Nigeria’s vice president-elect Kashim Shettima has claimed that Bola Tinubu, who will be sworn in as president in late May, was the first governor to have a female deputy when he was elected to lead Lagos state in 1999. Shettima also alleged that Tinubu appointed the country’s first female state chief justice. But AFP Fact Check found both assertions to be false: Cecilia Ekpeyong and Sinatu Ojikutu were named deputy governors in 1992, while Rosaline Omotosho was appointed the first female state chief justice years before Tinubu became a governor.

“He was the first governor to appoint a female as his deputy; he is also the first person to appoint a woman as a chief judge of a state,” Shettima told a small gathering at a recent book reading event in Nigeria’s capital Abuja on April 29, 2023 (archived here).

In response to this, a supporter of opposition leader Peter Obi claimed that the Labour Party presidential candidate was, in fact, the first Nigerian governor to appoint a female deputy.

Her tweet has been reposted more than 1,500 times since it was shared on May 1, 2023.

Nigerian women have seen extremely limited success in politics in Nigeria.

A 2022 report by Gender Strategy Advancement International showed that women’s political participation in Nigeria falls below global standards, with the national average at 6.7 percent in elective and appointed positions (archived here).

This is far below the global average of 22.5 percent, the African regional average of 23.4 percent and the West African subregional average of 15 percent.

Although Tinubu had a female deputy when he ran Lagos, she was not the first in Nigeria or the state. He also never appointed a female chief judge while in power.

Class of 1992

A search of Lagos state’s official website showed that the state had two female deputy governors before Tinubu became governor in 1999.

Lateefat Okunnu was appointed a civilian deputy governor to Brigadier-General Raji Rasaki in 1990. Okunnu, however, was not elected (archived here).

The same year, Pamela Sadauki was also named deputy governor of Kaduna state in northwest Nigeria (archived here).

In 1992, Ojikutu and Ekpeyong were sworn-in as deputy governors in Lagos and Cross River states respectively as the candidates of the now-defunct National Republican Convention. They were the first female deputy governors to be elected.

Meanwhile, records show that Rosaline Omotosho was the first female state chief justice in Nigeria. She was the chief justice of Lagos from April 1995 to February 1997 — more than two years before Tinubu was sworn in as governor on May 29, 1999 (archived here).

Tinubu and Obi’s female deputies

While Tinubu and Obi did not become governors until 1999 and 2003 respectively, they both had female deputies.

Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele served as deputy governor in Lagos between 1999 and 2003.

Virginia Etiaba was Obi’s deputy when he became the governor of Anambra state in southeast Nigeria in 2003. Etiaba also had a short stint as governor — the first woman in Nigeria — in Anambra state between November 3, 2006, and February 9, 2007, when Obi was illegally impeached and subsequently reinstated.