Women in Politics: Is Nigeria ready for a Female President

Adedoyin Shittu
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In an ideal world, gender, religion, tribe, race, and sexual orientation of a person should not be among the criteria in electing a leader but Nigeria is far from being ideal.

Nigeria has been ruled by the men folk and this has always yielded the same result which is chaos. Isn’t it time to try a female president? After all, “what a man can do, a woman can do it better”.  Women have even proven to be better managers so why should the case of Nigeria be different.

Females make 49.4% of the total population in Nigeria and the literary rate in young female adult in Nigeria is 59.3% with South East having the leading literacy rate in Female of 95.4% and North West having the least percentage of 38.0%. With this data, it is sad that female in Nigeria have not been adequately represented in politics to meet with the 35% representation by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

However it seems not much will change soon as an online poll revealed that 85% Nigerian believe that Nigeria is not ready for a female president.

Many are of the opinion that the Nigeria woman is not capable to lead a great country like Nigeria. But the question is; has she been given a chance to rule in a man dominated sphere to warrant such judgement?

The answer to this question is debateable but nevertheless the men seem to want to hold the realm of affairs of this country tight. This is why no major political party seem to have a woman has a running mate for the position of president.

Can a female contender make an impact come February 2019? That is unlikely.

Now we are presented with six female contenders out of 91 contenders for the seat of president in 2019, but not one of the female have gathered enough national support even among their female folk. It only seems that female contenders are testing waters, just like previous election.

 Also Read: Women in Politics: When Nigerian Women Rebelled in Defiance

Women in Authority in Recent Times

Aspirations of women who represented roughly half of the Nigeria population were undisputedly discarded by the electoral laws and processes since 1922. It was not until 1999 when a constitutional and electoral reform was suggested in Nigeria. Obasanjo during his second term in office in 2003 tried his best to include women into the affairs of the nation.

This was when the likes of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was invited to run the helm of affairs in the Finance department and she did a good job during this period.  Dr Ngozi in her job delivery justified the saying that ‘the best man for the job is a woman.’


Women in Leadership position (Case Study)

Patricia Etteh

When Mrs Etteh became the speaker of the Nigerian House of Representative in June 2007, it was a step in the right direction for the Nigerian woman but her reign was short lived.

This position is ranked as the fourth most powerful person in the country after the position of the President, his Vice and the senate president.

However this was not welcomed by all especially sitting members of the house and they were envious.

In the house she was mocked for her modest educational attainments in and out of session, though she is a trained and qualified cosmetologist in one of UK, she was called a mere hair dresser.

Though she has a diploma in law from the University of Abuja and a B Sc in Political Science “in view”, this did not deter the slanderous talk both in and out of House sitting.

Finally Mrs Etteh fell to an allegation of “sleaze” the same year. She was charged with unlawful spending of N 620 million in upgrading her official residence and awarding the contracts to her friends.

Mrs Etteh resigned as speaker on October 30, 2007 after so much pressure; just five month on the job and she disappeared from public view afterwards.

This amount is merely a drop in the bucket to what is stolen today by the male folks but no talk of impeachment is carried out.

Could it be mere witch hunting because she is a female who dared to sit where the male eat?


Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

She was the first female minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs respectfully in Nigeria. She served two terms as the Finance Minister of Nigeria (2003 -2006, 2011 – 2015) and she also served as the Managing Director of the World Bank (2007 – 2011). During her tenure as finance minister, she headed Nigeria’s successful program to obtain a debt relief ($ 30 billion) from the Paris Club.

She will go down in history with the development of reforms that helped improve governmental transparency to stabilise and grow the Nigerian economy.

Dr Ngozi had her own fair share of the egoistic treatment dished out by the male elites and her time in office was not all that rosy especially during the Jonathan dispensation but it cannot be said that she made no impact even though some were costly.

In her book, “Fighting corruption is dangerous”; it begins with the narration of her mother who was kidnapped in 2012 in a bid to get her to resign the appointment of Finance Minister of the Federation.

Late (Prof.) Dora Akunyili

Dora Nkem Akunyili is the former Director General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and former Nigerian Minister of Information and Communications (December 17, 2008 – December 15, 2010).

She was a pharmacist and governmental administrator who gained international recognition and won hundreds of awards for her work in pharmacology, public health and human rights.

When she took over the leadership of NAFDAC, she established as a top priority the eradication of counterfeit drugs and unsafe food. Before Akunyili assumed duty, Nigeria was a place where fake and substandard foods and drugs were dumped without any form of regulations. She became angry because “so many of my countrymen and women (were) fighting killer diseases like malaria and tuberculosis with little more than sugar syrup and chalk tablets, that is packaged to look like the real thing”.

Akunyili faced considerable risk to her personal safety in order to combat the issue of fake drugs including the almost assassination by gunmen on December 26,2003.

Akunyili ran for election as Senator for Anambra Central on the All Progressive Grand Alliance [APGA] platform in April 2011 though was not elected.

She died on 7th of June, 2014 in India after a battle with cancer.

In the wake of Prof. Dora demise, NAFDAC has become a shadow of itself and fake and substandard products have begun to thrive once again.


Diezani Alison-Madueke

Mrs Madueke was a Minister of Transportation in 2007 -2008. In 2008 -2010, she was elected as a Minister of Mines and Steel development.

She became the first female Minister for Petroleum Resources in 2010 and she is the only woman who has led a country delegation team to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). She was also the first female president of OPEC as well.

Since the end of the Jonathan dispensation, Mrs Madueke has been embattled with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on corruption allegations.

A search of one of her palace in Abuja turned up boxes of gold, silver and diamond jewellery worth several million pounds sterling. The EFCC has also traced $ 47.2 billion and $ 487.5 million in cash and properties to the former minister of petroleum.

A property valued $ 37.5 million was traced to the former minister in Banana Island, Lagos but the most record shattering acquisition of Mrs Madueke is a two apartments at Bella Vista Court in Banana Island, Lagos. She got the apartment for the sum of $ 350 million.

Also Mrs Madueke was alleged to have bought a block of six unit serviced apartment at Ikoyi, Lagos for the sum of 800 million naira.

Other properties were discovered in Yaba, Lagos which cost the sum of 1 Billion naira and she paid for it on May 30, 2012. The same day she splashed the sum of N 900 million for her Port Harcourt estate.

A duplex located in Lekki Phase One with an estimated value of over 200 million naira was traceable to her. Also a large expanse of land in Oniru, Lagos bought for 135 million Naira was also traced to her. Another property traced to Mrs Madueke is a penthouse in Ikoyi, Lagos, bought for the sum of 12 million Naira.

Investigators also discovered a tastefully built duplex in Asokoro, Abuja that was acquired by the ex-minister for the sum of 400 million Naira. Also linked to her is a mini estate in Mabushi, Abuja and it was purchased for the sum of N 650 million.

Also in Aso Drive, Maitama, Abuja, She was reported to have acquired a 6 bedroom en suite apartment  for the sum of N 80 million.

Going down south, Mrs Madueke was alleged to have shelled N 900 million for a Heritage Court Estate in Port Harcourt.

In the neighbouring State, Balyesa State, an apartment with 2 blocks of flats all en suite and with a maid quarters  with estimation running to hundreds of millions was also traced to her.

Mrs Madueke was also charged with the possession of about N 1.5 Billion in various Nigeria banks. Another N9 billion was alleged to be laundered by bank officials for Mrs Madueke.  A month after the discovery of this money, another N 34 Billion was traced to her.

In face of all these allegations and more not written, no indictment has been done so for what it may; it is just allegations until proven.


Kemi Adeosun

She was appointed the Minister of Finance in 2015 by the President Buhari. She launched the Voluntary Income and Assets Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) which seeks to get more Nigerians to pay tax. This initiative was able to generate the sum of N 17 billion from tax evaders since the launch. Her main policy was a bid to improve tax collection and crackdown mismanagement by government agencies.

This was part of her ministry’s strategy to reduce Nigeria’s internal and external borrowings.

From the time she was appointed to the enviable position of Nigeria Minister of Finance, she has been fraught with controversies including Nigeria slipping into recession but her and her team were able to manoeuvre Nigeria out of recession after a year.

She had a lot of down times and clashes in the house, one of such was when the Minister of Justice and Attorney-general of the federation, Abubakar Malami hired two Nigerian lawyers to complete an already completed job for the repatriation of the $ 321 million Abacha loot for the sum of $ 17 million.

She refused to pay the dubious fees to the lawyers.

She must have earned a lot of enemies in the house and finally on the morning of July 7, 2018, Premium Times released an incriminating report of Mrs Kemi skipping NYSC and forging an exemption letter.

Following a wide public outcry, she resigned from the position seven months to the end of the dispensation.

Certificate forgery is a common practise in Nigeria government of which the President is robed in certificate scandal but this has not stopped him from bidding a second term in office and gathering support. Why should Kemi Adeosun case be different and why was she made a scapegoat, could it be because she is a woman?

Though it seems some female candidates credibility such as Mrs Madueke has jeopardised the appointment and election of females but it cannot be overlooked that that the seat of government seems too hot for a woman to handle in today’s Nigeria. This is why they are bullied and finally forced to bow out if they do not adjust to fit the submissive role even in government.

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A woman that can rule Nigeria must be the kind that Nigerian men are desperately looking forward to vote for. She must have accrued experiences over the years in public service and the people must know her and love her and believe in her ability to deliver. She must be strongly willed, determined, focus, highly intelligent and a woman of charisma. If she falls short of these characteristics, then if she eventually make it to that seat she might not last on seat.


Why Nigeria is not ready for a Female President

God-Fatherism and a male dominated political party

If Nigeria politics can grow beyond god-fatherism, this will go a long way to give candidates both male and female a levelled ground to contest in.

Also the executives in the political party are male dominated, this has stiffened the chances of a female to be a flag bearer in the party especially in political parties that has made a name for itself.


Socia-economic and Cultural Factors such as religion, traditional beliefs and cultures

Social and cultural factors have also made a female candidate not successful in Nigeria’s election. In some part of the country, women speaking in the public get dirty looks for both men and women and they are believed to control their husbands.

Some females are intimidated or even attacked just because they declare their intention to contest in an election. In January 2011, Hajia Halima Tijjani contesting under the umbrella of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Kaduna Central was battered and her elbow broken for daring to contest. Attacks are also directed to their family members.

If social and cultural barrier is not dealt with, Nigerian women will always be underrepresented in politics and this is a violation to the principle of democracy.


Limited mindset on the ability on the women folk by egocentric male even male elites

Nigerians tend to see women as domesticated who are more interested in issues that affect women, children, education, and health, and less focused on issues such as business, the economy and foreign affairs.

This view was shared by the President Buhari during his visit to Germany to see the chancellor, Angela Merkel, in 2016. When asked the political party his wife belonged to, he said; “I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room”.

This only shows that beneath this cloak of democracy the president wears is a chauvinistic person who believes that a woman has no say aside home keeping and child rearing.

Another member of Nigerian House of Representatives, Gudaji Kazaure shared the same view when he disagreed with calls that women should be given more opportunity to participate in governance and political process in Nigeria.

According to Kazaure, “women would ‘mess up’ the country if they are given more opportunity in the country’s political set up”. He further said “women are already in charge of the homes and should not aspire to rule the country”.

This view also impacts the way voters view female candidate who are bold enough to run for office. She is viewed to be economically ill-equipped and cannot make sound judgement outside her home which is her sphere of influence.


Unwillingness of give free hand to a woman to head a political party

Political parties in Nigeria have always been and it is still dominated by men, though women participate in political dispensation there is an “unwillingness” by the men to place a woman high on the electoral list during election. This was seen in the case of Sarah Jubril in 2011.

She was a presidential aspirant under the then ruling party, People Democratic Party (PDP). After an emotional plea for women to be given a chance to contest, her plea fell on deaf ears and she secured only one vote in the primaries. The only vote she had to her name was cast by her.


Unfavourable terrain of politics

Many women detest politics for its vices. The fear of Nigerian politics for its dirtiness and shadiness has sidelined many female folks and made them unwilling to participate even when they have the needed credentials.

Nigeria politics is characterises by thuggery, zoning and other forms of administrative fiat. Also many of the political meetings are held late at night and a candidate has to travel a lot for campaigning and to meet up with publicity. This is no easy feat for a woman especially one that has a family to cater for.

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Needless to say, political position including presidency is not about gender but competence. Gender should not be criteria for occupying any political office but competence, so it should not matter whether the candidate is a male or female, election in any political office should be done on the basis on the candidate ability to deliver.


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