by Oluwatosin Fatoyinbo
In the light of the growing influence of women on the global economic and political stage, I began to think about the possibility of having a female President in Nigeria. I often wonder if and when Nigeria eventually has a female President, what legacy such a woman must have attained before she could earn the people’s confidence and what legacy she will leave behind.
Only few countries have female presidents or heads of government conspicuous among which are Germany’s Angela Merkel, Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Malawi’s Joyce Banda, Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff. Other countries presently having female heads of government are Thailand, Denmark, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica, Iceland, Bangladesh, Australia and San Marino (which actually have produced the highest number of female Heads of Government, an amazing number of 13 female leaders.)
Even the United States of American that is often prided as the home of liberalism is yet to produce a female President. Former Secretary of State Senator Hillary Clinton could not even get the nomination of the Democratic party talk more of contesting for the presidential elections. All through the history of the US, no female has ever won the nomination of the two political heavy weight parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. It therefore seems that Hillary has come the closest having mounted a serious challenge to Barack Obama’s candidacy in 2008. The former Prime Minister of Great Britain Margaret Thatcher got elected because she ventured into the World of men and did much better as a politician than most men in her generation earning the popular nickname ‘IRON LADY’. I believe also that apart from her personal capabilities, the British people could easily adjust to having a female Prime Minister having gotten used to successive female monarchical regimes. France has had one female President and the same argument for Great Britain apply.
So what is wrong with female Presidency? Nothing points to the inability or less capability of women to head government but the major problem is simply the fact that ‘she is a woman’ and that her place is not at the forefront; that she is created and naturally endowed to support a man and not to be ahead of him. Thus it is becoming a convention to have a woman as running mate in any election in order to appeal to the emotion of other women even though this can be dangerous too, as the most ardent enemies of such candidacies are often other women.
Earlier this year, a female Student contested for the Presidency of the Student Union of the University of Ibadan, she lost not because she wasn’t a worthy candidate but majorly because of her sex. I ask myself if intellectual university students find it difficult electing a female as their Student Union’ President, how easy will it be in a country like Nigeria where in spite of the giant recent strides taken by women, men are still in charge? Even women will find it difficult it accepting a female presidency in the Nigeria of today. It is very easy to laugh at the most consistent woman ‘attempter’ at the Presidency, Dr (Mrs) Sarah Jibril who has contested for the Presidency mostly at the primary election stage five times in her political career. The last time she contested against Goodluck Jonathan at the PDP Presidential Rally, she got just a single vote which invariably means she got no vote from any of the delegates. One would want to ask if there were no women among the delegates from each state of the Federation, definitely there were! But none of them thought it expedient to give her their votes.
They must have considered it a simple waste of time and of precious vote. How come she couldn’t even get one sympathy vote? Was there no woman delegate who felt that it would be good to give her one vote just for the sake of solidarity? To face the fact, we all knew she stood no chance as she could not even muster enough financial resources to put in place a campaign organization. Two factors apart from her womanhood were against her i.e. she was contesting against two influential and popular men in Goodluck Jonathan and Atiku Abubakar and both men had more than sufficient financial muscle and access to state resources. Another problem with her ambition was that it was seemingly over flogged having contested four times preceding 2011 without any success. She could have tried her hands at simpler and less complicated offices first e.g. lobbying to be a Vice-Presidential aspirant or simply vying for Senate and work hard at getting rave reviews from where she could proceed to the Presidency (even this guarantees no success at the poll though emerging as President candidate of a major political party could earn her the presidency). Many saw her ambition as a joke. I would not forget her comment after that election. She said her one vote will forever haunt the women of Nigeria. Whatever she meant, I really don’t know but the fact that she could not earn one vote out of 3,000 delegates, of which more than 200 were women must have left her distraught.
The possibility of having a female President in the nearest future looks bleak; there is presently no woman who commands such charisma and cult followership that is needed to succeed as a presidential aspirant. And even if there’s one, Nigeria is not ready and Nigerians are not prepared mentally to have it. The majority cannot even imagine it; they will consider it absolutely absurd. For instance, Prof Dora Akunyili wasn’t able to win the Anambra senatorial election despite her solid reputation earned as Director General of National Food and Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NAFDAC).
Recently the many irrational and unexplainable acts and misdeeds of Mrs. Patience Jonathan has helped make matters worse for advocates of female presidency. She has shown that women could be as undemocratic and autocratic as men.
More women should however contest for State House of Assembly, House of Representatives and the Senatorial elections. The more women there are in politics, the better the chances of a woman living in Aso Rock not as bedroom supporter but as boardroom overseer.
Anyways, so what will be the fate of the husband of Nigeria’s first female President whenever that happens? It’s no secret that the office of the first lady has come to stay despite the fact that it is an unconstitutional office. She has her office complex, staff and governmental financial resources allocated to her office. What will the title of the hubby of the number citizen be called: FIRST MAN? 2015 is obviously not the year we will get to know but I do sincerely hope we get there someday. It’s a good dream right?
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