradition, women are expected to follow their husbands’ commandments. That’s why men have so much power and control over their wives and families.”

She said women were often treated like puppets at beck and call of their husbands. They were subservient to their fathers and when they married they were subservient to their husbands.

“Some men will stop their wives from voting because they say their spouses will suffer standing in the sun in long queues. Such men do not want their wives to intermingle with other men which would happen if they were standing in long queues. These men won’t even allow their wives to go out of the house on voting day, let alone allow them to participate in the elections.

“Our organisation urges all men to encourage their wives to take part in the democratic elections on Saturday. Many men do not want their wives to vote at all or will allow them to vote only if they vote for the candidate they think is right. But there are some men who will not try to stop their wives from voting and will encourage them to choose the candidate of their choice.

“I call on women to obey their husbands by convincing them – gently and politely – to allow them to vote. They should do so in such a way that it makes the man feel that it’s his decision. In that way women will be able to exercise their right to vote. Casting a vote is not done in the open. No one knows who anyone else has voted for. Women should feel free to cast their ballot for whomever they want.

“I urge my fellow women to be wise enough to vote for the right candidate. Some candidates try to lure women to vote for them by giving them money, clothes or pieces of material. These selfish politicians will use any means to convince women to cast their ballot for them. Instead, for overall national development, women should know their rights and do the right thing at the right time.

“Many politicians make empty promises while they are campaigning. They promise the world. Then, once the elections are over, you never see them again – until the next elections. It is time for women to take a stand and, in a peaceful manner, vote for the candidate they think is right and who they believe will work for them.”

Yahaya Alhaji Dunoma, an independent legal practitioner based in Maiduguri, said the country’s constitution allowed every Nigerian – whether it be a man or woman and all young individuals aged 18 and over – to vote for any candidate of their choice.

“The constitution does not permit anyone to stop someone from exercising his or her right to vote and does not allow anyone to force someone to vote for a particular candidate.

“Women in the southern and eastern regions of the country gained their vote in 1954. But it was only in 1979 that women in the north were allowed to participate in elections. The suffrage movement was led by several groups, such as the Women’s Movement of Nigeria and the women’s wing of the Action Group, among other pressure groups. So, this is how  women earned their constitutional right to vote and participate in any democratic elections. This means that if their husbands ask them to vote for a particular candidate, they have the full support of the constitution to vote for a different candidate if that’s their choice.”


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