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Women as governors


Olusegun Obasanjo

Olusegun Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was reported to have recently suggested that women should be considered for governorships of states. His suggestion, was at a book presentation, deserves a thorough examination. There are two planks involved; general participation of women in politics and ending up in rulership as states governors.

Politics is not entirely a closed book to women folk. In the days of Constitutional Conferences in Britain and in the country, political parties had their women wings in attendance. They might not be in great numbers, but no matter how paltry, there were sure to be women representation, because the political leaders of old believed that the country belonged to all, and not exclusively to men. At electioneering campaigns, women were not left out, because party leaders were usually accompanied by their wives and other female members participated in addressing the crowds. At such meetings, questions could be asked and answered. More often than not, market women as well, graced the occasion. What participation could be greater than these? Today, the tempo of women’s interests may have tapered off, to make the prospect of governorship impossible. The political debacles of 1962 hugely lulled women into complacency.

Talking about elective positions, women are not left out. Women are members of legislatures. I am sure that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is aware of this situation. Men are not closing the gates of politics against the fair sex; the coast is clear for them to venture. In other spheres of human endeavours, women are found. In the judiciary of this country, females serve as Attorneys-General, Solicitors-General,Permanent Secretaries and also as Chief Judges. Nigeria got its women Chief Justice (CJN) Aloma Mukhtar. It may not be apposite to mention names, but women have held these positions.

Having mentioned the positions thus held so far by women, the governorship of a state remains an exception. For a very long time, women have stopped vying with men politically; with the 1962 crisis, their interests have waned. They have the brains, but do not possess the brawn. There is the saying: “If there is no cross, there can be no crown”. How many of our women in this country can face the ordeal of political detention or jail terms, not to mention movement restrictions? Such women are rare. Therefore, we must face the reality that if women aspire to be States Governors, they must be ready to suffer. Further, how many of our women can utilize their personal resources to form political parties to launch them to governorship? Are men to pay the piper and expect the women to dictate the tune by appointing them as state governors?

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo served this country twice first as a Military Ruler between February 13, 1976 to October 1, 1979, and later as the elected President from May 29, 1999, to May 29, 2007. But did his PDP consider women for governorship positions in the sates? What now motivates the Chief to make that suggestion? Some compatriots even argue that his plea on behalf of the fairer sex is an afterthought. Did he make it out of compassion for women? Is it out of the desire to effect a change? He should have initiated action by working women into the governorships of some states, during his long tenures. But he failed to do so.

Does Chief Obasanjo recollect that once upon a time, in one of the littoral states of the federation, there was a deputy governor who was often at logger-heads with her principal, the governor? She had all the chances in the world to succeed the governor but lost because of uncontrollable temper There is nothing wrong if women become states governors. But some factors ought to be considered.
• Oshisada, a veteran journalist, writes fromIkorodu, Lagos.

First, governorship is not attainable on a silver platter. Women are expected to labour for it. If a woman becomes a state governor, can that in itself reduce corruption? Can a female State Governor turn around insecurity to security? Sirimavo Bandaranaike was a politician who succeeded her husband Solomon Bandaranaikeas the leader of the Sri Lankan (formerly, Ceylon) government. She was the world’s first woman ever to hold the position of Prime Minister. She served two separate terms in the post, 1960 to 1965 and 1970 to 1977, but was eventually expelled from parliament in 1980 for alleged abuse of her powers while in office. Women do not possess special magic wand that is different from men.Cultural differences also matter a lot.

One striking difference between men and women is emotion. Women are too emotional. This is a great feature that makes them to be women. What men can withstand, women cannot; any small action triggers a woman’s reaction in the flow of her adrenalin. Besides, politics is a game that requires the stresses of diurnal and nocturnal meetings. Early in her political life, the late Margaret Thatcher was aware of that when she decided on a child, but she had a set of twins, and stopped at that, because of the political pressures and the demanding nature of family life. Family responsibility is a decisive factor in politics.

How many of Nigerian couples can take such decision? Apart from the rigour of politics, our women cannot control their tongues, whereas, politics requires a certain measure of secrecy. At party meetings, secrecy is demanded, ditto for cabinet meetings where top security decisions are taken. Politics is not for people with loose or frivolous tongues. Such quality of self-control was displayed on April 2, 1982, when Argentina’s military junta invaded Falkland Islands, and Thatcher took the decision to send troops and ships to capture them. Argentina surrendered.

Defence matters and budget details are not revealed in market places or hair-dressing salons. In Britain, Chancellors of Exchequer (Finance Ministers) had lost their jobs for frivolity of budget leakages. This demonstrates the extent to which discipline is attached to top flight positions. Governorship of a state is inclusive.

Actually, nothing prevents our women from becoming state governors or the country’s President. But there is the need to labour for it and develop the required qualities. There is the necessity to serve political apprenticeship, learn the rope of politics to register party loyalty. Great heights are not attained by sudden flights. There are competent women in teaching profession, medicine, accountancy, law and the rest of them. Why not as state governors? But they must labour to attain it.

• Oshisada, a veteran journalist, writes fromIkorodu, Lagos.

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Olusegun Obasanjo
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1 Comment
  • Tosin

    Nothing special about running a state. Women already lead countries, so why not?