It is a truism that one catch-phrase that endeared many Nigerian voters, (including this writer) to the campaign of #Muhammadu Buhari, was the promise of a “New Deal” for women and youths of Nigeria. Ordinarily, promises such as giving prominent positions to deserving women, would simply be ignored and treated with a wave of the hand by Nigerians. One reason being that the promise is coming from a politician who is seeking political power.
Another is the fact that Nigerians already have a basket full of such promises and have developed thick skins towards politicians who hardly respect their campaign promises once voted into power. Besides, talk is cheap, and drawing from the Machiavellian parlance, the ends justifies the means-whatever is said or done in the quest for political power, paves into insignificance so long as the ends (acquiring power) is achieved eventually.
But it can be argued that the case here is different. The man at the centre is not the normal Nigerian politician whose words cannot be taken to the bank. He is an acclaimed gentleman imbued with an uncanny sense of honesty and integrity which even his opponents find hard to controvert.
So, when he said that his party has a new deal for women, Nigerians did not view those words as coming from an average politician. This accounted for the overwhelming support he garnered from the women folks during the elections. Besides, many Nigerian women with eyes on the Beijing Declaration believed that government under #Buhari will respect the global position on the need to place women appropriately in the socio-political cum economic scheme of things; and in the Nigerian context, with at least 35 per cent of total appointive and elective governmental positions.
Their hope stemmed from the very persona of Buhari himself, which many believe, is rooted in probity and rare candour.
One of his numerous campaign statements which were made in his characteristic parrhesia reads thus:
We shall commit ourselves to merit based affirmative actions to level the playing field for women and provide them with opportunities to be part of decision making and governance at all levels.
It is against the background of the above that the writer felt incumbent to remind the respectable #President to, as an article of faith, begin to take steps to implement his campaign promises, especially the ones that touch on gender sensitivity. The time for urgency is now.
Buhari must not be oblivious of a “cloud of witnesses” surrounding him. Besides, many traducers are waiting eagerly for any mistake or actions that will be tantamount to reneging on some of these promises. Of course, the Peoples Democratic Party has a track record of respect for women’s ability; hence, as a matter of deliberate policy, the party can proudly boast of many women who have held and are still holding high decision making positions(character and competence not withstanding) in its 16 years in the saddle.
Besides affirmative actions and the need to fulfill his campaign promises, Buhari should, even if to gratify the women whose dedication and commitments saw him through the topsy-turvy of the elections, appoint women of impeccable pedigree into his cabinet. Besides, he can use his good offices, based on his party’s policy, to convince the party of the imperative of giving women appropriate representation within the leadership of the National Assembly.
Moreover, since he is the President, Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces, the face, the leader and the executor of the All Progressives Congress’s manifesto and programmes, placing women who have proved their mettle both in the public and private lives should be his prerogative.
Moreover, with the kindergarten tantrums of Mrs. Patience Jonathan during the electioneering that women would have no place in Buhari’s government should he be voted into power , the onus is on the General to put the skeptics to perpetual silence.
To all intents and purposes, the statement earlier credited to the new President that since the office of the First Lady is not in the Constitution, he would not accord it recognition is made in good faith. But this obviously, will leave a lacuna in a country where women have always seen the First Lady as a mother symbol and a rallying point for the articulation of their collective aspirations. Since one cannot advise the President to encourage illegality, the National Assembly surely needs a well qualified, competent woman as its number two.
The beauty of the whole argument is the fact that the #APC is not in short supply of eminently qualified women who can fly the flag of the party in any capacity in government. It can be argued that this advocacy is more germane in the Legislative House where there has been a paucity of women principal officers vis-à-vis their male counterparts. If there is any arm of government where the principle of affirmative actions should be strictly adhered to, it should be at the National Assembly, where our laws are made.
Looking at the geo-political configuration based on current power equation, it appears that the southwest may be favoured to produce the Speaker of the House of Representatives. If this calculation is correct, it is only logical that an experienced woman, versed in legislative processes and procedures, be chosen from the North-East as Deputy Speaker.
This thinking is premised on the fact that the North-East zone is considered the most short-changed in the power equation of the National Assembly since 1991, as no woman from the zone has been privileged to serve as principal officer of the legislative body.
Besides, the North-East is considered the third most populous in Nigeria after North-West and South West; having the highest minority tribes who are often the victims of marginalisation in the country’s power sharing arrangement. Moreover, in the last Presidential and National Assembly elections, the North-East produced the second highest number of federal lawmakers for the party.
Based on the above, the choice of #Honourable Khadijat Ibrahim from the zone as a Deputy Speaker in the 8th National Assembly will be a logical step towards righting the wrongs of many years. More importantly, her choice will lend credence to the much vaunted policy of APC on women participation in political leadership position.
However, it is pertinent to #state unequivocally that this advocacy is not geared towards laundering any individual’s image just for the sake of being a woman. Rather, it is premised on a fine pedigree of hard work and a record of excellence of a woman who will be bringing to the legislative business a whole gamut of experience spanning three terms in the legislative enterprise.
Besides, it is anchored on the party’s policy of a “merit based affirmative actions” aimed at providing a level playing field…”for women and provide them with opportunities to be part of decision making and governance at all levels.” The deputy speaker of our dream is a foremost amazon in the war against the vicious and malevolent enemies of modern Nigeria, the Boko Haram. With two local governments under her constituency lost then to the savage attacks of the terrorist group, Ibrahim quickly unleashed her adroitness, within her area of competence and jurisdiction, towards liberating her people from the stranglehold of the blood thirsty monsters.
It is against the background of the above that the writer felt incumbent to remind the respectable general to, as an article of faith, begin to take steps to implement his campaign promises, especially the ones that touch on gender sensitivity. The time for urgency is now.
Prof. Adegbulu sent this piece via email@example.com
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