Against all odds, politics in Nigeria is no longer a men’s affair. In this report, WALE ELEGBEDE looks at the women who are after President Muhammadu Buhari’s job ahead of the 2019 election
In Africa, the political terrain is a male-dominated landscape. Over time, the women folk’s representation in politics has been abysmally low. In Nigeria, statistics showed that the overall political representation of Nigerian women in government is less than seven per cent. On the global scene, the world had its first elected female leader in 1960 – Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike. But Africa’s chance of an elected female president didn’t come until 2006, when Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, contested the country’s presidential election and won. Interestingly, out of nine female heads of state and government that Africa has had, only two, Sirleaf and Ameenah Gurib-Fakim of Mauritius, were able to secure an elective vote to lead their countries.
The rest assumed their positions in acting capacities. The thinking for most African women is that the political terrain is too rough and murky to navigate, and that is not far from the reality. They believe that the males will usually take the fair share ahead of them. For them, the issues are not farfetched. They are confronted by gender-based attacks which include being sexually harassed, labelled “prostitutes” or “concubines,” considered inferior, the absence of financial backing, among others.
They are also confronted with cultural and social factors. However, in the face of the damning statistics that enunciated the glaring under-representation, women have been undeterred as they have continued to make their voices heard and impact felt especially in both elective and appointments. In Nigeria, the race for the plum job of the land, the presidency, has not been quite rosy after several attempts made to follow the steps of the electorate in countries like Liberia, Germany, Botswana, among others,who voted for female leaders.
The closest women came in a bid to lead Africa’s most populous country was at the 2015 general election, when a professor of Linguistic, Mrs. Oluremi Sonaiya, almost cracked a glass ceiling with her approach and performance, but she polled 13,076 votes in the presidential election. Prior to Sonaiya’s voyage, Mrs. Sarah Jubril, a former presidential aide, had contested the presidential election, when she was on the ballot in 2003 on the platform of Progressive Action Congress (PAC), but lost to former President Olusegun Obasanjo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). She subsequently contested the PDP primaries in 2007, but got only one vote.
But with a heightened appetite to change the narrative and recital of women in elective offices, especially for the presidency in 2019, a number of women have decided to throw their hats into the ring to vie for the top job of the land. Already, the 2019 race, is crowded across the parties and at the last count, no fewer than 40 people have indicated interest to contest the election against the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, who is expected to emerge as the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Ahead of the 2019 election, five women have signified interest to run for the presidency. But, for them, the first hurdle is how to get their parties nod. They include Prof. Oluremi Sonaiya, Dr. Elishama Ideh, Barr. Eunice Atuejide, Prof. Funmilayo Adesanya-Davies and Princess Oyenike Roberts.
Prof. Remi Sonaiya (KOWA)
“But I achieved what I wanted, I wanted to show Nigerians that they have options; they don’t have to vote for the same people they’ve been voting for in years.” This was the reaction of Prof. Oluremi Sonaiya, the candidate of KOWA party after the declaration of the 2015 presidential election in which she polled 13,076 votes and came 12th. For the 63-year-old retired professor of French Language and Applied Linguistics at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, who was the only female candidate in the 2015 presidential election, “by leaving the leadership position to men alone, we have denied ourselves our rights. I really hope that women will be determined and stand, in not just talking about the situation of things, but assuming responsibilities. We should not be begged to take charge.”
But not giving up on her quest, the former university don recently declared her decision to vie for the plum job in the land in 2019. She said in an interview that “yes, I am coming out. I am planning to run as one of the aspirants in KOWA Party. Four other people have indicated their interest in the ticket, so let’s see what happens after our primary.” Reflecting on her foray at the last election, she said: “You know it was my first time in 2015. My first outing really opened my eyes to many things. This time, I will be getting my message across and have more access to people.
“I am a little bit known now than was the case in 2015. I will have more support. I did not have a wide reach, but it is different now. Again, this time around, I hope more money will be at my disposal to do some of the legitimate things that should be done. I am hopeful of a better outing his time around,” she said. Born in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, where she completed her primary and secondary school education at St. Luke’s Demonstration School, Ibadan and St. Anne’s School, Ibadan. In 1977, she graduated from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), where she studied French. She later obtained a Master of Arts degree in French Literature from Cornell University in the United States, and another master’s degree in Linguistics from a university in Nigeria in 1984. She returned to Cornell in 1988 to pursue a PhD programme in Linguistics.
In 1982, she was employed as an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Foreign Languages, Obafemi Awolowo University before she rose to the position of professor of French Language and Applied Linguistics in 2004. She is a fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation where she went on to be appointed the body’s Ambassador Scientist from 2008 to 2014. In 2010, she retired from her position at Obafemi Awolowo University and became politically active, joining the KOWA Party and was voted its National Public Relations Officer. She went on to be the party’s candidate for the 2015 presidential election.
Elishama Ideh (ANN)
Dr. Elishama Rosemary Ideh is the founder of Christ the Ever-Present Ministry (CTEM), a faith-based humanitarian organisation formed to support, strengthen and rehabilitate lives. But she has moved a notch higher by declaring her ambition to run for 2019 presidential election on the platform of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN). She had her primary education at Mayflower Primary School, Ikenne- Ogun State, and secondary school education at the Federal Government Girls College (FGGC), Onitsha, before proceeding to study Mass Communication at Bowie State College, Maryland, USA.
Since then, she has carved a niche for herself in areas of social work.For her, Nigeria at this time needs “a leader who combines integrity with intelligence and a deep and vast understanding of the implications of the 21st-century global economy and Nigeria’s place in it. We have watched the lives of these people transform dramatically in a very short space of time. Most of them have been empowered economically and are doing well.”
“In Nigeria right now, poverty is on the increase, and this is because we’ve failed to understand that poverty arises as a result of the mismanagement and failure to properly harness our God-given natural resources and the insensitivity of past and present government to the welfare of its people,” she further said about her ambition.
Vowing to reform the country’s revenue generation and allocation structure, and simplify the processes and procedures of doing business anywhere in Nigeria, she said she will advocate fair remuneration in terms of wages, welfare packages and retirement benefits within the limits of available means, among others. Speaking further at her declaration in Abuja, the clergywoman said: “I am a firm believer in the values, vision and mission of this great party, and I’m committed to the actualisation of its ideology and its innovative roadmap for the regeneration of Nigeria and the creation of the material and social wealth that will secure the present welfare and future security of Nigerians living today and generations yet unborn.”
Eunice Atuejide (NIP) For 39-year old Eunice Atuejide, President Muhammadu Buhari must not be allowed to continue in office beyond 2019, hence her decision to vie for the office. Interestingly, the legal practitioner, businesswoman, management consultant and entrepreneur is the founder and leader of the National Interest Party (NIP), the party she intends to use as a vehicle in the 2019 race. She maintains that her desire is to form a government of passionate and patriotic Nigerians with undisputed integrity. According to her, the nation at the at moment needs “leaders who are not moved by religious, ethnic, tribal, gender or any other differences; people who are ready to work together irrespective of their differences; people whose only collective purpose is to create a country which works for every Nigerian – born and unborn.” The Enugu State-born mother of five has a background in Agricultural Economics, Business Administration, Law, French, German and Spanish languages as well as film-making, among others. Born on August 16, 1978, Atuejide was raised in Lagos. She founded National Interest Party (NIP), a youthled technology driven political party. She attended Onike Girls Primary School in Lagos, spent one year in the affiliated secondary school before transferring to Reagan Memorial Girls Secondary School also in Lagos. She moved to University of Ibadan to study Agricultural Economics. Atuejide participated in Taekwondo throughout her secondary and tertiary education and was among the team that represented the University of Ibadan at NUGA games from 1996 to 1999. She achieved the black belt 1st Dan in 2005 with BUDO Taekwondo Club in Siegen Germany. Atuejide dropped out of Agricultural Economics at the University of Ibadan and took the Diploma in French Language at the Institut Internationale d’Etudes Française, in Université Marc Bloch, Strasbourg, France. There, she met her first husband Frank Becker and moved to Germany. She did the Diploma in German Language at the Sprahenschule Siegerland. She took the Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang (DSH) and enrolled at the University of Siegen, where she studied Business Administration. Atuejide took the Diploma in Film Making and Acting at the New York Film Academy and Sally Johnson’s Studios respectively, both in New York City, USA. After seven years making and promoting Nigerian movies and while raising her family, she went back to school to study law. She completed the Graduate Diploma in Law, the Graduate LLB, the Legal Practice Course, and the LLM in Professional Legal Practice at BPP University, London, United Kingdom. She then moved back to Nigeria where she completed the professional training programme required for enrolment as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Funmilayo Adesanya-Davies (PDP)
Before now, Prof. (Mrs.) Funmilayo Adesanya-Davies is just like any other academic in the Ivory Tower. But her recent declaration to run for the office of the president in 2019 has spotlighted her among those itching to take over from President. Although an academic in the Rivers State University of Education, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Professor Funmilayo Adesanya-Davies, however, chose to throw her hats into the ring for the presidency on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Incidentally, Sonaiya was Adesanya- Davies student at the then University of Ife. The professor of Linguistic, who is from Ira, Kwara State, is the founder and Bishop of the Agape Bible Church. Declaring her ambition to vie for the presidency in 2019 at a press conference in Ilorin, Kwara State, the scholar, who didn’t disclose the platform of the party under which she would contest the election, said she was buoyed by the free sale of nomination forms for women aspirants. While stating that she has started her consultations for the 2019 race,Adesanya-Davies said she wanted to be the running mate of former President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the last election, but her interest was ignored. Speaking at her declaration for the 2019 presidency, she said: “I am aspiring to be the next president of Nigeria. I am out to put laughter of joy in the mouth of all Nigerians. I have discussed this with the former presidential candidate, Sarah Jubril, who incidentally is from Kwara State. Her reaction was that ‘if a miracle like this will ever happen, we have paid the price.” Born on October 15, 1962, Adesanya- Davies, is an educational consultant and an associate professor of Linguistics with specialization in Applied Linguistics and Communication. She is a former Director, Centre for Vocational Skills, Entrepreneurial and General Studies, Rivers State University of Education. She is a linguist, educationist, poet, communication expert, advocacy and activist. She also holds a Doctor of Divinity (D.D) Degree and Professor of Divinity (Honoris Causa) Award of Northwestern Christian University, Florida, United States. She has lectured in language, linguistics and communication studies in the past 30 years. She also facilitates courses in Language and General Studies at the National Open University, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. She served on sabbatical, as a Dean at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of Regent University of Science and Technology, Accra, Ghana and a visiting professor to the University of Cape Coast Cape Coast, Ghana, She is an external examiner supervising doctoral dissertations, for the School of Postgraduate Studies of the African No One University, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Princess Oyenike Roberts (PDP)
She is based in the United States, but coming home to contest for the presidency is no big deal. Her aspiration is built on five-cardinal plans: Uninterrupted power supply, quality health care for all, the creation of one million jobs annually, quality affordable education and security of lives and property. Nike Roberts, as she is called, declared for the presidency on the platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), while addressing her supporters in New York, with a vow never to accept any donation from corrupt Nigerians to fund her campaign. The PDP presidential aspirant, whose campaign slogan is “Hope 2019” is the vice chairperson of Nigerian- American Public Affairs Committee and the President, Association of African Media Practitioners in the U.S. The Osun State born Roberts blamed the problems of Nigeria on what she termed the current faulty structure, saying the Nigerian president in the next political dispensation must have the will to restructure the country to realise its potential. “Our political system is driven by money and that’s why we have the kind of leadership. The system should be driven by meritocracy – what you know to do, how to do it and the will to do it. That is what should drive people; it’s not how much money you have or how much money you can invest in a person that you can control at the end of the day. “That’s what gave rise to the godfatherism notion that it is who you know that gets you to the top. That system has continued for so long. But I’m seeing a new breed of leaders coming; a change that’s going to cause a shift in how we do politics in Nigeria. We don’t allow meritocracy to rule; we allow money to rule,” she said.
Possibility of a female president
Speaking on the chances of women in the 2019 presidential election, president of Women Arise for Change Initiative, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, said going by the present political configuration in Nigeria, it may require more than mere aspirations to secure female president position. Her words: “A female president is very possible in Nigeria, especially as our democracy keep evolving towards a trend that is witnessing more women participation in politics and other aspects of public engagements. But, the chances are low, considering the fact that there are very few women presently aspiring for the position. Also, realistically speaking, none of the few are pursuing their aspirations under the known major political parties. Going by our present political configuration, it may require more than mere aspirations, to secure such position, but the women folk must persistently pursue this until we get advanced to the level where our women are economically and otherwise empowered enough, to occupy the position, through the ballot. “ Also speaking, Barr. Nkechi Chukwueke Onyedum, a former deputy governorship candidate of All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) in Lagos State and former Special Adviser to ex-Governor Babatunde Fashola on Women Ethnic Groups Mobilisation and Empowerment, said a female president is possible in Nigeria. “A female president is possible in Nigeria. It is very possible with the right woman. By my nature, I don’t foreclose anything. It will be had in any case but with hard work, consistency, confidence, determination and togetherness of women, it is possible. With prayer, unity and one voice, love and money assistance by fellow women, it is possible,” she said.
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