AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, Governor of Nigeria’s north central Kwara State, has gone down in history as the first African leader with the highest number of female cabinet members and political appointees.
AbdulRazaq was elected Governor in the country’s 2019 general election on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). At present, nine, or 52.25%, of his 16-person cabinet picks are women. That’s way higher than the 35% affirmative action sought by the Beijing Declaration and a big statement for the Nigerian girl child as the world marks the 2020 edition of the International Women’s Day.
Besides, the Governor has appointed women to head strategic government offices such as the tax office (KW-IRS) and civil service commission. He recently tapped a UK-based female attorney as his principal private secretary, a very influential office that would be responsible for many of his plans as the chief executive. Similarly, his special assistant on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is also a woman medical doctor, while his empowerment programmes are also to be coordinated by a foremost grassroots female politician.
This is by far the highest ever political representation at cabinet level that women have got anywhere in black Africa where gender imbalance remains an issue. No national or subnational government in Nigeria has come anywhere close. On the continent, Uganda and Rwanda have 50% women cabinet members apiece. Rwanda has 61 women representation in the parliament — not in the cabinet.
There is an interesting background to AbdulRazaq’s gesture. His ruling APC had nominated all men for all the elective positions from the state. Part of his campaign pledges was to compensate women for that “unfortunate” development. The Governor’s cabinet picks clearly showed he is a man of his words.
AbdulRazaq has proven himself to be an advocate of the SDGs. He’s been using his executive position to push its achievements in his native Kwara. Given the political constraints and the challenges he inherited, his 20.8% budgetary concession to education, 17.1% to health, and efforts to combat extreme poverty are a new high in the state.
But his women-bias cabinet was the most phenomenal yet of his commitment to the SDGs, especially the goal 5 of the global campaign. This step has won him laurels across the country, including from the Women Radio which is closely affiliated to the United Nations Women and other world bodies.
AbdulRazaq’s unprecedented inclusion of women in governance is therefore a continental acclaim that deserves a mention in the Guinness World Record. It’s definitely a feat to beat in 21st century Africa!