CAN A WOMAN BECOME NIGERIA’S PRESIDENT?

I would have loved to ask the question: ‘When will a woman become Nigeria’s President?’

However, looking at the political landscape, such a situation is looking so far-fetched that it is the possibility of it happening that seems to occupy the mind.

INEC has not yet published the official list of candidates for next February elections so we cannot be definite as to who is representing which party, even among the male candidates. Well, we expect that the big parties will ride roughshod over the minnows and we tend to wave off the other parties.

What we know is that there will be at least 6 female presidential candidates representing their parties. One usual or expected suspect is 60-year-old Oluremi Comfort Sonaiya. The retired Linguistics Professor was touted as Nigeria’s first-ever female presidential candidate in 2015 when she contested under her KOWA Party banner.

The title of first female presidential candidate could have been flaunted by those who forgot Mrs. Sarah Jibril, the Kwara politician and psychologist who is Nigeria’s first female presidential candidate both at the primaries and main elections, having contested to be president on four separate occasions. As far back as 2003 when she could not get the party nomination, she moved from PDP to Progressive Action Congress and was that party’s presidential candidate. Olusegun Obasanjo won that presidential election on PDP platform.

Apart from Professor Sonaiya, other women interested in replacing Muhammadu Buhari as President of Nigeria include Professor Olufunmilayo Adesanya-Davis, Dr. Elishama Rosemary Ideh, Adeline Iwuagwu-Emihe, Eunice Atuejide, Princess Oyenike Roberts and of course Obiageli Ezekwesili, who is fast turning into a firebrand. According to them, Nigeria is long overdue for a female president. The women say for the good of the country, the electorate must elect a woman in 2019.

Oby Ezekwesili, for instance feels that the men in the 2019 presidential race represent a “mediocre political class that bumbles from one crisis to another”, and she is riding on the platform of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) to challenge the male-dominated landscape.

So, what hope do these women have in 2019?

Many Nigerians, especially even women, who seem to be their own worst enemies, are quick to point out that even the world’s largest democracy has never had a female president and so it is not time for Nigerian women. They seem to ignore the fact that Hillary Clinton was this close to defeating Donald Trump two years ago in the US presidential election. Before Barrack Obama got to the White House, it was thought that it was an impossibility for a black man to become US President.

So, when is the right time for women in Nigeria? Many African countries are already ahead of Nigeria in giving women top positions in their political system.

Just last month, Sahle-Work Zewde, was elected the first female President of Ethiopia. The President is the Head of State of Ethiopia while there is a Prime Minister as Head of Government. Zewde was elected on 25 October 2018 by members of the Federal Parliamentary Assembly and the position is largely ceremonial, just like that of Nnamdi Azikiwe in Nigeria in the first republic.

But executive presidents such as Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Malawi’s Joyce Banda have broken through the gender barrier to hold the highest political office in their countries. We have Ameena Gurib as President of Mauritius since 2015 and Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, Prime Minister of Namibia since 2015.

In other continents, there seems to be no gender difference in who rules their countries.

Down memory lane, Benazir Bhutto – the first woman Prime Minister in an Islamic state – ruled Pakistan until she was assassinated on December 27 2007. India, Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister of India up till 31st October 1984 when she was also assassinated at her residence, by two of her own Sikh bodyguards. In a political world dominated by men who feel it is their birth right to rule, these two women, along with others like Golda Meir of Israel, Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, Margaret Thatcher of United Kingdom and Corazon Aquino of the Philippines showed that what a man can do, a woman can do even better. And they were all women of steel, afraid of no one, not even death, like Bhutto and Gandhi.

Their current day counterparts include President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic of Croatia, Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2016, Tsai Ing-wen, President of the Republic of China (Taiwan) since 2016, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany since 2005, Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh since 2008, Dalia Grybauskaitė, President of Lithuania since 2009, Dilma Vana Rousseff, was President of Brazil since 2011 up till last year. In Norway, South Korea, Malta, etc, the list is endless.

So, when will it be time for Nigerian women? We are told that the female population in Nigeria is more than their male counterparts. Is it possible for the women to join hands and boost one of them to the top office? Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was like the highest the ladies have gone in Nigeria’s history because as Coordinating Minister of the Economy, she was more or less like a Prime Minister in an executive Presidency which is not really the same as the top-top.

The ball is in your court, ladies! And for the men who think the time has come.

 

Image credit: pinterest.com

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