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A Female President – A Nigerian Novelty

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You would have had to be living under a rock, if you did not witness the 2008 Democratic Primary battle between the now President, Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton. If any political battle came close to mirroring the clash of the titans, that was the one. The whole world tuned in to watch two representatives from two minority groups, a woman and an African American, contest for the most coveted seat in public office. At the end of the day, it was Obama who not only won the ticket, but went on to become the President of the United States of America. Regardless of loosing to Obama, Hillary Clinton has gone on to be an effective Secretary of State under the Obama regime.

In Nigeria, our own version of this Primary Party struggle lacked much luster in comparison. The recently concluded PDP primaries where Sarah Jubril, Former Vice President Atiku and President Goodluck Jonathan vied for the presidential ticket has left many wondering about the potential role of women in Nigerian politics, particularly when contesting for the office of Madam President.

When it was time for Sarah Jubril to give her speech, a once in a lifetime opportunity to tell her Party and fellow Nigerians her vision for the country and convince all doubters that she was the woman for the job, she used this opportunity to sing, dance and hail various chants at the crowd and TV audience. At the end of the night, her effort gained her one solitary vote from almost four thousand delegates. She is quoted as saying, “That vote was of me, by me and for me”.

While the jest and ridicule from securing only one vote from the thousands available has now quietened, perhaps it is time to reflect critically on the reason behind the lone vote. If we are to believe Sarah Jubril, women are responsible for her loss. In an interview conducted on the premises of the Federal High Court in Abuja, the female presidential aspirant is quoted as saying, “I sympathise with the ignorance of the women which is till now affecting the conscience of women in Nigeria. Why are the womenfolk trying to use the media to call me a serial contestant sarcastically? I have forgiven them. The political class should stop hijacking the conscience of Nigerian women who constitute the engine of the nation,… their conscience would haunt them”.

Nigerian women have tried for a long time to break through the male dominated world of politics, and we have made some progress in some respects. We recorded the milestone of the first female governor in the person of Dame Virgy Etiaba, who in a serendipitous turn of events was thrust with the responsibility of leading Anambra after Peter Obi, the former governor was ousted. We already have women representatives and senators, but unlike countries like Liberia we are yet to have our first female president. I would argue that the problem with Sarah Jubril’s candidacy, and perhaps other female presidential aspirants, is that they tend to show up just when it is election time and expect everyone to know who they are and support them simply because they are women.

For example, while discussing PDP zonal arrangements in Abuja, Sarah Jubril advocated that the exalted seat be zoned to women in 2011. Personally, I believe this “vote for me because I am a woman’ mentality has got to stop. Such feminine based arguments lack merit because free and fair elections are not based on gender, religion or ethnic bias. Instead, such sexist patronage belittles our feminine sense of worth and ability to achieve success based on merit. The only reason why anyone should ever vote for a woman over a man, should be because she is the most capable for the job. Such capability should not be attached to her gender but rather should follow from her proven track record gathered in previous official positions over a number of years. After all, the elections that put the German Chancellor and the Liberian President in power were not won by clamors for gender inspired confidence and Nigerian female presidential aspirants should not expect otherwise. For example, it was Sirleaf’s Harvard degree and resume which boasted senior jobs at Citibank, the U.N. and the World Bank that ensured her success in the heated Liberian Presidential battle against the soccer star, George Weah.

The substance of the candidate must take precedence over any gender arguments. The sooner Nigerian women stop flashing the gender card, the sooner the unhealthy preconceptions firmly rooted in our national psyche about women and their roles in society would be erased. I dare say, we are the ones allowing it to fester by conveniently hiding behind the shadow of being a woman when it suits us.

So while many are quick to join the clamour for more women in politics, perhaps we should instead be addressing what we intend to contribute to the Nigerian political process. Do we have worthy female candidates who are both capable and politically sound? Do such female candidates have a proven track record of delivering sound, accountable and transparent governance practices? Or are our efforts simply to create more jobs for the girls so that the alleged benefits of corrupt practices filter into female purses? If the answers to these questions are anything but positive then perhaps we are not ready to have any woman as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Photocredit: 234next.com

39 Comments

  1. Tomi

    February 18, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Well said. You have got a point!!!

  2. Mo mor

    February 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Correct! True talk.

    I wonder why there aren’t any comments here though… Guess this article is too serious for the BN audience lol

    • Babydee

      February 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm

      lol.. don’t be surprised now. After all, its not Genevieve or OmoTola running for presidency.

  3. everbrite

    February 18, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    This is a lovely write up Akan , I agree with all you’ve said above. However sexism is still rife and alive in Nigeria, which is why some sort of affirmative action is neccessary to create role models for young ladies to emulate. For example in many parts of Nigeria ALL MALE traditional rulers Obas , Emirs and Obis etc all play a role in governance,power and overall polity.Some of our Nigerian customs dictate that women are not permitted in the main courts of palaces, mosques etc, some customs even forbid rulers from speaking to women talkless of receiving instructions or leadership from one. That said traditional Matriarchal countries like Ghana are yet to produce female political leaders. I guess we should just continue celebrating the Angela Merkel’s, Sirleaf-Johnson’s,Dilma Rousseff’s and Cristina Kirchner’s of this world.

    • Frema

      February 18, 2011 at 2:50 pm

      Even in Ghana we are still struggling. In fact only few tribes like the Akans in Ghana inherit maternally, thats about it. Fathers tend to use this system to their interest; they do not look after their children, just because they are for the mother and her extended families. These women who are not economically empowered struggle take care of these children thrown at them. What sort of inheritance is this if you cannot take care of your children.

  4. gini

    February 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Well said,women shouldnt flaunt that whole feminine card only when it suits them.If she is ready to make a difference she should start from the grassroots,how can she contest for presidency without popularity?Most people dont even know or heard about her,so how can one vote for who they havent heard of?For women to gain the respect they deserve in politics we must first earn it,this may take a while but we must first,remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

  5. Frema

    February 18, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Exactly my point, the reason why am tired of this this extreme gender equality. Instead of forcing to putting square pegs in round holes all because we are women, we should start from scratch and train more young people (females) to take up such roles in the future. These our old women who lived in an era of gender imbalance and injustice, why do they want to be presidents now.

    I advise you to go back to your drawing board, gender parity cannot be solved by forcing unqualified people in certain top position. Else they will disgrace us and then we are back to square one. Invest in the young ones, push for a review in our education system; why some disciplines will admit more males than females, etc. Am just saying

  6. evita

    February 18, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    ok, and when you have such female candidates, where do they end up???

  7. Chibaby

    February 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    I think Sarah Jubril came late because she wasn’t sure if she should run or not. She probably contemplated with the fact that women are not given 2nd thought when it comes politics in Nigeria.
    Sarah probably gathered enough confidence to run late. I do agree with you, that women should stop playing the gender card and bring other qualities to the table. Is not our gender that determines if we are going to be good at our jobs. Is our past experiences; our good qualities; our education and skills, that determines how great we will do on our next assignment. I am proud of Sarah for stepping up even though she did it late. Hopefully better skilled Nigeria women out there can learn from Sarah’s mistakes and contest on the next election.

  8. partyrider

    February 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    when madam came out for presidency, the questions myself and most people asked were “who is she,what has she done,where is she from?”
    you can not wake up one bright morning to run for the highest seat in government and expect people especially women to vote for you because you are a woman..why?
    if women like Dora or madam Okonjo-Iwela for instance come out to run today,at least we know what that resume looks like,we have seen their achievements.
    if you are a woman and u want our vote,like the writer said you must be capable for the job more than your male counterpart..till then take a chill pill.or better still,work on building a renowned resume like madam Okonjo-Iwela dat graduated “manga cum lauda” from Harvard and went on to obtain a Ph.D. from MIT and has been efficient in all the positions she held in the past and is still doing a great job.

    • Ebony

      February 18, 2011 at 5:30 pm

      True..but that’s not to say all aspirants have to be brainys and all but sha u need to be smart enough to understand the complexities of running a country like ours..

      Which brings me to another point.. we really do not expect this from men, do we? Is it that the standards for women are higher? But they should be.. I think if a truly qualified woman becomes president and does well in Nigeria, then our story would change for ever. You’ll then see real women come out to contest and No, they won’t be jokers…

    • partyrider

      February 18, 2011 at 7:21 pm

      you are right.am not saying they must be brain busters,but like the writer stated the resume of the Liberian president is what boosted her campaign and gained her support even from the international community,same with madam okonjo-Iwela..if Dora for instance didnt do a good work in NAFDAC,we wouldnt have had her as minister,neither would she have the guts or courage to run for senate now..in a nutshell,if u aspire for political positions,be the best in what you do,break grounds in your field,so that when u come out there wont be so much doubt about ur capabilities..

  9. Kilonsparkles

    February 18, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Who knew her before this election? Should other women vote for her JUST because she’s a woman? She should use this as a platform to get her name out there…which she’s kinda done.

  10. Ebony

    February 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Very well written, Akan.
    She wrote one other article here about voting and all… na so she like politics?

    Maybe she’ll be the first Female President..lol..

  11. Miss ATL

    February 18, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    I agree with the point made in this article. Far be it from me to vote for someone simply because she is a woman, like me. What has she done? What are her credentials? What is her platform? What does she plan on doing to better Nigeria?

  12. Jess

    February 18, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Oh wow I did not even know she spent her time singing and dancing during her speech, how sad. As you mentioned I reckon if women begin to enter politics with reasons other than “vote for me because I am a woman,” we would def see more women being respected and represented in nigerian politics.

  13. Sochi

    February 18, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Timely post, Akan. Just this morning, I head over the radio that GEJ promises to allot 35% of ministerial portfolio to women. We pray he delivers and challenges our women to rise to the challenge. Great work.

  14. Dollar ati Naira

    February 19, 2011 at 12:48 am

    Great article. I feel a lot of parents are still bringing up their daughters to underestimate their potential part. with regard to leadership roles. It’s such a shame because I think we have some extremely intelligent women who are also resourceful and conscientious and who’d be a gift to the nation. We’ll get there though.

    • Shade

      February 19, 2011 at 11:41 pm

      Exactly!

  15. Mary007

    February 19, 2011 at 2:57 am

    This article is the reason why she really got one vote

  16. Ready

    February 19, 2011 at 11:52 am

    I wasn’t aware of this development until reading this…and I completely agree with the points made in this article. If we’re against political zoning, the same should go for voting according to gender lines. ‘Specially when a candidate’s platform is so vague and practically nonexistent. When we get a capable female candidate, I’ll do my damndest to ensure her election. Until then…

  17. Anuli

    February 19, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Well said. I know a lot of women in this category however i think its also a case of gaining support from their husbands and being security conscious…politics is a narrow road in my opinion

  18. spicy

    February 19, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Wow did she really sing and dance during her speech? how embarassing!!

  19. mariaah

    February 19, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    I absolutely dislike when people “Pull” as I call it. They will pull Racist card, Sexist card, Victim of circumstance card. Why should I, even as a woman vote Ms. Sarah Jibril? Is it because she is a woman, a good dancer&singer (oi oi) or because she is a good candidate? She has been around for quite some time if I remember, but I think she should go and build her resume and she really doesn’t have to be a president to serve Nigeria (her people). I am nt saying she should settle for less, but there are other positions she could contest in and proove her self. BTW, we all know most of these candidates are lobbying for other positions no be Naija…laffs in Efik and struts off..

  20. olu

    February 19, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    always proud of you gal

  21. toto

    February 19, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    i absolutely support a woman president.. but i dont think Jubril the way. like common…for real?
    someday we would have one..
    please support http://thatblogn3xtdoor.blogspot.com/

  22. angela ukekweh

    February 19, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    I love Nigeria so much but when it comes to issues of inequality between men an woman, I prefer not to even think about it, or discuss it. Doing so will send me to a mental hospital because I hate injustice and unfairness.

  23. Friday

    February 19, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    Ithink the problem here is that Nigeria and Ghana have very strong culture. This allows men in both countries to rule with iron fists. The saddest thing is mothers who are suppose to raise their girls to be very outspoken and powerful, raise and groom their girls how to be good housewives. i’m not trying to pick on Nigeria and Ghana but this is what i’ve seen in Nigeria and Ghana movies. Maybe i should generalized it and say the entire african culture has no respect for women.

    • Shade

      February 19, 2011 at 11:42 pm

      “The saddest thing is mothers who are supposed to raise their girls to be very outspoken and powerful, raise and groom their girls how to be good housewives.”

      You said it all.

  24. Ekene SSport

    February 19, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    Unserious as Sarah Jubril was, men also pull the sexist card a lot in Nigeria. It denies a lot of women the opportunity to build there resume and get involved with governance. Even when they do, there’s always the “She’s only a woman” phrase whispered around by the men. The same men employ some women and favour female employees when “they have paid in kind”, encouraging women to play the sexist card, not just in words but also in actions such as seducing the “bosses” and offering what only females can offer.

    Nevertheless, there are still notable women who have proved to be incorruptible. We all know a few, and I hereby suggest that you mention the names of such women in your states and regions that we can trust with governance so as to help them in building the resume they need to serve Nigeria in any capacity, even as president. I am going to lead by example by introducing to you, a woman who has led by example: Princess Mrs Stella Ngwu, Former Chairman of Post Primary Schools Management Board, Enugu State and PDP flag bearer for Federal House of Representatives, Igbo-Etiti/Uzo Uwani Federal Constituency, Enugu State. http://www.stellangwu.com (under construction/up in two weeks)

  25. Shade

    February 19, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    Very well said.

    But we can’t deny that sexism is so deeply entrenched in Nigerian culture which makes it difficult for women who are qualified to succeed politically, and i dare say in various facets of life that doesn’t involve domesticity. Very tragic. That said, numerous cracks are being made and have been created in the glass ceiling by women like Margaret Ekpo (RIP), Funmilayo Ransome Kuti (RIP), Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Funmi Iyanda, Khariat Gwadabe, Abike Dabiri, Chimamanda Adichie, to name a few. We’ll definitely shatter the glass very soon.

    But i find it even more interesting that you tend to find more sexism amongst women. Sometimes we’re our own greatest enemies. Sad..

    I concur—-> “The only reason why anyone should ever vote for a woman over a man, should be because she is the most capable for the job.”

  26. do re mi

    February 19, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    But men in power hardly have ‘great’ resumes. Analyze the riff raffs around. Most of them used the ‘male-yet-empty-or maybe-exsoldier’ card.

    So stop setting PHD standards for women.

    • Ebony

      February 20, 2011 at 4:18 pm

      Exactly my earlier point.. Ebony.. we do not have all these high standards for men, why should it be different for the women.. but I think I have an idea why..

      It is only in our country or perhaps in this continent ,that it is that way… Obama and Hilary Clinton..Did you see any inequalities in pedigree and training.. No!

      Palin, Condoleeza..etc.. but in Nigeria..the men are not even required to have any sort of pedigree… but it is changing now..

      Poverty, illiteracy..has not allowed people to ‘see’ road to vote better candidate.. but just watch out.. we shall see what will begin to happen now…

  27. lol

    February 20, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Lol this woman is just a joker. When serious female candidates like okonjo iweala run for the presidency you will see that it is possible for naija to have a female president

  28. tinuade

    February 20, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    applause!!!
    This is so apt. Perhaps I shall be “gingered’ and not give up on Nigeria afterall…

  29. Miss Face

    February 21, 2011 at 12:05 am

    Every country has its time and season of maturity and letting go of stereotypes or “the norm”. America just entered its own season with obama as its 1st black president but others black people before him had contested in what seemed like hopeless asprirations.Nigeria will have its 1st female president when the time is right and until brave women such as sarah jibril come out to make their voices heard, it would continue to seem hopeless for a female president in nigeria, Yes, mrs. jibril may never be president but she has, whether we choose to admit it or not, paved the way for some young girl somewhere in nigeria.this is saying to other women, younger and older, it is no longer a taboo but a right and a possibility…its just a matter of time. But we shall surely get there!

  30. Amieghemen Success

    February 22, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    This is true but Nigerian women should be given the opportuinity to rule cos they they are rulers and managers of the home and so can manage the country to a greater height.just imagine some1 like Dora Akunyili and Obiagelli Ezekwelize the Deputy governor of World Bank been the president of Nigeria.We wont only be the giant of Africa but also the GIANT OF THE WORLD

  31. adeosun babatunde sharafadeen

    March 10, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    wel 2 adeosun babatunde i would like a capable female such as lara should come out for the post nt an ordnary female like sara lol

  32. adeosun babatunde sharafadeen

    March 10, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    wel to me adeosun babatunde i would like a capable female such as dora akunyili should come out for the post nt an ordnary female like sara lol

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