Barely three months to the Anambra state governorship election, billed for November 18, the political terrain has once again been electrified. At the moment in the state, the major political parties – the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC) and the United Peoples Party (UPP) have all released the names of governorship aspirants who purchased their nomination forms, ahead of their primaries.
The ruling party in the state has the following as aspirants- Chief Willie Obiano, who is the incumbent governor; Barr. Chinedu Idigo, Dr. Elo Afoka and Chris Orazulike. The UPP has the following eight gubernatorial aspirants: Chief Osita Chidoka, former aviation minister; Chief Ifeanyi Okonkwo; Prince Ifeanyi Ezechukwu; Nze Ugonadi Onwuka; Honourable Chudi Offodile, former two term federal House of Representatives member; Ejike Okafor Obumeneke; Barrister Paul Chukwudi Obianaso and Nze Ugonadi Onwuka.
The PDP has the following six aspirants cleared by the party’s screening committee: chairman, Capital Oil and Gas, Dr Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah; Senator Stella Oduah, former minister of viation; Dr Alex Obiogolu; Mr John Emeka; Lynda Ikpeazu and Mr Oseloka Obaze, former secretary to the Anambra state government. On the other hand, the APC cleared the following aspirants among whom are: Dr Chike Obidigbo, Honourable Tony Nwoye, Paul Chukwuma, Senator Andy Ubah, George Moughalu, Barth Nwibe, Obinna Uzo, Onunkwo Johnnosco, Madu Chukwunonso, Donatus Okonkwo, Ada Kate Uchegbu.
Meanwhile other parties such as Progressive Peoples Alliance has named its flag-bearer to be Chief Goody Ezeemo. Labour Party has Sir Chris Okey Enemuo as its aspirant. Young Democratic Party has Ogbuevi Ozoemena as its aspirant, while Mega Party of Nigeria formerly Mega Progressive Peoples Party has HRH Chief Chuma Angus Ojukwu as its aspirant.
Quite unfortunately, the participation of women in the forthcoming gubernatorial exercises is not encouraging. Of the about 26 aspirants from across the major political parties vying for their party’s tickets, just a paltry three are women- Senator Stella Oduah and Lynda Ikpeazu of the PDP; and Ada Kate Uchegbu of the APC.
This defeats the clarion call for active participation of women in governance and politics, which according to the British Council Gender in Nigeria report 2012, has a strategic importance not only for women empowerment, but because it has wider benefits and impact. It is however worthy to note that Nigeria has made several efforts to ensure the participation of women who are the excluded to participate in governance issues through the adoption and creation of some institutions that will facilitate the full participation of women in governance.
In 1985, Nigeria ratified the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women of 1979 (CEDAW). But it is worthy to note that the operation of the 30 articles of the convention in Nigeria is not achieved. Nigeria also adopted the 1985 Beijing Platform of Action and signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, The African Charter on People’s Rights, The Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo protocol). Nigeria also has the affirmative action of 35 per cent representation of women in political and non-elective positions in Nigeria.
Unfortunately, this is yet to change the participation of women in politics, as the Anambra forthcoming governorship poll shows. The patriarchal dominance of the men in Anambra politics, and Nigeria in general needs to change. More women are indeed needed to participate actively in politics and governance in Anambra state and generally Nigeria if they are to obtain fair representation. Women politicians seeking the highest office in the state have always been challenged by the seeming reluctance of men who hold dominion in the state to give heed to a female chief executive of the state.
It could be recalled that when Senator Joy Emodi made her memorable campaign in 1998, the complaint at that time was the question on who would break kola nut at meetings presided over by the governor. Mrs Emodi had responded that she would designate a male commissioner to be breaking kolanut. Mrs Emodi’s move for the plum job in Anambra state was only derailed by the death of Gen. Sani Abacha and the truncation of his transition programme. Following Emodi, Anambra women had luck smile on them when Dame Virgy Etiaba, who became the first female deputy governor of the state also became the first female governor of the state after the controversial removal of the substantive governor, Mr. Peter Obi in late 2006.
An attempt by Mrs Uche Ekwunife to follow the path set by Senator Emodi in 2013 was frustrated by the APGA in the 2013 contest as she was technically blocked forcing her to return to the PDP. Over the years, many women were able to make a difference in Nigeria by doing their part in Nigerian politics. Many women have indeed proven their mettle in Nigeria’s fierce political terrain.
The names of the following women ring a bell in Nigeria, Late former Director-General of NAFDAC and former minister of health, Dr Dora Akinyuli; Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, who represented the Cross-River South Senatorial District between 1999 and 2003, and was President Olusegun Obasanjo’s former special adviser on National Assembly matters. Also notable in the Nigerian political terrain are women like Former senator of Nasarawa North and minister of information, Patricia Akwashiki; Sarah Nnadzwa Jibril, whose political career spans over three decades in Nigeria, having also vied for the presidential post for five times.
The list of notable Nigerian women who have earned reputable names for themselves for their outstanding feat in public service won’t be complete without the mention of amazons such as former education minister, Obiageli Ezekwesili; former senator for Imo East, Christiana Anyanwu; former minister of transport and aviation, Mrs. Kema Chikwe; APC governorship candidate in Taraba atate for the 2015 gubernatorial election, former senator, Taraba North and current minister of women affairs, Senator Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan. Mention must also be made of Honourable Abike Dabiri-Erewa, senior special assistant to the president on foreign affairs and diaspora and former chairperson, House of Representatives committee on diaspora affairs; former minister of finance and coordinating minister for the economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala among many others. So, who says women can’t take the front seat in Anambra politics? If these above-mentioned amazons have proven their mettle in the nation’s political space, then, more women can actually participate in the Anambra political space.
Ifeanyi Nwoye, Public commentator