Most consider the United States of America to be the most liberal, permissive and democratic country in the world. But how true is that, when 240 years post- declaration of independence (1776), America is yet to produce a female President?
Countries that are considered to be not so westernised or traditional/conservative, like Pakistan, had Benazir Bhutto as its 11th Prime Minister, just 41 years after independence in 1947. She was the first woman to head a Muslim majority nation and she was elected twice, in 1988 and in 1993. That says a lot. Could it be that most people are under a very wrong impression about the Muslims? That it is the “bad eggs”, the extremists within the religion that are giving it an undesirable name? That when Islam is practised in the true and proper sense, it is fair, just and progressive? After all, what the so-called enlightened USA has not achieved in 240 years, Islamic Republic of Pakistan achieved in 47 years.
Hillary Clinton is eminently qualified for the position of President of USA. Some have argued that out of all the 2016 hopefuls, she was the most qualified. She has a world of experience. In terms of educational qualifications, she is a lawyer, a product of the prestigious Yale Law School. In terms of politics, she was a US Senator from New York for 8 years. In terms of governance, she was the Secretary of State during Obama’s first term, and in terms of the home-front, she was the First Lady of Arkansas from 1983-1992, when her husband, Bill Clinton was Governor of the State, and subsequently, the First Lady of USA, the wife of a two-term President.
Yet, I remember with amusement and disgust, when Hillary made the first attempt at her Presidential ambition (during the Obama time), even the white supremacists, KKK (Ku Klux Klan) came out to say something about they would ‘rather vote for a Nigger than a Bitch!’(excuse the language, not my words). So, it didn’t really matter about how qualified she is for the job, for them, the fact that she is a woman ruled her out.
Do you really think that with all the scandal about Trump and his sexcapades, tax issues, his derogatory remarks about women, his campaign that seemed to lack any positive direction etc, he would still have won the election if Hillary was a man? I think not. But then again, you may just say that my opinion here is simply attempting to buttress my opinion that America is sexist. That it was likely that Trump would win anyway, because Nigeria may have infected America with its ‘Change’ sentiments! Seriously, maybe having spent eight years straight with Democrats, the American people just wanted a change, just like Nigerians thought that they needed a change from PDP.
It happened after Bill Clinton did eight years as President, and contrary to popular thought that Al Gore, the then Vice-President would succeed him, George Bush, a Republican won the subsequent election, even though he did not seem to qualify, as he was totally ignorant about a lot of important issues at the time. It also happened after Bush had served his eight years. It seemed unlikely that a non-white person could ever win an American Presidential election, but Obama, who is half black, a Democrat, emerged as the winner of the election and made history.
Had it been in Nigeria, and Hillary was a member of PDP, she would have recognised this cycle and defected to APC to run in the election, seeing as Nigerian politics is not based on any ideology whatsoever, but on which party platform you are more likely to win an election.
China, that is seen to have an authoritarian government, a closed and somewhat conservative country, had Soong Ching-ling as acting President of People’s Republic of China from 1968-1972, serving with Dong Biwu (over 40 years ago). Though the list is by no means endless, we have had several female leaders all over the world. Isabel Peron in Argentina, Corazon Aquino and Gloria Arroyo in the Philippines, Indira Gandhi and Pratibha Patil in India. We have had the ‘iron lady’, Margaret Thatcher, and presently Theresa May, in Great Britain, Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese in Ireland, and Angela Merkel who is currently the German Chancellor (Angela Mitchell of Western Germany, as some refer to her!). Even here in Africa, we had Joyce Banda, who was President of Malawi from 2012-2014 and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has been the President of Liberia since 2006.
Coming back home to Nigeria, sadly, only one woman, Remi Sonaiya, has ever been a female Presidential candidate. She achieved this feat in the 2015 elections under the umbrella of her relatively unknown party, KOWA. So far, a female President in Nigeria, seems unlikely in the near future. With the somewhat disappointing statements of our President about his wife, not caring that he was making the statements during a state visit to a female world leader, saying that his wife belonged to his kitchen, his living room and ‘the other room’ (that went viral and became #theotherroom), shows the mind-set of a great many men all over the world, including America, and their perception of what the role of a woman is, a cook, a housekeeper and a sex object. Very sad.
Its not about feminism, in the simple sense of ‘what a man can do, a woman can do better’ and so on, its about letting the best man or woman for a job, secure it, irrespective of their sex.
The practice introduced by Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Lagos State, appointing women to the position of Deputy-Governor, was a step in the right direction. Unfortunately it seems to be the highest position that women now aspire for in Nigeria, and it isn’t even an elective position per se. Aside from Senator Aisha Alhassan who ran for Governor of Taraba State in the 2015 elections, Dame Virgy Etiaba who was Governor of Anambra State briefly, remains the only female Governor in Nigeria so far, and even that was by default. It seems that women who have aspired for more in Nigeria, end up being the butt of jokes and are even seen as delusional. For example, Dr (Mrs) Sarah Jubril, when she tried to clinch the Presidential ticket in the PDP Primaries in 2011, scored only 1 vote. Obviously, she alone, voted for herself. Like America, I hope it won’t take Nigeria as long to produce a female President.
Hillary Clinton, by running for one of the strongest positions in the world, making such a strong impact, and ‘losing’ just narrowly, has shown the world that women can be taken very seriously, not just in politics, but in all endeavours. The truth of the matter is that, had it been a world election, Trump would not have stood a chance against Hillary.
Some of the lessons that we have learnt from the 2016 American Presidential election are:
a) Never take the media polls seriously! Actually, I stopped following the polls from the time of Al Gore, when he led consistently in the polls and when the election results were released, the exact opposite occurred, Bush Junior won
b) Americans are actually still racist and sexist. Yes, Obama is the President, but at the end of the day, he is half white, not full black
c) All that talk about having experience to do something or the other, or having to be a conservative Saint to qualify for office, is just trash. If people want you for the job, whether you have experience or not, or you are naughty or a ‘goody goody’, they will take you. Trump, though a successful businessman, is the oldest person to be elected President of the US (70), the first American President whose wife has posed naked to the world, the first American President who has allegations of sexual impropriety and tax issues levelled against him (even during the campaign), the first American President that has never served in any capacity in government (an outsider) nor did he serve in the military, but he was still elected as President. Hillary Clinton, in her campaign elucidated a lot of well-thought out coherent plans and policies. Trump on the other hand, in his campaign, did not seem to have any blueprint, aside from his favourite slogan, “we’re gonna make America great again”, yet he won the election. Let’s hope that he was simply keeping his gunpowder dry and when he actually takes up the mantle of office in January, 2017, he will start to unveil his plans, and surprise the world with his excellent governing skills!
I hope this will serve as a lesson to half of our leaders in Nigeria, who have ‘served and over-served’ this country, and have refused to quit the stage for newer and more vibrant minds to get the country out of the rut that they have put it in, that if Trump, who has zero governing experience can be elected President of one of the strongest countries in the world, new minds in Nigeria will probably lead better than they have done.
The most important lesson that I learnt from the 2016 US election, and indeed Hillary Clinton, and I think all Nigerian politicians should take a leaf from her book is, be graceful and maintain your dignity, even in defeat. E ye lo court lo jo jumo! (Stop going to court incessantly). Why is it that every politician that loses an election is at the election tribunal, even when the matter is frivolous and lacks any merit? Trump was the one who said that America had a rigged electoral system (I don’t hear him complaining about that anymore!). Why hasn’t Hillary Clinton jumped on that allegation and used it against him, by filing lawsuit upon law suit? After all, the race was close. It was also reported that some people were disenfranchised, for example, in Durham County, North Carolina, in which about 40% of the population are said to be blacks who would probably have voted for Hillary, it was reported that the laptops used to verify voter registration encountered software malfunctioning. In some cases, they ran out of election materials, thereby causing extremely long queues, resulting in some voters not even being able to cast their ballots. Voting also had to be extended in some areas. In another instance about 7,000 voters were illegally removed from the voters list and they just happened to be blacks.
I say hearty congratulations to you, Hillary Clinton. She did a great job. An excellent role model for women all over the world, showing that we women, can reach beyond the moon and the stars. On the final day of the campaign, she said ”when your kids and grandkids ask what you did in 2016 when everything was on the line, you’ll be able to say you voted for a stronger, fairer, better America. An America where we build bridges, not walls”. I certainly believe that she would have delivered on this. I think she would have been an excellent President.
Do you think Hillary Clinton should run again in 2020? Or perhaps some other women with Presidential ambitions would have emerged by then? What do you think?
As for Trump, thankfully, he has began to sound different from his campaign, more coherent, conciliatory in a way. Best of luck. The world will be watching with extremely keen interest, to see him make America great again. Make it beautiful!