On March 18, 2023, Rukayat Shittu was declared the winner of Owode/Onire State Constituency election in the Asa local government area of Kwara State in the State House of Assembly elections.
Her road to electoral victory is lined by sweat and dedication. Before her victory at the polls, the 27-year-old worked as a journalist with Just Event Online Publication, a media company in Kwara state.
Shittu also has a longstanding history of involvement in volunteering and various leadership roles. She served as the inaugural female Senate president for the Congress of the National Open University of Nigeria Students (CONS), overseeing operations across approximately 85 study centres nationwide. Additionally, she represented her study centre, Kulende, Ilorin Study Centre, at the national level.
During an interview with Awim, she said that her love for governance has been shown in diverse ways. “Journalism is what I am passionate about, but I will say governance drives my passion into journalism because I feel we will always have a voice to lend to the people and advocate for the rights of the people through the media,” She said.
Being a journalist also availed her the opportunity to foster women’s participation in governance and politics for national development and inclusion.
She said that she was in charge of the “Women Hour” programme made for women and youths, where she brought in women as well as men who are He for She, ready to lend a voice to the women in society.
“We discussed women’s participation in politics, governance, challenges faced by women, factors that can enhance the participation of women and so on. So, I didn’t just wake up to it; it has been in me, and it wasn’t a switch (from journalism to politics) for me because I feel it is still part of what I have been doing, it’s just that it is in another way,” she told the Awim Reporter.
Shittu contested the election under the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
She broke the Gender Jinx
Despite being half of Nigeria’s estimated 210 million population, women are underrepresented in politics and governance.
In 2019, the Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, reported that only 62 out of the 2,970 women who participated in the general elections secured victory and were elected. This was not a surprise, in a patriachal society like Nigeria, a woman standing election is often seen as a challenge to tradition.
Presently, women make up only three of the 109 senators in the Senate. This marks a decline from the seven female senators in the 9th Assembly, highlighting the persistent challenge of achieving gender balance within the nation. In the House of Representatives, sixteen women took the oath of office out of the total 360 lawmakers.
The stark reality facing women underscores the deeply patriarchal nature of Nigerian society, where women are often not anticipated to occupy leadership roles.
Nevertheless, individuals such as Rukayat Shittu persistently challenge societal norms, actively working towards a future where women can assume roles in governance.