‘Alhassan’s victory in Taraba raises hope of a female president’

Ibrahim

Ibrahim

WITH last week’s declaration by the Taraba State Election Petition Tribunal of Senator Aisha Alhassan as the duly elected governor of the state, raising the hopes that, barring any insurmountable legal hurdle, Nigeria is about to have the first female governor, a new wave of optimism is spreading among female politicians that at last, their time has come to dictate the tune of politics.

One of the leading female politicians in the country and a chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Princess Hadiza Ibrahim, while speaking with The Guardian immediately after the victory of Alhassan was announced, said, “Very soon, a woman would occupy the exalted seat of the President of Nigeria.”

The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which of course is the reference point for social co-existence amongst groups and persons, has not by any means discriminated against anyone, man or woman in the socio-political scheme of things. It is therefore unjustifiable for men to want to dominate the Nigerian political scene and hence, box women to a corner. Available statistics however show that since the inception of democratic governance in 1999, women have been scantily represented in public offices either as President, Senate, and members of Houses of Representatives and Assembly at the level of states.

According to Ibrahim, who lost the Kogi APC governorship ticket to Prince Abubakar Audu, “Yes, a woman can emerge as the president of Nigeria. It might take some time considering the political barriers that the feminine gender faces here ranging from financial support to educational abilities and as many as they are.
“The good thing is we now have female prime ministers and presidents all over the world. We have Hillary Clinton gunning for the United States presidency for the second time, Sarah Jubril who contested at the presidential primaries ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Tarja Halonen who was the president of Finland for 12 years, and a host of other female leaders in the international community.”

Expressing dissatisfaction with the level of participation of women in politics, she identified reasons why women find it difficult to compete favourably with men on the political terrain.

She said, “The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which of course is the reference point for social co-existence amongst groups and persons, has not by any means discriminated against anyone, man or woman in the socio-political scheme of things. It is therefore unjustifiable for men to want to dominate the Nigerian political scene and hence, box women to a corner.

Available statistics however show that since the inception of democratic governance in 1999, women have been scantily represented in public offices either as President, Senate, and members of Houses of Representatives and Assembly at the level of states.

The fact is that out there politics is very expensive and 70 percent of people that are poor in Nigeria are women. The violent nature of politics, the cultural and social norm and the general attitude that the woman’s place is at home and not in the public space are all contributing factors to the low representation of women in politics.

The dominant philosophy in Nigerian politics is money. The money factor plays very vital role in the conception, mobilization and winning of political offices either at the presidential, governorship, senatorial, local council elections and even age grade meetings. Money is very critical in the shaping, making and unmaking of public office, which is supposed to be on trust.
“Thus, the higher and larger one’s financial muscle is in Nigeria, the greater one’s chances of wining public office. The system of corruption that has infiltrated the Nigerian system has practically put women on edge and everything seems to be working against them in favour of men.”

While proffering solutions to the myriads of problems facing women successful participation in politics, She said, “There should be equality in the sharing of political offices on the basis of quota system between competing candidates. This will enable both men and women have equal chances of control in such public offices.

Money politics should be discouraged and women who want to take active part in politics should be encouraged to do so without any fear or favour. The doctrine of the Affirmative Action and CEDAW should be strengthened so that they could have considerable impacts on the political landscape thereby curtailing any form of discrimination against women. Structures like legal funds should be put in place to enable women politicians challenge any form of electoral malpractice at minimal cost.

Speaking on women empowerment, which she described as the process of political and financial freedom for the womenfolk, Ibrahim said, “The strategies related to women empowerment are all inter-related. In order to empower women to enable them to play their rightful roles in development, six important factors are very vital, they are: education, micro-credit financing, campaign, net-working, media, research and development.

Education is an essential means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to fully participate in the development process. Sustainable development is only possible when women and men enjoy equal opportunities to reach their potentials. Education is important for everyone, but it is a critical area of empowerment for girls and women. This is not only because education is an entry point to opportunity but also because women’s educational achievements have positive ripple effects within the family and across generations.

Microfinance targets those in the most need, and generally those who do not have access to financial services. In many cases, Micro finance Institutions focus on women. For women, micro finance helped them tremendously in their empowerment. In developing countries, women are frequently confronted with a feeling of insecurity and a lack of autonomy. Financial responsibilities help them regain their self-confidence, and building a better future for their family. These are possible means that can be done to encourage and ensure female participation in politics.”

On whether her aspiration to govern Kogi State is still alive, she said, “I have never been the kind of person who gives up on a dream simply because I lost the opportunity to fulfill that dream, like Mr. President, I will continue to pursue my goal to the state till I achieve it.  If at first we don’t succeed, we must dust ourselves up with the necessary arsenal, learning from our past errors and forge ahead with the greatest momentum until we attain our goal, and this is my exact strategy to attain the governorship seat in Kogi State.

Education is an essential means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to fully participate in the development process. Sustainable development is only possible when women and men enjoy equal opportunities to reach their potentials. Education is important for everyone, but it is a critical area of empowerment for girls and women. This is not only because education is an entry point to opportunity but also because women’s educational achievements have positive ripple effects within the family and across generations.

Each government in Kogi has tried to maintain a minimal balance financially, economically and educationally, and that is why the state which used to be the headquarters of commerce has now lost her past glory. I can say with all positive convictions that I will bring a positive dramatic and continuing change where we can foster peace amongst our different tribes, where we can enforce the law, where we can generate revenue instead of relying on the federal government for sustenance, where we can foster true democracy, this is the change I will bring to Kogi.

On what she expects of President Muhammadu Buhari’ administration, she said, “I expect a corrupt-free administration, which we can all see that he is working towards, based on the calibre of ministers he has nominated. I also expect that the Nigerian women will be adequately represented in this administration as promised by the President on March 19, 2015, at the Harbour Point Hall, Lagos, where he met with women professionals and specifically vowed to implement the 2005 National Gender Policy, which makes provision for women to occupy 35 per cent appointive positions.”



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