By Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu
There is a sense in which the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), showed a darling example in its recently held primary election across the country, save for instances of irregularities in few states, including Imo, my state, where government actors made a charade of a process that should ordinarily have deepened democratic practice. Distasteful as the Imo instance is, it is not the thrust of intervention.
Of greater good is the standard set by the national secretariat of the party, which, in any case, is an admirable and enduring legacy with regard to female representation in politics in this dispensation. The party did score a golden goal by ensuring the inclusion of a novel provision in its electoral guidelines and, by this act, gave women a pride of place. The giant step notedly increased women representation across the board, from local, state to national level, and provided a leeway to women’s larger involvement in party affairs.
This development no doubt represents a watershed in Nigeria’s annals of politicisation and signals a sturdy milestone in the age-long struggle for women’s fair share in the country’s political affairs. I therefore commend the fighting spirit of Nigerian women, particularly the APC women under the leadership of the national woman leader, Dr Betta Edu. These women of worth worked so hard to bring about this profound provision and I admire their courage which largely helped to achieve this fruition.
The provision, strategic as it is, is supposed to work for a preponderance of women who nurture political ambition in the country. However, the pattern of voting in the recently held primary election of the All Progressive Congress (APC), across the country, has shown clearly that a vast majority of women are still miles away from the ideological drive that birthed the inclusion clause. The pattern indicates, conspicuously, that many a woman is yet to see her kind as deserving of trust and confidence.
Nonetheless, we must all pause to laud the exceptional and resounding example of Adamawa chapter of the All Progressive Congress. Unlike other states in the country, Adamawa women smartly took advantage of the party’s guidelines which stipulates that every ward must have five delegates and of the five delegates, two must be women, and that saw to the emergence of the senator representing Adamawa Central in the Senate, Aishatu Ahmed, popularly known as Binani, as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the state.
Senator Binani had scored 430 votes, the highest in the election, to defeat Nuhu Ribadu, a former presidential aspirant of the Action Congress and pioneer chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), who polled 288 votes, and immediate past governor, Muhammadu Jibrilla Bindow, who came third in the contest with 103 votes. An oasis that this seems, it is also a gratifying example that Nigerian women must inculcate to win.
Answering how she won the feat, Senator Aishatu Ahmed said: “If you take Adamawa for example, we have 226 wards; if you multiply that number by two, you’d get 452 votes out of a total of 1,130 delegates for the state. This means 452 of these delegates are women.” She, in furtherance said, “This is the first time women are uniting and speaking together in one voice, though not hundred per cent, but I can tell you that almost 70-75 per cent of the female delegates backed me, saying our own is contesting, let us give her our block vote.”
The Adamawa spirit is palpably missing in most of our women in Nigeria, and this fact tells us where we are with regard to imbibing the can-do spirit. It is a hydra-headed challenge that most women still do not believe in themselves, let alone believing in another woman. It shows, more disappointingly, that the onerous efforts in mentoring, repeated public sensitisation and daunting sacrifices made by women for women are yet to be fully appreciated.
In Ondo State, for instance, deliberate and conscientious efforts have been made to make the womenfolk develop worthier outlook on life beyond being itinerant hailers who are usually rewarded with ridiculous and short-lived material gains. The Foundation for Wives of Ondo State Officials and Female political appointees (FOWOSO) was birthed as a grooming field for women with a goal to elevate the status of women and bring about socio-economic turnaround for them. Concerted efforts made to position women strategically to enable them nurture dream beyond playing domestic roles.
The primary election promptly provided a test of our earnest efforts towards increasing women representation in Ondo State with the political ambition of a former Commissioner for Women Affairs, Hon. (Princess) Omowunmi Olatunji, who ran for the party’s ticket in Ondo Central senatorial district, and Barrister Yejide Ogundipe, another woman who vied to ticket to represent the Ileoluji/Oke-Igbo/Odigbo Federal Constituency, but, Alas! the female delegates faltered.
They proved distanced and disconnected from the critical ideological line, despite being strategically positioned to make the sought difference. They, instead, made a mockery of the good effort made in amplifying our patriotic demand for increased women representation in elective positions. Majority of the delegates scorned the glowing example already laid with increased women percentage in appointive positions and disappointingly preferred immediate pecuniary advantage.
Dismally, more states in the country took the voting shape of Ondo female delegates and sacrificed their own for fleeting fun, forgetting that, matter of factly, the finest of dreams for women emancipation would remain in the realm of dream for so long as our women danced the way Ondo delegates did and choose not to accept the Adamawa standard. Women would continue to impede the efforts of their own towards emancipation when our pursuit is individualistic.
That Nigerian women defied the scorching sun and thronged the national assembly to demand that 35 percent of the nation’s legislative seats be alloted to women was to enable women have more space to contribute to the country’s political affairs. It is in favour of this goal that I dropped the toga of a First Lady and joined fellow women to press for the all important increase in parliamentary seats for women at both the state and national levels. In the wake, a number of women took up the challenge to contest for legislative elections while banking on the female delegates to do the magic as in the case of Adamawa.
It is true that women are largely marginalised and are still being discriminated against on very petty and primordial grounds, but women must brace up for the challenge to alter the tide, not to falter by disbelieving their own and indirectly helping to perpetuate the same injustice that we are fighting hard to stop.
Until and unless women drop the second fiddle mentality and unite to support their own as exampled by Adamawa delegates, women will remain relegated to the background and treated like second class citizens.
Much as one does not pretend that this is easy to achieve, it is important to persist as we press forward daily. It is more important to share the common conviction that the least that women deserve is equal opportunity in conducting the affairs of Nigeria. The rule must be that we give our own the confidence that she needs to win as was the case in Adamawa, which we must admit has set a good tone. It is a tough sell, but we won’t stop pushing. Rome was not built in a day, after all.