Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo took another broadside at President Muhammadu Buhari while delivering a speech on gender at the Murtala Mohammed Foundation.
The former President noted that it is impossible for societies to make meaningful progress without inclusion of women. But the speech was not without a dose of Obasanjo’s trademark controversy, including a claim that men conspired to stop Nigeria’s first female governor.
Here are 3 takeaways from the speech:
Men made sure Aisha Alhassan did not become Governor: Although Obasanjo stayed away from dropping names, he alleged that a woman was voted in to office as Governor but was removed as a result of male chauvinism.
“Here we have 36 states but we have not gotten a woman who has been governor. The one that got voted, the men made sure she was removed. I agree that the education of a girl child is important, but we won’t get there until our women take their place in politics, because we live in a male chauvinism world. They are your father, brother, husband and cousins. We must have them to do what they should do.”
Political observers are aware that Obasanjo’s remarks gives life to a conspiracy theory that Senator Aisha Alhassan was voted in as governor in Taraba state but was not announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission due to pressure by strongmen in the state, including General Theophilus Danjuma.
The APC in 2015 had accused the former military chief of bribing INEC officials with a sum of about two billion Naira to stop the announcement of Mrs. Alhassan who they claimed won the polls. The election petition tribunal in November 2015 also announced that she won the election but the decision was overruled by the higher courts.
Obasanjo shades Buhari again: Whilst making a valid case for women inclusion, Obasanjo mocked President Buhari’s derogatory comments in Germany where he dismissed his wife’s role in government, saying that she belongs to the “other room.” Obasanjo argued that women must occupy more meaningful roles for progress to be made.
He said: “For any country, it will be unfortunate if 50 per cent; in our own case, 52 per cent, of our population are not given what they need to make meaningful contributions to the economic and social lives of the country. Then, that country will not make the progress that it should make. And the beginning is education, acquisition of skills, empowerment and giving women their rightful place in the board room; not just in the other room.”
Obasanjo gives women tips on how to get involved. Sex strike?
Obasanjo noted that women should intensify their advocacy efforts and advised them to include men in their drive as such alliances might advance their bid to achieve equal representation in leadership. He offered an alternative that seemed suggestive of a sex strike. “If everything fails,” he said, “use pillow talks, arguments and persuasion. There is limit to how long they can go without you. You may have to go on strike because they will not give it to you. You have to extract it from them.” It is unclear what Obasanjo means but we know at least that sex strikes have been effective in the West African sub-region.
One last thing: Obasanjo hints that he has not always been pro-women in leadership. He admits that his intended ministerial list in 1999 had no women included and explained what changed that. “When I was elected president and I had to appoint ministers, they didn’t include women, but I had a retreat and saw the brilliance of the women. I saw their performances and it was among them that I picked nine,” Obasanjo said.