By Femi Ogbonnikan
In Nigerian politics today, do you think women are fairly represented
at both the elective and appointive positions?
You would notice that I started with a smile on my face. The question
is, do women deserve it? Yes! Do we work hard for it? Yes! When you
look at campaigns and voting patterns, women vote more than men. And
so, when you look at it from the participatory point of view, their
representation is not good enough. The issue is, let us leave
representation and let us talk about elections. There is nowhere in
the world, whether in a corrupt or in an incorrupt society, that you
will not require a lot of funding for politics. The women do not have
the financial muscle. It is not the administration, it is not the idea
to campaign, but the women do not have the financial muscle. That is
number one. Number two, culturally, in Africa and, because we are in
Nigeria, the women should be seen and not heard. And once a woman is
heard she gets labeled in several ways; she is not submissive, she is
too aggressive; and she is controlling the men. Also, as a
continuation of that, how many African men have the confidence to
stand the behind a strong woman? Not many. And for most of them, a
marriage, in Africa, is a family institution. When you marry a man,
you donâ€™t marry him as an individual, you marry his family, you marry
his race, you marry his people and he marries your people. And so,
where a man is confident enough, and it is usually a thorn in the
flesh for the family, the man is now left in-between his family and
his wife. So, for a long time, it is not only a Nigerian problem, it
is an African problem. People cite Rwanda, but we must remember that
Rwanda went to war and so, men are not there. So, that is the
situation for the elective positions. For the appointive positions,
when you look at the quantum, the quality of the positions that we
hold, it is not bad. But politics is a game of numbers. Are the women
there? No! Jokingly and unfortunately, when you raise it with some of
the men, they will tell you, oh, you women have lost your chance. You
are shouting about money of Nigeria and in the last regime, it was the
woman who was Minister for Finance. It was women who were there. At a
particular time, women were in-charge of the oil and they were
in-charge of the money. But we will still appeal that if culturally
and financially, we are not capable, then what men should realise is
that women are born administrators and managers. It is from the time
we were born that our parents take us to the market and they teach us
how to manage what we have. So, we should be given a chance. Women who
are good managers should be sorted out and used. We thank the
government for now. We are the finance minister. We are United Nations
Deputy Secretary General. We are also in Foreign Affairs and so on and
so forth. But it is not enough. We are Oliver Twist, and we are asking
them for more. I can assure you that a lot of the moribund companies
of government and moribund Paraatatals of government can be
resuscitated by women. Women are born managers and women excel in
looking after things.
People believe women have lackadaisical attitude to politics. Whatâ€™s your view?
We have been the ones participating the most because, you see, in any
policy, it is the women and the children that are affected most and
you would never find a woman who would abandon her children. The
statistics are not negligible. Women stand by their children. Apart
from that, 60 per cent of the households in Africa are headed by
women. When you go to political campaigns, it is the women you will
see. In Churches, it is the women that you will see. In anything that
you will require participation, it is the women that you will find
there. So, we have the numbers. We donâ€™t just have the wherewithal to
get there. We have the mental capacity, but we donâ€™t have the
wherewithal to get there, because we require funding.
Why is it that women are usually made Deputy Governors in Nigeria?
We reject it. What is the word Iâ€™m looking for? It is to console the
women, because if you go and look at the statistics, majority of
voters are women. In political circles, before now, when you raise
this issue, they will say, â€œno, noâ€, because a lot of things are going
on. But now, it is from the registration that your gender is taken.
So, we can rely, to a large extent, on those statistics. It is the
women, we participate more than the men, but we will leave that aside
where money talks in politics. Because for every arrangement you will
need to make, you will need money. And we are not organised enough to
say, we want to do funding. But we are working something out and I
wonâ€™t tell you that on the pages of the newspapers. For 2019, we are
working out something to support women who want to come out.
Apart from the culture, some women are rich enough to say they want to
vie for elective offices. What do you think?
What percentage of the women? What percentage of the women is rich
enough? If you count on your fingertips, how many women are speaking
up in Nigeria? How many women are in the limelight? It will be
difficult for you to get up to 100,. I dare say.
If women are to vie for elective offices, like the governorship and
they are given the opportunity, are we going to have the office of a
It depends on, if the President of Nigeria is married. Why not?
We have always had â€˜first ladyâ€™, why canâ€™t we have â€˜first manâ€™? But
the question is how many men are willing to be â€˜first men? But it is
possible. We have women who are in high positions now, and their
husbands are there, quietly supporting them, quietly being there for
them, quietly working things out for them. So, we would get there. Our
own â€˜yes, we-can-style Obama womanâ€™ would come. Sometimes, big things
Âºare not planned, but sometimes, they just happen. It is going to be
extremely difficult, but not impossible, because you will have to
consider the culture of this country.
When you look at the North, their own religion and culture are fixed
together. But the likes of Queen Amina of Zaria came out of the North.
So, it is not impossible. We look forward to the day and we are
praying for that day. That Professor woman, the KOWA woman, is still
there, trying to be President.
So, when the time is ripe the Lord will help us. And I always say, if
Nigeria has a female President things will work and turn around for
good. Women are fixers. And it is only women who can fix this country.
By Femi Ogbonnikan