YES SHE CAN: A True Test For Womanhood

I wish to begin this brief introduction this paper- Yes She Can by invoking the thoughtful speech of Hadjia Bilikisu Yusuf that “Politics is not a mystery too complex for women's mind to comprehend and the task before women is to demystify politics… Proponents of the view that politics is too dirty a game for women to participate in should hang their faces in shame. This line of thinking smacks of deceit. Why should politics be tagged dirty, while other aspects of the national life: The economy, sports, education, law, etc., are considered clean enough for women to participate in? If politics is dirty, it is only because we have made it so. It is the responsibility of men and women to cleanse politics and restore honour to the game of power sharing.”

The woman is able like the man to lead the society in both elective and appointive political positions, and should be urged, backed and supported in her desire to contest in apex elective leadership positions in Imo State and in Nigeria in general. This support is a must for both the male and female citizens of our society. According to Her Excellency Dame Patience Jonathan “women's involvement in politics in Nigeria is very important. This is because we (women) constitute majority among those who vote in the country and this advantage can be used to better the lots of the Nigerian women. Women are also more visible in political activities such as rallies and voting, hence they form solid block to support candidates for elective offices. It is also true that many male politicians in Nigeria owe their electoral success in the country to the women. It is therefore, time to use that electoral power to advance women's political interest…”

Abraham Lincoln during his Gettysburg Addressin Washington in November 19, 1863 referred to democracy as that government of the people by the people for the people,[which] shall not perish from the earth.” This “government of the people by the people and for the people” does not presuppose the direct exercise of power but delegated power, in which an entire people delegate their powers for self-rule and mandate to a representative (male or female). This entire people entails male and female citizens of a community, state or nation, and which going by the history of self-rule and politics world wide, the female citizens have not fared well but have moved from one degree of marginalisation to the other as the societal stereotypes on social rules kept women appendages to men. It is time for the Imo community and Nigeria at large to have a rethink, and thus trust women with full leadership positions because they are able, they are and can.

It is an obvious fact that all over the world, and in every human age, women constitute about 50% of the entire population of the society. In our country Nigeria, going by the two most recent national population counts, women constitute approximately same 50% of the entire population; they are thus inevitably central to the dispensation of democratic features. Generally, one would also be amazed what would be the result of a possible general rundown investigation and survey of nation-states' power-share ratios worldwide, meant to ascertain the exercise of women's basic human rights in democratic participation, being entirely half of the world's population and the nucleus of every human society. One would wonder at this outcome also what could possibly be the cause of this wide range gap other than gender disparity.

In our country Nigeria, how many women have fared well politically over the years since the inception of self-rule or democratic governance? How far and well has the Nigerian woman fared on the nation's political scene and history; and in Imo State in particular? How well do Nigerian women participate in the self-rule of their nation and in this State- Imo (in decision-making bodies like the legislative and executive arms of government via elective and appointive processes)? In our Imo State House of Assembly, gubernatorial races and LGA elections how have Imo women fared? How many women are in the apex executive order of the present day executive cabinet of Imo State?

Certainly, the level of political participation of women in Imo State and Nigeria has been abysmally low both on group enlightenment and individual involvement in politics, and this seeming eclipse of women in politics is one of the national problems that Nigeria as a country has, and which it has not given a thought nor tried to proffer decisive solutions to. This eclipse does not mean that the Nigerian woman is ignorant of the problem or has as well not given it a thought. But since the inception of the modern day democracy in Nigeria in 1999, the story has remained same, though with slight changes that still bear same abysmal low level performance of women participation in Nigerian politics. In the Lower House of the National Assembly, for instance, the average figures of successful women were 12 (3.3%) in 1999, 21 (5.8%) in 2003, 27(7.5%) in 2007, and 19 (5.27%) in 2011.

In the gubernatorial domain for instance, (apart from Edo, Ekiti, Osun and Anambra States where the governorship seats were not contested for in 2011, the remaining) 32 States had elections; with 348 gubernatorial candidates contesting. Out of these 348, only 13 (3.7%) were women and these women emerged in only 10 (31.3%) States out of the 32, and none of these women were successful at the elections. On the contrary, most political parties felt women would fit well in the gubernatorial elections, when filed in the deputy-governorship positions. Even in this, it was only in Lagos State that a woman (Mrs Joke Orelope-Adefulire) appeared as Deputy Governor in the Federation after the 2011 gubernatorial election. This is another eloquent testimony of the abysmal fall of women in electoral politics in the 2011 general elections; unlike in the 2007 gubernatorial elections after which a total of 5 women (Dame Virgy Etiaba- Anambra, Mrs Ada Okwuonu- Imo, Mrs Olusoda Ogada- Osun, Mrs Pauline K. Tallen- Plateau and Mr Sarah Bisi Sosan- Lagos) appeared as Deputy Governors in the 36 states of the Federation. Shall our wives, mothers, sisters, in-laws and friends fail again this 2014?

Though it is a veritable fact that since the 4th Republic, the Nigerian woman has been in various strategic leadership positions than they had been decades back, but it is very appalling the number of emergent successful women. For instance, as at August 15, 2014, the numbers of Female Commissioners out (nth) of the entire commissioners in some of the 36 States of the Federation were: Abia: 4(24), Akwa Ibom 3(25), Anambra 4(19), Bauchi 1 (nth), Bayelsa 2 (27), Cross River 3(15), Edo 3(21), Ekiti 3 (20), Enugu 4(25), Gombe 2(18), Imo 4(17), Jigawa 3(16), Kogi 2(17), Kwara 1(16), Lagos 2(22), Nasarawa 1(19), Niger 2(26), Ogun 6(20), Ondo 1(24), Osun 3(14), Oyo 2(23), Plateau 4(19), Rivers 4 (24), Yobe 1(21), Zamfara 1(17). Just as from January 2012-August 16 2014, only 4 out of the 36 States Deputy Governors of the Federation are females (Noble Lady Valerie Ebe- Akwa-Ibom State, Prof Modupe Adelabu- Ekiti State, Hon Victoria Adejoke Okelope-Adefulire- Lagos State, and Mrs Titilayo Laoye Tomor- Osun State) and only 3 women emerged speakers in the entire 36 States Houses of Assembly (Barr Princess Akindele Jumoke Yetunde- Ondo State, Hajiya Monsurat Jumoke Summonu- Oyo State, and Chief Chinwe Clare Nwaebili- Anambra State), and in Ogun State, Mrs A.I. Akeredolu is the State's Chief Judge, etc.

These facts notwithstanding, are evident testimonies that the Nigerian women are gradually stepping out of the shells of estrangement from active political participation to the public stage of leadership-trust in the Federation, holding strategic positions than the country had ever experienced. This adds more oomph and enthusiasm to female elective and appointive political-office seekers, since there are some women that have made it. Yes there are! Yes they are! Yes they have! Yes they can! The more women come out and show their talents, the more popular they become; the more popular they are in the political terrain, the more the societal choice of representatives transgresses the alleged gender disparity and gives honour to whom honour is due, for today's democracy is gradually entering into meritocracy than money-politics and godfatherism sharing of political lots that had characterised the Nigerian politics, and the masses are gradually regaining the finality nature of their mandates, and Senator Chris N.D. Anyanwu is among the best qualified candidates in next years gubernatorial race in Imo State and Nigeria at large.

A star is a star, and the human palm can never close its beams! A star beams and its illumination remains brilliant in the history of the history-maker. I wish to recall for us that Senator Chris Anyanwu has been prima in historia in Imo State in various state and national issues. She was among the earliest foremost renowned journalist, first contemporary Igbo woman to be imprisoned for speculative journalism, first to have intercession by the Roman Catholic Holy Pontiff, first female Senator in Imo State, first female proprietor of a private FM in Imo State and the first female gubernatorial aspirant in Imo State who did not come out to make an initial garaga and the tuck tail in pleading for appointive position. She has the guts, qualities and contemporary ambience for great transformation of Imo State

This is an opportunity for our dear State, Imo, to “try another leg” if we wouldn't mind and test and trust a woman with the leadership of the State and see the outcome of Prophet Jeremiah's (31:22) prophesy and declaration that God has formed a new order- “The Lord has created a new thing on the earth; a woman protects a man.”

This new order has been witnessed world over as there emerge year to year new States and countries with women as their leaders. Around the globe, a lot of reputable and dynamic female leaders in national governance have emerged since 1960, as Presidents, Prime Ministers and leaders of apex societal sectors in various capacities. Even in our continent- Africa, women have emerged as great nation-state leaders. Some of them are: Elisabeth Domitien (the Prime Minister of Central African Republic, 1975-1976), Sylvie Kinigi (the Prime Minister of Burundi, 1993), Agathe Uwilingiyimana (the Prime Minister of Rwanda, 1993-1994), Specioza Wandire Kazibwe (Vice-President of Uganda, 2001), Ellien Johnson Salif (the President of Liberia, 2006- till date), Mame Madior Boye (the Prime Minister of Senegal, March 2001-2002).

Here in Nigeria, we have seen how mighty Her Excellency Dame Virgy Etiaba was in Anambra State during the gubernatorial crisis in Anambra State few years ago, being the first Nigerian Female State Governor. Similarly, we have also seen how more manly and mightier the female Deputy Governors: Noble Lady Valerie Ebe (of Akwa-Ibom State), Prof Modupe Adelabu (of Ekiti State), Hon Victoria Adejoke Okelope-Adefulire (of Lagos State), and Mrs Titilayo Laoye Tomor (of Osun State) were in their apex leadership positions in their states.

It is also evident that although it is only 3 women that emerged as Speakers in the entire 36 States Houses of Assembly (Barr Princess Akindele Jumoke Yetunde- Ondo State, Hajiya Monsurat Jumoke Summonu- Oyo State, and Chief Chinwe Clare Nwaebili- Anambra State), their states Houses of Assembly have never witnessed internal crises as we see in most male-led Houses of Assembly.

I will make here one of the briefest conclusions ever in my history of public paper presentation, by invoking the declaration of a US Congress Woman, (Late) Clare Boothe-Luce, who like Senator Chris N.D Anyanwu's Yes She Can, said “I must make unusual effort to succeed because I am a woman. But if I fail people may not say that I hadn't what it takes to succeed but that women have not what it takes to govern [by our prejudiced mindset].”

Let's make a rethink if prejudice and intrigue will permit us, and elect those who have the true qualities of transforming our state come 2015, irrespective of gender.

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Articles by Nathan Protus Uzorma