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Yahaya Bello’s pro-women, revolutionary politics

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Sir: Governor Yahaya Bello’s gender-friendly policy is unprecedented in the political history of Nigeria. It is a policy that other state governors should copy. By it, Bello has set a standard for a race on how best to run an administration of inclusion that not only recognises the role of women in politics – beyond being mobilisers of voters for male politicians, but also offering them high-visibility offices, such that they could play an active part in shaping and implementing policies for a balanced and solid development of the state.

Bello should not rest on his oars. Perhaps, his next move is to start grooming a woman (of substance), amongst those currently serving under his administration, as the first woman governor of Kogi State – come 2023. He should also be grooming brilliant women to head all the local governments in the state! That would be truly Nigerian, if only to break male monopoly power at that level. Ditto the State House of Assembly. And, as what would, truly, pass for pro-women political renaissance, it may well be a refreshingly tidy development to have Kogi State’s seats in the House of Representatives and Senate occupied by women. Women deserve an ample space in the Nigerian political terrain.

Male political leaders should realise that women are also tax-payers. Therefore, by being in position of leadership, either via appointment based on merit, as Bello has done, or vote, into, say, the state or national legislature, they, meritoriously, deserve a visible presence and, an ample say on how that tax money is spent by the government.

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In response to Bello’s women-friendly political gesture, one is persuaded that we should be steeped in a political trend in which state governors and the President should have at least, 33 per cent of the seats in their cabinets solely reserved for women. And this is where rigorous voter education by INEC and all the registered political parties is imperative.

It is also where the NCWS, National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ministry of Women Affairs, National Orientation Agency (NOA), International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), etc. should team up with women – from the grassroots to the national level – to press a fair representation of women in governance.

Truth be told, government and politics have not been fair to Nigerian women. Since the 1920s, the lot of women in Nigerian politics has been a culture of tokenism. It explains why little is today, being said about the likes of the late Chief (Mrs.) Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Hajiya Sawaba Gambo and Margaret Ekpo, who played quite prominent roles in the country’s struggle for independence in the ’40s and ’50s. We seem, in a clear case of destructive self-denial, to have discontinued the teaching of history, so as to bury the heroic contributions and memory of these great Nigerian women nationalist. 
 * Nduka Uzuakpundu is a Lagos-based journalist.
 

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Yahaya Bello
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