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Buhari and women: Righting the wrongs

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President Muhammadu Buhari


In Africa, the age long tradition has required that the woman keep away from the limelight, and conduct herself very discreetly if she must perform a public role. However, with civilization and the world becoming a global village, this ancient belief is becoming unfashionable in the 21st Century women’s lifestyle and aspirations. Regrettably, the imperfections and self denial associated to the apartheid belief, has made participation in politics or appointment in public office look odd to majority of Nigerian women. Indeed, this limitation has reduced women to look like Liliputians despite their immense contribution and glamour once the arena is thrown open for people to showcase their prowess and competence in political leadership. In that sense, the exact place for women in partisan politics remained somewhat nebulous in Nigeria’s definition and practice of politics today. However, bluntly as it may look, the reality about women’s poor position in politics lies in a combination of unsavoury characters generally referred as ‘political god fathers’ sitting atop some unpleasant political incompetence, and men’s unwillingness to see women as leaders. Sadly, the continued exclusion of women in politics has been established as one of the major setbacks for economic development of the country.

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In the light of all the shortcomings before women, the President Muhammadu Buhari government has promised to exceed the 35 per cent involvement of women in governance. Without mincing words, the ruling government is known for its humane nature and auspicious promises that usually makes Nigerians to salivate and see the idea as so beautiful, making it look like the world through God’s eyes after creation. Unfortunately, the people are constantly disappointed, and volleys of unimaginable excuse over government’s failure to deliver on promises are fed on the masses, but not without heaping the blame on the doorsteps of previous administrations. It is indeed heartening that the Buhari administration seems inclined perhaps for sheer achieving a political point to break the jinx in women appointment to political office. Mr. President the other day, vowed to exceed the 35 per cent target for appointing women into key political positions while hosting a women group led by the minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen in Abuja recently.

The President emphasised the important roles of women in the overall development of the nation through his media aide, Femi Adesina when he said: “I truly understand that when equity becomes the guiding principles and women hold strategic leadership positions both in government and in the private sector, not only will our development be accelerated but also the diversity and richness in the quality of our policy design, engagement and execution will be improved…”.

Indeed one must feel good to hear that women’s participation in politics and governance is considered for improvement by the ruling government. Just to fall in line with the National Gender Policy recommendation of 35 per cent benchmark for women as the starting point. This singular initiative would doubtless steer a positive change in the economic affairs of the country as well as the general welfare of the citizenry because women are good managers. But one fears if official propaganda is not playing a significant role in these statements from government quarters taking into cognizance how women are currently marginalised. When it comes to political appointments, women are neither seen as card carrying member of a political party or anyone’s first choice as candidate to be nominated.

This has made the presentation of women in elective or appointive positions very poor. It is believed by a school of thought that it is easy for the camels head to pass through the eye of a needle than for a woman to run and win an elective office in Nigeria. More so, it is dispiriting but not surprising to find among womenfolk as part of the problem or challenges facing women in politics. Most women, rather than support, they castigate and questions the capabilities of any courageous woman that chose to spear head the political struggle by taking the bull by the horn to contest elective position. Hence, several women of substance seem to shy away from politics first, because of delusion that politics is not only a dirty game but exclusively meant for men to play and the fact that core political meetings are held in the night. No doubt these negative expressions terminate political dream and aspirations in many women even before they hatch the plan. Of course, the teetering pile of likely men sponsors’ who blatantly refuse to assist women is a looming sign of failure before the elections.

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However, if one may ask, when would the womenfolk be given chance to prove their worth in politics? Mr. President rightly noted how his wife, Aisha and women generally were the back-borne to his election victory in 2015. Therefore, the political activities of women in Nigeria and indeed across the world cannot be over-emphasised. This is because women participation in politics would not only help to promote gender equality but bring about humane policies that would affect the lives of Nigerians positively. However, it seems the chances of the Buhari government moving in any meaningful way to create the opportunities to achieve the 35 per cent political appointment for women is slim. Currently, the country is in financial distress due to recession and that being the case, any reasonable government should not consider cabinet enlargement but to drastically reduce its capital expenditure and stop extravagant spending.

Perhaps, the promise and fail syndrome associated to the Buhari administration has necessitated some civil society organisations to sue the federal government over the 35 per cent appointment of women in governance. In their prayers before the court, they argued that the overwhelming predominant appointment of the male gender into decision making positions of the federation was wrong, unlawful and unconstitutional. It is disheartening to note that the Buhari administration is much better understood through its failures than through its keeping bonds and promises. Everyone seems to overlook what it means each time government fails to keep up its promise. Nevertheless, it is clear that warm words would not be enough to calm the agitation to see more women in governance. Until recent, it has been easy to shrug off the women, perhaps because of their hysteria and weak nature. At the moment, women are sending powerful messages through their outstanding achievements and it is not one that anyone in the fold of those that wish women a place only but the kitchen or the other room wants to hear. What comes through from these giant strides of women reveals that the affairs of women should no longer be a lip service or swept under the carpet but be in the front burner on the national agenda. 

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Muhammadu Buhari‎
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