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The amazons didn’t come

By Ray Ekpu
02 April 2019   |   3:23 am
In the Guardian of August 14, 2018 I had written an article titled “The Amazons are coming.” In that piece I named five women who had threatened to take President Muhammadu Buhari’s job from him. They were Oluremi Sonaiya, a Professor of Linguitics who had contested for the office in 2015 and flunked. Others were…

Mrs. Sarah Jubril

In the Guardian of August 14, 2018 I had written an article titled “The Amazons are coming.” In that piece I named five women who had threatened to take President Muhammadu Buhari’s job from him. They were Oluremi Sonaiya, a Professor of Linguitics who had contested for the office in 2015 and flunked.

Others were Dr. Elishama Ideh, of the Alliance for New Nigeria, Barrister Eunice Atuejide who speaks English, French, German and Spanish and has a black belt in taekwando; Funmilayo Adesanya-Davies a professor, founder and bishop of Agape Bible Church, Princess Oyenike Roberts, President of African Media Practitioners in the United States of America.

As it turned out none of them won the primaries in any of the major parties so any appearance by any of them on the ballot was simply a waste of space.

Later in the race, a former Minister of Education under President Olusegun Obasanjo, Oby Ezekwesili threw her wig into the ring and gave the impression that she meant business.

As people were sitting up and listening to her speeches she announced her withdrawal from the race. This last-minute withdrawal from the race was rejected by INEC.

All that we heard after that were accusations and counter accusations between her and her party. Her entry into the race ended in a messy exchange of insults between her and her party officials.

Of all the women who were threatening to retire Buhari and send him back to Daura Ezekwesili appeared to be the most serious but withdrawing in the middle of the race gave the impression that she had no idea what she was up against in the first place.

None of the women in the presidential race got more than a handful of votes. None of them campaigned in more than a couple of States.

Since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1999 we have had two women who have tried their luck at the presidential election. In 2003, Ms Sarah Jubril contested under a little known party called Progressive Action Congress (PAC) and flunked woefully.

In 2007, she mounted the rostrum again this time on the platform of the PDP. At the end of voting during the primaries she received only one vote, probably her own vote.

The PDP took her on board and encouraged her with a ministerial appointment. In 2015, Professor Oluremi Sonaiya entered the race on the platform of the KOWA party. She spoke quite eloquently during the presidential debate but her eloquence did not take her far. She flunked.

The truth is that since 1999 no woman has won an election as Governor of a State or as Vice President of the country. Infact, no woman has even been nominated as a Governorship or Vice Presidential candidate of a major party since 1999. So the women are yet to make any significant impact on the elective front.

In the National Assembly the situation is equally miserable. In 1983, Ms Franca Afegbua was the only female elected into the Nigerian Senate.

Since then a few more women have been able to scale over the hurdles into the chambers of the Senate. We have had such women as Stella Omu, Stella Oduah, Daisy Danjuma, Florence Ita Giwa, Helen Esuene, Emeh Ufot Ekaette, Oluremi Tinubu, Rose Okoh and Khairat Gwadabe.

In the current National Assembly 94.4% of the members are men while women form a miserable 5.6% of the total.

From the list of the contestants for the 9th National Assembly which will be inaugurated in June only 8% of the Senatorial candidates are women while 92% are men.

In the House of Representatives the figure for females is equally appalling. Out of 4,699 candidates only 12% are women while the remaining 88% are men.

According to the International Parliamentary Union, Nigeria ranks 181st out of 193 countries in terms of women representation in Parliament.

This is not a figure to be proud of considering that Nigerian women such as Margaret Ekpo and Funmilayo Ransome Kuti were fighting in the 50s for Nigeria’s independence side by side with their male counterparts.

If we also consider the fact that women constitute about 49% of the population, then we have every reason to worry about the low representation of women in both elective and appointive political offices.

Even though the Federal Government has accepted 35% women representation in appointive offices it has never met the target.

A country such as Rwanda has a 50/50 representation of both sexes in appointive offices. There is no justifiable reason why Nigeria which has a large number of well-educated women should not give them more opportunities in governance than they are currently given.

Last year, a group of women led a delegation to President Buhari during which meeting they requested that the Vice Presidential slot of his party should be allocated to women. They thought they were raising a serious matter of major concern to them but the President reduced it to a joke. He told Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo that his job was on the line.

The impression that the women gave was that the office of Vice President should simply be allocated to them as a gift. They did not reckon with the fact that such a high office must of necessity be fought for by those who want it because that office is just a spit away from the top job.

The reality is that in Nigeria all major offices that carry enormous responsibilities and resources are often competed for fiercely by all those who want them and any woman who wants them must be ready to join the fray with all the hazards involved.

Nigerian women have not been able to make a significant impact in elective offices because of certain inhibiting factors.

While our women have been able to rise to the headship of universities as Vice Chancellors and banks as chairmen, they have not been able to make similar advances in the political terrain.

Politics in Nigeria is a money-guzzling affair and many women do not have such enormous resources to invest in it. Those of them who have are simply not interested in taking such a high risk considering the violence and the rough tactics that are used by many desperate politicians in Nigeria.

The risk factor is very high and many decent women do not think it is an endeavour for them; by so doing they leave the field only for the men who are ready to take the risks needed to achieve their goals.

When our elections become more violent it tends to discourage decent people from participating thus leaving the field open to the rough necks and other toughies.

Also, Nigeria is still a basically patriarchal society with men in dominant mood. In some parts of Nigeria, women have no right of inheritance or are not even allowed to own property because of either religious, chauvinistic, traditional or reasons of customs which are still being practised today.

The women are therefore prevented from asserting their right to participate like the menfolk in political activities. In some parts of the country, a woman’s place is still regarded as the home only especially the other room from where she is expected to breed children.

Nigerian women must accept the fact that men are not likely to surrender important political positions, elective or appointive, to them without a fight. They must be ready to pile more pressure on authorities that are responsible for the sharing of political positions. They must be ready to play important parts in the formation and nurturing of political parties so that they will also have a prominent seat at the table where the food is shared. If they stay away from politics because it is a risky business they are likely to get only the little crumbs that drop from the table.

The big chunk of the meal will be shared by those who are ready to take the risk, invest their time, money and energy in political campaigns and electioneering.

Getting involved is the only way to get the political rewards that are currently being enjoyed by the menfolk. If the women want to make any significant impact in 2023 the time to start working is now.

Even though many people thought that the amazons were coming in 2018 we found out in 2019 that they had not arrived at the port of high level politics.