Dominic Adewole and Muhammad Bashir Ahead of the 2023 elections a number of state governors are adopting the UN affirmative action to ensure that women are placed in prime political positions in the nation for various reasons. Either through appointments or elections, a huge number of them now occupies top positions especially at the grassroots where the bulk of the votes come from.
While some have been elected into the state houses of assemblies, others are appointed either as commissioners, secretary to the state government or head of service, special advisers or heads of government agencies. A handful of them are deputy governors. Besides having lots of women on the cabinet, Lagos State government has women as heads of nine of its 57 local governments and local council development authorities.
The chairman of Lagos Mainland Local Government, Mrs. Omotola Essien is the chairperson of Class 57, as the council bosses are called. Others are Mrs. Akinyemi Obe-Cocker- Aguda LCDA; Oyesanya Ayodele, Ikosi- Isheri LCDA; Madam Funmilayo Akande Mohammed Apapa Iganmu LCDA; Princess Ganiyat Olajumoke and Jimbo Ademehin in charge of Ikorodu West LCDA. Mrs. Abolanle Bada heads Ikosi-Isheri Local Council Development Area (LCDA); Princess Raheedat Abiodun- Iru-Victoria Island; Hon. Morenike Adesina Williams -Igando-Ikotun LCDA and Adedayo Oseni Ramat- Iba LCDA. In Niger State, women tend to be appointed into various positions like Commissioners,
Special Advisers, the Chief Press Secretary, Head of Service and the Chief Justice of the state. In Benue State, seven out of the 23 local government bosses are women, while the Kogi State government made a bold statement by ensuring that all the 21 local government bosses nominated women as their deputies. Similarly, 17 out of the 25 local governments vice persons in Delta State are women.
Ortom’s bull eye
The seven chairpersons in Benue are Mrs. Igbabon Grace – Gwer West Local Government; Mrs. Chianson Tartor–Kwande council; Mrs. Erebe Agnes – Obi Local Government; Mrs. Agbo Faith – Ohimini Local Government, Amina Audu – Okpokwu Local Government, Juliana Suswam – Tarka Local Government and Tyoer Garba Kukase – Vandeikya Local Government. Mr. Ede Agaba, Press Secretary to the Benue State Deputy Governor said that the election of the women into the position in the third tier of government was a deliberate action on the part of Governor Samuel Ortom, in compliance with the UN affirmative action to allocate 30 per cent public officers to women in the state. He said besides the above, no fewer than four women are appointed commissioners in the state.
Bello’s clean sweep
Kogi State governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello the involvement of women in politics was part of his New Direction administration. The December 12, 2020 local government election in the state has proved the governor’s desire to give women seats in the local government decision making as he ensured that not only all the Vice Chairmen in the 21 local government areas of the state, are women but also insisted that council leaders (Speakers) in the local government legislative arm are women.
The vice chairpersons are Hon. Rebecca Kpanachi (Bassa LGA); Hon. Aminu Zuweirat Y (Idah LGA); Hon. Balogun Eunice Omowumi (Yagba West LGA); Hon. Bimpe Alfred (Kabba/Bunu LGA); Hon. Musa Aisha (Acho); Hon. Alhassan Anna (Igalamela/ Odolu LGA), Hon. Maryam Oyeremi Hamzat (Dekina LGA), Hon. Kate Obapitan (Adavi LGA) Hon. Martha Moses (Ankpa LGA), Hon. Toyin Afusat Yinusa (Yagba East LGA).
Others are Hon. Lawal Omayoza Amina (Okehi LGA); Hon. Blessing Aishat Ekele (Olamaboro LGA); Hon. Salamatu Magdalen Salami (Ajaokuta LGA); Hon. Paulina James (Ofu LGA); Hon. Otitolaiye R. Bukola (Ijumu LGA); Hon. Eleojo Farina (Omala LGA); Hon. Obidigiwe Aritho (Ibaji LGA); Hon. Bilikisu Abosuahi Aliyu (Okene LGA); Hon. Jezhi Bako Hassan (Kogi LGA); Hon. Obajemu Mercy Bukola (Mopamuro LGA) and Hon. Comfort Ise (Lokoja LGA). Governor Bello’s action is unarguably the first of its kind in the political history of Kogi State even though it did not go down well with some politicians, who believe they should have emerged through a proper democratic process, by allowing all the local government APC Chairmanship aspirants go through a genuine primary without governor’s interference.
The intention of the governor might have been geared towards gender equality in the state, but his alleged interference raised eyebrows and gave room for suspicion.
The governor’s action, has however, earned him several award from groups of women, including the National Council for Women Society (NCWS). The national women body had honoured the governor with the award for the ‘Most Gender Sensitive Governor of the Year.’
The organizers of the award and other executive members of the NCWS stated that the nomination and recognition of Governor Bello was in view of his purposeful and conscious efforts in continuously appointing women into sensitive and strategic offices in the leadership structure of Kogi State. Also, the United Nations has commended Governor Bello for his efforts in ensuring inclusiveness and greater participation of women in politics in the state.
The UN, in a commendation letter sent to the governor dated January 26, 2021 and signed by UN Women Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms Comfort Lamptey, particularly commended the governor for giving opportunities to women to harness their contributions in governance at the local government level.
The UN Women commended the governor for building an inclusive and gendersensitive local governance system in Kogi State through the appointment of women as vice chairpersons in all the 21 local government areas.
The letter reads: “I would further like to thank you for pushing forward the global agenda on gender equality and women’s political participation in Nigeria.
“In this same vein, I would be honoured to pay you a courtesy visit …to discuss opportunities for supporting the ongoing efforts of your government to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality in Kogi State, and also to explore possibilities for partnership and collaboration to support the newly-appointed women deputy LGA chairpersons to succeed in their new roles “To facilitate follow-up interactions, UN Women would welcome the opportunity to engage with a nominated focal person from your office. The UN Women Focal Point is Ms. Chundung Ashley Dauda”.
In Delta State, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, who did not want to be caught unprepared made it a game changer. He has started to lay foundation for a ‘stronger Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’ in the oil rich state through his policies and programmes. The March 6, 2021 local government elections across the 25 council areas of the state was an attestation to this fact as the facts, figures, signs and sounds of the political atmosphere suggested that the dramatis personae, served as litmus test of what is to come during the general elections of 2023.
In a ‘lest we should be the last’ power-play, the governor, tested the depth of the political river of the state with both feet and came out unhurt, through the vested political strength of the ruling PDP in the state. Now, he has strategically positioned 17 women as vice chairmen in the local governments, thereby granting the women folk the long awaited 35 per cent affirmative action in politics, championed by the former First Lady of Nigeria,
Dame Patience Jonathan. Pundits have categorized this feat as a political masterstroke against any perceived opposition in the political parlance of the state, especially given the numerical strength of women when it comes to voting in the country.
The governor, a grassroots politician did not stop at this. Shortly after he sworn-in the council chairmen and their deputies on March 7, at the Cenotaph in Asaba, the state capital, where gloated over the emergence of 17 female deputies and numerous female councilors.
His wife Dame Edith, went into strategic meeting with the newly elected 17 vice chairmen. Prior to this, the governor’s wife had met with the wives of the 25 chairmen where he tasked them to see that they use their current platforms to secure the political future of other women within the party that produced them.
She commended the governor for ensuring that over 35 per cent women representation at the third tier of government, noting that successive administrations in the state had never had it this fair on women representa tion in governance.
She said, “Since our history as a state, we have never had it this good. This is the first time we are having such a significant number of women emerging as vice chairmen and it would only be good if we are able to use the opportunity wisely.
“Your position is essential because people are watching and the time is also ticking. You must thus understand why you are in the position in the first place and you should be committed to doing what you will be remembered for.
A vital key to your success as vice chairmen is that you work hand in hand with your chairmen. Never antagonize anyone but rather be considerate and humble to get your results achieved. “You can never go wrong with being polite and understanding as these virtues can open unforeseen doors for you.
Keep your eyes on your set goals, which should be people oriented and ensure you apply humility to get things done,” she said. She charged them to carry out their duties in such a way that tomorrow, when stocks are taken, it would not be said that the women misused the opportunity given to them.
She intimated them on the activities of the ‘O5 Initiative’, her pet project, and assured them of her commitment to seeing that they have a favourable working environment. The vice persons on their part appreciated Mrs. Okowa for reaching out to them.
The Vice Chairmen of the Aniocha North LGA, Princess Tina Amuamuziam, attested that she had personally followed the activities of the First Lady in the state. She said “the wife of the governor has been consistent with her pet project, the O5 Initiative, which I describe as being characterized by sufficient grace.
I thus want to encourage my fellow vice chairmen to ensure they tow this line of charity”. Speaking on the development, Prof. Anthony Kila, a Jean Monnet professor of Strategy and Development, lauded the deliberation action, especially since the womenfolk formed the bulk of the over 84 million voting population.
Kila, who is currently Director of Studies at the Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies, (CIAPS), stated that this positioning has become imperative in view of the fact that the women feel that the political landscape is deliberately skewed against them.
He said the move is encouraging because it is in tandem with the affirmative action and gender balancing, but it would have made a greater impact if it was based on value, education and information, even though it is a necessary evil.