2019: Can Nigerians vote One of Female Presidential Candidates?

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From six, the number of female presidential candidates is now three; but even then with their beautiful credentials, ideas and plans for the country, can Nigerians trust any of them with the affairs of the country?

By Olu Ojewale

As far back as July this year, it looked as if there was going to be a record number of female candidates gunning for the male dominated Presidency in the next general elections scheduled for February in Nigeria. Then, there were five women in the race. The number was increased to six when Oby Ezekwesili, a former minister of Education, joined the race in October. So far, and arguably, Ezekwesili appears to be to the most prominent among the female aspirants and candidates for the president.

Other aspirants and candidates are Olufumilayo Adesanya-Davis, 55, a professor of Language and Communication Arts, at the Rivers State University of Education; Oluremi Comfort Sonaiya, a retired professor of Linguistics, the only female candidate in the 2015 presidential election; Elishama Rosemary Ideh; Adeline Iwuagwu-Emihe, an American-trained political administrator, who wanted to use the platform of the main opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to contest the election; and Eunice Atuejide, 39, the founder of the National Interest Party, NIP.

By their credentials, manifestoes and possible reach, all of them appear to be qualified to canvass for votes for the most converted political position in the country.

Leading the pack of the female presidential candidates is, perhaps, Ezekwesili, a former minister of Education and the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN, whose campaign looks more prominent than those of her fellow female counterparts.

A co-founder of the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ movement, Ezekwesili does not need much introduction, having served in the former President Olusegun Obasanjo as a two-time minister and fondly called Madam Due Process, when at the budget office under the same regime before being made minister. A chartered accountant from Anambra State, she was a co-founder of Transparency International, serving as one of the pioneer directors of the global anti-corruption body based in Berlin, Germany. Ezekwesili was a 2018 nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in transparency in the extractive sector.

After serving as a minister of Solid Minerals and then, as minister of Education in the Presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo, Ezekwesili then served as the vice-president of the World Bank’s Africa division from May 2007 to May 2012.

The ACPN presidential candidate holds a master’s degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Lagos, as well as a Master of Public Administration degree from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. She trained with the firm of Deloitte and Touche and qualified as a chartered accountant.

On the soapbox, Ezekwesili has promised to provide uninterrupted supply of electricity in the country in the first four years if elected President next year.

Buhari
Buhari

In a statement recently, Ezekwesili said stable electricity would aid business growth in Nigeria. She said: “From 1999 till date, all the projections made by successive governments to grow the supply of electricity to Nigerians, to either 6,000MW, 10,000MW or 20,000MW, have not been realised. The citizens’ desire and willingness to pay an appropriate price of electricity consumed is seen in generators of all shapes and sizes and how much they pay to operate and service these machines.

“The low power availability from the national grid has meant that corporate entities have to divert a large amount of funds from their core productive areas of focus to this critical area of reliable power supply. The price of this is paid in not being competitive and great loss of production capacities, which further impoverishes the populace.”

Besides, she promised Nigerians equal opportunities irrespective of age, religion, gender or region. Stressing that societies that empower their women are at the top of the economic league table, she said: “the more your women are part of the decision making processes, the more likely that your society will do better.” The Federal Character which provides for equality of opportunity Ezekwesili claimed that “in the process of trying to create inclusion, we took Federal Character and reduced it to mediocrity” referring to previous administrations, pledging that hers will change the status quo.

Similarly, Ezekwesili has pledged that the youths are going to be centre stage in her administration policy. “The young are going to be very prominent, I love the minds of the young, I have seen young Nigerians excel in different field in the world, so we are going to make that thing available where they are running off to available here,” she said. If elected, she promised that her administration will work with the young people to identify the barriers that limit them and integrate the youth in the political processes.

On the economy, Ezekwesili said: “I will put NNPC in a place where it faces the market, maximum investment by both the public and private investors are going to be key. Our economic reform will ensure that we have macroeconomic stability, that will give confidence to investors, consumers and the market generally including government confidence.  While looking at inflation to ensure inflation is not affecting the poor.”

Similarly, hoping to lead Nigeria as president is Adesanya-Davis,  who hails from Kwara State and holds a Doctor of Divinity, D.D, degree with a professor of Divinity (Honoris Causa) award of the Northwestern Christian University, Florida, the United States.

A cleric and founder of the Agape Bible Church, she said of her ambition: “I am aspiring to be the next president of Nigeria. I am out to put laughter of joy on the mouth of all.”

According to Adesanya-Davis, she wanted to be a running mate to former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, but was prevailed upon to jettison the idea. She said: “2015 was when I first thought about being a presidential aspirant. This is for the main reason that I was born October 15th and I got married at October 15th. That time I said with President Goodluck Jonathan in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, I was going to be his running mate. I was sending text messages to him. I told him to let Vice President Namadi Sambo step down for him to be successful but he did not listen to me.

“But delay is not denial. That is why I am staging a come-back. I have done some consultations. The first person to put a call through was Patience Jonathan. I told her that I am picking the presidential form this time around and she endorsed my decision.”

On Monday, October 15, Adesanya-Davies, who emerged as the presidential flag bearer of the Mass Action Joint Alliance, MAJA, called on Nigerian men to give women a chance to lead the country since they’ve failed for decades.

Interestingly, while addressing Nigerian students as part of the celebration of World Students’ Day on the day, October 15, Adesanya-Davies called on President Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the PDP, to step down for her. She argued: “Since men have failed Nigeria, they should give women a chance to emerge as the nation’s next president and return the country back to the path of progress.

“I will, in fact, seize this opportunity to appeal to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to kindly step down for me at the CUPP as President Buhari of APC steps aside, because this time indeed is a-woman-youth-academician ticket and a tip to the Middle-belt Christian Nigeria currently bearing all the brunt of killings in the North. And that is where I come in.”

Besides, the MAJA presidential candidate said that age is no longer on the side of both Buhari and Abubakar.

If elected, she will form an inclusive government by incorporating most of the presidential aspirants and candidates of other political parties in the MAJA- led federal government.

Atiku
Atiku

Adesanya-Davies posited: “I will form a unity government with most of the 2019 presidential aspirants towards rebranding of mentality, re-orientation and revamping of Nigerians.

“I will empower the Nigerian youths by creating massive jobs, promoting massive mechanised farming, providing loans, and facilitating industrialisation.

“I will encourage and galvanise all universities with innovations by putting their productive innovations into budget.”

She promised to employ the use of technocrats both at home and in diaspora in running the affairs of the country and as well support and encourage the media agencies to effectively discharge their onerous but very important duties.

Among other things, the presidential hopeful promised to increase women’s participation up to 40 percent in her government; ensure that Boko Haram, as well as Fulani herdsmen violence becomes history by liaising with international bodies, to enhance security, law and order.

“I will set up a Constitutional Review Committee geared towards promoting a secular and multi-religious Nigeria to ensure peace and freedom. I will eliminate every trace of the oil subsidy scam and make fuel price about N75 per litre. I will provide free education at every level for the first three children (by the first wife) in a family.”

At the 2015 presidential election, Sonaiya was the only female among the 14 candidates that participated in the election. She received 13, 076 votes and finished in 12th place.

Sonaiya, an educationalist, writer and founder of the KOWA Party, holds a PhD in Linguistics from the Cornell University, United States.

According to her, leadership is Nigeria’s biggest problem, a quality she promised to provide if elected as president in 2019. Unfortunately, Sonaiya is not going to make it to the ballot box this time because she lost her bid to Adesina Fagbenro Byron in representing the party again in 2019 election.

Like Sonaiya, Ideh is another woman who believes that Nigeria’s main problem is leadership. As an aspirant under the platform of the Alliance for New Nigeria, ANN, Ideh promised: “We will confront the monster of corruption with utmost vigour, but with a different mindset from past and current efforts. We will fight corruption in all its tangible and intangible manifestations. We will strive to enhance the independence and autonomy of the EFCC in terms of its funding, privileges, powers and even the composition of its leadership,” she said.

“Unlike our opposition, who seek to use the EFCC as an attack dog to fight their opposition while shielding their friends from the consequences of corruption and other misdemeanours, we are confident in giving the EFCC the latitude it needs to carry out its statutory mandate and to prosecute cases without bias or prejudice, simply because we have nothing to hide.”

“Nigeria needs a leader who combines integrity with intelligence and a deep and vast understanding of the implications of the 21st global economy and Nigeria’s place in it,” she added.

In any case, Ideh will not be able to put her ideas to work. She eventually lost to Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, on October 3, who emerged as the party’s candidate in the 2019 presidential election. Olawepo-Hashim won the party’s ticket at its national convention and presidential primary election held on the premises of Ibeto Hotel in Abuja, with 593 delegates in attendance.

In the same manner, Iwuagwu-Emihe lost the opportunity to be on the ballot because Abubakar, the PDP preferred choice, clinched ticket to fly the party flag.

Ahead of the party primary, the American-trained political administrator had released a 10-point transformational and developmental agenda she hoped to “vigorously” pursue if given the presidential mandate. “I believe that with the right leadership, equitable distribution and management of the nation’s given natural and human resources, it is possible to adequately provide for all citizens both big and small.

“Although the nation’s constitution is limited in its pagination, it is huge in its provision for equity and justice for all the people. We must use it as the common ground to love and care for one another,” she added.

She expressed her desire and unquantifiable zeal to innovate the country in alignment with the modern socio-political, agro-economics, educational, infrastructural, industrial, judicial, security, technological and quasi-evolutionary process if offered the opportunity by 2019.

All that will have to be the lot of one of the female two candidates still in the race. One of them is Atuejide, the founder of the National Interest Party, NIP, the youth-led, technology-driven political party.

The 40-year-old lawyer, who hails from Enugu State, as the presidential candidate of the NIP has promised to conduct a total overhaul of the health insurance scheme.

Unlike some other presidential candidates, Atuejide has voiced out her opposition against state policing, saying the country is not ready for it. She said on live TV: “I don’t support state policing at the current state of Nigeria.”

Expressing great concern about Nigeria’s power sector, Atuejide said she will commercialise and make it more effective than currently experienced if elected president. “I will do power as an agenda, we will make it possible for private sectors not only to produce but transmit electricity,” she said.

According to her official manifesto, Atuejide has promised compulsory free primary education, and compulsory high-quality secondary school education for every Nigerian child; access to low-cost loans to fund all forms of tertiary education for qualified young adults in Nigeria and massive emancipation drive to educate and encourage youth and women participation in politics and governance.

In the same breath, she promised massive investments in vocational schools, especially in relation “to the development of sports, leisure, and entertainment industries.”

Atuejide, who owns EB Consults Limited, a consultancy company in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, has travelled to at least 76 countries and 130 cities across the globe. She speaks Igbo, Yoruba, German, English and French fluently.

That said; but can the crop of the three female candidates now in the race make a difference? Indeed, women were on the ballot in 2003, which so far remains their best attempt at occupying Aso Villa. Of the 20 presidential candidates, only two were candidates. They were Sarah Jubril of the Progressive Action Congress, PAC, and Mojisola Adekunle Obasanjo, a retired major of the Masses Movement of Nigeria, MMN. At the polls, Obasanjo polled 3,757, while Jubril got 157,560 votes, the highest any woman has ever got in a presidential election in Nigeria. Indeed, ever since, the fortunes of women have been dwindling at the presidential polls. In a pool of 27 candidates in 2007, there was only one woman, retired Major Obasanjo again. She polled a miserly 4,309 votes. In 2011, with 63 political parties in which 20 parties fielded candidates, there was one female candidate, Ebiti Ndok of the United National Party for Development, UNPD, who polled 21,2017 votes.

In 2015, the poor run of women continued. Sonaiya was the only female in a crowd of 14 presidential candidates. She received only 13,076 votes.

That, has indeed, suggested that Nigerians are not ready for a female president. “Nigeria is not Liberia. See, a woman can’t handle the problems confronting this country. See herdsmen killings, unemployment, corruption, and so on. Nigeria is too complex for a woman to handle. She will breakdown!” Kehinde Adebiyi, a teacher said.

Besides, he pointed out that despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s promises, he had not been able to fulfil most of them, even as a man.

On his part, Bala Abubakar, a civil servant, warned that northerners will not vote for any female presidential candidate. “Female president? No, no, no. It can’t work,” Abubakar said emphatically.

“How can a woman be our President? What happened to all the men in Nigeria?” he asked, adding: “Even if other part of Nigeria votes for a woman president, the north will not. We will resist it. Haba, it is not right,” he said.

Another commentator, who does not want his name in print, said it is too early for the country to have a female candidate. “We are not ripe for it as a nation. Besides, our political climate is too hot for any woman to handle,” he said. “But if you ask me if we have competent women who can rule this country, we do. There are many of them around that if you give them the opportunity to serve, they will perform better than men,” he added.

In the same vein, Chris Chukwuemeka, an entrepreneur, told Realnews that Nigeria is blessed with competent women to lead the country. “But we need a woman whose husband is apolitical so that there would be no conflicting interest. You see, Oby Ezekwesili and others in the presidential race are capable to lead this country. They have all succeeded in their chosen fields. I have no objection to any of them being elected president; but whether any of them can get enough votes to be president is another matter because of the peculiarity of our politics. But I can say that Nigeria has women of integrity and they have what it takes to lead the country as a president,” Chukwuemeka said.

So, from the current political situation, the female presidential candidates would need to show that masculinity is not politics, but only competence and people-oriented programmes can win votes.

– Dec. 7, 2018 @ 17:25 GMT |

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