The amazons are coming
Mrs. Sarah Jubril has entered the history books as the first woman in the Fourth Republic to seek, in a semiserious manner, to be the President of Nigeria. In 2003, she pitched her tent with a little known Party, Progressive Action Congress (PAC) and flunked. In 2007, she threw her wig into the ring again, this time under the PDP and got – wait for it – one vote in the primaries. Her ambition has since vanished with her into the night of broken ambitions, but she remains a path-breaker.
In 2015, a formidable lady – formidable in size and education, – Oluremi Sonaiya, a Professor of Linguistics, picked up the baton from where Sarah Jubril dropped it. She made some interesting noises during the campaign but failed to get anywhere near her ambition of occupying the Aso Villa. It is Muhammadu Buhari of the APC who collected the keys of the Presidential fortress from the incumbent, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
Now, more Amazons are knocking at the door of Presidential politics. At least five women under different party platforms are taking their wares on the road. The roll call so far: Professor Oluremi Sonaiya of KOWA Party is ready to roll with the punches again in the hope that she may be second time lucky. The others are Dr. Elishama Ideh, a Clergy woman who wants to run on the platform of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN); Barrister Eunice Atuejide, 39, who speaks French, German and Spanish and has a black belt in taekwondo and makes movies too is shooting her way into the podium, Funmilayo Adesanya-Davies, 56 years old Professor at the Rivers State University of Education, Port Harcourt, wants to test her electability credentials with all the heavyweights lining up in the PDP. There is Professor Funmilayo Adesanya-Davies from Kwara State who is the founder and Bishop of Agape Bible Church. From her base in the United State Princess Oyenike Roberts who is the President of African Media Practitioners in the United States, is joining the fray under the canopy of the PDP.
Before the whistle goes for the race to start, we may still have more pencil heels in the race. This is a positive development for our politics and polity.Looking into my crystal ball, I do not see any of the female aspirants clinching the Presidential trophy or even the ticket of any of the major parties.
But it is still a good development for several reasons:
(a) The female candidates will be able to raise a number of issues concerning women, children, the girl child, reproductive health and other issues that most male candidates ignore out of ignorance or lack of adequate appreciation for their importance. These issues may then find their way to the front burner of election discourse;
(b) Their entry will serve notice that women have as much a right to the nation’s highest office as men. I was disappointed some weeks ago when some women approached President Muhammadu Buhari asking to be given the Vice Presidential slot. It may have seemed to them as a realistic request but they had unthinkingly put themselves in a position of inferiority to, not equality with, men. I guess that they were looking at where they are coming from, not necessarily where they want to get to.
Since 1999, no woman has won an election in any of the states as a governor. Also, no woman has won an election as a Vice President or has been nominated as the major presidential candidate of a major party.
These offices are not appointive. They are elective offices for which all candidates, men and women, must slug it out. Even if Buhari was sympathetic to their cause, he also had to contend with men who also eye the position. But even that would be restricted only to his party, the APC. The nomination process and the primaries are done within the parties. At present, there is no woman who is a national chairman or national secretary of any of the major parties. They are only considered fit for the office of women leaders. Is there an office named men leaders? There is none. This means that the men have cleverly carved out an inferior office for women. They have also done the same thing for the youths. On the surface, this segmentation gives the dubious impression that the women and youths have been singled out for special recognition.
But they have no significant role to play in how major decisions are taken within the party. They have simply been consigned to the margins. In each of the major parties men are the main event, the full stop, the Amen while the women and youths are sideshows, the commas and the desert. The point I am making here is that if women want to make an impact in politics, they must make an impact at the level of party organisation first. That is the starting point. That is what politicians refer to as ‘structures.’
The women aspirants must also understand the mechanism for leadership selection in Nigeria: godfatherism. So far, that has been the route to the Aso Villa since 1999. Those who have clinched the Presidency so far have been either former Heads of State or former governors. So, the female aspirants who have not even had a modicum of experience in the political arena have no idea how to land the punches or to duck them.
In 1979, Olusegun Obasanjo was released from prison and made the Presidential candidate of the PDP mainly by four persons: General Abdulsalami Abubakar, General Ibrahim Babangida, General Theophilus Danjuma and General Aliyu Gusau. They made his nomination at the primaries possible. Nigerians merely voted after the godfathers had made their choice. There was no godmother anywhere near the scene.
It was President Obasanjo who chose Umaru Yar’Adua and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan almost single-handedly. Yar’Adua preferred to go back to his teaching job at Ahmadu Bello University while Jonathan wanted to remain as a governor of Bayelsa State. Obasanjo persuaded them to come to the centre and collect the booty. There was also no godmother around.
In 2013, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu worked with other politicians from four parties to put together a merger that came to be called APC. He was the one who mobilised and galvanised and built a formidable fighting machine to give Buhari victory in 2015. President Buhari has acknowledged that without Tinubu he might not have been President in 2015. So, Tinubu is the acknowledged godfather of Buhari as far as the 2015 election is concerned. The role of the godfather in Nigeria politics is amply documented. For how long our elections will revolve around godfathers I cannot say.
I am convinced that the female presidential aspirants do not yet have a full understanding of the factors for winning elections in Nigeria. These are basically two: (a) Cash, and (b) force. The rough estimate is that anyone who wants to win the Presidential election in Nigeria should have a war chest of between 40 and 50 billion Naira minimum. Do these women have it?
Secondly, they must be ready to match force with force. A few years ago, a lady from one of the South-South States was able to show that what a man can do, she could do better. She instructed her body guards to arrest her opponent, a man. They picked up the man, put him in the booth of their car and drove off. That is the stuff of our macho politics.That was the end of the matter. She sorted things out and won.
Next Tuesday: Road blocks against women politicians.
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