Monica Ambrose for President!
A few days ago, a Netherlands-based woman called Monica Ambrose released a video announcing her intention to run for the 2019 Nigerian Presidential election.
In the two-minute video, Ambrose briefly outlined her vision for the nation. She said she would set up a new party and promised to provide good roads and electricity. Having lived in the Netherlands for 12 years, Ambrose said that she would bring the knowledge she acquired overseas to make the country a better place. The video was met with ridicule.
There were the unsurprisingly cruel sexist remarks about her appearance and calling her a prostitute. Followed by sneering jokes about her use of English (which she acknowledged in the video, repeatedly telling viewers to excuse her). Ambrose’s video was written off as ‘hilarious’ and her political ambition ‘a joke.’
This article is not an endorsement of her potential candidacy, she hasn’t revealed enough of her vision or manifesto for the country to judge fully, but her decision to attempt to throw her hat in the ring does raise some interesting questions about the 2019 race.
Will more women step forward to contest?
Despite Remi Sonaiya’s presidential bid in the 2015 election, female candidates and overall participation in Nigerian politics is shockingly low. Many Nigerians are labelling Ambrose’s potential candidacy as a joke, but what really is a joke is Nigeria’s share of female parliamentarians, which Oxfam revealed in a recent report is the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa, despite women making up half of the population. The report goes on to say that “politically, Nigerian women are a negligible and undermined force,” a statement reinforced by the numbers.
Out of 36 states, there is not one female governor, less than 10 of the 109 senators are female. While other African countries are making strides in gender equality, Nigeria is not making progress quickly enough, in the 2016 Gender Gap report Nigeria ranked 118 out of 144 countries.
In light of this, women shouldn’t be discouraged from actively taking part in politics. In the world over we need more women making their voices heard, particularly in Nigeria. Is Ambrose the best and most competent candidate there is? Maybe not, but wouldn’t it be nice if she was judged on her credentials alone, particularly when male candidates (or in some cases elected officials) have been forgiven for less?
The role of the Diaspora
Some of the more salient critics of Ambrose spoke about her being out of Nigeria for 12 years, such a long time away could arguably mean she’s out of touch with the reality on ground. Her promise to ‘bring what she’s learnt back home’ could seem idealistic at best and foolhardy at worst.
But her focus on what she’s learnt in the diaspora (and what that could possibly mean for Nigeria) does raise the question of what role (if any) Nigeria’s huge diaspora could potentially play in nation building, apart from the billions of dollars in remittance each year.
Although it’s naive to believe that the diaspora or increasing number of returnees can ‘save’ Nigeria, but could they have a role to play and if so, what?
Who English ‘epp’?
Ambrose hit back at her critics in a Facebook post where she assured her followers that she could read and write in English and shouldn’t be judged by her spoken English, which many quickly derided as poor.
She quickly clapped back, asking what, after decades of “good English” does Nigeria have to show for it. It’s a fair question. The focus on English, on her ‘poor English,’ is interesting. There are over 250 languages in Nigeria, and yet competency and intelligence seem tied to the one left by the colonial masters. English doesn’t build roads, or schools or hospitals. Neither do slick campaigns or photo ops, maybe more focus and commitment to actual issues, than English, would do Nigeria better this time around.
Change the change?
The Buhari administration swept in on a wave of goodwill which it’s safe to say has more or less crashed. The elections were heralded as a new era in Nigerian democracy, poor leadership would no longer be tolerated, anyone that didn’t deliver would be promptly voted out. Nigerians wouldn’t be afraid to change the change. But was this all hot air? If the change doesn’t start working for Nigerians, will they have the impetus to change it and to what?
Even if Ambrose isn’t an ideal candidate (if such a thing exists), her desire to run shouldn’t be mocked. If her ideas are bad, they should be challenged for that reason, but if Donald Trump has taught the world anything, it should be that no one should be written off. It may seem very unlikely now, but in 2019, we could be swearing in Monica Ambrose for President.
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